Only a single for-profit SME entity or a consortium of for-profit SMEs can apply for funding under the SME instrument. Other partners like research providers or larger companies can be involved as third parties, in general in a subcontracting relationship.
Only applications from a single SME or a consortium of SMEs, that are all established in EU Member States or countries associated to Horizon 2020 are eligible for funding. In principle, SMEs established in third countries could be involved as third parties, for example in a subcontracting relationship.
Start-ups without balance sheets are not excluded but the SME instrument is not meant as a company creation vehicle/instrument but rather supports the growth of the companies with interesting, innovative ideas bearing European or global potential.
Visit the SME Instrument Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.
 For-profit SMEs’ means micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, as defined in Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC, that are not 'non-profit legal entities' as defined in Article 2 of the Rules for Participation and Dissemination (‘legal entity which by its legal form is non-profit-making or which has a legal or statutory obligation not to distribute profits to its shareholders or individual members’).