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French government-backed investment group Bpifrance, which invests in local French startups, also encourages companies to look into European Commission programs for funding that will help in their future growth.

“The European Commission has taken into account the need for finance by SMEs in Europe and the solutions proposed by the Commission are really giving good opportunities for innovative companies,” said Christian Dubarry, who is responsible for European affairs at Bpifrance. He believes the landscape for seeking funding through European programs is better than it’s ever been.

Some of these popular funding tools include the SME Instrument, under Horizon 2020 which is providing access to €2.8 billion to small and medium sized companies, and Eurostars, supporting SMEs in research and development phases, held by the European Commission and EUREKA.

“The SME instrument is quite interesting for innovative companies with high potential,” explained Dubarry. “Eurostars enables SMEs to collaborate with a foreign partner for developing a new product. There are some good opportunities so that’s good news for European companies.”

However, these funding instruments aren’t a given and startups need to be prepared for applying as the number of applicants selected in the end are low, according to Dubarry.

“It is highly competitive. The selection rates are unfortunately quite low because it is very popular and successful. It’s the main drawback of this initiative but it’s still a valid opportunity because if the company succeeds it can benefit from important financial support,” he said.

“Even if the selection rate is quite low, let’s say around 30% for Eurostars but only 10% for SME Instrument, if it is a success, the company is doing something quite interesting.”

This means a company that has a well-formed, developed, and refined idea and business plan is better placed to avail of funds and usually this is a startup that has a couple of years under its belt already.

“They are not new companies. They are companies several years in existence,” said Dubarry. “They are very innovative and they are in the last development phases of their product or service. That is to say they are close to commercialising or already started commercialising their offer.”

“We hope that more and more companies will tap into these funds,” he continued, stressing the need for greater promotion efforts to spread awareness of Bpifrance and European programs for funding.

“We probably have to disseminate more information through websites, blogs, events, networks. I think that is the task still in front of us.”

Featured image credit: Bpifrance / Flickr