How to access direct European funding: tips for companies


The European funding can make the difference between an idea that has never materialized and a development project that becomes a real business opportunity, determining the success of a company.

What are the real benefits for companies?

And above all, what to do to get European funding?

In this article we try to clarify and explain in detail how European funding programmes become one of the most useful resources for companies.

What is European funding?

European funding can be divided into direct funding, managed and issued directly by the European Commission, and indirect funding, also known as Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund, managed by national, regional and local bodies.

Following is a description of the two ways in which direct funding can be accessed.

1. Call for tender: participation in a tender launched by a European institution. The company submitting the best proposal will receive the amount established by the tender.

2. Call for proposal: submission of a specific project that has to be drafted following precise guidelines and parameters both in terms of the program and, for instance, the partnership.

It is important for a company to establish which of the above two ways to choose. If the objective is to find business opportunities to offer services and products, the best way is the Call for Tender: the company will have to wait for the publication of the tender that matches its production or services.

If, on the other hand, the company wants to find contributions for funding a specific project consistent with European policies, we are looking at the Call for Proposal: the company will have to identify the right program and apply with a collaborative project once the call for proposal has been opened.  

In particular, as far as the Call for Proposals is concerned, we will analyse the financial contributions for Research and Innovation within the Horizon 2020 Programme.

Horizon2020 Programme

European funding through the Horizon 2020 Programme

Horizon 2020 Programme provides substancial funding for Research and Innovation. From 2021 a new Programme will be activated with Horizon Europe that will ensure continuity to the objectives set by Horizon 2020 and will allocate more funding for investments.


Horizon 2020 therefore, represents the tool to achieve levels of excellence for European Research, both in the field of new technologies and of innovation of market-oriented products, so that the European organizations become more and more competitive at international level.


Furthermore the Programme pays particular attention to converting new knowledge and know-how in innovative products, processes and services, that can improve not only the production system, but also the welfare of society, both in social and environmental terms.


In practical terms, Horizon 2020 aims to support organizations and companies with Grants provided through invitations to present proposals (Call for Proposals) with non-refundable financing that vary according to the Action of reference and the type of applicant. For companies, grants range from 70% (for projects submitted within the Innovation Actions) up to 100% (for projects within the Research & Innovation Actions).


Horizon2020 is based on 3 Pillars (Excellence Science, Industrial Leadership, Societal Challenges) and 6 Transversal Programmes (European Institute of Innovation and Technology, Spreading excellence and widening participation, Science with and for Society, Joint Research Cneter, Euratom, Fast Track to Innovation). Generally, the submitted projects follow the minimum requirements for partnership: at least three legal entities from three different Member states or associate countries.

The value of professional advice

European funding gives the company a chance to make a real quantum leap forward. Besides the initial financial support, Programmes such as Horizon 2020 allow companies to have access to an ideal ecosystem for the growth of a research and innovation project, paving the way to become one of the great players in this sector.

 Therefore: how to obtain European funding?

You must know how to find your way in the bureaucracy of the EU and “speak its language”.

You must know the field you are working in, the leaders and reference bodies within it, the paths to take, the trends and the “waves” to ride.

For a company on its own undertaking this path could prove challenging. Even worse, the risk is to incur in a considerable waste of time and money.

 The best choice – and the safest one – is to consult a qualified professional with experience in European projects planning, who can provide all the necessary expertise for the success of a project.

Would you like further information about EU funding?


Contact me to arrange a meeting: I will be delighted to answer any questions you may have


Sara Canella

Sara Canella

EU Funding & Marketing

I am a freelance consultant specialized in applying for and managing European funding for companies and start-ups active in the field of research and innovation.

My work includes the creation of business plans, development plans and marketing plans aiming at applying for European calls for proposals.

My objective is to provide companies active in innovation with some concrete tools to start their projects and with my know-how to convert them into real business opportunities.