SME Instrument - Horizon 2020

What is the SME Instrument?

The SME Instrument is an on-going initiative under the Horizon 2020 programme that supports Innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Through this instrument the European Commission is hand-picking potentially disruptive businesses to invest and support as part of the SME Instrument. Selected SMEs will receive up to €2.5 million in funding and world-class business coaching. 

SME instrument

The SME Instrument addresses the financing needs of internationally oriented SMEs, in implementing high-risk and high-potential innovation ideas. It aims at supporting projects with a European dimension that lead to major changes in how business (product, processes, services, marketing etc.) is done. It will assist innovative SMEs to shape new markets, create growth and achieve high return on investment. The SME Instrument addresses all types of innovative SMEs so as to be able to promote growth champions in all sectors. 

The SME Instrument is intended to provide an easy point of access for SMEs, with simple rules and procedures. Somewhat confusingly, it will be used across all societal challenges and the enabling and industrial technologies (LEITs) and so in effect will provide multiple points of entry. 

The SME Instrument will sponsor SMEs operating within the following 13 themes:

  • SMEInst-01 -Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme (ICT)
  • SMEInst-02 - Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs
  • SMEInst-03 - Dedicated support to biotechnology SMEs closing the gap from lab to market
  • SMEInst-04 - Engaging SMEs in space research and development
  • SMEInst-05*- Supporting innovative SMEs in the healthcare biotechnology sector
  • SMEInst-06 - Accelerating market introduction of ICT solutions for Health, Well-Being and Ageing Well
  • SMEInst-07 - Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, agri-food and bio-based sectors
  • SMEInst-08 - Supporting SMEs efforts for the development - deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth
  • SMEInst-09 - Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system
  • SMEInst-10 - Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility
  • SMEInst-11 - Boosting the potential of small businesses in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials
  • SMEInst-12 - New business models for inclusive, innovative and reflective societies
  • SMEInst-13 - Engaging SMEs in security research and development

On the following link you will find the Work Programme 2016-2017 of the SME Instrument.

Who can apply?

Only a single for-profit SME or a consortium of for-profit SMEs can apply for funding under the SME instrument. Other partners like research providers or larger companies can be involved as third parties, in general in a subcontracting relationship.

According to the EU there are two criteria defining is a company is an SME:
1.    The number of employees and
2.    The turnover or balance sheet total.

Company category



Balance sheet total


< 250 

≤ € 50 m

 ≤ € 43 m


< 50

≤ € 10 m 

≤ € 10 m


 < 10

≤ € 2 m 

≤ € 2 m

Additionally the SME instrument requires a minimum Technology Readiness Level 6 (or similar for non-technological innovations).

* In the case of SMEInst-05, the Technology Readiness Level indication does not apply.

How does the SME instrument work?

The SME Instrument is structured in 3 phases covering different stages of the innovation cycle. Participants can apply either to phase 1 or directly to phase 2. An application may be submitted for phase 1 or phase 2 at any time. There are approximately four cut-off dates per year (see below).

Phase 1 – Concept & Feasibility Assessment
Aims to cover the assessment of technical feasibility and market potential of new ideas. Project will be supported by an investment of € 50,000.

Indicative funded activities are:

  • risk assessment
  • market study
  • user involvement
  • Intellectual Property management
  • innovation strategy development
  • partner search
  • feasibility of concept 

Duration: 6 months

Phase 2 – Innovation Project
Aims to cover R&I activities with a particular focus on demonstration activities and market replication encouraging the involvement of end users or potential clients. Projects funding should be up to € 2,500,000.

Indicative funded innovation activities are:

  • demonstration
  • testing
  • prototyping
  • piloting
  • scaling-up studies
  • miniaturisation
  • design
  • market replication encouraging the involvement of end users and potential clients performance verification
  • research etc

Duration: 1-2 years

Phase 3 – Commercialisation
Concerns support measures in view of helping SMEs toward commercialising their innovative products and services through measures like networking, training, coaching and mentoring, facilitating access to private capital or better interaction with key stakeholders. SME will be not funded directly under phase 3.

SME Instrument Cut-off Dates 2016-2017



Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 1

Phase 2

















Contact us

KiNNO will support SMEs by helping them to strengthen their capacity for innovation in terms of wider deployment of their disruptive ideas.

For additional information you can click here or you can download our flyer.

If you are interested, please contact Mr. Paris Rallis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Funding Opportunities

Available funding opportunities:

ERC - Proof of Concept

Horizon2020 - SME Instrument

Innovation Highway®

For more information about deadlines visit the Calendar.

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