EU Grants for Innovative SMEs

With almost €80 billion worth of funding available over a period of 7 years (from 2014-2020), Horizon 2020 has been heralded the biggest EU Research & Innovation programme to date.

Although open to everyone, it seems that SME’s will emerge as real beneficiaries of this initiative, set to receive in the region of €7 billion from the pot.

The SME Instrument

The SME Instrument, which opened on 1 March 2014, has been described as ‘great news’ for innovative SMEs. (SMEs are defined, for this purpose, as any company with an annual turnover of less than €50million and fewer than 250 employees).

The intention behind the instrument is to support those SMEs, by means of funding and tailored support, who are undertaking projects with relevant market potential and with an EU dimension but who are unable to access finance due to their ‘high-risk’ character. All types of SMEs are eligible, regardless of their activity sector, so long as they demonstrate that they are highly innovative with “a strong ambition to develop, grow and internationalise”, leading to radical changes in their business sector (in terms of products, processes, services, marketing etc).

While individual applications from SMEs are allowed, applications in partnership with, for example, other companies, public authorities, universities and associations are encouraged.

The main novelty of the SME Instrument lies in its structure. Support is provided during the entire business innovation cycle:

  • Phase 1 – Conception and planning (lump sum grants of €50,000 available)
  • Phase 2 – Business plan execution and demonstration ( grants of €500,000-€2,500,000 available)
  • Phase 3 – Commercialisation (no allocated grants but access to different financial instruments at preferential conditions by European institutions are provided)

Submission of applications for Phases 1 and 2 is open to an extensive range of topics that fall within the various research clusters:

  • Information and Communication Technologies
  • Nanotechnology (eg accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies, advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs)
  • Space
  • Health (eg clinical research for the validation of biomarkers and/or diagnostic medical devices)
  • Bioeconomy (eg Resource-efficient eco-innovative food production and processing) (add link
  • Biotechnology (eg supporting SMEs efforts for the development, deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth)
  • Energy (eg stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system)
  • Transport (eg small business innovation research for transport)
  • Materials (eg boosting the potential of small businesses for eco-innovation and a sustainable supply of raw materials)
  • Society (eg Innovative mobile e-government applications by SMEs)
  • Manufacturing (eg SME boosting biotechnology-based industrial processes driving competitiveness and sustainability)
  • Climate

Although at a glance this funding programme may appear somewhat complex, it does present an enormous opportunity for SME’s across the UK. Applications can be made via the Horizon 2020 website

We are happy to offer advice and assistance at all stages, for example with the grant application process, preparation of budgets and in undertaking the audit of grant funding.