European funding for SMEs available to drive innovation

Published on: 22 October 2014

European funding can help small to medium enterprises bring their products to market. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Businesses could be eligible for EU funding to help them bring new products to market and the commission have helpfully released some pointers on how to get their funding.

The European Executive Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises (EASME) can give businesses up to €2.5million to verify the viability of their innovations, as well as demo, test and develop their products, helping to bring them to market, through the SME Instrument scheme. 

To help businesses access the money they have given some tips based on lessons learnt from the first wave of proposals.

Business looking to receive funding should:

  • Focus their application on the business opportunity, not the project.
  • Explain why they will succeed, and not their competitors.
  • Include significant detail on alternative solutions to the problems the business aims to solve.
  • Have a high level of innovation.
  • Have a clear plan for getting the new product to market.

Although there are no guarantees, there are good indicators for success. These include: being based in an innovation hub (like Exeter Innovation Centre); being in receipt of grant or venture capital funding; and winning innovation prizes. In total the combined budget for 2014 and 2015 is approximately €500million, which is expected to support more than 1,300 opportunities.

These funds are in place to turn innovative ideas into marketable solutions to problems across 13 themes, including high risk IT innovation, sustainable food production and processing, and urban critical infrastructure.


The funding scheme is split into three phases: concept and feasibility assessment; demonstration, market replication and research and development; and commercialisation.

Businesses can apply for the first two phases directly. Although it is not mandatory, a good concept and feasibility assessment can support a second-phase application. Separate applications are needed for these two phases. Only businesses already in on demonstration, replication and research and development will benefit from commercialisation – businesses cannot directly apply to this phase.

The concept and feasibility assessment is designed to test the feasibility of the innovation, for which up to €50,000 is available. It is estimated this phase will last six months.

Demonstration, market replication and research and development is in place to test, develop and demonstrate projects. Up to €2.5million is available for this phase, which could last one to two years.

The purpose of commercialisation is to polish the innovation into a marketable product. No additional funding is available, but support and training will be provided by the Enterprise European Network (EEN), a network of 600 business support organisations across 50 countries.

Calls for proposals are continually open, but there are cut-off dates for consideration throughout the year. The next will be 17 December 2014.

Only businesses meeting the European Commission’s SME criteria are eligible for funding. Start-ups can apply, however the Instrument is not in place to get new companies up and running.

The SME Instrument is part of the Horizon 2020 research programme.

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