Cascade Funding (also known as Financial Support for Third Parties or competitive calls) is a European Commission (EC) mechanism to distribute public funding to assist startups, scaleups, SME and/or mid-caps in the uptake or development of (not only) digital innovation.
They are funded through specific projects, whose budget is largely dedicated to small grants to third parties via so called cascade. These projects launch their own (mostly open) calls for proposals. But be aware that there is tens of cascade projects and each project has its own rules, eligible project types and grant amounts.
Support offered by these open calls, usually consist in funding, typically in the range of €50-200 thousand, but it may also be vouchers for support services or free access and support to use testing facilities.
They usually provide support for:
- close-to-market research, development, innovation,
- pilots, demonstrations and experiments,
- equity-free acceleration, incubation and mentoring programs,
- integration into existing projects (as developers or users).
Comparing to other EC or national funding programmes and initiatives, the cascade funding is brilliant as it has usually:
- easier and shorter project proposal preparation (days),
- much shorter evaluation time (few weeks),
- shorter project duration (less than 1 year),
- a consortium is usually not needed, startups may apply without any further partners,
- interesting financing (usually 50-200K€),
- higher success rates.
So far, the EC has invested more than €800 million into cascade funding in order to bring SMEs (mainly startups) but also researchers, new actors in tech communities into the world of EU funding with very low administrative burden.
Similarly to cascade funding, also other EU initiatives such as European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) and several Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) also provide a targeted support to startups in form of small grants for development and validation.
Selected Slovak startups benefitting from cascade funding:
- Archee: Optimization and sustainable design for clean production of SPEAR hydro (success story)
- Ecocapsule: Development of innovative systems for greywater purification and highly efficient water heating (success story)
- Evolveum: MidPoint (open source identity management and governance platform) Scalability (success story)
Find your call:
- Competitive calls and calls for third parties (EC central Funding and Tender Opportunities portal)
- Open calls from EU projects on Digital Innovation Hubs
- Contact your National Contact Points in your country
Author: Ivan Filus, Innovation & Growth Expert, Horizon Europe National Contact Point (EIC)