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

05-09-2019
How to receive EU funding for research and innovation in Ukraine?
1. I have an innovative business idea: can I receive a grant from the EU?

Yes, you can. Ukraine 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. To locate banks, lenders or funds that provide risk finance supported by the EU, go to http://access2finance.eu, select Ukraine on the map, and find out which Ukrainian banks offer research and innovation loans supported by the EU.

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

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 Ukrainian and have it professionally translated. You’ll be at ease answering the questions in Ukrainian, 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. Also check out the advice of Ihor Arkhypenko, Head of Projects and Programmes at the Kyiv IT Cluster and application evaluation expert for Horizon 2020 – ‘What is Horizon 2020, and how to get a EUR 50,000 grant for development of your project?

4. Which companies in Ukraine have already received grants?

Ukrainian companies are not making the most of the available funding opportunities: not because they are less innovative, but because the number of projects submitted from Ukraine is ten times lower than that those from Italy or Spain. Still, a number of SMEs have obtained Horizon 2020 grants to support the development of their unique innovative ideas.

Dmytro Kovalchuk’s company Chervona Khhvylia is a supplier of equipment and technology for titanium smelting across the world. The company’s engineers developed and patented a unique technology for 3D printing with metals, but needed funding to bring the product to market. So the company applied for a Horizon 2020 grant. Dmytro Kovalchuk was daunted by the process, but brought in professional consultants: with their help, the application was submitted within two weeks, and a few months later a grant of €50,000 was credited to the company’s account. 

Ukrainian start-up Raccoon, a developer of virtual interaction technologies, is tackling a technological solution for the rehabilitation of patients with hand injuries. To finance its project, Raccoon received €50,000 from Horizon 2020. But the grant was not everything: just as important was the fact that winning the grant provided credibility for potential partners, investors, clients and mass media, opening the doors to additional private investors.

Find out more about Ukrainian companies conquering new tech horizons with EU support, and also check out the interactive map of beneficiaries.

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 Ukrainian scientists and researchers have to receive grants?

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

But Horizon 2020 is not just about the money. 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 Ukrainian scientists and their international colleagues, as well as business partners from the EU and across the world.

Science is developing in communication,” explains researcher Oleksandra Antoniuk, who is working on a Horizon 2020 project with German, Austrian and Italian colleagues. “Imagine that you and I have one apple each. We exchanged and still have one apple each. But if you have an idea and I have one, then together we already have two ideas. Or maybe even three, because together we will come up with something new.” As a result of their collaboration, Oleksandra and her colleagues have developed a device to control blood sugar level, and also help Italian surgeons to carry out surgery on patients with heart valve abnormalities. Read their story here.

This is just one ground-breaking project out of many: from 2014-2018, Horizon 2020 funded 184 projects involving 110 Ukrainian private and public enterprises, research institutes and universities, with grants worth a total of nearly €21.7 million. One institution, the M.Y. Zhukovsky National Aerospace University ‘Kharkiv Institute of Aviation’ (KIA) has done particularly well, positioning itself as a world leader in its field. Find out more about how it has received over €1.8 million for six projects in aviation and cybersecurity.

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 Ukraine:

If you are a business: you can apply for a ranging of funding and support opportunities under the EU4Business initiative. Ukrainian entrepreneurs also have access to the EU’s COSME programme, which includes grants for SME development, as well as to the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, which gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other Participating Countries. Check out the interactive map of opportunities for Ukrainian SMEs to see what is best for you.

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 Ukraine for details, as well as check our Erasmus+ e-cards for youth opportunities funded under the programme.

If you are in culture or media: Ukraine 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.