HORIZON 2020: FROM THE SME INSTRUMENT TO THE EIC ACCELERATOR FOR SCALING UP

In a previous article about “HORIZON 2020: SME INSTRUMENT” we already talked about the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument funding scheme, dedicated exclusively to those SMEs with a revolutionary business idea and breakthrough products, services, processes or models.

Now the SME Instrument evolves and becomes part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot, which supports top class innovators, entrepreneurs and small companies with funding opportunities and acceleration services.

The main focus of the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) is on market-creating innovations that shape new markets and generate jobs, growth and higher standards of living.

Therefore, the Accelerator (SME Instrument) is addressed to those small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups with radically new ideas for rolling out marketable innovation solutions and with ambitions to scale up in Europe and worldwide.

It targets for-profit SMEs only, including young companies and start-ups, from any sector – there are no set topics

THE EUROPEAN INNOVATION COUNCIL (EIC) PILOT FOR A FULL INNOVATION SUPPORT

In the broad framework of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot, the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) offers financial support to high-potential enterprises, as well as coaching and mentoring services, to develop and bring to market new products, services and business models that could drive economic growth, filling the market gap by supporting innovation considered ‘high-risk’ for private investors.

This instrument is complemented by the EIC Pathfinder pilot, which supports advanced technologies/early-stage innovation, and the EIC Fast Track to Innovation, which supports consortia made of SMEs and industrial players. All these instruments together are thought to cover the entire innovation chain.

EIC ACCELERATOR (SME INSTRUMENT): ALL THE NOVELTIES OF 2020

Among the main changes introduced in the updated version of the Work Programme, the following are the most significant ones:

  • Phase 1 SME Instrument has been discontinued; the final deadline for applications was the last 5th September 2019. Phase 1 was conceived to support the applying SMEs in exploring the technical feasibility and commercial potential of their disruptive idea and developing it into a credible business plan for scaling it up, with a lump sum of € 50 000 for a 6-months project;
  • Starting from October 9th 2019, beneficiaries may apply to Phase 2/EIC Accelerator only as a single company, not as a consortium.
  • A new financing option has been integrated to the current Phase 2 of the SME Instrument (EIC Accelerator), that is an equity component, starting from October 9th 2019. From this deadline, the funding will be provided only in the form of grant, or blended finance (combining grant and equity). More specifically, grants will finance activities from TRL (Technology Readiness Level) 6-8. Activities above TRL 8 will be financed only through blended finance. Applicants will be asked to indicate if they want blended finance and the amount requested for equity. The maximum is € 15 million for equity investement.

EIC ACCELERATOR (SME INSTRUMENT): WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT CAN YOU GET?

Despite the big novelties introduced, the key aspects of the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) funding scheme remain the same:

  • SME-2b SME Instrument (grant only and blended finance) helps SMEs and start-ups to develop their business concept further into a market-ready product, service or process aligned with the company's growth strategy. Activities could, for example, include trials, prototyping, validation, demonstration and testing in real-world conditions, and market replication. To do so, the grant offers an amount that can vary from EUR 500,000 and 2,5 million (70% of total cost of the project as a general rule). Projects should normally take from 12 to 24 months to complete, but could be longer in exceptional and well-justified cases.
  • Free-of-charge business coaching (optional) in order to support and enhance the company’s innovation capacity and help align the project to strategic business needs, facilitated by the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
  • Access to a wide range of other business acceleration services and facilitated access to risk finance, in the form of partnering and networking with investors, larger firms and other SME clients, to facilitate the commercial exploitation of the business product/service. This is ensured thanks to the EIC Community Platform, a virtual meeting-place where companies funded by the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot can connect, share their experiences and build potential businesses partnerships.

If you want to stay updated on the latest news on European funds, read our JOurnal.

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