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SME Instrument

Horizon 2020 provides easy access to € 2.8 Billion to SMEs under for funding research and innovation businesses and accelerating the exploitation of innovations.
SMEs three steps funding process

Horizon 2020 will support Innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) through a new dedicated SME instrument. SMEs can form collaborations according to their needs, including for subcontracting research and development work to apply for funding and support.

In total, more than € 2.8 billion will be allocated for the SME instrument from 2014 to 2020, at least 7% of the total budget of the Societal Challenges and Leading and Enabling Technologies (LEIT) blocks of Horizon2020. Out of this total value, € 90 million will be allocated for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in 2014 and 2015. They will specifically address LEIT block and will be presented under the Open and Disruptive Innovation (ODI) items. ODI is dedicated to the SME instrument in ICT for 2014 and 2015 but additional activities could be addressed under ODI during the life of Horizon 2020.

The new SME instrument will be a simpler and more easily accessible funding scheme for SMEs. It comes in addition to the support provided through the participation of SME in collaborative projects that will be continued in Horizon 2020, as well as to other measures for SME (such as the EU contribution of the Eurostar programme). Please check the Horizon 2020 website to understand how specific FP7 and CIP SME activities are taken up under the new programme.

What is it for?

The aim of the SME Instrument is to fill the gaps in funding for early-stage, Research and Innovation SMEs and accelerating the exploitation of innovations. Projects will be selected through a bottom-up approach within a given societal challenge or enabling technology of  H2020. They must be of clear interest and benefit to SMEs and have a clear European dimension.

How does it work?

The SME Instrument is structured in 3 phases covering different stages of the innovation cycle. The processes of evaluating the proposals are based on simple rules in order to reduce the time to contract.

  • Phase 1 aims to cover the assessment of technical feasibility and market potential of new ideas. Project will be supported through a lump sum of € 50,000 and the typical duration should be 6 months.
  • Phase 2 aims to cover R&I activities with a particular focus on demonstration activities (testing, prototype, scale-up studies, design, piloting innovative processes, products and services, validation, performance verification etc.) and market replication encouraging the involvement of end users or potential clients. Projects funding should be up to € 2,500,000 and the typical duration should range from 12 to 24 months (more funding and longer duration are possible if duly justified).
  • Phase 3 concerns support measures in view of helping SMEs toward commercialising their innovative products and services through measures like networking, training, coaching and mentoring, facilitating access to private capital or better interaction with key stakeholders. SME will be not funded directly under phase 3.

SMEs are recommended to apply for funding starting with part 1, however they are allowed to apply directly to part 2 or even part 3, depending on the stage of their project. Successful completion of one part will allow an SME to move on directly to the next one.

SMEs can apply for funds under phase 1 and phase 2 whenever they need. The calls under these parts will be open according to a ramp-up phase in 2014 (to be confirmed) and then on continuous basis till 2020. As for phase 3, the calls for projects should be open through fixed time-windows.

Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQ page includes a comprehensive list of questions and answers regarding the SME Instrument.

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