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The path to startup success designed by Sardegna Ricerche

A startupper 
"Aid for innovative startups" is the programme designed by Sardegna Ricerche to foster the creation, development and growth of innovative startups in Sardinia.

The programme has a budget of € 1,600,000 € divided into two calls. The first call, held between 2011 and 2012, received 100 applications, 5 of which were considered eligible for funding. The second call, still underway, received almost double the number of applications (from 100 to 198), signalling an active local business environment and confirming the validity of the programme.

The programme's viability is also confirmed by the speed of the procedure: the assessments of the 198 proposals received under the second call were published just 3 months from their submission.

"Aid for innovative startups" is designed as an integrated path, including business advice and seed investment to foster the setup and development of innovative startups.

The route is divided into four stages:
- scouting: assessment and selection of the 25 best business projects among those received by Sardegna Ricerche
- stage one: mentoring and selection of the best business plans
- stage two: grant for business startups based on the selected business plans
- stage three: mentoring of the startups and implementation of the business plans.

Under the second call currently under way, the scouting exercise selected 27 proposals (including 2 ex aequo) eligible for stage one of the programme. The orientation phase following the scouting started officially on 3 April last. During the event, the 27 selected business ideas were presented.

The 3 April event launched the first step in the mentoring path that will end in September 2013. From April to July 2013 the working groups will be engaged in a series of orientation seminars and coaching sessions. Each team will be followed by an expert who will coordinate development of the business plan. At the same time, the young participants will attend a multidisciplinary programme of seminars to build up their knowledge in several key areas such as project management, market analysis, marketing and other disciplines that are essential to a sound business project.

The aim of this first stage of the programme is to develop the business plans and submit them by the summer to an assessment board that will select from 10 to 12 of the plans for funding. The exact number of funded projects will depend on the budget of each one and the total budget available. Each beneficiary can apply for a non-returnable grant of up to € 100.000. Aid intensity cannot exceed 85% of the total cost of the business development plan. This means that applicants must cover at least 15% of the planned investment themselves.

The business plans will be examined by an independent assessment board, whose members come from outside the region and have no ties to Sardegna Ricerche; they include experts in spin-offs, in intellectual property or business and economics. The teams whose ideas are selected will be asked to incorporate a business in order to sign the grant agreement with Sardegna Ricerche.

Similarly to the first call, at the end of the process, in autumn, a Pitch-day will be held during which the proponents of the 27 ideas selected for the first stage of the programme will present, via a pitch lasting a few minutes each, their idea to a public of experts and interested parties, including important investors and venture capitalists.

A few figures and notes to complete the picture: of the 27 business ideas presented on 3 April last, the largest share is in the services sector and comprises apps or innovative portals for improving daily living. The main sector represented was ICTs (12 proposals), while other proposals were in the fields of manufacturing, biotechs and energy.