New rules aimed at extending the ability of Member States to grant aid without requiring prior authorisation from the European Commission, and facilitating public funding of research and development, came into force on 1 July.

The changes to the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) and the new Framework on Research, Development and Innovation (R&D&I Framework) form part of the European Commission’s drive to modernise State aid rules and in particular to help innovative projects that struggle to find funding due to their high-risk nature.

The main changes are:

Increased “safe harbour” for funding: The thresholds for funding of many measures have been increased, meaning that Member States can grant increased aid without having to obtain Commission approval. For example, the annual limit of €1.5 million for risk finance has been replaced by a total limit of €15 million per business.

New categories of permissible aid: The GBER has been extended to cover aid for innovation clusters, schemes to repair the damage of natural disasters, broadband infrastructure as well as areas like training schemes or local aid. Existing permissible categories have also been extended, for example, including a wider scope for risk finance aid and simplified provisions on start-up aid.  

Research, development and innovation: Under the GBER, notification thresholds for various categories of research and development have been doubled (for example, from €7.5 million to €15 million in the case of experimental development). Projects falling outside the GBER, which are subject to Commission approval, will be assessed in accordance with the R&D&I Framework. The R&D&I Framework clarifies the type of evidence that should be provided in demonstrating the incentive effect and proportionality of the aid and the market failure that justifies granting public funding to projects.