Brussels, 24 July 2014
155 small firms to receive funding in first wave of grants under EU SME Instrument
The European Commission today announces the first results of its new €3 billion SME Instrument, launched under Horizon 2020 to help innovative small firms get ideas from the lab to the market. In total, 155 SMEs from 21 countries (EU Member States or countries associated to Horizon 2020) will each receive €50,000 to finance feasibility studies to develop their innovation strategy. In addition, SMEs can benefit from up to three days of business coaching.
Spanish SMEs were particularly successful in the first round, with 39 proposals selected, followed closely by SMEs from the UK and Italy. In total, there were 2,666 applications for the first grants. Successful applicants will be formally notified in August. Thereafter, their names will be publicly announced by the Executive Agency for SMEs (EASME), which manages the programme.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: "The response to the new SME Instrument is encouraging. There is clearly demand out there for this kind of support. I hope many of the business plans being financed will mature to become real products and services, generating growth and jobs for our economies. We need our champions of innovation to grow!"
The SME Instrument is a key element of the funding for small businesses available under Horizon 2020. Worth around €3 billion over seven years, it offers fast and simple grants for business innovation feasibility studies (Phase 1) and demonstration projects (Phase 2). Investment-mature concepts can in addition benefit from business development advice and other support services (Phase 3).
Through the SME Instrument the European Union wants to finance the most innovative small companies, with a high growth potential. The application process is easy but only the very best projects can expect to receive funding. Eligible topics are set out in the Horizon 2020 Work Programme on ‘Innovation in SMEs’.
Applications can be submitted at any time but are evaluated four times each year. Today's results concern applications received by the first cut-off for Phase 1 grants on 18 June 2014. The next cut-off dates for evaluation are 24 September 2014 for Phase 1 and 9 October for Phase 2.
Around 645 projects (under Phase 1 and 2) should be funded in 2014, rising to 670 in 2015.
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With a budget of nearly €80 billion over seven years, Horizon 2020 is the biggest ever EU research and innovation programme and foresees record funding for SMEs. At least 20 percent, or nearly €9 billion from Horizon 2020's 'leadership in industrial technologies' and 'societal challenge' pillars is expected to benefit SMEs directly in the form of grants, including via the SME Instrument. In addition, the European Commission and European Investment Bank Group are joining forces to encourage banks and other financial intermediaries to lend or provide equity to innovation-driven companies through InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators (see IP/14/670). Other companies can find access to finance under COSME (see IP/14/851).