Government guarantee means now is a great time to apply for Horizon 2020 funding

Thousands of British organisations will be pleased to learn that the government has confirmed it will guarantee to fulfil funds due on any Horizon 2020 grants won before the UK leaves the European Union.

This statement will provide a degree of reassurance to businesses at what has become a very uncertain time for the UK economic landscape. Following the announcement of the referendum results many businesses have been reluctant to embark on European funding bids as it was unclear how they would be effected once the exit process began. For this reason, applications from UK companies are likely to have fallen giving the latest applicants the best chance of making the cut.

This commitment gives businesses the opportunity to continue accessing this valuable resource for research and innovation funding. It is particularly good news for small companies who can apply for SME instrument grant of up to €2.5million for early stage proof of concept through to bringing products to market. We encourage all tech companies to take advantage of this opportunity while it is still accessible and would be happy to chat to anyone wanting to know more information about the opportunities available. Get in touch with us at grants@tenshi.co.uk

Some interesting stats from the EU prior to H2020

We often get asked about the success rates and number of companies that get funding from the EU grant programs such as Horizon 2020. The EU has recently released some interesting statistics regarding their previous programme FP7.

European funding prior to Horizon 2020 was done in a series of framework programmes, starting in 1984 with a budget of just 3.8 billion euros to spend over 5 years. The framework programmes grew steadily from then on with the biggest increases coming in FP7 (07–13) where available funding grew to over 50 billion euros.

Horizon 2020 took the reins from 2013 onwards with a new structure and a further 80+ billion euro budget.

During FP7, Germany and the UK got by far the most funding, but funding was provided to a broad range of companies with 134k people participating in the programme from 170 countries. Statistics also show a good gender balance, 38% of project participants were female. Of the 136k eligible applications, 18% received funding, resulting in twenty-five thousand supported businesses.

A second statistic released was €6.4 billion in funding going to SME’s via the still active Eurostars programme.

Eurostars has been running since 2007 and was developed to meet the specific needs of SMEs. It was the first European funding and support programme to be specifically dedicated to niche market of research-performing SMEs in their innovative R&D projects. Eurostars is a joint programme between EUREKA and the European Commission.



Horizon 2020 2016-17 Programme Announced

This week the second work programme of Horizon 2020 has been announced, which details the grants that are available through 2016-2017.

As with the 2014-15 work programme, the ‘Open Disruptive Innovation’ topic is the most likely avenue for games/digital/creative companies to apply through, as this has a broad scope.

Full details on the 2016-2017 SME instrument (section of H2020 relevant to SMEs) are available here.


 The ‘Open Disruptive Innovation’ topic has €126m allocated for the next two years. This topic has the largest budget allocated to it, from the total €739m available for the SME Instrument in 2016-17.

Submission dates

Phase 1:

24 Feb 2016

03 May 2016

07 Sep 2016

09 Nov 2016

15 Feb 2017

03 May 2017

Phase 2:

03 Feb 2016

14 Apr 2016

15 Jun 2016

13 Oct 2016

18 Jan 2017

06 Apr 2017

01 Jun 2017

18 Oct 2017

Projects Funded to date

Horizon 2020 has released details of all grants awarded to date, include the company and amount of funding awarded. Under the ‘Open Disruptive Innovation’ topic, which is where most digital/creative/games companies would look to apply, there have been 210 grants awarded in 2014-2015. Of these, 171 were phase 1 €50k feasibility study grants, and the remaining 39 were phase 2 innovation projects (€500k-€2.5m).

Some of the projects include:

‘Advanced Back end of a Service Engine’

A framework providing back end functionality for mobile app developers. More details here.

This Phase 1 grant (€50k) was awarded to Italian company Apps Builder in September 2014.

‘Big Data using Second Screen and Content Recognition’

A tool to help TV broadcasters to gather data on their users and personalise the experience accordingly. More details here.

This Phase 1 grant (€50k) was awarded to Spanish company Bridge Mediatech in December 2014.

‘Automatic creation of interactive video to double video advertising revenues whilst decreasing inconvenience for viewers‘

A solution that creates interactive video to enhance advertising monetisation. More details here.

This Phase 2 grant (€946k) was awarded to French company Adways in October 2014

Platform Universal Self Hosting, a hybrid-cloud Platform as a Service reducing web application development cost by 40% for SMEs ‘PLUSH’

Next generation self-hosted Platform as a Service, which can run multiple applications, in multiple languages using multiple data backends on a hybrid-cloud infrastructure.

This Phase 2 grant (€1.9m) was awarded to French company Commerce Guys in October 2014.

Full listing of all grants awarded is available here.



Tips on Horizon 2020 Funding

This post summarises the key things that you need to be aware of when considering applying to Horizon 2020.

‘SME Instrument – Open Disruptive Scheme’ is the section of Horizon 2020 relevant to smaller companies in creative industries

Most of Horizon 2020 is not suitable for SMEs (small to medium size businesses), but the ‘SME Instrument’ section is specifically there to provide funding to smaller businesses. Within SME Instrument is the ‘Open Disruptive Scheme’ which is relevant for creative businesses.

How much money do they have?

Horizon 2020 as a whole has huge amount of funding.

