What is the Timeline for the Application?

Since I am frequently asked about the specific timeline and duration for the EU’s SME Instrument funding, here is a brief overview of how long it takes to apply:

 

Phase 1:
– There are 4 deadlines per year for which applications can be submitted (usually February, May, September and November)
– 1 Month is required to prepare the application so that there is enough time to get all support documents ready
– 4 to 8 weeks until the result is out
– 6 to 12 weeks until the grant agreement contract is signed (and the first part of the grant is received)

 

Once Phase 1 is funded, it should take 3-5 month to prepare the feasibility study and to get ready for Phase 2. The process for Phase 2 is similar to Phase 1 with 4 deadlines per year and roughly the same waiting periods.

 

Important: If the first application is rejected then the next deadline will be 3 months later which means that each re-submission increases the time needed to receive the grant.

Professional Grant Proposal Writing

Why hire a professional grant proposal writer?

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.

What other advantages are there?

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.

What is included in the writing services?

  • Writing of the proposal including design and project definition
  • The company profile document
  • An abstract for the project
  • The submission of the proposal through the EC portal and re-submissions if rejected

 

What is the next step?

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.

 

What is Phase 1 for and What Comes Next?

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.

A more detailed description by the European Commission can be found here and here.

 

What Is the H2020 SME Instrument Phase 1 Funding?

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

The SME Instrument is structured in 3 Phases:

Phase 1 – The Feasibility Study (€50.000)

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 – Innovation Development & Demonstration  (€0.5 to 2.5 million)

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 – Support for Market Entry (non-financial)

Phase 3 gives additional support through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) which can give guidance and advice on project related topics.

The Success Rate For Receiving Government Funding

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?.

Topics and Budget

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 sustainability2.4
 04 SME-SPACE-1-2014/20158.75
 06 PHC 12 – 2014/2015: Clinical validation of biomarkers and/or diagnostic medical devices45
 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

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)
ApplicantsFundedSuccess Rate (Funded/Applicants)
01 549 18 3%
02 198 18 9%
03 and 05 38 1 3%
04 38 4 11%
06 218 2411%
07 119 25 21%
08 27 1 4%
09 206 27 13%
10 158 19 12%
11 209 20 10%
12 227 12 5%

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.

The Funding Threshold

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)ThresholdFundedSuccess Rate (Funded/Threshold)
01 64 1828%
0248 1838%
03 and 05 3 133%
04 6 4 67%
06 35 2469%
07 29 25 86%
08 2 1 50%
09 27 27 100%
10 31 19 61%
11 37 20 54%
12 28 12 43%

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)
09Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system 100%
07Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, agri-food and bio-based sectors86%
06Accelerating market introduction of ICT solutions for Health, Well-Being and Ageing Well 69%
04Engaging SMEs in space research and development 67%
10Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility 61%
11Boosting the potential of small businesses in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials 54%
08Supporting SMEs efforts for the development - deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth 50%
12New business models for inclusive, innovative and reflective societies 43%
02Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs 38%
03 and 05Dedicated support to biotechnology SMEs closing the gap from lab to market

Supporting innovative SMEs in the healthcare biotechnology sector
33%
01ICT - 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.

Summary

  • 0 – 21% of all applications get funded averaging at a 9% success rate
  • With a high-quality proposal, the success rate rises to 28 – 100% and averages at 70%
  • The top 3 topics for applications are
    • 09 (Low-Carbon and Efficient Energy),
    • 07 (Agri-Culture, Food and Bio-Based Sectors) and
    • 06 (Health, Well-Being and Ageing Well)
  • Still, all projects that fit a topic can get funded!  How to increase chances for a project is described in How To Improve Your Chances of Getting Funded

What Information Is Needed to Write A Proposal?

