The Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP) aims to boost investment in key technologies and sectors within the European Union.
STEP's goal is to channel new and existing funding programs towards investments in advanced digital, clean, and biotechnologies across the EU.
The program also aspires to support projects aiming to contribute to the integration of technologies into the real economy.
Furthermore, STEP introduces the 'Sovereignty seal', a quality label designated by the EU for top-tier projects that align with STEP's objectives.
This label is anticipated to increase the visibility of these champion - projects and draw in further public and private investments.
STEP - Eligible sectors and projects for financing
STEP priotizes the following key areas:
- Green technology
- Deep & digital technologies
This includes a range of clean technologies like renewable energy projects, storage solutions for electricity and heat, heat pumps, electricity grids, non-biological renewable fuels, sustainable alternative fuels, electrolysers and fuel cells, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency measures, hydrogen technology, water purification and desalination systems, and advanced materials such as nanomaterials, composites, and future eco-friendly construction materials. It also covers technologies for the sustainable extraction and processing of critical raw materials.
To maintain a competitive stance in the global clean energy market, the EU needs to produce and utilize clean energy that is affordable, reliable, and widely accessible. This requires increased investments from both public and private sectors.
The STEP Platform aims to expedite the development and implementation of indigenous clean energy technologies, energy storage innovations, and decarbonisation solutions in the EU. It also seeks to foster cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and socially equitable solutions to geopolitical challenges.
Deep and Digital Technologies
This category encompasses microelectronics, high-performance computing, quantum computing, cloud and edge computing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, 5G, advanced connectivity, and virtual realities. It includes deep and digital technology development for defence applications as well.
Innovations in deep and digital technologies are crucial to tackle major global challenges like climate change, sustainable energy, and health. Integrating these technologies into the economy is vital for the EU’s competitiveness and productivity.
The STEP Platform intends to enhance access to funding for EU startups by consolidating existing program funds and tapping into untapped private capital sources. This will bolster a new wave of deep tech innovation across the EU.
This area covers biomolecules and their applications, pharmaceuticals, medical technologies, and crop biotechnology.
Biotechnology and biomanufacturing are key to modernizing sectors like healthcare, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and the bioeconomy.
Fully leveraging biotechnology can aid the EU economy in growing sustainably while focusing on priorities like sustainable development, public health, and environmental protection.
The STEP Platform is dedicated to accelerating and improving funding access for EU companies eager to invest in biotechnologies.
Contributing EU Programes
STEP initiatives aims to strengthen and utilize current EU tools for rapid financial aid deployment to businesses. STEP will guide existing funds towards vital technology areas for Europe's leadership, maintaining cohesion and a fair market environment.
By leveraging existing programs and adding specific increases, STEP could generate about €160 billion in new investments.
Utilizing EU Funds More Effectively
STEP will use existing funding more strategically and flexibly, offering timely, sector-specific support and pooling resources from various programs for projects that enhance EU sovereignty.
Specifically, STEP will utilize programs like InvestEU, Innovation Fund, Horizon Europe, EU4Health, Digital program, European Defence Fund, Recovery and Resilience Facility, and cohesion policy funds.
To increase investment in STEP, the Commission proposes boosting several current programs, potentially leading to €110 billion in critical technology investments:
- €3 billion for InvestEU, leading to €75 billion in investments.
- €0.5 billion plus €2.13 billion reallocated to Horizon Europe, resulting in €13 billion in investments.
- €5 billion to the Innovation Fund, generating €20 billion in investments.
- €1.5 billion to the European Defence Fund, potentially resulting in €2 billion in investments.
Encouraging Member States to redirect their programs through higher pre-financing and co-financing in cohesion policy funds could free up €18.9 billion for STEP priorities, plus €6 billion from the Just Transition Fund.
Additional flexibility in the Recovery and Resilience Facility could make another €30 billion available for sovereignty investments.
In total, STEP could lead to an estimated €160 billion in new investments.
The EU "Sovereignty Seal"
The "Sovereignty Seal" is a quality certification given by the EU to outstanding projects that support the STEP objectives. It aims to increase their visibility and draw in more public and private funding.
How does it function?
Projects that receive high scores in the competitive selection process for proposals under various EU programs like Horizon Europe, Digital Europe, European Defence Fund, EU4Health, or the Innovation Fund, are awarded the "Sovereignty Seal." Projects of exceptional quality that are unable to secure funding due to budget constraints can use this seal for easier access to alternative funding sources under STEP.
Who is eligible?
Any company or organization applying for funding under programs like Horizon Europe, Digital Europe, EU4Health, European Defence Fund, or the Innovation Fund can benefit, as long as their project supports STEP objectives and meets the quality standards of the proposal call.
Why is it beneficial?
The Seal helps projects to attract both public and private investments by validating their alignment with STEP objectives, guiding investors in their decisions. Additionally, it facilitates easier access to EU funding, allowing for combined or cumulative funding from different EU budget instruments. For example, Member States can allocate cohesion policy funds to projects with a Sovereignty Seal without extra selection processes.