Funding ProgrammesAll you need to know about each Funding program



The SME instrument consists of three separate phases and a coaching and mentoring service for beneficiaries. Participants can apply to Phase 1 with a view to applying to Phase 2 at a later date, or directly to Phase 2.

In Phase 1, a feasibility study shall be developed in order to verify the technological/ practical as well as economic viability of an innovation idea/ concept with considerable novelty to the industry sector in which it is presented (new products, processes, design, services and technologies or new market applications of existing technologies).

The activities could, for example, comprise risk assessment, market study, user involvement, Intellectual Property (IP) management , innovation strategy development, partner search, feasibility of concept and the like to establish a solid high-potential innovation project aligned to the enterprise strategy and with a European dimension. Bottlenecks in the ability to increase profitability of the enterprise through innovation shall be detected and analysed during Phase 1 and addressed during Phase 2 to increase the return in investment in innovation activities. The proposal should contain an initial business plan based on the proposed idea/ concept. It should outline the specifications of a more elaborate business plan, which is to be the outcome of the project, and the criteria for success.

Funding will be provided in the form of a lump sum of EUR 50.000. Projects should last around 6 months.

In Phase 2, innovation projects will be supported that address the specific challenges identified and that demonstrate high potential in terms of company competitiveness and growth underpinned by a strategic business plan.

Activities should focus on innovation activities such as demonstration, testing, prototyping, piloting, scaling-up, miniaturisation, design, market replication and the like aiming to bring an innovation idea (product, process, service etc.) to industrial readiness and maturity for market introduction, but may also include some research. For technological innovation, Technology Readiness Levels of 6 or above (or similar for non-technological innovations) are envisaged.

Proposals shall be based on an elaborate business plan. Particular attention must be paid to IP protection and ownership; applicants will have to present convincing measures to ensure the possibility of commercial exploitation ('freedom to operate').

Proposals shall contain a specification for the outcome of the project and criteria for success. They will include an explanation of how the results of the supported project are to be commercialised and of what kind of impact on the company is expected.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 0.5 and 2.5 million would allow Phase 2 to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts (higher or lower). Projects should last between 12 and 24 months .

Phase 3 of the SME Instrument aims to increase the economic impact of the funding provided by the SME Instrument phase 1 & 2 grants and by the business coaching. Phase 3 is not subsequent to phase 1 and/ or 2, but provides specific support to SME instrument beneficiaries during and after Phase 1 or 2.

All support under Phase 3 of the SME instrument will be accessible through a single, dedicated entry point, which will serve as an information portal and a networking space.

This platform will offer access to two main strands of services:

  • Access to markets
  • Access to finance


In addition, Phase 3 will create opportunities for partnering, networking and training, which are set out in the Dedicated Support Actions at the end of this call.

SME instrument beneficiaries are also offered dedicated business innovation coaching and mentoring support. This service is facilitated by the Enterprise Europe Network and delivered by a dedicated coach through consultation and signposting to the beneficiaries. The coaches are recruited from a central database managed by the Commission and have all fulfilled stringent criteria with regards to business experience and competencies.

Throughout the three Phases of the instrument, the Network will complement the coaching support by providing access to its innovation and internationalisation service offering. This could include, for example, depending on the need of the SME, support in identifying growth potential, developing a growth plan and maximising it through internationalisation; strengthening the leadership and management skills of individuals in the senior management team and developing in-house coaching capacity; developing a marketing strategy or raising external finance.


Expected impact

  • Enhancing profitability and growth performance of SMEs by combining and transferring new and existing knowledge into innovative, disruptive and competitive solutions seizing European and global business opportunities.
  • Market uptake and distribution of innovations tackling the specific challenges in a sustainable way.
  • Increase of private investment in innovation, notably leverage of private co-investor and/or follow-up investments.
  • The expected impacts should be clearly described in qualitative and quantitative terms (e.g. on turnover, employment, market seize, IP management, sales, return on investment and profit).


Applications Cut-off dates SME- Phase 1:

  • 24 February 2016
  • 03 May 2016
  • 07 September 2016
  • 09 November 2016
  • 15 February 2017
  • 03 May 2017
  • 06 September 2017
  • 07 November 2017
  • 08 February 2018 
  • 03 May 2018 
  • 05 September 2018 
  • 07 November 2018 
  • 13 February 2019 
  • 07 May 2019 
  • 05 September 2019 
  • 06 November 2019 
  • 12 February 2020 
  • 06 May 2020 
  • 02 September 2020 
  • 04 November 2020

Note: All deadlines are at 17.00.00 Brussels local time.


Indicative timetable for evaluation and grant agreement signature:

For the SME instrument:

  • Information on the outcome of the evaluation: Maximum 2 months after the corresponding cut-off date set out above for phase 1 and maximum 4 months after the corresponding cut-off date set out above for phase 2; and
  • Indicative date for the signing of grant agreements: Maximum 3 months from the final date for submission in phase 1 and maximum 6 months from the final date for submission in phase 2.


Proposals are invited against the following topic(s):

The SME instrument addresses the financing needs of internationally oriented SMEs, in implementing high-risk and high-potential innovation ideas. It aims at supporting projects with a European dimension that lead to major changes in how business (product, processes, services, marketing etc.) is done. It will assist innovative SMEs to shape new markets, create growth, and achieve high return on investment. The SME instrument addresses all types of innovative SMEs so as to be able to promote growth champions in all sectors.

In 2016 and 2017, SMEs are invited to submit proposals under the SME instrument at any time within all Societal Challenges and Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies areas under the following call:

SMEInst-01-2016-2017: Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme
SMEInst-02-2016-2017: Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs
SMEInst-03-2016-2017: Dedicated support to biotechnology SMEs closing the gap from lab to market
SMEInst-04-2016-2017: Engaging SMEs in space research and development
SMEInst-05-2016-2017: Supporting innovative SMEs in the healthcare biotechnology sector
SMEInst-06-2016-2017: Accelerating market introduction of ICT solutions for Health, Well-Being and Ageing Well
SMEInst-07-2016-2017: Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, agri-food and bio-based sectors
SMEInst-08-2016-2017: Supporting SMEs efforts for the development - deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth
SMEInst-09-2016-2017: Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system
SMEInst-10-2016-2017: Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility
SMEInst-11-2016-2017: Boosting the potential of small businesses in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials
SMEInst-12-2016-2017: New business models for inclusive, innovative and reflective societies
SMEInst-13-2016-2017: Engaging SMEs in security research and development






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