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The best funding opportunities for small and medium-sized companies in life sciences

March 31 2017

Starting and growing a biotech business requires lots of resources. This can come from a variety of sources: venture capitalists, private investors, governmental loans, grants and tax incentives, venture philanthropy and – a relatively new phenomenon in Europe – health insurance companies. Understanding which funding opportunity fits the maturity of your biotech company is crucial to effectively acquire these funds. 


Grants for small and medium companies

Non-dilutive funding for SME's

Non-dilutive funding can be pivotal to e.g. bridge a valley of death, sustain long-term R&D, minimise dilution in a next funding round and/or scale up R&D programmes. National grants and international programmes such as Horizon 2020 provide SMEs with a unique opportunity to fund high-potential innovation project ideas. These schemes aim to bring an innovation idea (product, process, service) to industrial readiness and maturity for market introduction, thereby helping SMEs grow and expand their activities in other countries.

Especially SMEs need resources and funding for research activities, process improvement and product development, but choosing the most suitable funding option can be challenging. Many SMEs are looking to accelerate their life sciences Research and Development (R&D) activities but they face difficulty.

Below we present a selection of Dutch and European returning grant schemes that are interesting opportunities for SMEs in life sciences. 

National grants (The Netherlands)

Among the national grants are:

RVO- VFF is an early-phase financing, Proof of Concept Loan that enables start-ups and SMEs to develop new ideas into innovative products and find out if they have a real market potential (Max funding: €350.000). Calls for proposals for this grant are continuously open.

RVO-Innovatiekrediet is meant for companies with high risk innovation projects that do not have sufficient funds to finance the complete technical or clinical innovation studies (Max funding: €0.5- 10 M). Calls for proposals for this grant are continuously open.

MIT aims to stimulate innovation and accelerate R&D by encouraging SMEs to join innovation activities within top sectors. MIT is divided over specific regions with different budgets.

Take-off is also an early-phase financing option and has two phases. Phase 1 can be used for feasibility studies for commercial application and specific knowledge in the area of expertise, while Phase 2 can be used for implementation of early projects that are intended for innovative new businesses (Max funding: €40.000 for Phase 1, €250.000 for Phase 2).

WBSO is intended to provide entrepreneurs an incentive to invest in research. With the WBSO, companies can lower the wage costs for R&D and other R&D costs and expenditures and make use of a fixed deduction.

European grants

SME Instrument promotes a wide range of innovation activities from concept to market, while supporting increase of the economic impact of project results by its company-focused and market-driven approach (Max funding: €50.000 for Phase 1, €2.5-5.0 M for Phase 2).

Eurostars stimulates SMEs to execute international collaborative research and innovation projects, to bring processes and services to transnational and international markets (Max funding: €0.5- 1 M).

Upcoming deadlines

You can apply for an SME Instrument Phase I until 3 May 2017. The next deadline for the SME Instrument Phase is 1 June 2017. In September there are the deadlines of Eurostars (14 September) and MIT (7 September). Please visit our Life Sciences Funding Database for up to date information on deadlines and calls for SMEs.

ttopstart can support you

At ttopstart, we are specialised in competitive grant applications in the area of life sciences. With our expertise and unique FFWD method for winning grant proposals, we have successfully supported many SMEs in funding their research and development activities. Are you looking for the right funding opportunity for your SME, but not sure where to start? We will be happy to discuss the options with you. Please feel free to contact us!

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Georgia Taxiarchopoulou, MSc
+31 (0)30 73 70 779