The SME instrument is part of the Enhanced European Innovation Council pilot (Enhanced EIC pilot). The Enhanced EIC Pilot will pave the way to a fully-fledged EIC; it builds on the lessons learnt from the previous EIC pilot launched in late 2017. The Enhanced EIC Pilot serves as the umbrella for several EU funding instruments: the SME Instrument: the Fast Track to Innovation (FTI), Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Open and Horizon Prizes, thus providing a 'one stop shop' for funding of breakthrough, market-creating innovation across the EU.
The Enhanced EIC pilot funds high-potential, high-risk innovation developed by SMEs through the SME instrument. The SME instrument offers Europe's brightest and boldest entrepreneurs the chance to step forward and request funding for breakthrough ideas with the potential to create entirely new markets or revolutionise existing ones. The Enhanced EIC pilot features a pilot Accelerator comprising the SME Instrument Phase II. The EIC Accelerator pilot provides grant-only support as well as support in the form of blended finance (combining grant and equity).
The EIC Accelerator supports high-risk, high-potential small and medium-sized innovative enterprises willing to develop and commercialise new products, services and business models that could drive economic growth and shape new markets or disrupt existing ones in Europe and worldwide. The EIC Accelerator pilot provides full-cycle business innovation support. In Phase 2, support is provided in the form of grant only or, following the cut-off date of 5 June 2019, blended finance. The EIC Accelerator pilot also offers coaching and mentoring.
The SME instrument supports close-to-market activities, with the aim to give a strong boost to breakthrough innovation with a market-creating potential. Highly innovative SMEs with a clear commercial ambition and a potential for high growth and internationalisation are the prime target.
The SME Instrument offers small and medium-sized businesses the following:
Funding is available for: exploring and assessing the technical feasibility and commercial potential of a breakthrough innovation that a company wants to exploit and commercialize.
Activities funded could be: risk assessment, design or market studies, intellectual property exploration; the ultimate goal is to put a new product, service or process in the market, possibly through an innovative application of existing technologies, methodologies, or business processes.
The project should be aligned to the business strategy, helping internal growth or targeting a transnational business opportunity. The evaluation of phase 1 proposals happens remotely by a panel of independent experts.
Amount of funding: lump sum of €50,000 (per project, not per participating business).
Duration: typically around 6 months.
Outcome: The outcome of a phase 1 project is a feasibility study (technical and commercial), including a business plan.
Should the conclusion of the study be that the innovative concept has the potential to be developed to the level of investment readiness/market maturity, but requires additional funding in view of commercialisation, the SME can apply for Phase 2 support.
The SME Instrument phase 2, now part of the EIC Accelerator pilot, provides grant-only support as well as support in the form of blended finance (combining grant and equity).
Funding is available for: innovation projects underpinned by a sound and strategic business plan (potentially elaborated and partially funded through phase 1 of the SME Instrument).
Activities funded in phase 2 can be of several types: prototyping, miniaturisation, scaling-up, design, performance verification, testing, demonstration, development of pilot lines, validation for market replication, including other activities aimed at bringing innovation to investment readiness and maturity for market take-up.
The evaluation of phase 2 proposals happens both remotely and face-to-face (via an interview) by two panels of independent experts.
Following the cut-off date of 5 June 2019, support in the form of blended finance (combining grants and equity) will be provided by the EIC Accelerator pilot.
Amount of funding: in the indicative range of €500,000 – € 2.5 million or more (covering up to 70% of eligible costs).
Duration: typically around 1 to 2 years
With the view of facilitating the commercial exploitation of the innovation activities resulting from phase 1 or phase 2, the SME instrument proposes business acceleration services. These include support for further developing investment readiness, linking with private investors and customers through brokerage activities and events (including trade fairs), assistance in applying for further EU risk finance, and a range of other innovation support activities and services offered via the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
Innovation and Business Development Coaching is offered in parallel throughout phases 1 and 2 to help SMEs: