Government grants are often so complex and costly to obtain that small companies never bother.
Show me the money: tapping into Europe’s funding streams
The EU offered more than €200 billion to small businesses for technology and related investments between 2007 and 2013, but much of the funding has yet to be spent. Less than half of all potential recipients are aware of the programmes and only a handful apply for funds. Those who do often fail.
Perplexed managers can hire a grant advisor, but their fees can be steep – and fraudulent advisors are a problem in some countries.
That dilemma prompted Microsoft
to create the EU Grants Advisor
(EUGA), in 2005, in partnership with HP, Intel and the European Software Association. EUGA gives free assistance to small and medium-sized businesses
(SMEs) seeking local, national and EU level grants across many sectors with a strong focus on research and development, training, employment and business development.
EUGA’s partner consultants help start-ups and smaller firms identify the right grant and guide them through the application process. The service is available in 14 countries, with more planned. “By helping small companies to raise grant funding from the EU and national sources, they can invest in people and in a technology roadmap that otherwise they may not have been able to follow. This helps them accelerate growth and reduce the risk of failure”, says Cliff Reeves, general manager, entrepreneur community development at Microsoft.
EUGA is part of Microsoft’s strategy of partnering with small companies worldwide to help them grow. The tandem starts with technology support for entrepreneurs through its BizSpark programme. More than 10,000 high-growth companies have joined BizSpark in Europe. EUGA then helps promising young companies secure the capital vital to growth, collaborating with investors such as the European Business Angels Network and the European Venture Capital Association.
Proven track record
The success rate for grants applied for with EUGA’s help since 2005 is 80 per cent, and the service has secured nearly $510 million. At a grass roots level, it has helped create 40,000 new jobs and trained 135,000 workers.
One grant winner is Paris-based Feedback&Co (formerly Grimmersoft), a provider of enterprise feedback management software which enables centralised management and deployment of surveys organisation-wide. Although Feedback&Co had a strong business foundation in France, it needed capital to develop new products and expand into international markets.
A EUGA team in France recommended PM’Up, a scheme administered by the Paris region to help local SMEs fund marketing, commercial and international development. Feedback&Co won a three-year €85,000 grant.
Swedish employment skills
EUGA also helps public and private agencies apply for funding to support young IT companies. Sweden’s Arbetsförmedlingen, a national employment agency, wanted to improve the IT skills of 150 job seekers by July 2011 but lacked resources. With EUGA’s help, the agency received a grant of over one million euros funding six ICT employment specialists.
Fresh Up Label, Bulgaria
Wielding information technology to help a company grow is a challenge even at big companies. But for small firms, lack of resources can stunt development. Fresh Up Label
, a fast-growing Bulgarian company, hit the wall several years ago as international demand for its high-quality, pressure-sensitive adhesive labels overwhelmed its ability to process orders quickly.
To meet rising demand, Fresh Up Label needed an electronic system to manage the production process effectively. A EUGA consultant helped Fresh Up apply for a grant from the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy and Energy to modernise manufacturing. The ministry awarded the company €50,000 – roughly 65 per cent of the total project cost.
Fresh Up used the grant to boost production levels and secure its position as one Europe’s leading providers of labels. “EUGA’s expert team were in the best position to advise us which grant we would be most successful in securing,” says Borislav Banchev, CEO of Fresh Up Labels. “Working with EUGA removed much of the workload and complexity that would otherwise have been involved.”