Call for proposals for Horizon 2020 dedicated SME Instrument - Phase 2 – 2015 H2020-SMEINST-2-2015 Closed!


The Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) is implemented by specific programme and work programmes.

The “Industrial leadership” priority aims to speed up development of the technologies and innovations that will underpin tomorrow's businesses and help innovative European SMEs to grow into world-leading companies. It consists of three specific objectives.

"Innovation in SMEs" provides SME-tailored support to stimulate all forms of innovation in SMEs, targeting those with the potential to grow and internationalise across the single market and beyond.

The specific objective is to stimulate sustainable economic growth by means of increasing the levels of innovation in SMEs, covering their different innovation needs over the whole innovation cycle for all types of innovation, thereby creating more fast-growing, internationally active SMEs.


Actions foreseen within this call for proposals include the following topics:

  • SC5-20-2015: Boosting the potential of small businesses for eco-innovation and a sustainable supply of raw materials. Innovative SMEs have been recognised as being able to become the engine of the green economy and to facilitate the transition to a resource efficient, circular economy. They can play an important role in helping the EU to exit from the economic crises and in job creation. The potential of commercialising innovative solutions from SMEs is however hindered by several barriers including the absence of the proof of concept, the difficulty to access risk finance, the lack of prototyping, insufficient scale-up studies, etc. Growth therefore needs to be stimulated by increasing the levels of innovation in SMEs, covering their different innovation needs over the whole innovation cycle. Innovative SMEs should be supported and guided to reach and accelerate their full green growth potential. This topic is targeted at all types of eco-innovative SMEs in all areas addressing the climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials challenge, focusing on SMEs showing a strong ambition to develop, grow and internationalise. All kinds of promising ideas, products, processes, services and business models, notably across sectors and disciplines, for commercialisation both in a business-to-business (B2B) and a business-to-customer (B2C) context, are eligible.
  • Space-SME-2015-2: SME Instrument To engage small and medium enterprises in space research and development, especially those not traditionally involved in it and reduce as much as possible the entry barriers to SMEs for Horizon 2020 funding. The specific challenge of the actions envisaged under this call could cover any aspect of the Specific Programme for Space (Horizon 2020 Framework programme and Specific programme). However, it is considered that actions in the areas of applications, especially in connection to the flagship programmes Galileo and Copernicus, spinning-in (i.e. application of terrestrial solutions to challenges in space) and the development of certain critical technologies could be adequately suited for this call.
  • SFS-08-2015: Resource-efficient eco-innovative food production and processing. To remain competitive, limit environmental degradation and optimise the efficient use of resources, the development of more resource-efficient and sustainable food production and processing, throughout the food system, at all scales of business, in a competitive and innovative way is required. Current food production and processing systems, especially in the SME sector, need to be revised and optimised with the aim of achieving a significant reduction in water and energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and waste generation, while at the same time improving the efficiency in the use of raw materials, increasing climate resilience and ensuring or improving shelf life, food safety and quality. New competitive eco-innovative processes should be developed, within the framework of a transition towards a more resource-efficient, sustainable circular economy.
  • BG-12-2015: Supporting SMEs efforts for the development - deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth. The potential of Europe’s Oceans, seas and coasts is significant for job and growth creation if the appropriate investments in research and innovation are made. SMEs contribution to the development of the 'Blue Growth Strategy' (COM (2012) 494) can be significant in particular in the fields of marine biotechnology (related applications, key tools and technologies) as well as aquaculture related marine technologies and services. However, SMEs lack access to finance to develop their activities and the economic and financial crisis has made access to finance even more difficult. This is particularly true in the previously mentioned maritime sectors, where access to finance for SMEs is considered as one of the most important barriers for the development of innovative maritime economic activities.
  • ICT-37-2015: Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme (implemented through the SME instrument). The challenge is to provide support to a large set of early stage high risk innovative SMEs in the ICT sector. Focus will be on SME proposing innovative ICT concept, product and service applying new sets of rules, values and models which ultimately disrupt existing markets. The objective of the ODI is threefold: -Nurture promising innovative and disruptive ideas; -Support their prototyping, validation and demonstration in real world conditions; -Help for wider deployment or market uptake.
  • SIE-01-2015: Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon energy system. SMEs play a crucial role in developing resource-efficient, cost-effective and affordable technology solutions to decarbonise and make more efficient the energy system in a sustainable way. They are expected to strongly contribute to all challenges outlined in the legal base of the Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge ‘Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy’, in particular with regard to: -Reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint by smart and sustainable use (including energy-efficient products and services as well as ‘Smart Cities and Communities’), -Low-cost, low-carbon electricity supply (including renewable energy as well as CCS and re-use), -Alternative fuels and mobile energy sources, -A single, smart European electricity grid, -New knowledge and technologies, and -Robust decision making and public engagement.
  • IT-1-2015: Small business innovation research for Transport. The European transport sector must have the capacity to deliver the best products and services, in a time and cost efficient manner, in order to preserve its leadership and create new jobs, as well as to tackle the environmental and mobility defies. The role of SMEs to meet these challenges is critical as they are key players in the supply chains. Enhancing the involvement of weaker players in innovation activities as well as facilitating the start-up and emergence of new high-tech SMEs is of paramount importance.
