Innovation is the only way to win.

Steve Jobs

The SME Instrument

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises that are EU-based or established in a country associated to Horizon 2020 can now get EU funding and support for innovation projects that will help them grow and expand their activities into other countries – in Europe and beyond.Provided with about € 3 billion in funding over the period 2014-2020, the SME Instrument helps high-potential SMEs to develop groundbreaking innovative ideas for products, services or processes that are ready to face global market competition. The instrument provides full-cycle business innovation support from the stage of business idea conception and planning over business plan execution and demonstration to commercialization.Participants will be able to call on business innovation coaching for the duration of their project. Available to SMEs only, which can however organise a project in the way that best fits their business needs – meaning that subcontracting is not excluded – the new scheme has opened a new highway to innovation through phased, progressive and complimentary support.

You can find more information here:

Phase 1

Feasibility assessment -optional, Activities funded could be: risk assessment, design or market studies, intellectual property exploration/funding:lump sum of €50,000, duration: 6 months, the outcome: feasibility study (technical and commercial), including a business plan.

In phase 1, your proposal is evaluated remotely and scored by at least four expert-evaluators with different profiles․

Օnly proposals that successfully address all the required aspects will have a chance of being funded. There will be no possibility for significant changes to content, budget and consortium composition during grant preparation

All expert-evaluators will prepare an Individual Evaluation Report (IER) that will contain scores for each of the three award criteria – Excellence, Impact and Quality & efficiency of the implementation – from 0 to 5 with a resolution of one decimal.

Your proposal must reach the quality thresholds in order to be ranked. The quality threshold of Consensus Scores at criteria level is 4 out of 5 and the quality threshold of the Overall Consensus Score is 13 out of 15.


The ranking list contains:

- proposals proposed for funding;

- proposals that cannot be funded because of insufficient budget.


Phase 2

Innovation project -funding is available for the innovation projects which are underpinned by a sound and strategic business plan, funding: €500,000 – € 2.5 million and more, duration: 1 to 2 years, the outcome: a greatly innovative product, process or service that is ready to conquer the market, or a  business innovation plan incorporating a detailed commercialization strategy and a financing plan in view of market launch.


Phase 2 evaluation is composed of two sequential steps, the remote evaluation and the interview.

Step 1 – Remote evaluation

In step 1 of Phase 2 evaluation, the proposal is evaluated remotely by at least four expert-evaluators with different profiles, such as technology/industry sector, business and finance expertise.

The final result of step 1 is the Overall Consensus Score, which will be part of the Evaluation Summary Report.

Your proposal must reach the quality thresholds in order to be ranked. The quality threshold of Consensus Scores at criteria level is 4 out of 5 and the quality threshold of the Overall Consensus Score is 13 out of 15, similarly to Phase 1 evaluation.


Only the proposals above all thresholds are ranked in descending order according to their Overall Consensus Score. The ranking list contains:

- proposals to be invited to step 2 - interview;

- proposals that cannot be invited to step 2.

your proposal is not eligible and/or not admissible. The letter will be accompanied by the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) that contains the final weighted scores and a quality assessment per criteria.

Step 2- Interview

Invitation to the interview

Applicants whose proposal has passed to step 2 will receive an invitation letter for a face-to-face interview in Brussels. You will be invited on very short notice since interviews will normally take place one week after you receive the invitation letter.

Interview format

The interview process includes the jury interview and panel review․

Jury interview:

-10 minutes (maximum) of presentation supported by a pitch document (slide format in pdf) of maximum 10 pages (An example of pithch can be downloaded from here).

-20 minutes of questions and answers to clarify aspects of the proposal evaluated in Step 1․

Feedback to applicants

Approximately 4-5 weeks after the cut-off date, you will receive via the Participant Portal either:

- an invitation to participate in the interview if your proposal is on the list of proposals to pass to step 2; or

- a rejection letter if your proposal is rejected because: your proposal is above threshold but the available budget is insufficient to invite you to step 2; your proposal is below threshold․

Panel review:

The panel review will approve a panel report that will comprise the Evaluation Summary Report for each proposal in step 2 and a ranking list.


The ranking list

-proposals proposed for funding – final score A;

- proposals rejected due to insufficient budget – final score B.

Feedback to applicants

Approximately 9 weeks after the original cut-off date, via the participant portal, you will receive either:

- an invitation to prepare a grant agreement if your proposal is on the list of proposals to be funded. Only proposals that have passed all quality thresholds and received an "A" mark are proposed for funding; or

- a rejection letter if your proposal cannot be funded because the available budget is insufficient.

Phase 3

Business acceleration  -commercial exploitation of the innovation activities resulting from phase 1 or phase 2. These include support for further developing investment readiness, linking with private investors and customers through brokerage activities and events (including trade fairs), assistance in applying for further EU risk finance, and a range of other innovation support activities and services offered via the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).

Coaching-Innovation and Business Development Coaching is offered in parallel throughout phases 1 and 2 to help SMEs:enhance the company's innovation capacity, align the project to the identified business development strategy, develop the commercial/economic impact and long term sustainability.obtain access to follow-on finance. Coaching is provided by experienced business coaches, selected through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).

Useful Links 

The Projects at the technology readiness level 6 or higher (technology demonstration) have the best chances to receive funding. The technology readiness levels can be found here.

You can download the documents relating to 2018-2020  program  here: Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018-2020; Innovation in small and medium sized enterprises.

Horizon 2020's SME Instrument Guidelines for Applicants can be downloaded here.

For  self-assessment of SMEs, please visit: The SME Self-Assessment Wizard User Guide.

Phase 1 template can be downloaded here:

Phase 1 template SMEI 2018-2020

Phase 2 template can be downloaded here:

Phase 2 template SMEI 2018-2020

Here you can find the annotated proposal template for SME Instrument phase 1 and phase 2.

Please  click here for participation in 2018 call.

Here you can find the information about the programs implemented under the SME instrument.

Here you can find frequently asked questions and the answers.