At the Innovation Business Club of the Applied Research and Communications Fund, Irish Ambassador Michael Forbes and Raicho Raichev, founder of EnduroSat, the first Bulgarian company to win funding under Phase 2 of the SME Instrument, presented their successful experience in business development with EU support for innovation.
Entrepreneurs and innovation experts discussed the opportunities the Horizon 2020 programme offers to SMEs at the Applied Research and Communications Fund’s Innovation Business Club meeting on “High-tech companies in Bulgaria: European perspectives”. The club brings together entrepreneurs from companies that have won the award in the Innovative Enterprise of the Year Contest. In a few days the campaign for the 13th edition of the Contest will start.
His Excellency Ambassador Michael Forbes of Ireland shared how his country is successfully recovering from the global economic crisis. He underlined that for the last three years Ireland has had the highest economic growth in the EU. This is also due to innovation supported by national and EU policies and funds. The diplomat said that promoting innovative projects with an impact on society is an important component of this process. Ambassador Forbes explained that improving the link between education, science and business should be part of modern public and economic policies.
“Keep economic fundamentals strong and listen to innovators. Innovation is not just about technology,” the ambassador urged, adding that sustainable development is a long-term process.
The ARC Fund has presented statistics on the most profitable sectors and companies that have received funding under the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Instrument since 2014. The SME Instrument is a component of the Horizon 2020 programme specifically targeting Europe’s most innovative companies. So far, around 31,000 project proposals have been received and 2,500 small companies have been approved, making the Facility the largest accelerator mechanism for innovation in Europe. Investment through the Facility is 3 billion euros by 2020 reaching 7,500 companies.
The most successfully funded companies in the Instrument are from Spain, Italy and the UK. However, the best performing countries (those with the highest applicant success rates) are Iceland, Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Sweden. Ireland has used the Instrument strategically as a mechanism to grow local companies and as an opportunity to attract foreign investment into them for the final phase of commercialisation.
Since 2014, 7 Bulgarian companies have received funding under the Instrument. This year, for the first time, there is a domestic company that has received funding under Phase 2. This is the company EnduroSat – it is developing a satellite that can be sent both into low Earth orbit and on missions into the Solar System.
Raicho Raychev, founder and CEO of the company, explained that the company applied directly for Phase 2 and succeeded after several attempts, continuously improving the project proposal. The aim of the supported InnoSpaceComm project is to provide more users from businesses, research organisations and universities with access to satellite data at an affordable price. It has encouraged entrepreneurs to apply for the Instrument because the rules are clear and the process is simple.