Meeting today with the President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE) in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt, Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick raised concerns regarding the low level of application by small and medium-sized enterprises when applying for EU funding, specifically Horizon 2020. Cllr Fitzpatrick raised her concerns with Mr Verhofstadt, nominee for President of the European Commission in the 2014 European Parliament election.
Fianna Fáil’s candidate for Dublin in the European Elections, Cllr Fitzpatrick said “Horizon 2020 is an €80 billion Research and Development fund that is available to small and medium-sized enterprises, specifically in the areas of Food, Transport, Health, ICT and Energy. Under horizon 2020 there is no specific allocation of the €80 billion investment funding per region. This is a massive opportunity for Ireland to achieve up to €1.5 billion in funding for SMEs per year that would contribute to economic stimulus for Ireland”.
Cllr Fitzpatrick continued, “However, while those in the areas of research and academia are applying for and securing funding through this programme, what is concerning is the lack of awareness among SMEs that Horizon 2020 funding is available. The process of application is also quite complex. We know that our universities have been very adept in identifying and negotiating the complexities of European funding. Under the existing EU Research and Technological Framework programme 2007–2013 62% of the €572 million fund has been secured by universtities, while just 26% of this fund has gone to companies based in Ireland”.
Cllr Fitzpatrick said “SMEs can often be constrained by available resources and a lack of prior experience. If supported correctly SMEs could benefit hugely from Horizon 2020 as investment in these firms has a positive, long-term effect on the local economy and job creation. The challenge for Ireland is to ensure, at a European level, that SMEs can be supported in the application process to ensure that they enjoy the maximum benefit under Horizon 2020. In this regard simplifying the application process at a European level and reducing the time to grant, which is currently averaging at 8 months, is crucial”.
Guy Verhofstadt said “Over the last 20 years Europe has lagged behind the rest of the world in terms of economic growth. An important means of reversing this trend is for Europe to significantly sharpen the quality of its research, development and innovation so it is focused on key unmet societal challenges. In 2011 just 2% of Europe’s GDP was invested in R&D, this year Ireland has assigned just 1.17% of its GDP to research and innovation. While Ireland is committed to a revised R&D investment target of 2.5% GNP (equal to 2.0% GDP) for 2020 Ireland will need to commit to continued growth in GDP to competitive with the USA and developing countries. Mr Verhofstadt continued, “Investment from Horizon 2020, if supported and managed correctly, will have a significant and positive impact on future GDP growth and job creation for Ireland”.
Horizon 2020 is an €80 Billion EU-wide funding initiative that is available to SMEs working in the areas of research and innovation under three main pillars – excellent science; industrial leadership; and societal challenges.