EYIF Webinar – Public funding: a solution to confront the downturn

On Friday 24th April, we once again welcomed the European Young Innovators Forum (EYIF) community from across the innovation ecosystem in Europe, and beyond, to our fourth webinar on adaptable working. The information style session brought together leading experts in ‘EU Public Funding,’ to highlight how the institutional bodies are supporting SMEs, entrepreneurs, founders, and startups during the current economic downturn.

Starting with welcome remarks from EYIF President, Nicholas Zylberglajt, who outlined the flow and structure of the session, and provided insight into the vision behind the EYIF Webinar series. Positioning EYIF in the place of catalysers in the innovation ecosystem, where we are helping our partners, community enablers, network, and overall community stay up-to-date with the latest developments within the sector during this present time of uncertainty. As well as drawing attention to the public funding initiatives that have been and are being mobilised, which are supporting companies to navigate the crisis and avoid losing the momentum built and or rebuilt since the previous economic recession.

Zylberglajt warmly e-welcomed our esteemed panel including Katerina Borunska, Policy Officer from the European Innovation Council (EIC); Uli Grabenwarter, Deputy Director, Equity Investments at the European Investment Fund (EIF); and Laurent Roux, Impact Officer – Entrepreneurship and Business Creation at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), along with our online audience from across the globe.

Speakers promo visual

As Grabenwarter and Borunska kicked off the discussion, both pinpointing the defining trigger point, when they knew that the crisis was much deeper than initially perceived, as the introduction of widespread lockdown measures across member states, particularly in Spain and Italy, in mid-March 2020.

With Borunska and Roux both praising the coordinated response by the European Commission, who provided near immediate support for affected SMEs and also those working on solutions, on a local and pan-European level; with increased funding for calls, increased engagement with their existing communities, deeptech hackathon events, such as the #EUvsVirus on 24th – 26th April, aimed at developing ideas around health & life, business continuity, social & political cohesion, remote working & education, digital finance and more in the fight against COVID-19.

Both Roux and Grabenwarter highlighted the importance of community engagement, to provide tools and support, with Grabenwarter describing it as a ‘sobering’ act, recalling EIF conversations with syndication partners and fund managers to understand how they were being affected by the pandemic, which reflected the stark change in investment behaviour along the chain as much more ‘defensive.’ As investment activities have been frozen and deals near completion have been left in suspended animation.

Grabenwarter also stated that the “short-term effects [are] a question of liquidity. The long-term effects [however] could see a more permanent change within the ecosystem,” as he likened the pandemic to that of a “siberian winter,” as investors have been seen over the past few weeks to overuse resources to reactively tackle the impact of the pandemic, which could lead to “prolonged hesitation and abstinence of institutional investment,” in the future.

In addition, Borunska agreed that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on how innovation is supported and expanded in Europe, which will be evident through the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021 – 2017 and assist in paving the way for the EU’s Green Deal and digital transformation priorities. With new opportunities said to arise following the crisis, under specific policy windows that will focus on supporting SMES/research and innovation in the fields of climate and digital action.

As Roux and Grabenwarter both brought attention to the 2008 Recession, as well as the lessons that still need to be learned from it and this economic downturn. As this crisis has highlighted how Europe has neglected certain areas of innovation and how this needs to be addressed through an anticipated approach rather than a reactive one, to allow, to mitigate the risk of a repeated global economic crisis such and provide solutions for more sustainable innovation.

With the panel concluding with unanimous agreement amongst our speakers that the impact of the crisis on SME funding will be lasting, and will shape how the EU approaches innovation in the future. As well stating that for the startup and innovation ecosystem to progress in Europe and recover stronger from this pandemic – ‘collaboration is key,’ amongst private and public funds as well as the institutions.

Additional information:

You can find out details about the SME support provided by the EIC, EIF, and EIT below:

EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) Funding opportunities

EIC Accelerator Application

The world after the crisis is the world before the crisis — Or is it? – European Investment Fund article, published 1st April 2020.

InnovFin SME Guarantee Facility Overview

Financial intermediaries under InnovFin SME guarantees

InnovFin Equity Overview

Financial intermediaries under InnovFin Equity

EIT Community COVID-19 Response

EIT Community activities

EIT Community solutions