How to receive EU funding for research and innovation in Georgia?

11-09-2019
How to receive EU funding for research and innovation in Georgia?
1. I have an innovative business idea: can I receive a grant from the EU?

Yes, you can. Georgia has full access to the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation, which means you can apply for innovation grants in exactly the same way as companies in the EU.

Horizon2020

Support is grouped under the Enhanced European Innovation Council (EIC) accelerator pilot, which supports innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas and the ambition to scale up internationally. You can apply both as an individual SME or together with partners, and funding is available both to develop an idea (€50,000), and for more mature innovative business projects (grant of €500,000-€ 2.5 million + access to loans up to €15 million). The programme also offers coaching and mentoring to companies that receive funding.

Indeed, innovative businesses can find it difficult to secure finance: their products can be complex, their technologies untested, and their markets may not even yet exist. To meet this challenge, H2020 Access to Risk Finance helps companies and start-ups to gain easier access to loans.

2. How do I apply?

If you have a brilliant idea or innovation but you’re not sure which funding scheme is right for you, visit the EIC funding page and check out the EIC wizard – a great interactive funding assistant – to help you identify the best solution for your company.

To apply, you’ll need to register your company in the system and submit an application form outlining your idea.

Remember, the programme is aimed at SMEs with a revolutionary business idea based on developing an innovative technology. Three main criteria are used to evaluate your proposal:

  • Excellence: how your high-risk/high-potential innovation goes beyond the state of the art in its field.

  • Impact: how your innovation will create substantial demand (including willingness to pay) for the product, service or model.

  • Implementation: how the innovative product will be managed, and which team resources are available to do so.

If you are looking for a loan to finance your innovation, you’ll need to check out the H2020 Access to Risk Finance page.

If you need help, visit the Horizon 2020 national portal, and make sure to contact the H2020 National Contact Points in Georgia.

3. It sounds good, but these applications are never simple are they?

Definitely. You need to take the application seriously, and to answer each question thoroughly. Don’t think you can take an existing text and copy-paste it into the application – the evaluators will be looking in detail at your answers to each question. 

Some people think the project’s description must be as academic as possible, but this is not true – evaluators do NOT want to read a scientific abstract, they want you to sell your project in a way that is understandable to a non-specialist. Imagine that you are pitching to investors, so look for the WOW effect, and remember, it’s not enough for your product to be innovative, you must be able to demonstrate its commercial value.

Your proposal needs to tell a coherent story, it should be written in a way that’s easy to read, without repetitions and ‘hot air’ to fill the space (the maximum number of pages is a maximum – not a requirement). Remember that the evaluator is a human being and it’s better for you when your proposal is easier to read.

Some people will be put off by the fact that everything must be submitted in English. But you should see this as an opportunity: write your presentation in Georgian and have it professionally translated. You’ll be at ease answering the questions in Georgian, but the final application will be in fluent English. And you’ll end up with an English pitch for your project, which will be useful for other programmes or investors.

If you’re filing an SME innovation application, make sure to read the step-by-step guide to the proposal template for the SME Instrument, which contains priceless tips and advice on submitting a proposal. This advice is based on feedback from evaluators and Horizon 2020 national contact points who deal daily with SME applications.

4. Have any Georgian companies received grants?

Georgian companies are not making the most of the available funding opportunities: not because they are less innovative, but because they are failing to apply for funding. Only three Georgian applicants have been involved in eligible proposals, and none of them has so far been successful.

But companies in other Eastern Partner countries have gone all the way: “The Horizon 2020 SME Instrument seemed really interesting to us, because by just filling in a few documents we could reach great results and take our business one level higher,” says Khachik Sahakyan, co-founder of Armenian start-up Grovf – his company did just that and won a €50,000 grant. Dmytro Kovalchuk had a similar experience in Ukraine: with the help of professional consultants it took him just two weeks to submit a winning application for his hi-tech company. “Working with Horizon 2020 left a good impression. I already had a working idea, so I knew the answers to all the questions that they asked, which decided on the fate of the money,” he recalls. A few months later a grant of €50,000 had been credited to the company’s account. 

There is no shortage of innovative companies in Georgia, and the opportunities for funding exist – a Georgian company has as much right, and as much chance, to win an EU grant as a company in Estonia, Germany, or Spain: you just need to apply.

5. Are there any funding opportunities for individuals?

If you’re a researcher looking to give your career a boost by working abroad, you can apply for an individual fellowship under the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. To apply, you need a PhD or at least four years’ full-time research experience. Research in all disciplines can be funded – from physics to linguistics, from health-sciences to mathematical modelling. The grants of up to two years cover living, travel and family costs, and the EU also contributes to your training, networking and research costs, as well as to the management and indirect costs of the project (see guide for applicants for full details). The grant is awarded to the host organisation, usually a university, research centre or a company in Europe.

The European Research Council (ERC) also provides funding for top researchers of any nationality to conduct research in Europe. With an ERC Starting Grant, early career researchers can get up to €1.5 million for five years of research. Even more attractive grants are available for more senior, established researchers.

Having said that, most European research funding aims to support international partnerships to advance innovation, so if you are an academic your most likely route to EU funding is through collaboration. Horizon 2020 funds research projects in all areas – from space to humanities, from ICT to agriculture, from biotechnology to energy…

6. What chance do Georgian scientists and researchers have to receive grants?

Georgia benefits from Horizon 2020 in the same way as European Union member states, which means Georgian scientists have exactly the same chance of funding as their colleagues from the EU.

By the end of 2018, 30 individual Georgian researchers had received funding under the latest phase of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (2014-2020), since Georgia became a full member of Horizon 2020 in April 2016.

But Horizon 2020 is not just about individual opportunities. Most projects require you to work with at least three other institutions or enterprises from different countries. So Horizon 2020 opens the door to better collaboration between Georgian scientists and their international colleagues, as well as business partners from the EU and across the world.

For example, Georgian scientists are playing an important role in the CURE project for treating asthma, working with 10 partners from 7 different countries in a €3 million collaboration funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. If the CURE study is successful, Georgian patients will be the first to benefit under an innovative treatment that uses naturally occurring viruses to kill bacteria, instead of antibiotics. Read the full story and listen the podcast about the project.

Other research projects in which Georgia participates include a collaborative approach to renewable energy, work on marine protected areas, and developing a virtual research environment by building up e-infrastructure across south-east Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. See the Horizon 2020 country profile for Georgia, the CORDIS database of EU research results, and the list of H2020 projects involving Georgian partners.

7. Where else can I search for funding to support my start-up?

Horizon 2020 is dedicated to research and innovation funding, but there are plenty of other EU opportunities for support that are available in Georgia:

If you are a business: you can apply for a ranging of funding and support opportunities under the EU4Business initiative. Georgian entrepreneurs also have access to the Enterprise Europe Network, which helps Georgian SMEs find business and technology partners across Europe and beyond.

If you are an academic or a student: Erasmus+ offers a wealth of research and exchange opportunities across all fields and for all levels. Visit the National Erasmus+ Office in Georgia for details, as well as check our Erasmus+ e-cards for youth opportunities funded under the programme.

If you are in culture or media: Georgia participates fully in the culture and media programmes of the EU’s Creative Europe programme.

To keep up with all the news, events and opportunities about EU support for research and innovation, bookmark the EU4Innovation page.