Based in the EU? You might be wondering where the best startup grants in the European Union are. Here is our comprehensive guide to small business startup grants in the European Union and surrounding countries.
Whether you’re a French fintech, a Maltese martech, or a Swedish SaaS, it’s important to have funding in place to ensure success. However, making sure you have the money to fund payroll, marketing, and other business costs can be challenging. For example, in Italy, it’s estimated that starting business costs twice as much as the average monthly income.
The good news is that there is lots of startup funding available from the European Union, or The EU. This political union between 27 member states puts aside money to help people start new businesses and expand into brand-new markets.
So, what startup fundraising is available to you if you’re in the European Union? Join us as we look at some of the European Union grants for startups, and how to optimize your application for the best results.
Important note: This article primarily focuses on startup grant funding available to EU member states, although some non-EU states are eligible too.
As the UK is no longer part of the EU, while there is still some funding available, some opportunities are starting to wind down. However, we’ve put together an article listing grants available in the UK, which you might find helpful!
- Why apply for startup funding in Europe?
- The options if you want to fund in Europe
- Small business grants in Europe: what do you need to provide?
- Charity-based grants in Europe
- Small business grants in Europe
- Community-based grants in Europe
- Education-based grants in Europe
- Other startup grants in Europe
- In summary: Based in Europe? There are a lot of grants available to the EU!
Why apply for a small business startup grant in European Union?
In the past, startups in the European Union didn’t have as many opportunities open to them as in other parts of the world, like the US and Canada. As a result, the EU has invested significantly in grant opportunities. The government supports startups with the launch, development, and scaling.
Therefore, there are more startups from EU countries than ever before, including Klarna (Sweden), Blablacar (France), Typeform (Spain), and Ecosia (Germany).
As well as grant funding from the European Union, there are other advantages to being a business in Europe too. As well as easy trading across borders, many countries offer benefits to entrepreneurs to make starting a business even easier. For example, Denmark provides a visa to entrepreneurs, which allows them to live in the country for up to three years, with the option of permanent residence in the future.
The options if you want to fund in Europe
If you’re a startup looking for fundraising in Europe, you generally have three options available to you.
The first is to bootstrap your business yourself, through your own savings and loans. While this is a simple option if you have the money available, you will need to pay the money back if you get a loan through your bank. Plus if you are looking to scale, you’ll need to consider an alternative funding option in the future (unless you win the Euromillions!)
The second is to get investment, typically through an angel investor or venture capital company. While this option means you get the money you don’t have to pay back, you will need to give away equity in your startup, meaning you lose control. Not only this, but your investor may insist on sitting on your board and having a say on how the business is run. If you have different opinions, this may hurt your startup in the long term.
The third and final option is applying for a startup grant. This is when you receive a sum of money to invest in your business that doesn’t need to be paid back. This gives you the best of both worlds as you get money to help your business grow, and you don’t have to give up control of your business in the form of equity. Some grant opportunities also give you additional help and support, like training programs and access to networking events.
Of course, small business startup grants aren’t without their disadvantages. The main issue is that success isn’t guaranteed. It’s estimated that the success rate of applying for a grant program for the very first time can be as low as 30%, which can put a lot of people off.
The key is knowing which grants are the right ones to apply for and making sure you submit the correct information.
Small business grants in Europe: what do you need to provide?
We’re often asked what you need to provide when applying for startup business grants in the European Union. The honest answer is… it depends on what you apply for!
Different grant programs ask for different things, and it’s essential to read the rules and conditions carefully before you put your application together. Otherwise, you run the risk of your application being rejected or delayed.
Here are some of the things you might be asked for when you apply for grant funding in the EU:
- Financial details. Most grant programs will want to see how much money you’re making and what you’re forecasted to make in the future. If you’re applying for matched funding, they’ll also want to see if you’re serious about the investment
- A business plan. This is so the grant program facilitators can find out more about your startup and what the market is like. Check out our blog for more information about what to include in your business plan
- Proof of a license, membership, or certification. If you don’t already have these, you’ll need to factor in time to get them
- A pitch deck. This is especially relevant if you’re applying for a grant competition
And remember, if you’re in doubt, always ask. In our experience, most grant program facilitators are more than happy to answer your questions and clear up any confusion.
