There are several different types of Public Support/Community Incentives Programs available. Generally, Countries Government and European Union offers financial assistance to help businesses which meet certain criteria, such as small businesses starting up, businesses in assisted areas or ones developing new technology. However, how these incentives are available and their purpose and financing scheme is very different due to its various details. These financial aids are available in many forms such as direct payments (reimbursements, co-financing or interest rate subsidies), loans and guarantees.
The European Union assistance schemes are divided into the following four categories:
1. Thematic funding opportunities
This funding is mostly thematic with specific objectives – environment, research, education – designed and implemented by various Departments of the European Commission. SMEs or other organisations can usually apply directly for the programmes, generally on condition that they present sustainable, value-added and trans-national projects. Depending on the programme, applicants can also include industrial groupings, business associations, business support providers and/or consultants.
Co-funding is the general rule: the support of the European Union usually consists of subsidies which only cover part of the costs of a project.
2. Structural funds
The Structural Funds (European Regional Development Fund [ERDF] and European Social Fund [ESF]) are the largest Community funding instruments benefiting SMEs, through the different thematic programmes and community initiatives implemented in the regions. The beneficiaries of structural funds receive a direct contribution to finance their projects. Note that the programmes are managed and the projects selected at national and regional level.
3. Financial instruments
Most of the financial instruments are only available indirectly, via national financial intermediaries. Many of them are managed by the European Investment Fund.
4. Support for the internationalisation of SMEs
These generally consist of assistance to intermediary organisations and/or public authorities in the field of internationalisation, in order to help SMEs to access markets outside the EU.
Full details on all current EU funding sources are available from
Navigating EU funding structures can be difficult and time consuming but the Enterprise Europe Network can help with expert help and advice.
The network’s mission is to provide integrated information, business co-operation, innovation and technology transfer services in support of small businesses and innovative SMEs.
One of the network’s core activities is informing enterprises about EU matters and providing feedback from SMEs to the Commission to ensure that future legislation responds to SME needs. Network members have expertise in areas of specific interest to companies such as: public procurement, business co-operation, financing, innovation, technology transfer, market research and European legislation. Network members also help companies to apply for Commission projects and fulfil administrative formalities. They have direct access to the European Commission and are supported by dedicated staff in the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation in Brussels, assisting them in answering the most complex questions.
Information is also provided to companies through awareness-raising activities such as participation in fairs, organisation of seminars, lectures, workshops and a range of publications offered in local languages (guides, newsletters, websites…).
The Enterprise Europe Network also supports innovation by providing brokerage services for technology and knowledge transfer. It also supports partnership-building activities between all kinds of innovation actors and it is engaged in disseminating information related to innovation issues and in exploiting research-based technologies.
Regardless of what stage of a business cycle a company is in or what level of familiarity it has with European affairs, the Enterprise Europe Network can help. It helps companies to take advantage of business opportunities and can expose them to European and international markets through its partners in more than 40 countries. The Enterprise Europe network has over 500 offices spread across Europe and in Third Countries. These include all EU Member States, Candidate Countries, Associated Countries to the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, members of the European Economic Area, and European Neighbourhood Policy countries. etc
Further details are available from http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise-europe-network
Other sources of information include the following:
Directorate-General Enterprise and Industry – European Commission:
SME portal: http://ec.europa.eu/small-business/index_en.htm
The “grants and loans” database on the “Europa” website gives an overview of all EU programs and instruments: http://ec.europa.eu/grants/index_en.htm
TED, tenders electronic daily: database of public tenders published in the Official Journal of the European Union: http://ted.europa.eu/TED/main/HomePage.do
Your Europe: this portal gives individuals and businesses practical information on their rights and opportunities in the EU as a whole and in the individual Member States: http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/index_en.htm
- Some financial aids don’t have to be repaid or when needed to be paid their interest rates are lower compared to other sources of financing
- Certain conditions may apply e.g. location
- Not all businesses may be eligible for a grant
- Success stories (video) Public Support/Community Incentives Programs – http://www.sme-finance-day.eu/index.php?id=7
- European Commission website for Obtaining Funding – http://ec.europa.eu/small-business/funding-partners-public/finance/index_en.htm
- Access to Finance in European Union and its specific countries – http://europa.eu/youreurope/business/finance-support/access-to-finance/index_en.htm