- Enhancing profitability and growth performance of SMEs by combining and transferring new and existing knowledge into innovative, disruptive and competitive solutions seizing European and global business opportunities.
- Market uptake and distribution of innovations[[In the case of SMEInst-05-2016-2017, the development of innovative solutions should lead to value creation through the increased use of cell-based products/processes, biomarkers and/or diagnostic medical devices in industrial or clinical settings, and should contribute to technical and regulatory progress in these domains.]] tackling the specific challenges in a sustainable way.
- Increase of private investment in innovation, notably leverage of private co-investor and/or follow-up investments.
- The expected impacts should be clearly described in qualitative and quantitative terms (e.g. on turnover, employment, market seize, IP management, sales, return on investment and profit).
The budget available for phase 1 and phase 2 will be divided equally between each cut-off date.
Up to 10 % of the annual budget will be used for phase 1 funding; 87% of the annual budget for phase 2 funding; at least 1% will be used for phase 3 related actions. In addition, 1% of the budget will be used to support coaching and mentoring activities supporting phase 1 and 2. Other than that, up to 1% of the annual budget will be used for evaluation.
The SME instrument consists of three phases, including a coaching and mentoring service for beneficiaries. Participants can apply to phase 1 or directly to phase 2.
In phase 1, a feasibility study shall be developed in order to verify the technological/practical as well as economic viability of an innovation idea/concept with considerable novelty to the industry sector in which it is presented (new products, processes, design, services and technologies or new market applications of existing technologies). The activities could, for example, comprise risk assessment, market study, user involvement, Intellectual Property (IP) management[[This is not limited to the costs of acquiring and enforcing European or international IPR titles but could include auditing and risk management schemes to protect IP assets across planned supply and distribution chains and more generally IP valorisation plans to enhance return on investment and lever commercial investment into the relevant project.]],
innovation strategy development, partner search, feasibility of concept and the like to establish a solid high-potential innovation project aligned to the enterprise strategy and with a European dimension. Bottlenecks in the ability to increase profitability of the enterprise through innovation shall be detected and analysed during phase 1 and addressed during phase 2 to increase the return in investment in innovation activities. The proposal should contain an initial business plan based on the proposed idea/concept. It should outline the specifications of a more elaborate business plan, which is to be the outcome of the project, and the criteria for success.
Funding will be provided in the form of a lump sum of EUR 50.000. Projects should last around 6 months.
In phase 2, innovation projects[[In the case of SMEInst-05-2016-2017, research type activities in medical application and clinical validation, including support for clinical studies and trials, will be predominant and will necessitate reimbursement at 100%. The Technology Readiness Levels indication does not apply.]]
will be supported that address the specific challenges identified and that demonstrate high potential in terms of company competitiveness and growth underpinned by a strategic business plan. Activities should focus on innovation activities such as demonstration, testing, prototyping, piloting, scaling-up, miniaturisation, design, market replication and the like aiming to bring an innovation idea (product, process, service etc.) to industrial readiness and maturity for market introduction, but may also include some research. For technological innovation, Technology Readiness Levels of 6 or above (or similar for non-technological innovations) are envisaged; please see part G of the General Annexes.
Proposals shall be based on an elaborate business plan. Particular attention must be paid to IP protection and ownership; applicants will have to present convincing measures to ensure the possibility of commercial exploitation ('freedom to operate').
Proposals shall contain a specification for the outcome of the project and criteria for success. They will include an explanation of how the results of the supported project are to be commercialised and of what kind of impact on the company is expected.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 0.5 and 2.5 million[[In the case of SMEInst-05-2016-2017, phase 2 proposals can request a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 and 5 million.]]
would allow phase 2 to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts (higher or lower). Projects should last between 12 and 24 months.
Phase 3 of the SME Instrument aims to increase the economic impact of the funding provided by the SME Instrument phase 1&2 grants and by the business coaching. Phase 3 is not subsequent to phase 1 and/or 2, but provides specific support to SME instrument beneficiaries during and after phase 1 or 2.
All support under phase 3 of the SME instrument will be accessible through a single, dedicated entry point, which will serve as an information portal and a networking space.
This platform will offer access to two main strands of services:
- Access to markets.
- Access to finance.
In addition, phase 3 will create opportunities for partnering, networking and training, which are set out in the Dedicated Support Actions at the end of this call.
SME instrument beneficiaries are also offered dedicated business innovation coaching and mentoring support. This service is facilitated by the Enterprise Europe Network and delivered by a dedicated coach through consultation and signposting to the beneficiaries. The coaches are recruited from a central database managed by the Commission and have all fulfilled stringent criteria with regards to business experience and competencies.
Throughout the three phases of the instrument, the Network will complement the coaching support by providing access to its innovation and internationalisation service offering. This could include, for example, depending on the need of the SME, support in identifying growth potential, developing a growth plan and maximising it through internationalisation; strengthening the leadership and management skills of individuals in the senior management team and developing in-house coaching capacity; developing a marketing strategy or raising external finance.
Mainstreaming SME support especially through a dedicated instrument
Dedicated SME support is channelled through the SME instrument, introduced in the Work Programme 2014-2015, which promotes SMEs' innovation activities from concept to market. It provides support to a wide range of innovation activities, while helping to increase the economic impact of project results by its company-focused and market-driven approach.
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.
In 2016 and 2017, SMEs are invited to submit proposals under the SME instrument at any time within all Societal Challenges and Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies areas under the following call: