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State aid: research and development and innovation

State aid: research and development and innovation



Communication from the Commission — rules on State aid for research and development and innovation


The communication seeks to clarify the rules and conditions under which EU countries can grant state aid to companies to carry out research, development and innovation (R&D&I) activities.


The rules relating to state aids in relation to R&D&I activities consist of 2 complementary parts:

  • a general block exemption regulation (GBER) setting out the conditions under which R&D&I aid (among other types of state aid) is exempt from compulsory prior notification to the European Commission (i.e. block exempted);
  • the system for state aid for research, development and innovation (the‘R&D&I framework’) contains rules for the Commission to assess R&D&I aid that is ineligible for block exemption.

Speeding up the state aid granting process

  • Under the GBER, the amounts below which aid is exempted from notification for Commission approval were significantly increased. For example, EU countries can grant aid without prior Commission approval for experimental development of up to €15 million per project and per beneficiary without prior Commission approval, compared to €7.5 million under the previous rules.
  • This system gives EU countries more flexibility and speeds up the process for implementing R&D&I aid.

Extension of exemptions

Aid exempt from notification extends to:

  • pilot projects and prototypes;
  • innovation clusters; and
  • aid for process and organisational innovation.

Potentially higher levels of state aid

  • To help industry overcome financing gaps, the R&D&I framework permits, for individually notified measures, aid of up to 70% of eligible costs for large companies and 90% for small companies doing applied research, including the costs of prototyping and demonstration.
  • The higher aid levels are available if there is a genuine financing gap and the Commission carries out a detailed analysis, based on the criteria in the framework, to confirm the necessity for granting such higher rates, so as to avoid undue distortions of competition in the EU’s single market.

EU co-financed R&D projects for which state aid is considered permissible

In order to simplify the assessment of large aid amounts for projects that are clearly in the common EU interest, R&D projects co-financed by the EU (for example under the research and innovation framework programmes) are presumed to constitute necessary and appropriate state aid.


EU countries had to ensure their existing R&D&I aid schemes were in line with this framework by 1 January 2015.


R&D&I activities aim to help achieve the target of spending 3% of the EU’s gross domestic product on R&D&I by 2020 and thereby to:

  • ensure intelligent and sustainable economic growth; and
  • limit distortions of competition arising from R&D&I aid.


Communication from the Commission — Framework for State aid for research and development and innovation (OJ C 198, 27.6.2014, pp. 1-29)


Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 of 17 June 2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market in application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty (OJ L 187, 26.6.2014, pp 1–78)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Communication from the Commission — Criteria for the analysis of the compatibility with the internal market of State aid to promote the execution of important projects of common European interest (OJ C 188, 20.6.2014, pp. 4-12)

last update 23.08.2019