The EC has published templates for grant proposals but they are very general and do not guide the applicant to the content that makes a high-quality proposal.
We know what evaluators are looking for and what content needs to actually be in the proposal. Every project is different and there is no general way to present a project since business models, technological developments and market can be highly versatile.
The proposal will present the complete project and since it is owned by you, it can be reused for other purposes such as for investors, other grants or for partners related to the project.
We offer a free 20 min consultation to find out if the project is suitable for the funding, just fill out the form in the contact section.
The purpose of Horizon 2020s SME Instrument Schemes Phase 1 is a feasibility study for the project (lasting around 6 months depending on the specific topic) and is financed with a flat rate of €50,000.
The feasibility study entails the development of a business plan and assesses the viability of the project. The EC also offers coaching services such as:
Optional Innovation and Business Development Coaching is offered in parallel throughout phases 1 and 2 to help SMEs: enhance the company’s innovation capacity align the project to the identified business development strategy develop the commercial/economic impact and long term sustainability. Coaching is provided by experienced business coaches, selected through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
The result of the study will be a feasibility report (an example can be found here). This report will contain:
1. Technical report (1a. Publishable Summary; 1b. Feasibility Study)
2. the answer to a questionnaire on socio-economic implications
3. a financial report including the request for payment of the balance
The feasibility study is optional but greatly increases the chances for Phase 2 of the project and is highly recommended.
The SME Instrument is a €3 billion funding scheme that is part of the largest EU research and innovation programme in of the EU called Horizon 2020 (€80 billion budget). By the end of 2020, 7500 Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) will have received funding over a period of 6 years.
To find out if your company is eligible for funding, please read Can My Company Receive Funding from the EU?.
The SME Instrument is structured in 3 Phases:
Phase 1 is officially optional, but without it, the chances of success for Phase 2 are minimal. If a project cannot be approved for Phase 1, it is highly unlikely that it will succeed in Phase 2.
The duration of this project is around 6 months and its purpose is assessing the technical, commercial and financial feasibility of the project. As a result, a Business Plan is fully developed and it will be outlined if the project is a suitable investment.
Phase 2 typically takes 1 to 2 years and its purpose is to bring the technology from the prototype level to commercial readiness. This will be the main development of the project and receives the highest amount of funding.
Phase 3 gives additional support through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) which can give guidance and advice on project related topics.
This version considers the SME Instrument 2016-2017. Once the 2018 topics are released, it will be updated.
A list of all beneficiaries for the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument can be found here (both Phase 1 & 2).
To find out what topics are generally eligible for funding, please read What Types of Industries Receive Funding?.
To understand the success rates of the H2020 SME Instrument, a major factor is the budget. There are 13 topics available and they all have different budgets :
|Nr (2016/17)||Name (2015)||Budget (m€)
|01||ICT 37 – 2014/15: Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme||45|
|02||NMP 25 – 2014/2015: Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies, advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs||23.8|
|03 and 05||BIOTEC 5 – 2014/2015: SME boosting biotechnology-based industrial processes driving competitiveness and sustainability||2.4|
|06||PHC 12 – 2014/2015: Clinical validation of biomarkers and/or diagnostic medical devices||45|
|07||SFS-8-2014/2015: Resource-efficient eco-innovative food production and processing||17|
|08||BG-12-2014/2015Supporting SMEs effort for the developmentdeployment and market replication of innovative solution for blue growth||5|
|09||SIE 1 – 2014/2015: Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system||37.26|
|10||IT-1-2014/2015. Small business innovation research for Transport||38.96|
|11||SC5-20-2014/2015: Boosting the potential of small businesses for eco-innovation and a sustainable supply of raw materials||19|
|12||INSO-10-2015 : SME business model innovation||11|
*Note: We are only considering the 2015 topics because they are the only ones with available statistics. The topics have almost entirely been continued in 2016/17 with some minor differences. The “Nr (2016/17)” indicates the topic numbers for the current topics discussed in What Types of Industries Receive Funding?.
The number of applicants usually varies in between cut-off’s but one can make general assumptions by taking the November cut-off statistics from 2015. 175 Phase 1 proposals were funded out of 2057 which gives a success rate of 8.5%. This number will vary considerably from topic to topic depending on the budget and number of applicants. The following table shows the success rate for the individual topics:
|Nr (2016/17)||Applicants||Funded||Success Rate (Funded/Applicants)|
|03 and 05||38||1||3%|
If we consider all topics we find that the success rate (funded/applicants) ranges between 0 and 21% with a mean success rate of 9%. Following these statistics, it is best to choose a less “crowded” topic which has a relatively high budget. Before we get into recommendations, we should take a closer look at the previous statistics.
Keep in mind that in the analysis above, we were considering all applications including the ones that did not make the general funding threshold (for information on the proposal score, please read My Proposal has a High Score But Was Rejected, What Now?). A better indicator as to how successful an application will be is to consider the number of proposals that have made the threshold.
|Nr (2016/17)||Threshold||Funded||Success Rate (Funded/Threshold)
|03 and 05||3||1||33%|
If we consider only the high-quality proposals than the numbers change significantly. We now have success rates from 28 to 100% depending on the topic. From these statistics we can make a toplist of topics that are the most promising for future applications.
|Nr (2016/17)||Name (2016/17)||Success Rate (Funded/Threshold)|
|09||Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system||100%|
|07||Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, agri-food and bio-based sectors||86%|
|06||Accelerating market introduction of ICT solutions for Health, Well-Being and Ageing Well||69%|
|04||Engaging SMEs in space research and development||67%|
|10||Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility||61%|
|11||Boosting the potential of small businesses in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials||54%|
|08||Supporting SMEs efforts for the development - deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth||50%|
|12||New business models for inclusive, innovative and reflective societies||43%|
|02||Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs||38%|
|03 and 05||Dedicated support to biotechnology SMEs closing the gap from lab to market|
Supporting innovative SMEs in the healthcare biotechnology sector
|01||ICT - Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme||28%|
*Note: The current SME topic “SMEInst-13-2016-2017: Engaging SMEs in security research and development” was excluded from the statistical analysis because it was not part of the previous program.
