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Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform

EU programmes supporting STEP

STEP mobilises 11 EU programmes to support critical technologies and skills. This will strengthen European competitiveness for a massive, estimated investment potential across the EU. The European Defence Fund benefits from a reinforcement of EUR 1.5bn for STEP projects.

STEP is a testing ground for the future EU funding for competitiveness.

EU programmes supporting STEP

STEP leverages and steers resources across 11 EU funding programmes to investments in strategic technologies and in people who can implement those technologies into the economy. The STEP seal, awarded under directly managed programs, will facilitate access to additional funding opportunities for high quality projects.  

Combination of funding

One of the objectives of STEP is to help individual projects benefit from cumulative funding under several instruments of the EU budget. This will be facilitated, particularly, by the STEP Seal. For instance, grants under the Innovation Fund could be combined with grants under cohesion funds.  

Three types of support

EU funding is organised through three distinct management modes, each with its own application and evaluation processes.

Directly managed programmes

The European Commission (including its executive agencies) is directly in charge of the programme management. EU programmes, such as the Digital Europe programme, the European Defence Fund (benefiting from a reinforcement of €1.5 in the STEP priority areas), the EU4Health programmeHorizon Europe, and the Innovation Fund have dedicated resources to support your STEP project. Often these resources are offered as grants (i.e., they do not come with a repayment obligation). To receive such grants, you need to apply to the relevant calls for proposals listed in the section Get funding. The evaluation of submitted proposals, the signing of the grant agreement, the monitoring of project implementation, the assessment of the results and the actual payments are carried out by the responsible Commission's departments  directly or through EU executive agencies.

A guidance note on how to complete an ethics self-assessment is available to help applicants and beneficiaries ensure their proposals meet ethical standards for programmes that require an ethics review to secure funding.

How to participate

Key facts you need to know about STEP contributing programmes:

Nationally managed funds

In a collaborative effort, the European Commission and national authorities in the Member States work hand-in-hand to manage the funding. This partnership leverages local insights and expertise, ensuring that the implementation of funds aligns with both EU objectives and national priorities. Cohesion policy funds including the Cohesion Fund,  the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund+ and the Just Transition Fund as well as the Recovery and Resilience Facility, might have dedicated resources to support your STEP project. Often these resources are in the form of grants (i.e., non-repayable). To receive such grants, you need to submit an application to the relevant calls for proposals in your Member State or region. Applications must be submitted through the relevant regional or national authorities (referred to as “Managing Authorities").

STEP offers financial incentives to direct cohesion policy funds toward investments in critical technologies. These include a 100% co-financing rate for STEP priorities during the 2021–2027 programming period, along with a one-time 30% pre-financing option for Programme Amendments submitted by March 31, 2025. Additionally, support for productive investments in large enterprises will be available for the first time in less developed and transition regions, as well as in more developed regions in Member States with a GDP per capita below the EU-27 average. Furthermore, under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Member States will have the option to allocate up to 10% of their national envelope to STEP-relevant instruments under InvestEU (see dedicated section below). 

Since EU countries manage these funds, detailed information on the specific funding calls are published on the National single portals and on the operational programme websites that offer up to date information on upcoming funding opportunities, namely which regions are covered by funding calls, who can apply, the amount of funding allocated to a call, programme and EU policy objectives, and the relevant timelines.

Key facts you need to know about STEP contributing programmes

Repayable forms of funding

These include equity, loans, and guarantees that can be used for various types of investments. These are implemented in collaboration with public and private institutions (e.g. banks and equity funds). Such repayable forms of funding are demand-driven and based on a market logic. Before awarding funding, the financial institution in charge examines projects that fall within their geographic and activity scope. It also decides on the specific financing conditions, including the amount, duration, interest rates and fees.

The repayable support under InvestEU programme is channelled through Implementing Partners i.e. the European Investment Bank Group and other international financial institutions and national promotional banks and institutions, and the network of local financial intermediaries acting across the European Union.

InvestEU financial products deployed by implementing partners are covering different types of repayable support from debt, guarantees to equity for a very broad set of EU policy areas, technology readiness levels and stages of innovation, including investment in manufacturing and deployment of STEPs technologies. Examples of financial products available goes from senior, subordinated and venture debt to intermediate and direct equity  and guarantees to financial intermediaries.

The InvestEU Fund, part of the InvestEU programme, provides support to final recipients that are deemed economically and financially viable. All size of companies and projects, as well as a broad range of riskiness levels of operations, can be supported. The eligible final recipients can be natural or legal persons established in an EU country or in a third eligible country, including:

  • Private entities such as special-purpose vehicles (SPV) or project companies, large corporates, midcap companies, including small midcap companies, start-ups and SMEs
  • Public sector entities (territorial or not) and public-sector type entities
  • Mixed entities, such as public–private partnership (PPPs) and private companies with a public purpose
  • Non-for-profit organisations

How to apply for financing?

  • Project promoters should apply directly to Implementing Partners to see on suitable financing solutions based on the financial products supported by the EU guarantee.
  • Financial intermediaries should also consult the offering of implementing partners active in their regions proposing relevant products: it is up to them to select financial intermediaries through procedures such as calls for expressions of interest.
  • Small mid-caps, SMEs, start-ups and social or micro-enterprises: should apply to their local commercial or public banks whose financial products are covered by the EU guarantee in their country or region. The local intermediary will inform them if a particular financing programme is covered by the InvestEU Fund.

Find your local intermediary on our Access to EU Finance website, which already lists intermediaries under current EU programmes and will successively list InvestEU financial intermediaries.

You can also wish to register to the InvestEU Portal that brings together investors and project promoters on a single EU-wide platform, by providing visibility and matchmaking opportunities for investment projects within the EU, Norway and Iceland. Project promoters can publish their project on the Portal to bring it to the attention of potential investors. Register your project and make it visible to an investor here.

For advisory support and technical assistance offered under InvestEU advisory hub you can apply through the Central Entry Point.

Key facts you need to know about STEP contributing programme