Horizon 2020 has a dedicated funding mechanism to foster SMEs growth: the so called SME Instrument which benefits from 7% of Horizon 2020 budget.
The SME Instrument covers the whole innovation cycle, targeting all types of innovative SMEs which show a strong ambition to develop, grow and internationalise.
The SME Instrument requires a competitive AND business-oriented mind-set helping companies to bring their idea to the market.
The SME instrument covers all fields of science, technology and innovation in a bottom-up approach within a given societal challenge or enabling industrial technology so as to leave sufficient room for all kinds of promising ideas, notably cross-sector and inter-disciplinary projects, to be funded.
How does it work?
Only for-profit SMEs are eligible for application to this funding scheme: they can apply as single entity and must be in the driver seat to decide which strategic cooperation to set up with other players (partners).
Some topics are labelled as "SME Instrument" in the calls for proposals from the Societal Challenges and Industrial Leadership pillars. They are broad in their content so as to allow a real bottom-up approach.
The SME Instrument consists in 3 phases, each of them responding to different rules:
Phase 1: Concept and feasibility assessment
Funding: A lump sum of 50,000 €
Duration: 6 months
Phase 2: Innovation Activities
(demonstration, testing, prototyping, pilot lines, scale-up studies, miniaturisation, design, performance verification etc. and market replication)
Funding: 0.5 - 2.5 million €
Duration: 12 - 24 months
Phase 3: Commercialisation
Funding / Implementation: This stage does not provide for direct funding, but SMEs can benefit from indirect support measures as well as access to the financial facilities supported under Horizon 2020.
While applicants can access whichever the Phase (there is no obligation for them to sequentially cover all 3 phases, each of them being open to all for-proft SMEs), moving on to the next phase in a sequentially way (Phase 1- Phase 3) may contribute in showing and setting up a sounded strategy for international growth and development.
The SME Instrument is the ideal funding scheme for companies willing to challenge their business development via an idea or a concept ready to compete at European level with a sound business plan which progresses and matures over the time and backed by an optional coaching accompaniment whose purpose is to identify innovation gaps and ways to fill them.