The European Commission received 2,666 proposals from small innovative businesses which want to push their projects closer to the market, under Horizon 2020’s first round of SME instrument funding.
Italian SMEs were the leading proposal-writers (436), Spain a close second (420), followed by the UK (232), Germany (188), France (167) and Hungary (166).
The Commission released the results through its Executive Agency for Small & Medium-sized Enterprises’ (EASME) twitter page, @H2020SME, which has 1,283 followers.
The “open disruptive innovation” scheme attracted the most proposals (885), followed by low carbon energy systems (372), nanotechnologies (305) and eco-innovation/raw materials (241).
“We’re glad that so many applied,” Gregor Novak, project officer in EASME, told Science|Business. “[The response is] above expectations.”
With only headline data available at this point, it’s difficult to explain the variations in country proposal submissions. The Commission says that it’s a combination of multiple factors: the size of the SME sector in the economy of a country and the impact of the economic crisis, to name two.
Asked why he thought disruptive innovation was the most popular category in the first round, Novak pointed out that there are so many innovative, young SMEs in this field. “It represents a big chunk of innovative ideas in the world, not only in the EU,” he said.
The general expected success rate for applications is around 6.2 per cent with variations depending on the topic. For example, the expected success rate is high in the biomarkers subjects (20.7 per cent) compared to the biotech field (2.7 per cent).
The majority of SMEs applied individually, said the Commission, and most consortia consisted of two SMEs. The projects will now be evaluated, with winners to be announced at the end of July.
SME Instrument: the background
The SME instrument is a grant programme that will run until 2020 with a warchest of about €2.8 billion in total.
Funding is structured into three distinct phases covering the initial technical feasibility of a project through to demonstration and eventual commercialisation. SMEs are allowed to apply for whichever phase reflects the stage of their project.
More information on SME funding from the European Commission here.