The SME Instrument: An Opportunity for the SPiCE³ Network
18 Feb 2016

SME Instrument

The SME Instrument is an on-going initiative under the Horizon 2020 programme that supports Innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Growth-oriented SMEs with fresh new ideas and high ambitions could receive up to €2.5 million in funding, along with business support and mentoring. The European Commission is currently selecting potentially disruptive businesses to invest in and support as part of the SME Instrument.

The instrument is structured in 3 phases, with the aim of transforming disruptive ideas into concrete, innovative solutions with a European and global impact. SMEs are recommended to apply for Phase 1, but may also apply directly for subsequent phases:

Phase 1: Concept & Feasibility Assessment

  • Idea to concept: (6 months)
  • The European Union will provide €50,000 in funding, and carry out a feasibility study to verify the viability of the proposed disruptive innovation or concept
  • The SME will draft an initial business proposal (around 10 pages)

Phase 2: Demonstration, Market Replication, R&D

  • Concept to Market-Maturity: (1 to 2 years)
  • Assisted by the EU, the SME will further develop its proposal through innovation activities, such as demonstration, testing, piloting, scaling up, and miniaturisation. It will also draft a more developed business plan (around 30 pages)
  • Proposals will be based on a business plan developed on phase 1 or otherwise. The EU aims to contribute between €0.5 million and €2.5 million

Phase 3: Commercialisation

  • Preparation for Market Launch
  • SMEs will receive extensive support, training, mentorship and facilitating access to risk finance as the project is further polished into a marketable product
  • Additional support and networking opportunities will be provided by Enterprise Europe Network (EEN)
  • The EU will not provide additional direct funding in this phase

Who can apply?
Only a single for-profit SME or a consortium of for-profit SMEs can apply for funding under the SME instrument. Other partners like research providers or larger companies can be involved as third parties, in general in a subcontracting relationship.

According to the EU, the two criteria defining whether a company is an SME or not are the number of employees and the turnover:

Company size # employees  Turnover
Medium-sized< 250≤ €50 million
Small< 50≤ €10 million
Micro <10≤ €2 million

The cut-off dates for the period 2016 – 2017 are the following:

  2016  2017
Phase 1Phase 2Phase 1Phase 2 

The SME Instrument will sponsor SMEs interested in the following areas:

Topics Call ID   Budget (million €)
  2016 2017 
Open Disruptive Innovation SchemeSMEInst-016066
Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEsSMEInst-0231.8335.32
Dedicated support to biotechnology SMEs closing the gap from lab to marketSMEInst-037.5 7.5 
Engaging SMEs in space research and developmentSMEInst-0411.3712.6
Supporting innovative SMEs in the healthcare biotechnology sectorSMEInst-053545
Accelerating market introduction of ICT solutions for Health, Well-Being and Ageing WellSMEInst-061812.5
Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, agri-food and bio-based sectorsSMEInst-0725.4632.19
Supporting SMEs efforts for the development - deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growthSMEInst-089.510
Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy systemSMEInst-094650
Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities MobilitySMEInst-1057.5761.23
Boosting the potential of small businesses in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materialsSMEInst-112527.5
New business models for inclusive, innovative and reflective societiesSMEInst-1210.811.4
Engaging SMEs in security research and developmentSMEInst-1315.3714.67
TOTAL 353.4385.91

If you are interested in this initiative and you require assistance on this or other funding opportunities, please contact your local SPiCE3 representative (see full list here).

For additional information you can visit the European Commission’s webpage dedicated to the SME instrument:

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