For the SME Instrument – Open Disruptive Scheme specifically in 2015 they planned to fund 90 phase 1 projects (up to €50k) in 2015 and up to 26 phase 2 projects (up to €2.5million).

When does the fund end?

The fund runs until 2020 (started 2014) but they announce details including themes and submission dates in 2 year sections.

How much money can I apply for?

There are 3 phases you can apply for:

Phase 1 – feasibility study, €50k (70% match funding)

Phase 2 – Innovation project, between €500k-€2.5m (70% match funding)

Phase 2 – Commercialisation & Coaching, no funding, provides support to projects funded through Phase 2

What Phase should I apply for?

It depends on your project, however there is a very strong link between companies who undertake a Phase 1 before applying for Phase 2. The success rate of companies applying straight for Phase 2 is very low.

How long should my project be?

Phase 1 – usually around 6-9 months

Phase 2 – 1-2 years

Phase 3 – On-going

You need to have the potential to grow to a very large company on a global scale

They are looking for companies who could provide benefit to the European Union, so you have to have plans that include scaling significantly.

You have to be doing something genuinely innovative

There has to be something new, for example a new technology, in what you are doing.

You need a solid business plan that focuses on the EU

You must be market ready, so need a solid business plan. Phase 1 is designed to fund you to develop this, so that going into Phase 2 you have it ready. Horizon 2020 is an EU program so your plan must focus on the EU, not just the UK.

You have to already have proven that your idea works

You need to have already developed the project to a point where it works.

You need customers

You need to be able to show strong demonstrable market interest, which ideally means having customers already.

Public grants: What are technology innovation grants?

Public grants are a popular route for companies to get funding to develop products or services. Development of own IP can sometimes be challenging to fund, particularly during the early stages before you can prove the potential of your idea. Public grants are often the best way to find that early stage funding.

An important consideration when applying for a public grant should be that grant funds have a greater reason for existing than just to benefit your company. Often that purpose is to generate economic growth either through job creation, or through technology innovation.

This article is going to look at technology innovation grants, and what types of projects they are designed for.

Grants for technology innovation can often be substantial amounts of money, sometimes up to £100k, but often higher up to £250k and in some cases into the millions. In the UK, these grants are mainly available through InnovateUK (innovateuk.gov.uk) (Technology Strategy Board) and the EU Horizon 2020 program (ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020).

So, what is technology innovation and how does it apply to games?

Technology innovation is defined as the research and development of new or improved technology, developed for widespread use. What this means in practice is that:You need to be developing technology, not a game and not content.

Some examples of what this might be are a new game engine, a Unity plugin that you will sell on the asset store, a specific algorithm, or a standalone tool for part of the production pipeline, for example animation or lighting.

You can develop this technology as part of a bigger project.

For example, you may develop the tool during the production of your game as part of the process. In fact, this is a good thing because the game enables you to prototype and proves that the technology works. The funding is only available however to cover the time spent on technology development, but if part of that is developing a prototype game to prove it, you may be able to get some funding for part of that too.

The technology you are developing does not exist.

You cannot recreate something that already exists. Whatever you are doing must be new, or a significant step forward based on some existing technology.

It must be something that will benefit your industry (or others) as a whole and not just your company.

So you must be intending to, and demonstrate commercial potential, to be able to sell this technology to other companies, to help them as well as help yourself. What this means is that if you are developing something that you only plan to use in-house, to make your games better than your competitors, you will not be able to get technology innovation funding because you are not creating something that can have widespread use.

You need to be developing the technology innovation yourself.

Essentially, you cannot be outsourcing or contracting the development of the technology. You need to show that you have the skills in-house to create the technology; otherwise, it will be perceived that it’s not your team that should be getting the funding, as you are not the ones with the skills to create it.

You should be able to demonstrate why this technology is relevant right now.

Being able to show that there is a need for this technology in your target industry right now is crucial. This usually means that there is a step change in your industry that gives your technology significant potential value, or a problem that your industry has been struggling with for a long time.

There must be significant technical uncertainty that you can deliver the project.

This is the complete opposite of most types of funding, but if you know exactly how you are going to developing the technology and it is just a matter of doing it, then you will not be eligible for technology innovation funding. There needs to be a significant element of research & development, with key risks that may stop you from succeeding. You must have a plan to mitigate those risks, but those risks and unknowns must exist.

Many technology innovation grants are not about getting to market, they are about proving the technology.

This does not apply to all technology innovation funding, however many including InnovateUK Smart Grants (one of the most popular grants for technology innovation) are specifically not funding you to get your technology to market. They are funding the R&D of the technology, after which you can then look to turn it into a full product to take to market.

If your project does have technology innovation, then you should consider applying for grant funding from InnovateUK or Horizon 2020, although be aware that there are other criteria to meet, such as being able to cashflow the project, being able to match fund and proving that you have the team in place to effectively project manage the process.

If you are looking to raise grant funding for technology innovation projects, then you can either write the grant application yourself, or work with a company such as Tenshi Grants who will write the application for you.

Technology innovation grants are not suitable for everyone, many games companies now use 3rd party technologies such as game engines or tools to enable them to focus on building games and content as efficiently as possible. However, some companies focus on building technology and others find that they come across a problem that cannot be solved with existing technology so have to build it themselves. In those scenarios, you are potentially eligible for significant grant funding and should be consider this as a way to fund your company growth.