Horizon’s 2020 SME Instrument: Looking for Europe’s next innovation leaders






As part of the Horizon 2020 programme, the European Commission is hand-picking potentially disruptive businesses to invest and support as part of the SME Instrument. Your business could receive up to €2.5 million in funding, and world-class business coaching.

Who should apply?

The EU are looking for high growth, highly innovative SMEs [Check the EU definition of SME] with global ambitions that want to disrupt the established value networks and existing markets. It’s a good sign if your company is based in an innovation hub, has received grants or venture capital funding, received innovation-related tax benefits, or won an innovation prize in the last 2 years.


The funding will take place in three phases, with the aim of transforming disruptive ideas into concrete, innovative solutions with a European and global impact. SMEs are recommended to apply for Phase 1, but may also apply for subsequent phases depending on the progress of their proposals:

Phase 1. Concept & Feasibility Assessment; Idea to concept (6 months)

The European Union will provide €50 000 in funding, and carry out a feasibility study to verify the viability of the proposed disruptive innovation or concept.

The SME will draft an initial business proposal (around 10 pages).

Phase 2. Demonstration, Market Replication, R&D; Concept to Market-Maturity (1-2 years)

Assisted by the EU, the SME will further develop its proposal through innovation activities, such as demonstration, testing, piloting, scaling up, and miniaturisation. It will also draft a more developed business plan (around 30 pages).

Proposals will be based on a business plan developed on phase 1 or otherwise. The EU aims to contribute between €0.5 million and €2.5 million.

Phase 3. Commercialisation, Prepare for Market Launch

SMEs will receive extensive support, training, mentorship and facilitating access to risk finance as the project is further polished into a marketable product.

Additional support and networking opportunities will be provided by Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).

The EU will not provide additional direct funding in this phase.


In 2014 and 2015 the SME Instrument will sponsor SMEs operating within 13 themes:

  • High risk ICT innovation
  • Nanotech, or other advanced tech for manufacturing and materials
  • Space research and development
  • Clinical research for the validation of diagnostics devices and biomarkers
  • Sustainable food production and processing
  • Blue growth
  • Low carbon energy systems
  • Greener and more integrated transport
  • Eco-innovation and sustainable raw material supply
  • Urban critical infrastructure
  • Biotechnology-based industrial processes
  • Mobile e-government applications (2015 only)
  • SME business model innovation (2015 only)

Here is a SME Instrument Case Study

FABPulous is a SME based in The Netherlands which was spun out of Maastricht University at the end of 2008, which will receive €1.6 m. from the European Union under Horizon 2020 SME Instrument programme to develop the Rapidex project.

Thanks to its researching FABPulous has developed a rapid test for the cardiac biomarker so called heart-type fatty acid binding protein (H-FABP), to aid in the first-line diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) commonly known as a heart attack.

“It is able to distinguish patients who would have a heart attack to those wouldn’t have it. So a test like this could be identified those disinclined patients and send them home in three hours which is a big achievement”, states Mr. Conor O’Brien, Managing Director of FABPulous.

This offers great advantages in the point-of-care and home testing setting, over current technology.  Also it will help to relieve Emergency department overcrowding in Europe since “at the moment about 1 in 5 patients who seek medical attention with chest pain have a confirmed acute myocardial infarction but they have treat all of them”, points O’Brien.

For this company H2020 SME Instrument programme helps in generating critical evidences in this medical concern and boosts clinical research for the validation of biomarkers and/or diagnostic medical devices.


Phase 1 &  Phase 2 17/06/2015; 17/02/09/2015; 25/11/2015

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