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Horizon 2020's SME Instrument

Are you a highly innovative, ambitious and passionate small- or medium-sized business with global ambitions? Are you looking for excellent business resources and mentorship - and substantial funding wouldn’t hurt either?


  • Posted on: Oct 28, 2016
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Tags: Capacity building, Horizon 2020, SME

Infographic - Horizon 2020's SME Instrument in a nutshell

As part of the Horizon 2020 programme, the European Commission is hand-picking potentially disruptive businesses to invest and support as part of the SME Instrument. Your business could receive up to €2.5 million in funding, and world-class business coaching.

Who should apply?

We are looking for high growth, highly innovative SMEs [Check the EU definition of SME] with global ambitions that want to disrupt the established value networks and existing markets. You should be driven, actively investing in innovation, and looking to grow.

It's a good sign if your company is based in an innovation hub, has received grants or venture capital funding, received innovation-related tax benefits, or won an innovation prize in the last 2 years.


The instrument will take place in three 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 for subsequent phases depending on the progress of their proposals:

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 (1-2 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

Prepare 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.

Call overview 2016-2017

Horizon 2020 Innovation in SMEs work programme

Changes to 2017 calls:

  • Budget increase for four topics
  • Healthcare and biotechnology (SMEInst-05 topic): for cell technologies Phase 1 will be closed off in 2017, the topic will continue for all Phase 1 projects from 2016 and for Phase 2 projects from 2016 and 2017. In addition the projects in this topic can now last up to 36 months instead of the regular 12-14 months duration for other topics.
  • Blue growth (SMEInst-08 topic): more focus is put on marine litter prevention in the text of the call
  • Security (SMEInst-13 topic): from January 2017, actions to improve cyber security are encouraged to take into account the objectives of the Cybersecurity contractual Public-Private Partnership and the corresponding Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda.


  2016 2017
Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme SMEInst-01 €60 m. €66 m.
Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs SMEInst-02 €31.83 m. €35.32 m.
Dedicated support to biotechnology SMEs closing the gap from lab to market SMEInst-03 €7.5 m. €7.5 m.
Engaging SMEs in space research and development SMEInst-04 €11.37 m. €12.6 m.
Supporting innovative SMEs in the healthcare biotechnology sector SMEInst-05 €35 m. €80 m.
Accelerating market introduction of ICT solutions for Health, Well-Being and Ageing Well SMEInst-06 €18 m. €12.5 m.
Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, agri-food and bio-based sectors SMEInst-07 €25.46 m. €37.87 m.
Supporting SMEs efforts for the development - deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth


€9.5 m. €12.42 m.
Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system SMEInst-09 €46 m. €50 m.
Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility SMEInst-10 €57.57 m. €61.23 m.
Boosting the potential of small businesses in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials SMEInst-11 €25 m. €36 m.
New business models for inclusive, innovative and reflective societies SMEInst-12 €10.8 m. €11.4 m.
Engaging SMEs in security research and development SMEInst-13 €15.37 m. €14.67 m.
TOTAL €353.4 m. €437.5 m.


Deadlines for all themes

Phase 1









Phase 2










Documents & links


Source: http://ec.europa.eu/easme/en/horizons-2020-sme-instrument

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