16. Opportunity mapping of the most important financing sources, programs, and private investors

In recent years, more and more support initiatives – both financial and educational – have been launched in order to support the creative entrepreneurial ecosystem. Regardless of their type, they have a great potential of strengthening early-stage initiatives and to contribute to thriving creative scaleups.

In order to identify the initiatives that are suited for your business, it’s very important to do periodical research on them, their opening dates and selection criteria. In this article you will find some of the most relevant for European entrepreneurs, along with helpful tips on their purpose and the areas they target. 

Financing sources 

1. CREATIVE EUROPE 2021 – 2027, a framework program of the European Union for the period 2014-2020. An umbrella for other 2 programs: 

Culture Sub-Program – for non-audiovisual arts and culture sector, covering all the arts, culture, heritage & the creative industries.  

  • Eligibility: small projects (with 3+ partners from different countries) and large projects (6+ partners), lasting up to 4 years.  
  • You will need to prepare a detailed budget (income, expenditures)  
  • It offers grants from 200.00 Euro to maximum 2.000.000 Euro.  

Media Sub-Program – covering the audiovisual sector.  

  • It offers access to grants for audience development (via cinemas, film festivals, etc), distribution, producer support, training (including access to markets) and some support for (joint) production costs.   
  • There are 14 schemes and various deadlines during the year. 

It’s interesting to know that the Europe Creative Offices play a role of information, advice, and technical assistance (preparation of files), dissemination of documentation and networking for all professionals that want to apply.  

2. Cultural and Creative Sector Guarantee Facility (CCS GF) 

  • The program offers loans and other financial products to creative enterprises, those involved in projects or activities based on cultural values and/or artistic and other creative expressions, either market or non-market-oriented, including the development, the creation, the production, the dissemination and the preservation of goods and services which embody cultural, artistic, or other creative expressions, as well as related functions such as education or management.  
  • Through the CCS GF the Commission has committed to partially covering financial intermediaries' potential losses on a portfolio level on loans provided for cultural and creative sector projects. By doing this, it hopes to encourage the engagement of financiers with the sector. 
  • In addition, financial intermediaries will be provided training to better understand the needs of cultural and creative sector projects, with a view to increasing their engagement with the sector.  
  • Who is eligible to apply for funding: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or small public enterprises in the cultural and creative sectors, established and operating in any of the participating countries (currently EU Member States, Iceland, and Norway).   

3. The Henry Moore Foundation  

  • Supports the development of sculpture through the Grants program (historical, modern, and contemporary registers, seeking to fund research that expands the appreciation of sculpture). The artist must be supported by a host institution for residencies that can last from two to six months. The host institution should apply for the grant. 
  • Eligibility: supported projects need to be related to international sculpture in Britain as well as to British sculpture abroad.      

4. Accion Cultural Espanola (AC/E) – The Mobility Programme  

  • It's aimed at providing incentives to foreign cultural organizations and institutions – both public and private – to encourage them to feature Spanish artists and culture professionals and creators in overseas programmes to enhance the international visibility as well as mobility. 
  • Eligibility: international artists or organizations  

5. CirCoAX (CircullarInnoBooster Fashion and Textile (F&T) is a project funded by the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (COSME) of the European Union.  

  • The program addresses the fashion and textiles industry and aims to transform companies in this sector into sustainable, circular and regenerative ones, during a period of 8 months.  
  • It has a budget of 1.128.000 Euro, co-financed by the European Commission in a 75%.  

6. Creative Scotland - Open Project Funding supports the arts, screen, and creative industries, with projects that help them explore, realise and develop their creative potential, widen access to their work, and enrich Scotland’s reputation as a distinctive creative nation connected to the world.    

7. European incubation network(s) for creativity-driven innovation (part of COSME, the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).  

  • The call aims to support the creation of trans-national network(s) of business incubators and accelerators with a focus on providing business support to SMEs and start-ups in the fashion and the tourism sectors integrating creativity, art and design skills from CCIs (Cultural and Creative Industries) with cutting-edge technology, science and other relevant expertise. 

8. CREACT4MED (CReative Entrepreneurs ACTing FOR the future MEDiterranean) is a project funded by the European Union (EU) through the EuropeAid Programme, that aims to strengthen businesses and entrepreneurship in the cultural and creative industries, with a particular focus on young people and women.  

