The SME Instrument strives to have fair, equal and efficient evaluations in order to select the best, most innovative proposals for funding. Since January 2018 the SME Instrument is part of the European Innovation Council pilot, that supports market-creating innovation through funding and business acceleration support. This brings about changes to the evaluation process - notably face-to-face interviews for Phase 2.
Proposals are evaluated by independent high-level experts in different economic and technological fields. With a high level of skills and a very good understanding of the market (business development and commercialisation, innovation exploitation and management, venture-capital and risk-finance), the experts draw on their experience and knowledge to select the best applications.
Until recently, the experts corresponded to SME Instrument topics, a feature that will no longer exist in 2018. Applications from innovative proposals from all economic fields are welcome to apply and the evaluators will receive proposals in their subject of expertise based on key words indicated in applicants' proposals. The more proposals we receive in one field the more experts of that subject we need. This is why more than 20% of evaluators were experts in ICT – the most popular topic under the SME Instrument so far.
The evaluators are selected among a pool of around 1500 evaluators. The vast majority (over 75%) come from the private sector and almost half are women. In total almost 60 different nationalities are represented with around 10% of evaluators from non-EU countries including the USA, Canada and Brazil.
Experts can apply to be evaluators through a call for expression of interest.
Fast and thorough selection
Until now each proposal submitted to the SME Instrument was evaluated remotely by four independent experts offering a mixed profile in innovation, business and finance in the topic concerned. Evaluators work independently and there are no contacts between the four evaluators. Phase 1 applications will still be selected only on the basis of paper applications, but for Phase 2, in addition to the paper-based selection step, applicants will go through face-to-face interviews with a jury composed of business and investment experts.
For more information read the guide for applicants.
Independence and impartiality
To avoid the risk of conflicts of interest, experts submit to a code of conduct that asserts they work in an independent, impartial and confidential way. Experts must confirm there are no conflicts of interest for the work they are carrying out and they have to declare any conflicts of interest arising during their work. The Commission then assesses whether a conflict of interest exists and if so replaces the expert. If it becomes clear that a conflict of interest occurred and was concealed by an expert the work carried out is invalidated and sanctions will apply. The rules can be found in the contracts signed by experts.
Resubmissions of proposals give us a reliable indication that the evaluation system is consistent and the candidates are treated in an impartial way. Under the SME Instrument, applicants can resubmit their application as many times as they wish. These resubmitted applications are evaluated by experts different from the first time. If the scores of resubmitted projects would differ drastically from the previous ones, especially in cases where only minor changes have been made, the validity of these evaluations could certainly be put to question. But analysis shows that the majority of scores do not change substantially. There is also a yearly rotation of 20% of the experts to ensure there's an impartial treatment of the projects submitted.
Read more and find all the relevant documents on the participant portal pages on experts.