Who can apply?

  • Only a single for profit SME or a consortium of for profit SMEs can apply for funding under the SME Instrument. All applicants need to be legally established in the EU-28 or in a country associated to Horizon 2020. Other partners, such as research providers or larger companies, can be involved as third parties, usually in a subcontracting relationship, and do not need to be established necessarily in the EU or  countries associated to Horizon 2020.

Can I apply for the SME Instrument as a single entity or in a consortium?

  • Yes, if you are a for profit SME established in the EU or a country associated to Horizon 2020. It is up to you to decide how to best implement the project. Without being exhaustive, the differences between a  single company application and a consortium lie in elements such as project ownership and responsibility, IPR arrangements and financial viability, and are not only limited to the distribution of tasks.

What type of SME is targeted by the SME Instrument?

  • The European Commission is looking for highly innovative firms based in the EU-28 or in countries associated to Horizon 2020 that are ambitious and have the potential to develop, grow and have a European or international impact. It is advisable that the SME has, and can demonst rate, a good knowledge of and experience in the markets it intends to master. The European Commission is interested in companies  which follow a development strategy that pursues breakthrough innovation and/or the potential to disrupt existing markets.

How do I check if I'm an SME?

Can a non-profit SME apply for funding under the SME Instrument?

  • No. Only a single for-profit SME or a consortium of for-profit SMEs can apply for support. To submit a proposal under the SME Instrument, all applicants must fill in the online questionnaire on the Participant Portal. You can also check whether your company is an SME via this link.

How do I register as an SME and which documents do I need to send with my application?

  • Please do not send any documents. Companies must complete an online questionnaire–a self-assessment–if they want to register as an SME in the Beneficiary Register of the Participant Portal. Only after registering can SMEs start applying for funding under the SME Instrument. If a company disagrees with the outcome of the questionnaire, it can request manual verification: in that case, the Horizon 2020 participant validation service will request all necessary documents for assessment.

How do I initiate the SME self-assessment process in the Beneficiary Register of the Participant Portal?

  • Once you have completed the first part of your Participant Identification Code (PIC) registration process, you will be given the option to fill out "programme specific data".
  • If you mark your organisation as an "SME", you will automatically be taken to the SME self-assessment questionnaire, which will determine your SME status.
  • Once this is done, you will be able to finalise your registration and will be assigned a PIC.

Note: Please make sure you have all the required financial accounts readily available when you start the SME self-assessment. A user guide is available here.

What if my shareholders do not want to disclose their balance sheets?

  • The provision of information concerning your shareholders is required. Without this information you cannot register your company in the Participant Portal and, therefore, cannot submit any proposals under the SME instrument.

Is it possible for a start-up (without balance sheet) to apply?

  • The SME Instrument was designed to support the growth of companies with innovative ideas with European or global commercialisation potential. Start-ups are as such not excluded from funding under the SME Instrument, as long as they comply with the EU SME definition, and as long as they are able to contribute 30% of the budget for the execution of the SME instrument action (either inPhase 1 or 2). Start-ups would have to base their SME status self-assessment test on forecast financial statements, which arejustified and aligned with the proposal financial forecast.

Can SMEs from non-EU countries participate?

  • Only applications from a single SME or a consortium of SMEs which are all established in EU Member States or countries associated to Horizon 2020 are eligible for funding. However, SMEs established in other countries can be involved as third parties, for example in a subcontracting relationship.


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