About SME Instrument
The SME Instrument is part of Horizon 2020 - EU's framework programme for innovation and research. The SME Instrument offers excellent opportunities for SMEs to conduct R&D projects - alone or with partners. The 2018 budget is €480M.
Possibilities under the SME Instrument
The SME Instrument is a full bottom-up programme. Your project is not required to fall under any specific themes. Emphasis is placed on the fact that the result of the project (an innovative new product/service) significantly boosts the growth of your business.
Funding is offered in two separate project phases: 1) proof-of-concept and feasibility studies, and 2) development and demonstration activities.
SME Instrument - Phase 1 & 2 funding
The programme has an overall budget of EUR 3BN which will be distributed to innovative projects in two separate phases.
Phase 1 funding is aimed at exploring and assessing the technical feasibility and commercial potential of breakthrough innovation.
- Activities include risk assessment, market study, user involvement, Intellectual Property (IP) management, innovation strategy development, partner search, concept feasibility etc.
Phase 2 funding is aimed at innovation projects supported by a sound and strategic business plan (potentially made possible by phase 1 funding) aimed at commercialisation.
- Activities include prototyping, miniaturisation, scaling-up, design, performance verification, testing, demonstration, development of pilot lines, market replication, etc.
The SME Instrument application process
In both phases, the company submit a written application. Phase 1 applicants will only be judged based on the written material. In addition to this evaluation, the best Phase 2 applicants are invited to pitch the idea in Brussels. Each phase of the SME Instrument has 4 annual deadlines. You can see the deadlines below. The individual calls are found at the bottom of the page.
- Phase 1: 8 February, 3 May, 5 September & 7 November
- Phase 2: 10 January, 14 March, 23 May & 10 October
- Phase 1: 13 February, 7 May, 5 September & 6 November
- Phase 2: 9 January, 3 April, 5 June & 9 October
Requirements for participation in the SME Instrument
The applicant must be an SME under the EU definition:
- Fewer than 250 employees
- An annual turnover not exceeding EUR 50M, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding EUR 43M
How to calculate your SME data depends on the ownership structure of your company. Read more about the EU SME definition here.
Below are the upcoming deadlines for SME Instrument. Expect 1-2 months for the proposal writing process.
Phase 1 helps you get a grip on the R&D, technical feasibility and commercial potential of a ground-breaking, innovative idea and develop it into a credible business plan for scaling it up. Activities can include, for example, risk assessment, market research, user involvement, analysis of regulatory constraints or standards regimes, intellectual property management, partner search, or feasibility assessment.
Phase 2 helps you develop your business concept further into a market-ready product, service or process aligned with your company's growth strategy. Activities could, for example, include trials, prototyping, validation, demonstration and testing in real-world conditions, and market replication. If the activity concerns a primarily technological innovation, a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 6 or above is envisaged. You can subcontract work essential for your innovation project.
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