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:

  • Any visual material or documents that are relevant to the project or the company (pictures, links to videos, website, list of past clients, publications, awards, magazine features)
  • Full CVs and pictures of the 3 project leaders and the founders of the company
  • Letters of Support (LOS) by interested customers, influential supporters, suppliers, institutions, regulatory agencies, etc. – Templates will be provided

How To Improve Your Chances of Getting Funded

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:

  • You have financial backing other than the SME Instrument (Own revenues, parent company, private investors)
  • You have been acknowledged for your innovation (prices, funds, awards, features on blogs, TV or magazines)
  • You address a promising market segment (market growth, market size, small competition)
  • You have Letters of Recommendation from key partners and stakeholders (regulatory agencies, decision makers, relevant authorities, thought leaders)
  • You have Letters of Intent from Suppliers, Customers or Distributors
  • You have a highly experienced and capable team (work experience, relevant projects, education, extensive support network)
  • Your project brings not only financial but also social benefits to the EU
  • Your project has more potential than just the Phase 2 developments and can be expanded further within the next decade

It is not necessary to fill all the boxes but we should be able to address as many points as possible.

Can My Company Receive Funding from the EU?

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.

Your company can apply with a project proposal if:

  • It registered in an EU-28 country such as
    • Austria, Italy, Belgium, Latvia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Croatia, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Malta, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland,  Estonia, Portugal, Finland, Romania, France, Slovakia, Germany, Slovenia,  Greece, Spain, Hungary, Sweden,  Ireland, United Kingdom.
  • or in one of the associated countries such as
    • Iceland, Norway, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovinathe former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,  Montenegro,  Serbia, Turkey,  Israel, Moldova,  Switzerland, Faroe IslandsUkraine, Tunisia, Georgia, Armenia.
  • It is an SME defined as a < 250 headcount, < €50 million turn-over and < €43 million balance sheet.
  • You have three task leaders for the technical, commercial and financial aspects of the project
  • Your technology is at the Technology Readiness Level 6 which means that it has been tested in the relevant environment and has proven its efficacy

To find out how to increase your chances for funding, please read How To Improve Your Chances of Getting Funded.

 

What Types of Industries Receive Funding?

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 Specific Topics

The Horizon 2020s SME Instrument funds a great variety of industries and has established 13 topics, namely:

01: Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme 

“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.”

02: Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs 

“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.”

03: Dedicated support to biotechnology SMEs closing the gap from lab to market

“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.”

04: Engaging SMEs in space research and development

“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.”

05: Supporting innovative SMEs in the healthcare biotechnology sector

a) Clinical research for the validation of biomarkers and/or diagnostic medical devices

b) Cell technologies in medical applications

06: Accelerating market introduction of ICT solutions for Health, Well-Being and Ageing Well

“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”

07: Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, agri-food and bio-based sectors

“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. “

08: Supporting SMEs efforts for the development – deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth

“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. “

09: Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system

  • Reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint by smart and sustainable use,
  • Low-cost, low-carbon electricity supply (including renewable energy as well as carbon capture and storage and re-use),
  • Alternative fuels and mobile energy sources,
  • A single, smart European electricity grid,
  • New knowledge and technologies, and Robust decision making and public engagement

10: Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility

“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.”

11: Boosting the potential of small businesses in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials

“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. “

12: New business models for inclusive, innovative and reflective societies

“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.”

13: Engaging SMEs in security research and development

“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.

My Proposal Has a High Score But Was Rejected, What Now?

The Score

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:

The Evaluation Report

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)
Insufficient (0-1.49)

The maximum score would be 3 x 5 = 15.

The Good News

    • You can resubmit the proposal indefinitely and improve it with every submission.
  • Depending on the country you live in, you can use your “Seal of Excellence” and directly receive national funding (please read the conditions and deadlines carefully – calls might be closed or getting reinstated soon). This is currently possible in Sweden (VINNOVA), Cyprus (Research Promotion Foundation), Czech Republic (Technology agency), France (French Association of Innovative Clusters), Norway and Slovenia.

Professional Grant Proposal Writing for the EIC Accelerator and Horizon Europe Programs (SME Instrument)