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The SME Instrument is a funding programme for Small and Medium Enterprises under Horizon 2020, the EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The program  “supports high-risk, high-potential small and medium-sized enterprises and innovators to help them develop and bring onto the market new innovative products, services and business models that could drive economic growth.

The 6 of June of 2019 the European Commision made a public announcement in its webpage saying that:

“The SME Instrument becomes the EIC Accelerator, offering optional equity investment in addition to a grant.” European Commission.

The announcement followed the official opening of the EIC Accelerator programme the 5 of June of 2019.

Did that mean that from that moment onwards the SME Instrument disappeared and that completely new rules applied? Not exactly, currently the EIC accelerator is in its pilot phase and it will not become a ‘fully-fledged’ reality until 2021 under the next EU research and innovation programme Horizon Europe (2021-2027).

In the next section you will find some practical questions and answers:


What is the official name for the new EIC Accelerator (former SME Instrument)?

The EU Commission refers to it as:

  • EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument)
  • EIC Accelerator
  • SME Instrument (grant only and blended finance)
  • EIC Accelerator Pilot (SME instrument)

The difference between both programmes (former and updated version) is usually made clear in official documents, although sometimes it is advisable to read carefully the description of the programme.


When is the last deadline for the former SME Instrument?

The former SME Instrument still has one last call open for the SME instrument Phase 1; final deadline for the feasibility assessment, 5 September 2019.


What are the main differences between the former SME Instrument and the EIC Accelerator (new SME Instrument)?

Under the new EIC Accelerator, innovative companies can apply for a grant only or up to 17.5 million in combined grant and equity financing to scale-up quickly and effectively.

Under the former SME Instrument there was only one option: grant only funding. Besides, the former SME Instrument was divided into two different grant schemes: SME Instrument Phase 1 and SME Instrument Phase 2. These two phases do not exist under the EIC Accelerator programme, which is one only funding scheme (the former SME Instrument Phase 2).


What are the deadlines for the new EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument)?

The next deadlines for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) are:

  • 08 January 2020 17:00:00 Brussels time
  • 18 March 2020 17:00:00 Brussels time
  • 19 May 2020 17:00:00 Brussels time
  • 07 October 2020 17:00:00 Brussels time


Why was there an update of the SME Instrument?

Specifically, the SME Instrument (new EIC Accelerator) is part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot. The EIC pilot was introduced under the Horizon 2020 programme and “supports top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with funding opportunities and acceleration services”.

The whole EIC pilot experimented changes that started to be effective from the beginning of 2019. Like this, the European Commission differentiates between:

  • EIC Pilot 2018. (Which contained the former SME Instrument besides other calls)
  • EIC Enhanced Pilot 2019-2020. This new EIC Pilot includes the new EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) as well as another programme calls in its pilot phase. These, as the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) will be “fully-fledged” under the next Framework Programme, Horizon Europe (2021).


Where should I go for official call/deadlines/programmes information and updates?

  1. Official information related to Horizon 2020 is published on the European Commission website: European Commission website
  2. Official information related to Horizon 2020 programmes, calls and deadlines can be found at the Funding and Tenders Portal (click to read our post about how it works!): EU Commission Funding and Tenders Portal website
  3. Official information about the EIC Accelerator: EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) Funding opportunities
  4. European Innovation Council Official Twitter Account: @EUeic


It's your turn now

In Innovarum, we help you manage your European innovative project. If you are thinking of applying for funding or you have an ongoing project and you need a team that will help you through the process, do not hesitate to contact us!