The SME Instrument is a Horizon 2020 funding scheme dedicated exclusively to those businesses that come under the definition of “small and medium-sized enterprises” (SMEs). SMEs can participate individually or together with other SMEs.
The SME Instrument is addressed to those SMEs with a revolutionary business idea and breakthrough products, services, processes or models, based on a solid business plan and a strong commercialisation strategy that can allow them to scale up and reach international markets.
These SMEs must be bearers of a “disruptive innovation“, i.e. being able to put themselves on the market using high-impact innovations.
The funding scheme foresees three phases, divided as follows:
Phase 1 - Proof-of-concept
Phase 1 is thought to explore the scientific or technical feasibility and commercial potential of the business idea, with the help of a € 50,000 lump sum grant that finances the development of a feasibility plan.
Phase 2 - Development & demonstration
Phase 2 foresees the development of a ground-breaking business idea further with the help of a grant in the order of € 500,000 to 2,5 million, turning it into a market-ready product, service or process. A detailed business plan and commercialisation strategy should be produced, describing the expected impacts on the company in both qualitative and quantitative terms.
Phase 3 - Go-to-market
This Phase does not provide for additional monetary funding, but it offers continuous support in the introduction and development of the product / service / model on the market.
The evaluation process is based on 3 criteria:
The SME Instrument, whether applying for a Phase 1 or a Phase 2, is explicitly targeted at applicants presenting innovation projects that have reached TRL 6 as a minimum (or equivalent for non-technological innovations). This means that the proposed activities should take place in an operational or production environment.
TRL – TECHNOLOGY READINESS LEVEL
|TRL 1||Basic principles observed and reported|
|TRL 2||Technology concept and/or application formulated|
|TRL 3||Analytical and experimental critical function and/or Characteristic proof of concept|
|TRL 4||Technology validated in laboratory environment|
|TRL 5||Technology validated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling tecnologies)|
|TRL 6||Technology demonstrated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling tecnologies)|
|TRL 7||System prototype demonstration in operational environment|
|TRL 8||System complete and qualified through test and demonstration|
|TRL 9||Actual system proven in operational environment|
|Phase 1||Phase 2|
|Phase 1||Phase 2|