Spain’s small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) continue to set the pace in the European Commission’s SME Instrument competition, according to new figures released yesterday.
In the latest round, Spanish SMEs were the most successful, with 13 companies selected for funding. They are followed by seven Italian SMEs and five companies from both Germany and Finland. Fifty eight companies in total were selected.
Spain, followed by the UK and Italy, fares the best in the programme, partly because its companies are the most eager applicants.
“Two [further] things add to the “success” of Italy and Spain,” said Bernd Reichert, head of unit at the EU’s Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, which runs the SME Instrument. “A good innovation environment in some parts of the country – Milano and Barcelona are just great start-up hubs – and great networking capabilities.”
If other countries are not winning as much funding, it is not necessarily due to lack of a solid innovation environment but a “lack of networking and information concerning our activities”, Reichert added.
With €3 billion to invest over seven years, the programme offers fast and simple grants for business innovation feasibility studies (Phase 1) and demonstration projects (Phase 2). An expected 7,500 companies will receive funding from the programme before 2020.
It has already invested in a broad batch of companies. Among them is the UK’s Hybrid Air Vehicles, developer of the world's longest aircraft; Holoxica, another British company, which turns product designs into 3D digital holograms that can be used to view and verify the design without the expense of making a physical models; Spain’s Ecoalf, which makes clothes from marine waste; and DoReMIR, a Swedish start-up which can convert a song into sheet music.
The programme has attracted mostly strong reviews, not least from EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas, who is keen to replicate the programme’s investment and coaching philosophy, with the proposed European Innovation Council, which will be piloted next year.