  • Available budget: 2.220.675 Euro (with 90% of the budged funded by the EU Comission). 

Programs 

1. CREATIVE STARTUPS ACCELERATION PROGRAM 

  • A program that accelerates creative entrepreneurs working to build and scale their companies, growing the creative economy.  
  • 10 rigorous weeks, world-class mentors, investors, and our expert team. 

2. LABS: PRE-ACCELERATOR 

A Creative Startups pre-accelerator which aims to take your startup from launch to revenue with a growth framework, critical skills, and tools essential to building your creative company. 

LABS is ideal for entrepreneurs who want to discover if their startup is market-ready and determine the next steps to get there quickly and successfully. LABS will help you identify your ideal customer, learn to pitch your business, and connect you to additional resources that will aid in your business growth. 

3. Creative Incubator is a digital programme, designed in collaboration with the Art Directors Club of Europe. The programme offers pre-recorded content, as well as digital live sessions, group, and project work as well as Q&As with mentors and coaches.  

For creatives who want to use their talent for more meaningful purposes, changemakers who take creative actions to solve relevant social problems.  

4. ENCC Incubator  is an incubator developed by the European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC).  

It aims to support mid-to-senior levels-professionals from cultural centres involved or seeking involvement in European Projects such as Creative Europe or Erasmus +.  

The annual programme includes 4 phases:  

  • a call for applications and selection process 
  • a 3-day intensive training/consultancy retreat for the selected project leaders 
  • mentoring during the project development phase 
  • an evaluation process.  

5. Citizen Artist Incubator is a project designed and implemented with the view to facilitate unprecedented initiatives on the edge of artistic innovation and human need. 

The center of activities were the 2 incubation camps gathering from around Europe and beyond 30 in total emerging artists to attend them for 4-week period and learn more and create new ideas focusing on citizens and society at large. 

6. B.creative – Is both a a global network for cultural and creative entrepreneurs established to facilitate exchanges and collaborations between its members, to foster their development and growth and to spark societal changes and a global event for creative entrepreneurship – is interdisciplinary, aiming to gather participants from a wide spectrum of creative professions, cultural policy makers, scientists, engineers, investors and academic in order to spark ideas that permeate societal development. 

7. ArtUp Idea Incubator - provides experience, instruction, support, and mentorship to creative entrepreneurs whose business ideas can produce transformative economic effects in their neighborhoods.  

Creative entrepreneurs (named ArtUp Fellows) will learn to develop their ideas into viable, sustainable businesses through 4 practical methods: capital, curriculum, coaching, catalyctic.  

Investors & Venture Capital Funding

1. DAVINCI VENTURES – for over a decade they’ve been identifying, investing in, and accelerating game changing creative companies. They provide guidance and investment to diverse founders scaling creative companies. 

2. EuroQuity: is an online matchmaking platform for investors, companies, and their partners. The European Investor Platform list ≈360 cases of startups and investments in creative industries, including multi-stages international investors.  

3. Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments: is a venture capital (VC) firm specialized in growing the revenues that media companies generate with subscription services.  

4. IPR.VC is a venture capital investor focused on media and entertainment content. IPR funds are backed by leading Nordic institutional investors.  

5. FELIX CAPITAL is a venture capital firm for creatives, operating at the intersection of technology and creativity.  

6. Access Ventures  - supports businesses in the creative economy sector. They propose an economic environment that has been designed intentionally to support creators, makers and dreamers that will truly build the future of every community. They work intentionally to create programs that support creators and their creative development as they mature in their craft. 

7. CIM Fund – Venture Fund for creative industries. As a venture capitalist CIM makes equity investments for a limited time span into content companies: entertainment, education and and intellectual property rights (IPR) industries. CIM helps companies develop their operations and gain international markets. 

8. Designer Fund invests in leaders and empower them to improve the world with design. Designer Fund specializes in helping design products and scale design teams through their professional development programs Bridge and Designer Founder Guild.  

Bonus: Things to know when applying to EU funding & grants in general 

How do non-refundable grants work

As the EU states, grants are: “direct financial contributions from the European Union budget awarded by way of a donation to third-party beneficiaries (usually non-profit-making organizations) engaged in activities that serve EU policies.”  

