EU opens funding treasure chest for small green businesses

The European Union is on the look out for innovative small green businesses that can play a role in cutting Europe's environmental footprint as it seeks to dish out a new €35m (£29.83m) fund.

The European Eco-Innovation fund has just begun inviting applications from businesses, and in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), that have developed environmental products, services, management practices or processes with a proven track record, but have failed to reach the mainstream due to what the EU officials describe as "residual risks".

The Eco-Innovation initiative is intended to help successful applications overcome barriers to further market penetration and help turn them into Europe's green business giants.

Successful projects will have to demonstrate an innovative character and substantial positive impacts on the environment; have scope for significant replication and broader marketability; be well thought-through from a technical and project management perspective; and provide cost-effective delivery of higher quality products and services.

Environmentally friendly innovations are expected to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to use resources such as water and raw material more efficiently, to increase the use of recycled materials or produce quality products with less impact on the environment.

The EU said that the initiative would particularly encourage the submission of proposals that take into consideration the entire life-cycle of products, from production to disposal.

Businesses across all sectors and activities are potentially eligible for funding under the scheme. However, officials said that current priority areas for the Eco-innovation 2010 round of funding awards include the field of material recycling, sustainable building products, and the food & drink industry.

Even those businesses that, at the time of the proposal, do not yet have a fully developed business plan should not be put off from applying, the EU said. They need only explain how the exploitation and market will be tackled and how their business plan will be developed.

Projects that focus primarily on energy generation and energy efficiency, including projects on energy efficiency in industry and energy efficiency in transport, are not supported by the Eco-Innovation initiative.

The deadline for 2010 applications is 9 September 2010, 17:00 Brussels local time.

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