HomeFundingAre you a smart innovator and eligible to receive EU funding?

Are you a smart innovator and eligible to receive EU funding?

With a €3 billion budget to award 7,500 startups until 2020 with up to €2,5 million, the SME Instrument of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme is the largest, most competitive non-dilutive fund in the world.

The aim is to offer Europe’s smart innovators the chance to step forward and request funding for breakthrough ideas with the potential to create entirely new markets or disrupt existing ones, across all sectors. The SME Instrument bridges the critical investment gap in early stage innovation and makes market-creating innovation easier in Europe.

With 8 companies floating on the stock market, 18 acquisitions and a total of €1.3 billion of extra private investment leveraged, the SME Instrument has established itself as an essential player on the European innovation scene.

In 2017, SME Instrument-funded companies accounted for 10% of all tech IPOs in Europe and the follow up equity investments into companies funded by the SME Instrument doubled within one year only. Each Euro invested generated €1.6 of private investment and the companies funded under Phase 2 of the programme have experienced a 118% increase in turnover and a 158% increase in employment, only two years down the line.

The success of the programme is directly linked to the quality of the selection procedure.

The SME Instrument aims to select the best companies with the most innovative ideas, a real chance of disrupting the market and a very high growth potential. Since its start in 2014, the Instrument has received 47,000 applications, only to fund 3,200 Smart Innovators across 37 countries.

After four years, the overall success rate is 8% for Phase 1 (receiving €50K) and 4.8% for Phase 2 (receiving between €0,5M and €2,5M). These rates are slightly higher than those of private acceleration programmes – based on numbers from the Global Accelerator Network.

Why come to the SME Instrument? All beneficiaries of the SME Instrument so far confirmed that the grant has been instrumental to their growth and success, offering a unique blend of close-to-market activities such as finalising testing and validate the product on the market but also due to the “label effect” that offers a unique credibility stamp, enabling them to benefit from the reputational value of the SME Instrument label with a strong de-risking effect on the investors.

EU funding experts can help: The key is to be able to determine whether a startup really fulfils all the requirements needed to successfully compete. This is where our partners EU Startup Services can help.

Using its own extensive proprietary scouting and research on all SME Instrument beneficiaries in combination with its expertise and experience in winning competitive proposals, EU Startup Services can determine whether you are in a position to successfully compete. Founded in 2014, the consultancy firm supports Smart Innovators in their effort to successfully compete in securing funding via the SME Instrument, to introduce their breakthrough and disruptive technologies on the market. Already counting over 40 success stories in 14 countries, EU Startup Services has become the leading consultancy offering expertise and support on SME Instrument.

Shy Mindel for example, Co-founder of Mobius Protection Systems, secured €2,48M to develop the next generation Child Restraint System to prevent the loss of children lives on the roads. He stated: “We chose EU Startup Services for their expertise and impressive track record in the SME Instrument. We are delighted to say that we made the right choice. I highly recommend working with EU Startup Services, not only for their ability to write, but also for their insider knowledge and their ability to foresee and remedy structural challenges faced in our project design which ultimately made our project unbeatable.”

Do you have what it takes? To find out if you too are a Smart Innovator and eligible to receive EU funding, fill in the form below. After this free eligibility check, our partners at EU Startup Services will contact you with further info and will show you first-hand what a winning application looks like.

UPDATE from June 2019: The eligibility check is no longer active. To stay up to date regarding EU funding opportunities, make sure to sign up for our free weekly newsletter.

Thomas Ohr
Thomas Ohr
Thomas Ohr is the "Editor in Chief" of EU-Startups.com and started the blog in October 2010. He is excited about Europe's future, passionate about new business ideas and lives in Barcelona (Spain).


  1. Greetings,
    Is the funding opportunities exclusively for Europeans or people/startups which reside in the EU? Or is it possible to apply for funding for a startup in the Middle East?
    And does it have to be of a technological aspect?
    Thank you.

  2. That’s an awful lot of confidential information you’re demanding on a business for a “free eligibility check.”

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