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

Horizon 2020 supports Innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) through a new dedicated SME instrument. This instrument it is managed by the Executive agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME).

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 is a simpler and more easily accessible funding scheme for SMEs. It comes in addition to the support provided through the participation of SMEs in collaborative projects continued within Horizon 2020, as well as other measures related to SMEs 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 the early stages, Research and Innovation and accelerating the exploitation of innovation. 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. When applying for funds through this instrument SMEs can form collaborations according to their needs, including for subcontracting research and development work to apply for funding and support.

How does it work?

The SME Instrument is divided into 3 phases covering different stages of the innovation cycle. The evaluation processes for proposals are based on simple rules in order to reduce the time it takes to establish a contract.

  • Phase 1 aims to cover the assessment of technical feasibility and market potential of new ideas. The project will be supported by an investment of € 50,000 and the typical duration should be no longer than 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. Project funding should amount to no more than € 2,500,000 and the typical duration of thisd phase should range from 12 to 24 months (more funding and longer durations are possible if duly justified).
  • Phase 3 concerns support measures aimed at helping SMEs move towards 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. SMEs will not be funded directly under phase 3.

SMEs are recommended to apply for funding starting with phase 1, however they are allowed to apply directly to phase 2 or even phase 3, depending on the stage of their project. Successful completion of one phase 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 phases are open according to the following schedule for 2014/15 and then on a continuous basis until 2020.

  • 2014

  • 2015

    • Phase 1- Concept Feasibility:
      • 18 March 2015;
      • 17 June 2015;
      • 17 September 2015;
      • 16 December 2015
    • Phase 2 - Demonstration & Prototyping:
      • 18 March 2015;
      • 17 June 2015;
      • 17 September 2015;
      • 16 December 2015

As for phase 3, the calls for support measures addressing community building and coaching within the SMEs Instrument are open through fixed time-windows announced at different stages. SMEs participating in H2020 activities under the SME Instrument are offered to benefit from a range of measures in support to their activities via the full range of Enterprise Europe Network services.

Further Information

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

Presentations about the SME Instrument and Open and Disruptive Innovation can be found here under Event Reports.

27 August 2014
Last update: 
15 June 2017
Team responsible