Early signs of success: 60% of SME Instrument innovations are up-and-coming commercial successes

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Almost two out of three companies funded by the SME Instrument have put their innovation out on the market and meet first successes, thanks to the grant. Most of these early successes are young companies, small rather than micro or medium-sized. The study behind these encouraging figures assessed 70 companies that have finished their SME Instrument project.

The study was carried out on 70 finished SME Instrument Phase 2 projects. Despite the short time-span following the funding, 27% of companies reached a highly positive commercial success, usually illustrated by outstanding market performance or additional funds raised from investors (venture capital, acquisitions, IPOs etc.) following the Phase 2 support. Another 31.4% have reached the market, an achievement that was the target of the Phase 2 grant, but don't show outstanding commercial results yet, albeit promising signs.

A small 8.5% have either experienced bankruptcy or mid-way termination of their project and can therefore be considered as a commercial failure. This small proportion proves that the SME Instrument actually invests in high-risk companies, the purpose of the programme.

In addition, almost 33% of companies are not on the market yet but many of them are in the process of negotiating first sales and contracts with potential customers. Some are also still progressing in their demonstration activities or are at a too early stage for considering commercialization. Many projects in this category are therefore on the edge of success but haven't demonstrated it yet.  

Success stories

Ultrahaptics is a real unicorn that raised €30 million and grew from 1 to 80 employees with the help of the SME Instrument with their ultrasound system that gives a haptic sensation mid-air. "Horizon 2020 was instrumental in Ultrahaptics securing the €30 million of follow on funding" said, Steve Cliffe, the CEO of Ultrahaptics. Ultrahaptics finished their project with the SME Instrument in August 2017. 

Platform.sh embarked on an amazing journey since it was selected for an SME Instrument Phase 2 grant in 2014 to develop a hybrid-cloud Platform as a Service reducing web application development cost by 40% for SMEs. The project finished in April 2017."The grant was more than useful – it was a game changer", said Frédéric Plais, the CEO of Platform.sh. "We invested everything in the recruitment of additional engineers – 10 engineers roughly – to really improve and extend the scope of our platform. Two years after the beginning of the program, we've got one of the best platforms worldwide to manage websites from development to production. We were chosen by the largest open source software vendors worldwide (Magento and Symfony) to empower their cloud offers. We've acquired several thousands of clients on our platform. Nothing would have been possible without the Horizon 2020 programme". 

Find more stories of succesful entrepreneurs funded by the SME Instrument in your region in our datahub. And read the full interim report on the performance of SME Instrument companies

To complement this report, an in-depth case study of eight companies to understand ther role of smei played in their success, will be published in early 2018.