HORIZON 2020 (2014-2020)

26 September 2016

SME Instrument

FUNDING BODY:  European Commission. Implemented centrally by EASME agency

CALL FOCUS: The SME instrument is targeted at all types of innovative SMEs showing a strong ambition to develop, grow and internationalise. It provides staged support covering the whole innovation cycle.

ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS: Only SMEs are allowed to apply for funding and support.


Scope: The SME instrument consists of three phases, including a coaching and mentoring service for beneficiaries. Participants can apply to phase 1 or directly to phase 2.

  • Phase 1. Feasibility study verifying the technological/practical as well as economic viability of an innovation idea/concept with considerable novelty to the industry sector in which it is presented (new products, processes, design, services and technologies or new market applications of existing technologies). The activities could, for example, comprise risk assessment, market study, user involvement, intellectual property management, innovation strategy development, partner search, feasibility of concept, and the like, to establish a solid high-potential innovation project aligned to the enterprise strategy and with a European dimension. Bottlenecks in the ability to increase profitability of the enterprise through innovation shall be detected and analysed during phase 1 and addressed during phase 2, to increase the return in investment in innovation activities.
  • Phase 2. Innovation projects will be supported that address the specific challenges identified and that demonstrate high potential in terms of company competitiveness and growth underpinned by a strategic business plan. Activities should focus on innovation activities such as demonstration, testing, prototyping, piloting, scaling-up, miniaturisation, design, market replication and the like aiming to bring an innovation idea (product, process, service etc.) to industrial readiness and maturity for market introduction, but may also include some research. For technological innovation, Technology Readiness Levels of 6 or above (or similar for non-technological innovations) are envisaged.
    Proposals shall be based on an elaborate business plan. Particular attention must be paid to IP protection and ownership; applicants will have to present convincing measures to ensure the possibility of commercial exploitation ('freedom to operate').
    Proposals shall contain a specification for the outcome of the project and criteria for success. They will include an explanation of how the results of the supported project are to be commercialised and of what kind of impact on the company is expected.
  • Phase 3. It aims at increase the economic impact of the funding provided by the SME Instrument phase 1&2 grants and by the business coaching. Phase 3 is not subsequent to phase 1 and/or 2, but provides specific support to SME instrument beneficiaries during and after phase 1 or 2.
    All support under phase 3 of the SME instrument will be accessible through a single, dedicated entry point, which will serve as an information portal and a networking space.
    This platform will offer access to two main strands of services:
    - Access to markets
    - Access to finance
    In addition, phase 3 will create opportunities for partnering, networking and training, which are the Dedicated Support Actions:
    1. SME Instrument Business Community - Interactive Platform (information portal and networking space)
    2. SME Instrument Business Community Activities
    3. SME Instrument Academy
    4. Access to New Geographical Markets – Overseas Trade Fair Participation Programme
  • Coaching and mentoring. SME instrument beneficiaries are also offered dedicated business innovation coaching and mentoring support. This service is facilitated by the Enterprise Europe Network and delivered by a dedicated coach through consultation and signposting to the beneficiaries. The coaches are recruited from a central database managed by the Commission and have all fulfilled stringent criteria with regards to business experience and competencies.
    Throughout the three phases of the instrument, the Network will complement the coaching support by providing access to its innovation and internationalisation service offering. This could include, for example, depending on the need of the SME, support in identifying growth potential, developing a growth plan and maximising it through internationalisation; strengthening the leadership and management skills of individuals in the senior management team and developing in-house coaching capacity; developing a marketing strategy or raising external finance.


Expected Impact:

  • Enhancing profitability and growth performance of SMEs by combining and transferring new and existing knowledge into innovative, disruptive and competitive solutions seizing European and global business opportunities.
  • Market uptake and distribution of innovations tackling the specific challenges in a sustainable way.
  • Increase of private investment in innovation, notably leverage of private co-investor and/or follow-up investments.
  • The expected impacts should be clearly described in qualitative and quantitative terms (e.g. on turnover, employment, market seize, IP management, sales, return on investment and profit).


  • Phase 1: will be provided in the form of a lump sum of EUR 50.000. Projects should last around 6 months.
  • Phase 2: The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 0.5 and 2.5 million (70% funding of the eligible costs) would allow phase 2 to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts. Projects should last between 12 and 24 months.
    In the case of SMEInst-05-2016-2017, research type activities in medical application and clinical validation, including support for clinical studies and trials, will be predominant and will necessitate reimbursement at 100%. The Technology Readiness Levels indication does not apply.
    In the case of SMEInst-05-2016-2017, phase 2 proposals can request a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 and 5 million.
  • Phase 3: No direct funding from the European Commission.


  • Personnel cost.
  • Other direct cost: travel and subsistence; equipment, informatics, consumables.
  • Subcontracting.
  • Indirect cost (25% total direct cost, except subcontracting).

REMARKS: (Chek attached file)



• Total budget € million per 2017: 437.51
*Budget in previous WP: 2014 253.02€ million per year; 2015  259.87 € million per year; 2016 353.40.


  Phase 1 Phase 2
2017 15/02 18/01
03/05 06/04
06/09 01/06
08/11 18/10

(*) All cut-off dates are at 17.00 h Brussels local time.

Further information: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/opportunities/index.html


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