EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) Funding opportunities

The EIC Accelerator (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 EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) supports high-risk, high-potential small and medium-sized enterprises and innovators to help them develop and bring onto the market new innovative products, services and business models that could drive economic growth. 

Selected companies receive funding and optional equity and are offered business coaching and mentoring to scale up their innovation idea. They get extra acceleration services to connect with investors, corporates and likeminded entrepreneurs.

As an EIC Accelerator client, you will gain visibility and boost your chances of success in European and international markets.


Who should apply? 

The EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) is designed for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMES) with radically new ideas underpinned by a business plan for rolling out marketable innovation solutions and with ambitions to scale up. It targets for-profit SMEs only, including young companies and start-ups, from any sector - there are no set topics. From 5 June 2019 only single companies (as opposed to consortia) can apply for EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) Phase 2. 

Companies that apply must be established in an EU Member State or a Horizon 2020 associated country. Large corporates, research centers or scientists cannot apply directly but they can participate in projects as subcontractors or third parties and don't need to be established in an EU Member State or associated country.

Have a look the EU definition of SMEs to see if your company fits the bill. If not, the EIC enhanced pilot offers different kinds of support at different stages of the innovation cycle and for different types of applicants. Try out the EIC wizard to see which innovation funding instrument suits you the best.

What support can you get?

The EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) provides support to the full business innovation cycle.

EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) - 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 receive a lump sum of €50 000 and should last around 6 months. The final deadline for applications for Phase 1 is 5 September 2019. For early-stage research and innovation, projects can seek support from EIC Pathfinder pilot.

EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) - 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 6-8 is envisaged for projects requesting grants only. Projects will receive between € 0.5 and € 2.5 million in the form of grants. They can request a higher or lower amount when applying but it needs to be duly justified. Projects should normally take 12 to 24 months to complete, but could be longer in exceptional and well-justified cases.

From 5 June 2019 the EIC Accelerator offers blended finance in the form of an optional investment in equity in addition to the grant, to single for-profit SMEs. Grants will finance activities from TRL 6-8. Activities above TRL 8 will financed only through blended finance. 

Applicants will be asked to indicate if they want blended finance and the amount requested for equity. The maximum of investment in the form of equity is € 15 million.

Business acceleration services and coaching - Phase 3

The EIC pilot offers free coachingbusiness 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.

Coaching covers business development, organisational development, cooperation, and financing. For SME Instrument clients, up to 3 coaching-days are available in Phase 1, and up to 12 coaching-days in Phase 2. SMEs taking part in FTI or FET-Open are offered up to 12 coaching-days.
The free-of-charge coaching service is facilitated by the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
Other business acceleration services are offered in the form of partnering and networking with investors, larger firms and other SME clients. These happen through specific events and through the online EIC Community

How to apply?

The EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) consists of two separate grant phases, both complemented by coaching and business acceleration services. Participants can apply to Phase 1 with a view to applying to Phase 2 at a later stage, or directly to Phase 2 if the idea has sufficient maturity and proven feasibility. The last cut-offf date for Phase 1 is 5 September 2019.

Applicants will first have to submit a paper-based proposal of their project that will be evaluated remotely by four independent experts. For Phase 2, there is an additional step where a selected number of proposals will be invited to Brussels to pitch in front of a Jury. For more information have a look at how proposals are evaluated.

To apply you are invited to register and submit your proposal on the Horizon 2020 Funding &Tenders Portal. Before applying we invite you to read the full details about submissions, eligibility and admissibility criteria and the evaluation procedure in the Guidelines for Applicants and the 2018-2020 Work Programme on the Horizon 2020 Funding and Tenders Portal. We also advise you to get in touch with your Enterprise Europe Network regional office and have a look at our tips for applicants

Apply here


When to apply?

The EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) is a continously open call with regular cut-offs. Below are the cut-off dates for 2018-2020. These dates are indicative and may change.





Phase 1

08 February 2018

03 May 2018

05 September 2018

07 November 2018

13 February 2019

07 May 2019

05 September 2019 - final deadline



Phase 2

EIC Accelerator

10 January 2018

14 March 2018

23 May 2018

10 October 2018

09 January 2019

03 April 2019

05 June 2019

09 October 2019 - grant only or blended finance

08 January 2020 - grant only or blended finance

18 March 2020 - grant only or blended finance 

19 May 2020 - grant only or blended finance

07 October 2020 - grant only or blended finance


The indicative budget from 2018 to 2020 for the EIC Accelerator/SME Instrument is as follows:


Indicative Budget 




Overall yearly budget

€479.74 million

€689.26 million

€654 million

Phase 1




Phase 2 /Accelerator - Grants




Accelerator - Equity Support - 5.4% 8%

Phase 3




Coaching and mentoring











The maximum delay to inform applicants will be 4 months from the date of the cut-off. The indicative date for the signing of grant agreements is maximum 6 months from the date of the corresponding cut-off.

Not the right match for your innovation? Try out the other innovation funding instruments under the EIC:  Fast Track to Innovation (FTI), EIC Pathfinder (FET)-Open and Horizon Prizes.

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