Since the budget size and the success rate does not correlate sufficiently, it is best to use the 2015 data as a general guide for choosing the topic. Still, it is important to realize that the Topic 01 (Open Disruptive Innovation) is still a worthwhile topic for application even though it is the most difficult to get funding.
Before we begin our first video call, irrespective of a contract being signed or not, both parties will sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) – (details via Email).
During our first video call (2 to 2.5h) we will discuss the main points of the project and we will cover everything from the innovation, market, customers, EU challenges, financial projections, Business Model etc.
Other than the information discussed, we will also need the following:
To find out if your project is suitable for funding, please read What Types of Industries Receive Funding?.
Three of the four evaluators that will review the proposal have a business background and only one will have a technical or scientific background. While it is impossible to know what the specific evaluators will focus on and look for, there are some general things that make the project look more suitable for investments:
It is not necessary to fill all the boxes but we should be able to address as many points as possible.
To see if the project is eligible for funding in one of the 13 topics, please read What Types of Industries Receive Funding?.
More information and FAQs by the European Commission can be found here.
To find out how to increase your chances for funding, please read How To Improve Your Chances of Getting Funded.
The detailed topic descriptions can be found here. When you are unsure if a specific topic applies to your project, please read the detailed description carefully. To gain an overview of the topics, continue reading.
To find out if your company can receive funding by the EU, please read Can My Company Receive Funding from the EU?
For general rules on how to increase the chances of your project, please read How To Improve Your Chances of Getting Funded.
The Horizon 2020s SME Instrument funds a great variety of industries and has established 13 topics, namely:
“Focus will be on companies proposing disruptive [Information and Communications Technology (ICT)] concepts, products and services applying new sets of rules, values and models which ultimately create new markets (e.g. by tackling non-consumption) or disrupt existing markets.”
“The goal is to create added value by creatively combining existing research results with other necessary elements, to transfer results across sectors where applicable, to accelerate innovation and eventually create profit or other benefits.”
“SMEs working in the field of industrial biotechnology and ideas/concepts involving the use of systems and/or synthetic biology are particularly invited to apply for funding.”
“It is considered that actions in the areas of applications, especially in connection to the flagship programmes Galileo and Copernicus, spinning-in (i.e. application of terrestrial solutions to challenges in space) and the development of certain critical technologies could be adequately suited for this call.”
a) Clinical research for the validation of biomarkers and/or diagnostic medical devices
b) Cell technologies in medical applications
“The challenge is to help overcome the current gaps in exploitation of promising research results in ICT for Health, Well-being and Ageing well and to stimulate
increased availability and market uptake of relevant ICT products and services”
“SMEs can play a crucial role in developing resource-efficient and costeffective solutions to secure sufficient supplies of safe, healthy and high quality food and other bio-based products, by developing productive, sustainable and resource-efficient primary production systems, fostering related ecosystem services and the recovery of biological diversity, alongside competitive and low-carbon supply, processing and marketing chains. “
“SMEs contribution to the development of the ‘Blue Growth Strategy’ (COM (2012) 494) can be significant in particular in the fields of marine biotechnology, fisheries, marine and fresh water aquaculture (including production and processing of feed and food), marine litter prevention. “
“SMEs are pivotal for delivering the innovations needed for greater sustainable and smarter mobility, better accessibility and logistics serving business and citizens, and thus higher economic growth, in a context where the majority of population lives in urban and urbanised areas.”
“This topic is targeted at all types of eco-innovative8 SMEs in all areas addressing the climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials challenge – including but not restricted to the 2016-2017 strategic priorities of systemic eco-innovation and circular economy, nature-based solutions, climate services, sustainable supply of raw materials, harnessing GEOSS Earth observation data, cultural heritage for sustainable growth, and water – focusing on SMEs showing a strong ambition to develop, grow and internationalise. “
“A change of paradigm from ownership to access, from individual consumption to shared
functionalities can be applied in several sectors benefiting from digital technologies and
ensuring more sustainable lifestyles to EU citizens particularly in cities.”
“The actions under this topic should cover any aspect of the Specific Programme for “secure societies – protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens””
General information on the success rates for the specific topics can be found in The Success Rate For Receiving Government Funding.
All proposals above a threshold of 13 receive the “Seal of Excellence” and are eligible for funding. Unfortunately, the budget of the SME Topics is limited and the higher the number of applicants, the lower the chances to receive funding.
Usually, proposals will get funded starting at a score of 13.5 – 14. Once your proposal has been evaluated (1-2 months after the submission deadline), you will receive:
An evaluation report: This contained the mean evaluations of 4 different evaluators regarding all aspects of the proposal and grading “Impact”, “Excellence” and “Quality” as
Very Good to Excellent (4.5 – 5)
Good to Very Good (3.5 – 4.49)
Fair to Good (2.5 – 3.49)
Insufficient to Fair (1.5 – 2.49)
The maximum score would be 3 x 5 = 15.