Innovation in SME
The new SME Instrument exclusively addresses SME; other organisations such as universities and public research organisations can be included in the projects as subcontractors. Unlike the former FP7-programme "Research for the benefit of SME", the SME Instrument also allows for applications of a single SME. The SME Instrument is a project type that is applied in all Societal Challenges and Leading and Enabling Technologies. The Work Programmes of the Societal Challenges und Leading and Enabling Technologies highlight specific calls for the SME Instrument with a very broad and open thematic outline. Projects implemented via the SME Instrument have to be market-oriented and have to include a European dimension. 5% oft he overall budget foreseen for "Societal Challenges" and "Leading and Enabling Technologies" shall be spent via the the SME Instrument; over the lifetime of Horizon 2020 the share is to be increased to an average of 7%.
Support is provided in three phases which together are intended to cover the whole innovation chain from idea to market:
In phase 1, SME receive grants financing feasibility studies for their innovative project ideas. The grants are awarded via lump sums of EUR 50,000 and the duration of phase 1 is around six months.
In the subsequent phase 2, research and development are funded, however the main goal is to carry out demonstration activities and market replication. Projects run about 12 to 24 months and receive a grant of EUR 1 to 3 mio. As in other Horizon 2020 innovation actions, the funding rate is 70% of the direct eligible costs. If stated in the Work Programme, funding can amount to 100% of direct eligible costs for certain calls. Indirect costs are funded via a flat rate of 25 % of direct eligible costs.
Phase 3 offers simplified access to private capital for SME via the financial instruments. Participating SME receive further assistance in the field of intellectual property rights (IPR) and via innovation vouchers. Besides Coordination and Support Actions (CSA), no financial support will be provided in this third phase oft he SME Instrument.
SME funded by the SME Instrument will be assisted by coaching in phase 1 and 2. Links to the coaches are established via the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
SME and their eventual subcontractors can subsequently go through all three phases. However, phase 2 is also open to SME which have not participated in phase 1 if they demonstrate in their proposal that the results normally obtained through phase 1 (feasibility study and business plan) have been achieved prior to the appplication.