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SME instrument


Principles and funding of the EIC Accelerator pilot (SME Instrument)

Who can apply?

For-profit SMEs, including young companies and start-ups, from any sector. You must be established in an EU Member State or a Horizon 2020 associated country.

Following the cut-off date of 5 June 2019, only individual[[ The EIC Accelerator pilot is a mono-beneficiary scheme. This approach has been taken so to pave the way towards a fully-fledged EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe (where it is proposed to target individual entrepreneurs).]] for-profit SMEs established in an EU Members State or a Horizon 2020 associated country.

What topics are covered?

There are no set topics. Negative impacts on climate and the environment shall be avoided.

How does it work?

The EIC Accelerator pilot (SME Instrument) provides full-cycle business innovation support. In Phase 2 support is provided in the form of grant only or, following the cut-off date of 5 June 2019, blended finance (combining grant and equity). The EIC Accelerator pilot (SME Instrument) also includes coaching and mentoring.

Feasibility study: Phase 1

Phase 1 helps you get a grip on the R&D, technical feasibility and commercial potential of a ground-breaking, innovative idea and develop it into a credible business plan.

Activities can include, for example, risk assessment, market research, user involvement, analysis of regulatory constraints or standards regimes, intellectual property management, partner search, or feasibility assessment.

Your goal in Phase 1 is to formulate a solid, high-potential innovation project with a European or global growth-oriented strategy

Your proposal must be based on an initial business plan and outline the specifications of a more elaborate one, which will be the outcome of the project.

Phase 1 funding is a lump sum of €50 000[[ Commission Decision C(2013)8198 authorising the reimbursement of cost under the form of a lump sum for SME Instrument Phase 1 actions under Framework Programme Horizon 2020 states that the total eligible cost for a Phase 1 project is €71 249. Applying the co-financing rate of 70%, the amount of the grant is established at €50 000.]]. Projects should last around 6 months.

Please note Phase 1 will be discontinued[[The phase 1 of the SME Instrument was conceived to allow for funding and business support under the phase 2 and phase 3 of the SME Instrument respectively. Phase 1 projects last around six months. Phase 2 is very competitive (around 5% of success rate) and normally takes 12 to 24 months for project completion. Phase 1 proposals funded from mid-2019 on, would have limited opportunities to exploit the next phases of the SME Instrument.]]. The final deadline for applications will be 5 September 2019.

From concept to market: Phase 2

Phase 2 helps you develop your business concept further into a market-ready product, service or process aligned with your company's growth strategy. Activities could, for example, include product/service development, trials, prototyping, validation, demonstration and testing in real-world conditions, and market replication. If the activity concerns a primarily technological innovation, a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 5/6 or above is required for primarily technological innovation or the equivalent for non-technological innovation. You can subcontract work essential for your innovation project.

Phase 2 offers a grant only support to SMEs in need of one last push before the scaling-up phase; and it will offer blended finance (combining grant and equity)[[ Applicants may apply for the blended finance option following the cut-off date of 5 June 2019 for Phase 2.]] to SMEs looking to further develop, grow and scale-up their idea.

Beneficiaries of the EIC Accelerator pilot (SME instrument) have access to Business Acceleration Services as described below.

You can apply to Phase 1 as a means of preparing for Phase 2, or you can apply directly to Phase 2.

Your proposal must be based on a strategic business plan that was either developed in Phase 1 or by another means. Your proposal must specify the expected outcome of the project and criteria for success, as well as the expected impacts on your company in both qualitative and quantitative terms (e.g. on turnover, employment, market size, IP management, sales, return on investment, profitability, and particularly the level of risk/ de-risking factor associated with support under the EIC Accelerator pilot).

You must pay particular attention to IP protection and ownership, and present convincing evidence or measures to ensure the possibility of commercial exploitation (often known as 'freedom to operate'). You should also address regulatory and standardisation issues.

Grant only funding is provided (funding rate 70%) of between €0.5 million and €2.5 million.

Under the blended finance option, the grant component is limited to €2.5 million combined with an equity component of up to €15 million.[[Please note that UK-based legal entities are eligible to participate in the grant part only.]] You can request a higher or lower amount, duly justified, when applying.

Proposals with activities up to TRL 8 will be funded by grants or a blended finance option. Close to market activities (i.e. TRL 9 or above) included in a proposal, will only be financed by equity participation as long as the proposal remains non-bankable.

The grant dimension of your project should normally take 12 to 24 months to complete, but could be longer in exceptional and well-justified cases.

