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
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.


  • 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