SME Instrument: the EU funding for SMEs where you do not need partnership 


SME Instrument is an EU funding designed for profit SMEs only, active in developing innovation projects, part of the Work Programme 2018-2020 EIC Accelerator Pilot.

Such innovation can refer to services, products, processes or business models. SME Instrument helps them develop such projects, bring them on the market and scale up their competitiveness at international level.

In this article we try to explain why SME Instrument is different from other EU funds.

SME Instrument: how does it work?


SME Instrument offers different support at three different stages that reflect the traditional cycle of a business innovation project.

  • PHASE 1: technical feasibility and commercial potential assessment of the project, SMEs receive a lump sum of 50.000 € at this stage (the final cut-off is 5 September 2019).
  • PHASE 2: demonstration, market replication, prototyping at industrial level, research & development ; projects will receive 70% funding with a grant between 500.000 € and 2.500.000 € (from the cut-off of 9 October 2019 applicants will be asked to indicate if they want to be financed by grants, following the current rules for SME Instrument Phase 2, or if they want blended finance through grants and equity. Also from 9 October 2019 the Instrument will become for single companies only).
  • PHASE 3: market launch; in this phase SME Instrument will not provide direct funding but support services.

Phase 3 has the aim to facilitating access of the project to private finance (ex. venture capital, business angels): additional support to gain easier access to further financial opportunities. In addition, firms can contact the EEN (Enterprise Europe Network), in particular for innovation and international networking opportunities.

SME Instrument is different because it targets for-profit SMEs (or consortia of SMEs) that can apply to get funding, without the need of support of other entities.

Good reasons to choose SME Instrument


Creating a partnership is a common problem for all the companies that apply for a European call. Projects usually have to follow minimum partnership criteria: at least three legal entities from three different Member states or associated countries. 

Finding the right partners is hard: advantages can be substantial but managing relations with them implies time and energy, and of course specific skills. 

SME instrument allows you to eliminate the root of the problem: any company can apply by itself, while other partners (ex. Research providers or big enterprises) can be involved, in case, only as third parties. 

SME Instrument is a unique opportunity to apply autonomously for a EU call and get funding for innovative and internationally market-oriented projects for companies that have a disruptive idea with the potential to make the difference. 

Like other funding instruments, the first step to take for a company is to contact an expert in European project planning, who knows how to find the way in the bureaucracy of European call for proposals and provides all the necessary competences to turn an innovative idea into a concrete and structured business opportunity. 

Would you like further information about SME Instrument European funding?

Contact me to arrange a meeting: I will be delighted to answer any questions you may have!


Sara Canella

Sara Canella

EU Funding & Marketing

I am a freelance consultant specialized in applying for and managing European funding for companies and start-ups active in the field of research and innovation.

My work includes the creation of business plans, development plans and marketing plans aiming at applying for European calls for proposals.

My objective is to provide companies active in innovation with some concrete tools to start their projects and with my know-how to convert them into real business opportunities.