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Accelerating Innovation in Europe

Horizon 2020 SME instrument impact report

The SME Instrument supports market-creating innovation in small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with significant growth potential and global ambitions. As a part of Horizon 2020 – the EU’s €80 billion Research and Innovation funding programme – the SME Instrument will invest €3 billion in 7,500 companies until 2020. Companies receive up to €2.5 million in funding (up to €5 million for health-related projects) coupled with world-class business innovation coaching and other business acceleration services.

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The SME Instrument is the first-ever attempt of EU research and Innovation funding programmes to invest in high potential and high-risk, disruptive innovation in single SMEs. In the first two years of the programme, efforts concentrated on setting up a sound evaluation process, getting grant preparation underway and developing a valuable business innovation coaching system. In 2016, the third year of the SME Instrument, the programme built upon these first achievements to optimise and scale up its operations to accommodate a constantly growing budget.

With more than 31,000 applications received and more than 2,000 small companies funded, the SME Instrument has proven its appeal to the European innovation ecosystem. From 2014 to 2016, 2,457 companies have received a total of €882 million in direct, equity free funding.

However the SME Instrument is not only funding – it also offers business innovation services to accelerating the pace of innovation. Business innovation coaching helps innovators build solid businesses that will change markets and the way we live. Coaches dissect the companies’ business plans and empower them to make crucial choices that underpin successful market strategies. The nascent SME Instrument Community connects selected SMEs with their peers, with experienced entrepreneurs, experts, investors, corporates and other partners that will help them on their growth path. With less than €1 billion of EU funding invested in business support, the expected turnover for the funded SMEs is more than €20 billion.

2016 was also the year of first results. In 2016, companies funded by the SME Instrument celebrated their first IPOs, major contracts signed, important investments, precious awards and plenty of innovative entries on the market. These results and impacts observed only three years after the start of the programme are just a glimpse of future potential.

This report aims to present the profile of funded companies, first insights about their current and potential growth as well as the key features of the programme that constitute its unique selling point. It presents cumulative data (unless indicated differently) from the start of the programme in 2014 until the end of 2016. A statistical analysis and a thorough monitoring system made it possible to gather ample information about companies, their innovations and their growth in support of this report.