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Within Horizon 2020, the biggest EU research and innovation programme ever, we can find a variety of different funding schemes. For the first time, there is one programme especially tailor-made for European Small and Medium companies, providing funding and support for breakthrough innovation projects with a market-creating potential. We are talking about the SME Instrument.

As part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot, the SME instrument aims to boost fast company growth and market-creating innovation thanks to staged funding and ramped up business acceleration services. This staged funding is divided in two main phases and a third optional coaching phase.

But, do I need to go through all Phases? Which Phase should I apply to? What will I get from each one? What is “Business Support for market launch” and why do I always hear only about 1 and 2?

SME Instrument Phase 1

Have you come up with an innovative idea but you still need to figure out the details and check its viability? Then Phase I might be just what you need. This stage supports the exploration and assessment of the technical feasibility and commercial potential of a breakthrough innovation that a company wants to exploit and commercialize. In other words, this grant offers you a lump sum of €50,000 (70% of the total costs requested) for the execution of a feasibility study during a period up to 6 months.

Although is not necessary, it is recommended that your project is at a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5 (Technology validated in relevant environment) or higher. It should be taken into account that projects that already have some preliminary data are more likely to obtain funding under Phase 1.

SME Instrument Phase 2

Is your innovation past the feasibility stage and close to a point where marketability is viable within a few years? If that’s the case, Phase II could be right for you. This stage supports all activities aimed at bringing innovation to investment readiness and maturity for market take-up. Projects need to be at a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 (Technology demonstrated in relevant environment) or above, which, during Phase II, will evolve to reach industrial readiness and maturity for market introduction on a European or international level, with a grant of up to €2.5 million (funding rate of 70%) during 1 or 2 years.

Bonus: SME Instrument’s Business Support for Market Launch

Business Support is designed to facilitate the commercial exploitation of the innovation activities resulting from phase 1 or phase 2, through a series of business acceleration services. It aims to increase the economic impact of the received funding by providing access to markets and access to additional funding. In addition, phase 3 will create opportunities for partnering, networking and training.



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