Grants are essentially non-refundable and most of the time, there might be certain waiting periods before the beneficiary is able to take ownership of the whole financial amount.  

Grants are based on the costs of the beneficiaries for carrying out certain activities – either educational, research related, or others, and the results of their action remain the property of the beneficiaries. Grants are rarely allocated for just ‘starting a business’, as they usually come to contribute to a specific project or for the development and growth of a business.  

Usually, every project that offer non-refundable financing works differently – for example, in some cases, you need to co-finance a certain percentage on the project, which means that the grant doesn’t always cover all the needs of your business.  

There are certain aspects you need to consider before applying:  

  • When the payment of the grant will be made – check if the full sum will be transferred or you’ll receive only parts of it.  
  • The criteria that juries follow when evaluating projects’ applications (which you need to first understand very well, then apply) 
  • The documents and other legal proof you might need (both in the beginning of the process, and after receiving the funding).  

Where can you find the open calls & projects

For those calls funded through EU initiatives or schemes, you can search all the active/open calls & project in all fields on the EU’s official website:  

There are multiple filters in the search section that you can use to actually find the most suitable project for you. The EU is usually translating almost all their website pages and sections into other official EU languages, besides English, as well as the official documents that you need to submit if you apply for a call or project.  

If you need further details or specific information, it’s recommended to: 

  • check the FAQ section for each project  
  • the extra Q&A answers or additional criteria for eligibility (if applicable) 

If you still cannot find the answer to your question, the website provides a Contact section with all EU’s general contact details, a specific staff member or department info. 

You also have access to a contact list with all the institutions, bodies & agencies of the EU. 

They EU also provides a list of all the Local Commission Representations for each State Member that you can get in contact with. You can find the list here:

For individual open calls that are privately funded (coming from companies, foundations, organizations or other initiatives), all the information you need is usually included on the website, either through step-by-step lists or gathered in an official guide that you can download or read on the official website. Most organizations, foundations or other institutions have a ‘Contact’ section on their website where you can find an e-mail address and/or a telephone number that you can contact.  

There are certain organizations, publications (mostly online) or sources in each country that map out open calls for projects and funding opportunities for the cultural & creative sectors, so look for those local institutions that have this kind of initiatives. Make sure you are subscribed to at least few online publications that are active in the creative field, so that you can stay in touch with anything new.  

Terms and conditions

All European citizens benefit directly or indirectly from the EU budget. It was created to help millions of students, thousands of researchers and many cities, regions and non-profit organizations, so any EU citizen can apply to grants, only depending on the nature of their business or project.  

EU funding is available for any size of enterprise in any sector including entrepreneurs, start-ups, micro companies, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and larger businesses. Here are all the common beneficiary profiles. You can find all the criteria and what are the conditions under which you can apply to an open call or opportunity.  

Some general eligibility aspects you should consider before applying:  

  • The size of your business. The grant might only be available to a limited liability company, for example, or to a business with a certain number of employees (either smaller or bigger teams).  
  • A clear purpose - so you need to have a clear vision where will you invest the grant money.  
  • Geographical location. There are either regional or international grants, but you need to keep in mind that some markets or locations might be more competitive than others. 
  • Your domain/industry of activity, as most grants are pretty specific, and only available for certain industries/domains/sectors.  

After you have determined if you are eligible by fulfilling the criteria indicated in the specific call, you might need to register in a specific database – you will find this information in the specific call guidelines which will specify whether and how you need to do that. 

For grants, if your project proposal is eligible, the selection process usually starts with independent experts that will evaluate your proposal and score it against selection and award criteria.  

Applying to the grant by yourself or working with a consultant – things to consider (short term & long term)

Having an external consultant who might help you through the process might be crucial. For start-ups though, it’s not a viable option mainly because of the costs involved in contracting a specialist and the fear that you cannot anticipate if the investment in such experts is worth it.   

There are consistent advantages on both short, and long term:  

  • External consultants could take up difficult tasks that might take up more resources from you, and execute them faster, better, so you can focus on other aspects.  
  • Experts have more experience in documenting on certain types of projects and they are  
  • They can also deal with all the documents and legal aspects that usually take so much time.  
  • They might offer you a long-term overview on how the project will be implemented, monitor it and take care of all the other obligations that might eventually appear after the project has ended.   

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