Unlocking EU Funding for Pharma Startups and Tech Transfer

The pharmaceutical industry is at the forefront of the European Union’s efforts to drive innovation and technological leadership. A staggering 25% of pharmaceutical startups emerge from technological transfer, the process of transforming cutting-edge research into commercially viable products and services. By bridging academia and industry, tech transfer catalyzes economic growth, job creation, and groundbreaking deep-tech solutions, accounting for over 60% of economic growth in developed countries.

The EU’s substantial funding initiatives, like Horizon Europe’s €95.5 billion budget, feature specific calls supporting various tech transfer stages. Research and Innovation Actions (RIAs) target lower Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 3-5, focusing on early-stage research and proof-of-concept. In contrast, Innovation Actions (IAs) target higher TRLs 6-8, concentrating on product/service development and commercialization.

One notable opportunity is the EIC Transition program under Horizon Europe’s European Innovation Council (EIC). Offering grants up to €2.5 million, it empowers startups to validate technologies, build prototypes, and prepare for market entry – bridging the dreaded “valley of death.” Companies like Anaviri, a Spanish biotech firm, received €2.3 million to develop a novel HIV vaccine through this program.

Pharma-Focused Funding Bonanza

For pharma startups and tech transfer offices (TTOs), the EU’s funding landscape is ripe with potential. From 2021-2027, €8.2 billion is allocated for health research and innovation – underscoring pharma’s pivotal role in advancing healthcare and economic growth.

The “Tackling Diseases” call, with a €1.3 billion budget, supports innovative disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment solutions. Projects like INNODIA, which received €27 million to develop better diabetes treatments, exemplify the transformative impact of such funding.

Collaboration: Synergy for Success

The EU actively encourages academia-industry partnerships, recognising their synergistic power. TTOs play a crucial role, in bridging cutting-edge research and commercial applications. By leveraging expertise and networks, TTOs help startups identify and acquire promising technologies while navigating IP and commercialisation complexities.

Having witnessed the tangible impacts of these programs, I can attest to their ability to foster a conducive ecosystem for tech transfer and innovation. This firsthand experience guides entities through the EU funding maze, enhancing prospects for success.

Upcoming opportunities include the EIC Pathfinder Open and Challenge calls, fostering cutting-edge, high-risk/high-impact research and deep-tech breakthroughs. With a budget of €624 million in 2023, these calls present exciting avenues for pharma innovators.

As the world grapples with healthcare challenges, the EU’s commitment to fostering tech transfer and supporting pharma innovation is vital. By seizing these opportunities and forging strategic partnerships, startups and TTOs can unlock groundbreaking research’s full potential, shaping a brighter, healthier future.

About the author

Michal Zilberberg
CEO & Founder at TWINNOVATION.EU, Israeli consultancy for nondilutive funding and strategy.

TWINNOVATION - a consultancy specializing in non-dilutive funding for startup companies and research grants, with extensive experience in securing grants from the European Union, building consortia, and project management

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