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155 SMEs awarded EUR 50 000 to explore feasibility of business ideas

A list of the first 155 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to benefit from the European Commission’s new EUR 3 billion SME Instrument was published last week.

The SMEs will each receive EUR 50 000 to finance feasibility studies for their projects, and they can also benefit from up to three days of business coaching. After that, their projects may be considered for further financial support from the Commission worth up to EUR 2.5 million. Launched under Horizon 2020, the SME Instrument is designed specifically for single or groups of innovative SMEs with international ambitions, who aim to bring strong, innovative business ideas to market. A total of 2 662 proposals were submitted for the first round of selection. Experts assessing the proposals deemed that 317 met the evaluation standard, of these 155 were selected for funding. The instrument provides full-cycle business innovation support through three phases which cover business idea conception and planning. The SMEs to receive EUR 50 000 are funded under Phase 1 of the programme (proof-of-concept). They use this funding to explore the scientific or technical feasibility and commercial potential of their new idea in order to develop an innovation project. After this is complete, they may participate in the second phase of the programme. In Phase 2 (development & demonstration), the SME may be supported to the tune of EUR 0.5 to 2.5 million to develop the business idea into a market-ready product, service or process. Phase 3 (go-to-market) does not involve a grant but the SME is offered additional EU support to enter the market successfully. Participants are also able to call on business innovation coaching for the duration of their project. Speaking about the SME Instrument, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, noted: ‘Innovative SMEs will help get the European economy back on track, creating lasting employment and great products and services. This new instrument is aimed at projects that are truly innovative, with a strong business opportunity and a solid concept to bring them to the market.’ Around 645 projects in total should be funded in 2014. This number will rise to 670 in 2015. The call for proposals is constantly open and the next deadlines for evaluation are 24 September and 17 December 2014 for Phase 1, and 9 October and 17 December 2014 for Phase 2. Grantees can come from any country covered by Horizon 2020. The 155 SMEs who will be first to benefit from the SME Instrument represent countries both within and outside the EU: Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The calls that are currently open cover a diverse range of topics – from innovative solutions for blue growth and biotechnology-based industrial processes to the protection of urban critical infrastructures and eco-innovation and a sustainable supply of raw materials. A full list of the topics and access to the submission service is available on the Participant Portal . For more information, please visit: