EU Funding Programs for Businesses

One of the main objectives behind the establishment of the European Union was the promotion of the continent's economic and competitive potential through the creation of new businesses and new jobs. Today, the European Union continues to offer financial support to entrepreneurs from European countries thanks to its numerous funding programmes.

Types of funding available

Businesses and organisations based in a EU country can benefit from two main types of financial support. In the first place, the European Union offers assistance and support through grants. These are usually awarded to organisations whose ethos and objectives can help develop further the competitive levels of the European Union in the global economy. Grants are classified according to specific fields or business areas. The main categories include agriculture, foods, and rural development; business, enterprise, and industry; culture, education, youth, and sports; economy, financial services, and tax; employment and social affairs; energy, climate action, and natural resources; consumers, the environment, and health; foreign affairs, humanitarian aid, and external trade; justice and citizens' rights; regional and local development; science, research, and technology; and transport and tourism. Businesses interested in applying for funding in any of these categories must respond to the calls for proposals that are regularly announced via the official website of the European Union.

In addition to offering funding through grants, the European Union also supports businesses and organisations through public contracts. Companies that produce or sell services or goods that are used by European institutions can apply for funding by responding to the calls for tender issued by EU bodies such as the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the Committee of the Regions, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Auditors, and the European Administrative School.

Business interested in applying for public contracts are required to be familiar with the strict guidelines entailed in the application process. An introduction to these guidelines can be found at

Microfinance initiatives

Microfinance initiatives consist of loans of up to €25,000 that are granted by European Union institutions to self-employed individuals or to businesses that have 10 members of staff or fewer. It is important to note that microfinance loans are not awarded directly by the European Union, but intermediaries are used instead. Intermediary agents can either offer businesses cash loans or use equity finance.

European microfinance initiatives can be divided into three types, depending on which purpose they are supposed to serve. First-time entrepreneurs or business owners who require financial assistance in order to expand their company operations can request assistance from a local provider in their country that is affiliated with the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme. In the case of individuals who want to venture into the business world after having lost their job, the European Union offers microfinance support through the European Progress Microfinance Facility. Lastly, small businesses that are already established and need financial support can request assistance from local microfinance providers that are part of JEREMIE, the Joint European Resources to Micro to medium-sized Enterprises network.

Specialised funding programmes

Businesses in the European Union can also benefit from funding programmes that have been made available to specific industry sectors. Research and development is one of these sectors, given the huge potential of this industry for the future of the continent's economy. Some of the funding programmes available to companies involved in the R&D sector include the Horizon 2020 initiative and the Seventh Framework Programme.

Small and medium-sized European businesses that operate in the transport sector can find sources of funding thanks to the Marco Polo project, which has provided support to more than 700 European firms since 2003. The E-Content Plus programme can provide funding to companies in the digital information and internet technology sectors, whereas the Life Programme can assist companies involved in the environmental and conservation industries.

Where to find further information and advice

If you need further information about a specific EU funding programme or simply want to keep up to date with the latest developments in this area, you can take a look at the following websites:

- The European Information Association
- Cordis Europa (Community Research and Development Information Service)
- Enterprise Europe Network
- The European Commission (Public Contracts and Funding Opportunities)
- European Microfinance Initiatives
- The European Small Business Portal
- UK Government (European Regional Development Funding)
- EU Grants (European Union Funding Programmes)
- List of EU agencies and bodies that issue calls for tender