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Accruing Interest: Intesa Sanpaolo on making Innovation Funding Simple

By Intesa Sanpaolo

The European Commission asks: How should the Common Strategic Framework make EU research and innovation funding more attractive and easy to access for participants? What is needed in addition to a single entry point with common IT tools, a one stop shop for support, a streamlined set of funding instruments covering the full innovation chain and further steps towards administrative simplification?

Key points:

  • Reducing time to grant and cutting administrative burdens;
  • Increasing EU projects’ success rates and SMEs involvement in building the European Research Area (ERA);
  • Reducing fragmentation of information by creating a single web entry point for European, National and Regional grants and other financial incentives for RDI.

As outlined, inter alia, in the Interim Evaluation of the Seventh Framework Programme (Report of the Expert Group), despite relevant progress achieved from FP6 to current FP7, administrative burdens need to be further reduced.

Based on the IntesaSanpaolo Eurodesk experience, companies, even the biggest ones, are frustrated by the considerable level of bureaucracy required for the projects management. Even though funding directed to SMEs is now close to the 15% objective foreseen for the Cooperation sub programme, a drop in enterprise participation has been remarked.

SMEs have an important role in fostering technological innovation in Italy. More than 50% of Italian patent applications to the EPO in the 1998-2007 period were applied by firms with less than 50 million euro sales, with a significant improvement in recent years. Between 2005 and 2008, R&D expenses of SMEs have increased by 44%, against a rate of growth of 26% for bigger firms. However, Italian SMEs still find it difficult to finance structured and continuous research activity: only 20% of Italian total BERD is carried out by SMEs.

In order to make the next Framework Programme more attractive and easy to access, we fully support the following points emerged during the current European debate:

  • Increasing the number of calls for proposals and widening the topics which should be closely linked to Europe 2020 Strategy’s “grand challenges”. Moreover, the submission and the evaluation of project proposals using the twostep system should be increased. Indeed, the effort implied by the submission of a proposal is out of proportion if compared to the low success rate (under 20%): the scope should be to double the success rate at the second evaluation step, by approaching it to 40%;
  • Reducing the size of transnational consortia, whenever possible: in our experience, industries - and especially SMEs - find it difficult to build and manage wide transnational consortia and are reluctant to share their know how with partners;
  • Reducing “time to grant”: waiting one year on average for a grant is not economically sustainable for SMEs;
  • Widening the use of prizes and lump sums;
  • Elaborating new evaluation systems for future CSF projects: more “results oriented” and with a more risk-tolerant and trust-based approach.

Finally, as ISPE we notice in our day-by-day contact with Italian companies a lack of information on European funding opportunities and procedures in submitting proposals, which is also caused by the fragmentation of related information. To this purpose, we strongly support:

  • A single Internet web-based portal for European, National and Regional grants and other financial incentives opportunities dedicated to Research and Innovation (e.g. European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, financial institutions intermediates for the EIB and EIF, European Business Angels Network…);
  • A voucher to be spent by SMEs to purchase consultancy services helping them access European funds, based on the model of the Exploratory awards implemented under the 5FP, and possibly using National Structural Funds;
  • Awards devoted to project submitted by networks of enterprises able to create synergies between different European funding schemes.

For any further comments or questions, please contact Intesa Sanpaolo’s International Regulatory and Antitrust Affairs Office:   

Mrs Alessandra Perrazzelli Head of International Regulatory and Antitrust Affairs