Will your business benefit from the next round of EU funds in the innovation sector?

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 The big picture

Once every seven years, the European Union decides its long-term budget: the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF). Negotiations for the new budget are already up and running as the new financing and programming period, 2021-2027, will start in January 2021. It is currently still expected to be the first for the European Union without the UK.

What is there for your company?

EU funding for innovation post-2020

The key drivers of research and innovation are most effectively addressed at regional level. Reducing the innovation deficit between European regions is therefore a key objective of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). Under the current budget (2014-2020), the EU and member states invest almost €66 billion to strengthen research, technological development and innovation through projects implemented at national, regional and local level. The top spender of ESIF R&D funding is by far Poland, with €9.9 billion, followed by Spain, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic.

The promotion of innovation will continue to be a central feature of the 2021-2027 wave of ESIF programmes across all member states. While the overall and specific country allocations for R&D are not yet set (as they are subject to the ongoing negotiations between the European Commission and individual member states), the priority investment areas are already indicated:

  1. Research and innovation activities in companies, public research centres, higher education and centres of competence (industrial research, experimental development, feasibility studies, networking)
  2. Investment in fixed and intangible assets directly linked to research and innovation activities
  3. Skills development for smart specialisation, industrial transition and entrepreneurship
  4. Incubation, support to spin-offs, spin-outs and start-ups
  5. Innovation cluster support and business networks primarily benefiting SMEs
  6. Innovation processes in SMEs (process, organisational, marketing, co-creation, user- and demand-driven innovation)
  7. Technology transfer and cooperation between enterprises, research centres and the higher education sector
  8. Research and innovation processes, technology transfer and cooperation between enterprises focusing on the low carbon economy, resilience, adaptation to climate change and circular economy.

ESIF funding for innovation will continue to be conditional on the development and implementation of national and/or regional smart specialisation strategies that will allow countries and regions to concentrate their investments on their specific competitive sectors.


Interregional innovation investments (III) are a new funding instrument under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with a proposed allocation of €970 million. The III will focus on the commercialisation and scaling up of interregional innovation projects for the development of European value chains. It is a pure investment programme managed directly by the European Commission and focused only on innovation-related matters. Regions with matching smart specialisation assets will be given more support to build pan-European clusters in priority sectors such as big data, circular economy, advanced manufacturing or cybersecurity.

The 2021-2027 ESIF R&D and innovation budget will be complemented by significant additional funding from Horizon Europe, the biggest ever research and innovation funding programme, with an indicative allocation of almost €100 billion.

Engage and co-create the best EU investment environment for your business in your key EU markets
In parallel with the approval of the EU budget by the European institutions, member states are currently preparing their specific investment plans for ESIF funding, including those for the innovation sector.
Who will benefit from the money? Under which conditions? What is the timeline? These questions, among others, are currently being discussed by the national authorities in charge of managing money received from the EU. The consultation process is open to all interested stakeholders at member state level and will last until the end of 2020.

How? Get in touch
At Schuman Associates, we have extensive experience supporting clients to understand and influence the policy and funding framework driving EU funding cycles. With our guidance, our clients are able to leverage downstream market opportunities in their countries of interest and win EU-funded business.
With experts based in Brussels and across the EU, we are ready to support your company to make the most of the new wave of EU funding in your target markets.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Schuman Associates is a Brussels-based, independent, consultancy with more than 30 years’ experience in European funding and public affairs.

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