Horizon 2020 Industrial Leadership SMEs

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Support is available for SMEs to take part in Horizon 2020 research and innovation projects.



Horizon 2020 is the EU's new programme for research and innovation. It will run from 2014-2020 and is the successor to the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Horizon 2020 brings together all existing European Union research and innovation funding, including the Framework Programme for Research, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

Designed to support the Innovation Union - Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative , the basic principle of Horizon 2020 is to adopt a much more strategic approach to research and innovation.


Objectives of Fund

Horizon 2020 and COSME - Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs are the major EU instruments to provide direct support and a favourable environment for the growth of SMEs.

Horizon 2020 focuses on the following three priorities:

  • Excellent Science - generating excellent science in order to strengthen the EU's world-class excellence in science.
  • Industrial Leadership - fostering industrial leadership to support business, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • Societal Challenges - innovation and tackling societal challenges, in order to respond directly to the challenges identified in the Europe 2020 strategy by supporting activities covering the entire spectrum from research to market.

SME participation is encouraged throughout Horizon 2020 and in particular in the priorities Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges. However, SME support is targeted with the dedicated SME instrument, which is a novel approach to support SMEs' innovation activities.

The aim of the SME Instrument is to attract more SMEs to Horizon 2020, provide support to a wider range of innovation activities and to help increase the economic impact of project results by its company-focused and market-driven approach.

The SME instrument addresses the financing needs of internationally oriented SMEs, in implementing high-risk and high-potential innovation ideas. It will support projects with a European dimen'sion that lead to radical changes in how business (product, processes, services, marketing etc.) is done and that will launch the company into new markets, promote growth, and create high return on investment.

The SME instrument addresses all types of innovative SMEs so as to be able to promote growth champions in all sectors.



What Support is Available?


The SME instrument supports close-to-market activities, with the aim to give a strong boost to breakthrough innovation with a market-creating potential. Highly innovative SMEs with a clear commercial ambition and a potential for high growth and internationalisation are the prime target.

The SME Instrument offers small and medium-sized businesses the following:

  • Business innovation grants for feasibility assessment purposes (optional phase I): EUR 50,000 (lump sum) per project (70% of total cost of the project);
  • Business innovation grants for innovation development & demonstration purposes (possible phase II): an amount in the indicative range of EUR 500,000 and 2,5 million (70% of total cost of the project as a general rule);
  • Free-of-charge business coaching (optional) in order to support and enhance the firm’s innovation capacity and help align the project to strategic business needs;
  • Access to a wide range of other business acceleration services and facilitated access to risk finance, to facilitate the commercial exploitation of the innovation.



Who Can Apply

Internationally oriented SMEs implementing high-risk and high-potential innovation ideas are eligible to apply.  Find out more HERE.  

In brief, an SME is an enterprise with fewer than 250 employees which has an annual turnover not exceeding €50 million, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding €43 million.