EU funding for innovation

Horizon 2020 opportunities for SMEs


Horizon 2020 supports small and medium-sized business (SMEs) by providing direct financial support, as well as indirect support to increase their innovation capacity. 20 per cent of the programme's budget is allocated for SMEs.

You can continue to participate in Horizon 2020 programmes and receive EU grant funding for the lifetime of individual projects. This includes projects finishing after 1 January 2021.

Successful UK bids will continue to receive grant funding from the Commission. This includes calls that end after 1 January 2021.

A small number of UK projects involving EU-restricted information may be unable to continue in their current form. The Commission will inform the affected participants. Read more about EU Exit and Horizon 2020.

Horizon 2020 SME instrument

Under the Horizon 2020 SME instrument, funding is available for innovation projects of:

  • a single for-profit SME
  • a consortium of for-profit SMEs

The SME instrument provides support across all areas of innovation, science and technology.

Qualifying for SME instrument support

To qualify for support under the SME instrument, businesses should have a good knowledge and experience in the markets they intend to operate in and projects that:

  • have clear commercial ambition
  • pursue breakthrough innovation
  • have the potential to disrupt existing markets
  • have the potential for high growth and internationalisation

To be eligible for support, your business should:

  • meet the European Union (EU) definition of an SME - see what is an SME
  • be legally established in one of the EU member states or in a country associated to Horizon 2020

Some parts of the Horizon 2020 programmes - including the SME instrument - target specifically SMEs so, to be eligible, you will need to declare your business as an SME in the participant register.

If you're unsure about your SME status, use the SME self-assessment questionnaire to determine if your organisation qualifies under the definition. For more information, download the revised user guide to the SME definition (PDF, 770K).

What support is available?

The SME instrument is a three-phased approach that supports close-to-market activities and can offer businesses:

Find out more about the Horizon 2020 SME instrument and read about the help available for Northern Ireland SMEs that are seeking to access EU funding.

R&D funding for bioeconomy sector

Businesses looking to innovate and build new value chains in the bioeconomy sector can turn to Horizon 2020's SuperBIO programme for help with commercialising their R&D. The programme offers:

  • free matchmaking to help you find the partners you need
  • business creation services, such as business planning, IP and market research
  • sustainable innovation services, such as proof of concept and scale up

Find out more about the SuperBIO programme or watch the video below to discover the opportunities this H2020 project can bring to your business.