Business Acceleration Services

The Business Acceleration Services (SME Instrument Phase 3) help you take advantage of additional EU support extended via a range of business support services offered on the EIC Community Platform, open to researchers and innovators benefiting from the different EIC calls for proposals.[[ The provision of Business Acceleration Services, under conditions to be agreed, will also be tested for (a maximum of 4) EIT Innovation Communities under the EIC Pathfinder pilot and under the Accelerator. ]] This support can take the form of coaching, training, links to investors, public and private procurers of innovation, partnering and networking with other EIC beneficiaries. The Business Acceleration Services provide specific support to EIC clients that are SMEs, mainly to help them access new markets through participation to overseas trade fairs or customers and link with investors. It does not provide direct funding. In line with Commission’s communication for the ‘European Green Deal’[[ Communication ‘The European Green Deal’ COM(2019) 640.]], the Business Acceleration Services will in particular support EIC funded SMEs in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

All Business Acceleration Services are accessible through a single, dedicated entry point, which serves as an information portal and networking space. [See 'EIC Support Actions']

If you are benefiting from funding from the EIC Pathfinder pilot, the EIC Accelerator pilot or FTI, you will receive business coaching to help your business scale up and grow. Up to 12 coaching days are available.[[ Coaching services are only available to SMEs, including natural persons, or for the purpose of setting-up such a company.]]

Coaching covers business development, organisational development, cooperation, and financing.

Up to 3 coaching-days, per funded project, are available in Phase 1 of the EIC Accelerator pilot. Under the EIC Pathfinder pilot, the Accelerator or FTI up to 12 coaching-days, per funded project, are available.

The impact driven coaching service, supported by the European Commission, is facilitated by the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). Coaching is delivered by one or more qualified, experienced business coaches recruited from a database managed by the European Commission. All coaches meet stringent criteria regarding business experience and coaching skills. Throughout your project, the EEN will complement the coaching support. EEN offers a service package covering an assessment of your firm's innovation management capacities and the identification of a suitable coach or consulting package to address the gaps, EEN also provides access to its innovation and internationalisation services.

If you are benefiting from funding from the EIC Pathfinder pilot, the EIC Accelerator pilot or FTI, we will offer mentoring to individual founders, CEOs and leaders.

Mentoring aims to develop leadership skills such as resilience, tenacity and strategic insight.

The mentoring scheme will involve one-to-one meetings with an experienced entrepreneur, who will share expertise and provide impartial guidance and support.

Mentors will be CEOs of firms that have moved beyond the start-up stage. To begin with, mentors will be drawn from a pool of SME Instrument Phase 2 current and former clients willing to act as mentors on a pro bono basis.

Mentors and mentees will be matched up via the EIC Community Platform and during EIC Events and other suitable events.

Who should apply to the EIC Accelerator pilot
(SME Instrument)?

Are you an innovative, high-flying small or medium-sized business with European and global ambitions?

Have you got an idea for an innovation that targets new markets and could boost the growth of your company?

Are you looking for substantial funding to support you in the last stages of development?

And could you make use of business development resources and coaching to take your company forward? Then the EIC Accelerator pilot (SME Instrument) is for you.

The EIC Accelerator pilot (SME Instrument) supports high-risk, high-potential small and medium-sized enterprises to develop and bring to market new products, services and business models that could drive economic growth.

The EIC Accelerator pilot (SME Instrument) is for innovators with ground-breaking concepts that could shape new markets or disrupt existing ones in Europe and worldwide.

Competition for support under the EIC Accelerator pilot (SME Instrument) is tough.

The EIC Accelerator pilot (SME Instrument) is very selective.

Following the cut-off date of 5 June 2019, only ground-breaking concepts at the last stage before scale-up can be funded.

The highest risk, most convincing and excellent proposals can be funded after a thorough evaluation by multinational panels of technology, business and finance experts.

Selected companies receive business coaching to further develop their innovation idea, and can also receive mentoring. They are helped in networking with other EIC Accelerator pilot (SME Instrument) clients, with other companies of all sizes, and with potential co-investors and follow-up investors across Europe. As an SME Instrument client, you will gain visibility and boost your chances of success in European and international markets.

Europe needs more radical, market-creating innovations to improve productivity and international competitiveness and generate new jobs and higher standards of living.

These innovations must meet user and customer needs and tackle societal, technological and business challenges in a sustainable way.

Have you got what it takes? Then apply now!