Horizon 2020's SME Instrument

Horizon 2020's SME Instrument

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Looking for Europe's next innovation leader

Are you a highly innovative, ambitious and passionate small- or medium-sized business with global ambitions? Are you looking for excellent business resources and mentorship - and substantial funding wouldn’t hurt either?

As part of the Horizon 2020 programme, the European Commission is hand-picking potentially disruptive businesses to invest and support as part of the SME Instrument. Your business could receive up to €2.5 million in funding, world-class business coaching and business acceleration services.

SME Instrument data hub. Full screen 


Lists of beneficiaries in PDF

Who should apply?

We are looking for high growth, highly innovative SMEs [Check the EU definition of SME] with global ambitions that want to disrupt the established value networks and existing markets. You should be driven, actively investing in innovation, and looking to grow.

It's a good sign if your company is based in an innovation hub, has received grants or venture capital funding, received innovation-related tax benefits, or won an innovation prize in the last 2 years.


The instrument will take place in three phases, with the aim of transforming disruptive ideas into concrete, innovative solutions with a European and global impact.

SMEs are recommended to apply for Phase 1, but may also apply for subsequent phases depending on the progress of their proposals:

Phase 1. Concept & Feasibility Assessment

Idea to concept (6 months)

The European Union will provide €50 000 in funding, and carry out a feasibility study to verify the viability of the proposed disruptive innovation or concept.

The SME will draft an initial business proposal (around 10 pages).

Phase 2. Demonstration, Market Replication, R&D

Concept to Market-Maturity (1-2 years)

Assisted by the EU, the SME will further develop its proposal through innovation activities, such as demonstration, testing, piloting, scaling up, and miniaturisation. It will also draft a more developed business plan (around 30 pages).

Proposals will be based on a business plan developed on phase 1 or otherwise. The EU aims to contribute between €0.5 million and €2.5 million.

Phase 3. Business acceleration and support services

Prepare for Market Launch

SMEs will receive extensive business acceleration support, including training, coaching and facilitating access to risk finance as the project is further polished into a marketable product.

Additional support and networking opportunities will be provided by Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).

The EU will not provide additional direct funding in this phase.

Call overview 2016-2017

Horizon 2020 Innovation in SMEs work programme

Changes to 2017 calls:

  • Budget increase for four topics
  • Healthcare and biotechnology (SMEInst-05 topic): for cell technologies Phase 1 will be closed off in 2017, the topic will continue for all Phase 1 projects from 2016 and for Phase 2 projects from 2016 and 2017. In addition the projects in this topic can now last up to 36 months instead of the regular 12-14 months duration for other topics.
  • Blue growth (SMEInst-08 topic): more focus is put on marine litter prevention in the text of the call
  • Security (SMEInst-13 topic): from January 2017, actions to improve cyber security are encouraged to take into account the objectives of the Cybersecurity contractual Public-Private Partnership and the corresponding Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda.




  2016 2017
Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme SMEInst-01 €60 m. €66 m.
Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs SMEInst-02 €31.83 m. €35.32 m.
Dedicated support to biotechnology SMEs closing the gap from lab to market SMEInst-03 €7.5 m. €7.5 m.
Engaging SMEs in space research and development SMEInst-04 €11.37 m. €12.6 m.
Supporting innovative SMEs in the healthcare biotechnology sector SMEInst-05 €35 m. €80 m.
Accelerating market introduction of ICT solutions for Health, Well-Being and Ageing Well SMEInst-06 €18 m. €12.5 m.
Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, agri-food and bio-based sectors SMEInst-07 €25.46 m. €37.87 m.
Supporting SMEs efforts for the development - deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth


€9.5 m. €12.42 m.
Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system SMEInst-09 €46 m. €50 m.
Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility SMEInst-10 €57.57 m. €61.23 m.
Boosting the potential of small businesses in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials SMEInst-11 €25 m. €36 m.
New business models for inclusive, innovative and reflective societies SMEInst-12 €10.8 m. €11.4 m.
Engaging SMEs in security research and development SMEInst-13 €15.37 m. €14.67 m.
TOTAL €353.4 m. €437.5 m.


Deadlines for all themes

Phase 1









Phase 2










Documents & links