  • INSO-9-2015: Innovative mobile e-government applications by SMEs. Current societal and economic challenges as well as rising expectations to reduce the burden on users, put pressure on all public administrations to provide efficient, open and citizen-centric public services. Due to the increased use of mobile technology as well as the increasing availability of public information, data and online services, public services can be transformed. Coupling open public data and services with information and services offered by the private sector can lead to innovative, user-friendly and personalised services that can be accessed easily. Because of their size, knowledge and agility, SMEs are key actors for the provision of those innovative services. The "apps" market for mobile devices is a very dynamic market, which mostly lacks application specifically for the public sector. Engaging SMEs into the potentially huge public sector innovation market is a challenge for local and regional public authorities. The scope of this action is to provide support to innovative SMEs, including start-ups, for the design and creation of innovative applications, in order to foster the delivery of mobile public services. The aim is to help the interaction of citizens and businesses with public administrations. This may be done through the combination of public and private sector services, through mobile technologies. Although they may be first piloted in a local context – with the involvement of public administrations and end users - the solutions need to ensure replicability, also taking into account multi-lingualism and, where necessary, the cross-border dimension. Scalability and sustainability issues are to be considered.
  • INSO-10-2015: SME business model innovation Technologies and services as such do not have a specific value. Their value is determined by the business models used to bring them to a market. Many current, widely applied business models, have developed for big companies and may be not-fitting or not-serving well the needs of SMEs nor be inspired by new knowledge on innovation in business models. In addition to this, small community-oriented companies, using their profits primarily for social objectives, can build their growth on business model innovation. The specific challenge addressed by this topic is to enable SMEs - in traditional sectors, such as manufacturing industries, in sectors of particularly rooted in Europe’s history such as cultural heritage as well as in new sectors including different services and creative industries, and the social economy – to innovate and grow across traditional boundaries, through new business models and organisational change. The international dimension is included. For instance, this can involve drawing on successful business models in different sectors in the global market, and developing them for use by European SMEs in the same or different sectors. It can also involve reverse innovation in business models, where models initially created in Europe and becoming successful elsewhere, are supported to return to Europe. For business model innovation in the broad area of food, it is foreseen to organize several events in the autumn of 2015 within an appropriate European level forum. Of particular importance for the new business models will be user-oriented services, cultural heritage related services, social services and tourism. The SME instrument, providing the phased approach and mentoring schemes needed, so that the participating SMEs can build successful strategies to achieve growth, is an appropriate instrument to address this challenge.
  • DRS-17-2015: Critical infrastructure protection topic 7: SME instrument topic: Protection of Urban soft targets and critical infrastructures. The aim is to engage small and medium enterprises in security research and development and in particular to facilitate and accelerate the transition of their developed products/services to the market place ,. The specific challenge of the actions and activities envisaged under this topic are related to protection of urban soft targets and urban critical infrastructures . Specific consideration should be given to 'urban soft targets' , which are exposed to increasing security threats which can be defined as urban areas into which large numbers of citizens are freely admitted, for usual activities or special events or routinely reside or gather. Among others, these include parks, squares and markets, shopping malls, train and bus stations, passenger terminals, hotels and tourist resorts, cultural, historical, religious and educational centres and banks. The critical infrastructures sectors listed in the European Programme for Critical Infrastructures Protection (EPCIP, including, among others, energy installations and networks, communications and information technology, finance (banking, securities and investment), water (dams, storage, treatment and networks), supply chain and government (e.g. critical services, facilities, information networks, assets and key national sites and monuments) are not only relevant at a national scale but they can be considered critical infrastructures in an urban context as well.
  • PHC-12-2015: Clinical validation of biomarkers and/or diagnostic medical devices Biomarkers are used in clinical practice to describe both normal and pathological conditions. They can also have a prognostic or a predictive power. They are therefore increasingly used in medicine and many potential biomarkers are proposed every year. Only a few of them are however validated for use in a clinical research setting. Such validation implies the demonstration of a link to a pertinent clinical endpoint or process, as well as a robust and appropriate analytical method. The clinical validation of biomarkers will be increasingly important for the development of new diagnostics, and this is a research area where many small European companies are active. Improved clinical decisions should lead to better health outcomes while contributing to the sustainability of the health care system.
  • NMP-25-2015: Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies, advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs. Research results should be taken up by industry, harvesting the hitherto untapped potential of nanotechnologies, advanced materials and advanced manufacturing and processing technologies. The goal is to create added value by creatively combining existing research results with other necessary elements, to transfer results across sectors where applicable, to accelerate innovation and eventually create profit or other benefits. The research should bring the technology and production to industrial readiness and maturity for commercialisation after the project.
  • BIOTEC-5b-2015: SME boosting biotechnology-based industrial processes driving competitiveness and sustainability. The large number of SMEs which characterise the EU biotechnology sector are playing a crucial role in the move to competitive and sustainable biotechnology-based processes. These SMEs are characterised by their research intensity and long lead times between early technological development and market introduction. They therefore need to be supported to overcome the so-called “valley of death”.

European community funding

The Community provisional funding available for the call for proposals is:

  • 233,70 Million EUR (Global Budget)

All the important deadlines

  • 16 December 2015 - 5 years ago (Deadline for the presentation of proposals)

Further information about the call

Official webpage of the call

Useful documents

  • Horizon 2020 dedicated SME Instrument - Phase 2 – 2015 (Legal base)

Organisations eligible to participate

Opened to the following bodies or institutes with legal status established in the covered areas:

  • Any legal organisation

Covered areas

Bodies or institutes must have their registered legal seat in one of the countries taking part in the Programme which are:

  • European Union (EU)

Directorate-Generale responsible

Directorate-General for Research

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