The SME Instrument is part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot that supports top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with funding opportunities and acceleration services. The main focus of the EIC SME Instrument is on radical, market-creating innovations to improve productivity and international competitiveness and generate new jobs and higher standards of living.
Who should apply?
The SME Instrument addresses small and medium-sized enterprises (SMES) with a radically new idea underpinned by a business plan for rolling out marketable innovation solutions and with ambitions to scale up. It supports high-risk, high-potential SMEs to develop and bring to market new products, services and business models that could drive economic growth.
The SME Instrument is designed for For-profit SMEs, including young companies and start-ups, from any sector. You must be established in an EU Member State or a Horizon 2020 associated country. Not sure you fit the bill? Try out the EIC wizard to see which innovation funding instrument suits you the best. Also have a look the EU definition of SMEs.
Competition is tough - only the most convincing and excellent proposals get funded after a thorough evaluation by multinational panels of technology, business and finance experts. Selected companies receive funding and are offered business coaching to scale up their innovation idea, and can also receive mentoring. They are helped in networking with other EIC SME Instrument clients, with other companies of all sizes, and with potential co-investors and follow-up investors across Europe. Until 2020 around 4000 small companies will be selected for funding.
As an SME Instrument client, you will gain visibility and boost your chances of success in European and international markets.
What support can you get?
The SME Instrument provides full-cycle business innovation support. It has three phases, including a coaching and mentoring service. There are no set topics - innovative companies across the board are welcome to submit their bright ideas. Companies are recommended to apply for Phase 1 first, but may also apply directly for Phase 2 depending on the maturity of their project.
Feasibility study - Phase 1
Phase 1 helps you get a grip on the R&D, technical feasibility and commercial potential of a ground-breaking, innovative idea and develop it into a credible business plan for scaling it up. Projects will receive a lump sum of €50 000 and should last around 6 months.
From concept to market - Phase 2
Phase 2 helps you develop your business concept further into a market-ready product, service or process aligned with your company's growth strategy. Activities could, for example, include trials, prototyping, validation, demonstration and testing in real-world conditions, and market replication. If the activity concerns a primarily technological innovation, a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 6 or above is envisaged. Projects will receive between € 0.5 and € 2.5 million but you can request a higher or lower amount, duly justified, when applying. Projects should normally take 12 to 24 months to complete, but could be longer in exceptional and well-justified cases.
From June 2019 the EIC calls will go through a makeover. More details and relevant documents here.
Business acceleration services and coaching - Phase 3
The EIC pilot offers free coaching, business acceleration services and mentoring to help your business scale up and grow. These are open to all small businesses that are EIC clients, simultaneously to their grant.
The free-of-charge coaching service is facilitated by the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
Find out how to apply here.