The main focus of this programme is to improve the business environment and the competitiveness of European enterprises, particularly SMEs.
The Programme has a budget of €2.5 billion for 2014 to 2020, of which €1.4 billion will be allocated to financial instruments.
The size of grants available varies, and is given under individual Calls for Proposals.
The Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) was adopted by the European Commission on 11 December 2013 (OJ L 347, 20 December 2013).
The main aims of the Programme are to:
Improve access to finance for SMEs in the form of equity and debt
First, an equity facility for growth-phase investment will provide SMEs with commercially-oriented reimbursable equity financing primarily in the form of venture capital through financial intermediaries. Second, a loan facility will provide SMEs with direct or other risk-sharing arrangements with financial intermediaries to cover loans.
Improve access to markets inside the EU and globally
Growth-oriented business support services will be provided via the Enterprise Europe Network to facilitate business expansion in the Single Market. This programme will also provide SME business support outside the EU. There will also be support for international industrial cooperation, particularly to reduce differences in regulatory and business environments between the EU and its main trading partners.
Activities will include developing entrepreneurial skills and attitudes, especially among new entrepreneurs, young people and women.
The Programme is mainly targeted at:
- Business support organisations
- Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
- Individuals who want to become self-employed
Participation of third countries
The Programme will be open to the participation of:
- European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA).
- Acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidates (in accordance with the terms and conditions for participation established in the respective Framework Agreements and Association Council Decisions, or similar arrangements.
- Countries falling under the scope of the European neighbourhood policies.
EU financing does not cover 100% of costs; therefore match funding will be required.
Better access to finance for Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs)
COSME will facilitate and improve access to finance for SMEs through two different financial instruments:
- The Loan Guarantee Facility
The COSME budget will fund guarantees and counter-guarantees for financial intermediaries (eg guarantee organisations, banks, leasing companies) to help them provide more loan and lease finance to SMEs. This facility will also include securitisation of SME debt finance portfolios.
- The Equity Facility for Growth
The COSME budget will also be invested in funds that provide venture capital and mezzanine finance to expansion and growth-stage SMEs in particular those operating across borders. The fund managers will operate on a commercial basis, to ensure that investments are focused on SMEs with the greatest growth potential.
Access to Markets
The services of the Enterprise Europe Network are freely available to all businesses. There are over 600 partner organisations in 54 countries with the capacity to reach more than 2 million SMEs. The Network's website provides a list of the partners. The services offered include:
- Information on EU legislation and participation in EU programmes.
- Assistance to find a business partner abroad: in the EU or worldwide.
- Advice on EU access to finance.
- Support for innovation and technology transfer.
- Obtaining SME's opinion on EU legislation.
COSME also funds IPR SME Helpdesks for China, ASEAN and Mercosur to help SMEs to deal with issues relating to intellectual property rights (IPRs) in these countries.
Promotion of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture is one of COSME's main objectives. Initiatives include:
- Entrepreneurship education – COSME will support exchanges among European educators and trainers support best practice in entrepreneurship education in the EU.
- Improving the business environment so entrepreneurs can grow and flourish – together with improving the legal and fiscal environment, experts will also develop recommendations on the best support for businesses throughout their lifecycles. Specific support for Web entrepreneurs will be provided.
- Role models and outreach to specific groups – under COSME, groups such as young people, women or senior entrepreneurs will be able to benefit from mentoring or other tailored programmes.
More favourable conditions for business creation and growth
- Reduction of administrative and regulatory burden - COSME aims at lightening the administrative burden on businesses by removing unnecessary reporting and information requirements. Research indicates that SMEs are disproportionately affected by regulation; therefore a special focus is needed to create more favourable conditions for SMEs.
- Identification and exchange of best practices among national administrations to improve SMEs policy - initiatives at national, regional and local level will be launched. One of these is the European Enterprise Awards to reward promotion of SMEs and entrepreneurship, particularly on regional and local level.
Analytical tools for better policy
Conferences and analytical tools, such as the Competitiveness report, will be supported.
Sectorial actions such as tourism
Applications are made in response to Calls for Proposals which have varying deadlines.
Applications are made via an online application system. Links to the application system and the submission reference are given within the Call for Proposals.
Each Call for Proposals also gives the specific email address for questions concerning that Call.