In order to enhance the participation of SMEs in EU innovation programmes, the European Commission has put in place a new funding instrument scheme, the so-called SME Instrument. This instrument is designed to help European enterprises commercialize their innovative solutions.
The SME Instrument falls within a broader EU strategy for an Innovation Union which, among other things, seeks to “ensure stronger involvement of SME in future EU R&I programmes”.
The SME Instrument is part of the “Industrial Leadership” and “Societal Challenges” pillars. Innovative projects using in Key Enabling Technologies, or addressing issues such as food safety, green energy and transport, smart infrastructures, climate action, business model innovation, or e-government, will be funded.
Contrary to other Research and Innovation Actions, one single SME can apply. A consortium is possible, but not required.
€3 billion are earmarked for 2014-2020 for ground breaking innovative ideas specifically designed for exploitation. As in “innovation actions”, 70% of eligible costs will be reimbursed.
Besides the financial aspects, the SME instrument confers on the company an informal EU “quality label” and Europe-wide. Furthermore, participants can benefit from optional business and management coaching.
Any SME within the EU or from a Horizon 2020 associated country can apply for this EU grant.
The EU definition for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises:
“The category of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is made up of enterprises which employ fewer than 250 persons and which have an annual turnover not exceeding 50 million euro, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding 43 million euro.” (Article 2 of the Annex of Recommendation 2003/361/EC)
Applicants have to be highly innovative, be well-established in their domain and – ideally - have global ambitions, and a clear idea about the commercialisation of their idea.
The evaluation of the proposal will consider these three criteria:
The mechanism is divided into three standalone phases: participation in phase 1 is not necessary to apply for phase 2.
The three phases of the SME instrument are the following: