Upcoming changes to Horizon 2020: No more SME Instrument Phase 1!

Updated: Sep 3, 2019


Horizon 2020 is essentially the funding arm of the European Commission for innovation. It was initiated to support organisations that work towards addressing the main challenges of the European Commission.



Horizon 2020 also provides some of the largest, most competitive grants there are on the market, most notably within the SME Instrument funding stream which has been live since 2014. Horizon 2020 ends in December 2020, which means UK-based businesses only have 18 months left to apply.


The European Commission has already announced that the programme following Horizon 2020 will be Horizon Europe.


As a result, SME Instrument Phase 1 will be discontinued in September 2019. This means there is only one call left to apply for SME Instrument Phase 1 (€50k for a 6-month feasibility study).


Horizon 2020 is launching an enhanced pilot of Horizon Europe in which SME Instrument and Fast Track to Innovation are both being integrated into the newly created European Innovation Council.



Within Horizon Europe, the new funding instruments supporting SMEs are Pathfinder and Accelerator:


Pathfinder will build on FET, thus targeting mainly academic research, at a very low TRL and within a research consortium; 83% of previous winning FET consortiums included an SME so this is still a very good opportunity for start-ups.


Accelerator will build on SME Instrument Phase 2, if the results of the pilot are conclusive.


SME Instrument Phase 2 will be transformed to launch the possibility of combining a grant and an equity deal within the same project.


This option is open to address the issue of sourcing match funding, which has always made it difficult for companies to access Horizon 2020 grants. In this case, applicants must be cautious, as if the private investor decides during the due diligence process to pull out their investment, this would disqualify the company from accessing the grant.


So, if you have a strong innovation project that should keep at least 4 members of your team busy for a year or more, now is the time to get in touch with us to see how we can support you in accessing these grants!

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