It’s also important to see if you need to do anything after you’ve successfully won the grant. For example, some organizations might ask for regular reporting so they can see what you’ve done with the money and how successful you’ve been.
Other organizations may ask to see proof of spending, especially if you’re applying for a grant where you get reimbursed rather than receiving the money in a lump sum.
So, now that you know more about how to apply for small business funding in the European Union, where can you apply for it? Let’s take a look.
1. Charity-based grants in the EU
If you’re a non-profit wondering where you can get grant funding in the EU to help you grow, there are many options available to you.
For example, European Social Fund Plus provides social innovation grants to startups wanting to benefit their local communities and make life better for minority groups.
2. Small business grants in the EU
If you’re an SME in Europe, there is plenty of funding available to you. An excellent place to start is the European Commission’s Funding and Tender Opportunities portal. Here you can search by program and location to find grant opportunities that are relevant to you. There’s also an RSS feed that you can use to keep up to date.
Here are some other small business grants available to EU entrepreneurs that you might find of interest.
This annual competition offers grant funding to startups in the manufacturing industry that are looking to scale. While the 2022 competition has now closed, BoostUp! will return in 2023.
Eureka offers grant funding for research and development projects in the EU. As well as general grant funding available across the whole of Europe (including non-EU countries), there are also grant programs for specific countries too.
Horizon Europe is the EU’s main funding program for research and innovation, with a focus on sustainability.
EU Prize for Women Innovators
This competition is open to women who are doing amazing things when it comes to creating new products and ideas, with a prize of 100,000 euros up for grabs. The competition for 2022 has now closed, but it will be back again next year.
3. Community-based grants in the EU
As well as grants available across the whole of the EU, there is funding available for specific countries. Here are a few examples of what is available. If you want to know more about the options available in your country, we recommend speaking to your local council’s business team.
Innovation Fund Denmark
This grant funding is open to businesses in Denmark that want to improve not only the economy but society.
The Research Council of Norway
This organization provides funding for Norwegian businesses that specialize in specific industries, including the service industry, energy, and the environment. While the 2022 funding cohort has closed, the 2023 one will open soon.
4. Education-based grants in the EU
If you want to study in Europe to help you succeed as an entrepreneur, there are lots of grants and scholarships to help you do so. Not only this, but under the Erasmus+ program, if you’re already a student, you can study in another EU country for a period of time without paying additional tuition fees.
Find out more about the education-based grants available in the European Union.
5. Other startup grants in European Union
And finally, here are some additional EU grants that you might want to take into consideration!
Support for Ukrainian startups
Earlier this year, the European Innovation Council announced it would be supporting Ukrainian deep tech startups with up to €60,000 each, as well as business advice and matchmaking.
As a Ukrainian business ourselves, this means a lot!
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs
This isn’t a startup grant as such, but we thought it was a cool idea! This is an exchange scheme for young entrepreneurs where they can stay with an experienced entrepreneur in another country. Erasmus provides a stipend so the entrepreneur can travel and buy things while they’re there.
That way, the young person gets lots of helpful insight they can apply to their business when they return home.
In summary: Based in the EU? There are a lot of startup grants in the European Union!
We hope this article has given you lots of valuable information and advice when it comes to European Union grants for business startups.
There are lots of grants available across Europe; it’s just a case of knowing where to look. Visit the relevant websites, talk to your MEP, and speak to your local council’s business department. And keep checking the websites we mentioned in this blog, as new grant opportunities are added all the time.
This is our final article about grant opportunities around the world. As well as Europe, we’ve looked at startup funding in the UK, US, and Canada. No matter where your startup is located, there are many opportunities you can take advantage of.
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Important note: The content in this article is accurate as of November 2022. Grants and the criteria required to attain them change regularly, so please do your due diligence before applying! Some grant programs may have closed entries for 2022 but will reopen to businesses next year.