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Horizon 2020 SME Instrument – is it only R&D funding or something more?

“Horizon 2020 (H2020) is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years, from 2014 to 2020 – it promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.” Sounds familiar? It probably does. The phrase that introduces the H2020 Programme is well known by most EU entrepreneurs and scientists and even the general public. However, no matter how much people know about the Horizon 2020 Programme and the SME Instrument as its parts, there is one thing that surprises them all. The programme is not only about grants == money.
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If we dig a little deeper we’ll find something about the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument that attracts the attention of numerous participants from all the different countries associated with the programme. 
To begin with, the European Commission’s (EC) role in the SME Instrument, without any hesitation, can be compared to the role of a proud mother by taking care of its beneficiaries and their projects on many platforms. In addition to the more obvious funding possibilities, like for conducting a feasibility study or research and innovation actions available through Phase 1 and Phase 2, the EC also has established a less popular, tailor-made Phase 3 aimed at supporting SME Instrument Champions in the commercialisation of their innovations and encourages them to enter new international markets. First of all, beneficiaries of the SME Instrument can benefit from Phase 3 by receiving business & innovation coaching services provided by world-class trainers – you can find more information about coaching in one of our previous articles, “Coaching commotion”- But, the best is yet to come.
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Fig.1. SME Instrument opportunities. Source: http://ec.europa.eu

"Beneficiaries can pitch their solution in front of dedicated investors and establish new business relations."

As a part of the H2020 SME Instrument family, each beneficiary who has the ambition to conquer the global market can count on different support options. The European Commission has selected fifteen of the most valuable, international trade fairs and conferences organised outside the European Union, including the Mobile World Congress, European Sustainable Energy Week and the BIO International Convention. The beneficiary has a right to choose one event and to apply for extra support such as: pre-set business meetings, exhibition space in the SME Instrument Pavilion, business mentoring that helps prepare for the exhibition, company promotion before and during the event such as articles in Horizon Magazine or networking reception and side events. 
In addition to the SME’s Overseas Trade Fairs Programme, the EC has created its own event aimed at colliding the two worlds of entrepreneurs and investors called the SME Instrument Innovators Summit. The event provides a great opportunity for beneficiaries where they can pitch their solution in the front of dedicated investors and establish new business relations. Such differentiated forms of support bring us a totally new approach, compared to other external/public funding sources, making H2020 stand out greatly from other funding opportunities. In this way, the SME Instrument attracts many potential beneficiaries and establishes the Innovation Champions League by bringing the best and most innovative SMEs together.
Now, let’s have a look at a few selected real case studies of GAEU’s clients and SME Instrument beneficiaries to prove the added value of the programme in business development, apart from the grant itself, of course:

1. Immunovia 
SME Instrument Phase 2: Clinical validation of a serum protein biomarker signature for the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Benefits: 1. Floating the company on the Nasdaq First North Exchange, 2. The best trading result in 2015 on the Nasdaq First North Exchange, 3. The company has been awarded the 2016 Stars of Innovation Prize by the EC, 4. Establishing collaboration with the “1 Billion Dollar donation” Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University.

2. Monitor CR Sp. z o.o.
SME Instrument Phase 1: Monitor Clinical Research Tools – a novel ICT solution for remote monitoring of source medical data in clinical trials.
Benefits: 1. 170 TEUR funding from JCI Venture.

To sum up, let’s try to answer one more question - Is it really worth applying for the support from the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument? We can assume that applying for funding from the SME Instrument is time-consuming, a challenging process and even runs the risk of not being granted. But, on the other hand, the same risks compared to the potential benefits such as funding, coaching, business support and increasing brand awareness, combined with a perspective of taking on the position of market leader, do not seem to be that scary anymore. In other words, implementation of the project under the SME instrument gives the companies funding but also an opportunity to create an international business network including a great contact base of potential clients. 
Finally, the most important thing for the SMEs sector is that the programme ensures companies credibility for product development in new markets. All SME’s know how difficult it is to create credibility in new domains. Additionally, as the highlighted case studies show, the impact of the programme on business development opportunities is not just empty words. In short, it is difficult to decide which form of help - funding or business support- is more attractive, but one thing is certain: Horizon 2020 == chance. So, if you are still unconvinced that H2020 may also be a chance for your company, please contact any of our Horizon 2020 Funding Experts to verify it in “the relevant environment”.

Michał Gadzinowski
Sales and Business Development Manager
GAEU Consulting Sp. Z o.o.