The SME instrument (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) supports European SMEs in the final phase of getting innovative breakthrough technology on the market. The programme targets highly innovative projects with major market potential. The SME instrument consists of three phases:
- Feasibility studies, which examine the technological, practical and/or economic feasibility of the project.
- Business innovation projects, during which the technology is fully developed and demonstrated, to prepare the product for its market introduction. This may involve prototyping, testing and demonstration or e.g. the upscaling of a technology, the miniaturisation of components, design and market replication.
- Business coaching, which supports businesses with turning their innovation project into a commercial success.
The SME instrument is part of Horizon 2020 and ties in with the pillars of Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges. Every two years, the European Commission publishes new call for proposals, which indicate the themes for which the SME instrument is open.
SME instrument is very similar to Fast Track to Innovation Pilot. The major difference is that the SME instrument is directed specifically at SMEs and that the programme uses a three-phase approach with feasibility studies, innovation projects and business coaching. The SME instrument also uses a thematic approach with innovation themes that have been predefined by the European Commission.
Target audiences of the SME instrument
The SME instrument is directed at SMEs; specifically, SMEs that are developing a new and disruptive technology that ties in with the objectives of the European Commission and is supported by a rock-solid business plan. Individual SMEs can take part in the project, but it is also possible to cooperate with other SME partners.
Conditions, characteristics and figures
- Part of Horizon 2020
- More deadlines per year
- Phase 1: € 50,000 (lump sum); phase 2: € 0.5 – 2.5 million
- 70% subsidy of direct costs, multiplied with 25% overhead