Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for 99.8 percent of all businesses across Europe. In 2018, there were over 25 million SMEs in Europe (EU-28), of which 93 percent were micro-enterprises (companies with fewer than 10 employees). According to the EU Commission's SME Performance Review, SMEs contributed significantly more to growth from 2016 to 2018 than in previous years (from 2013 to 2018). This increase is almost entirely due to micro-enterprises. Almost 50 percent of SMEs in the EU focused on innovation from 2014 to 2016.
SMEs are the driving force to boost economic growth and job creation. Moreover, SMEs are considered by the European Commission to be the drivers of innovation, the ones that can quickly transform research results into marketable and competitive products. Therefore, SME funding is an important building block of European SME policy.
SME funding under Horizon Europe
Within the framework of the new EU funding programme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, SME funding has a special status. Almost 50 percent of the programme budget is earmarked for activities close to the market and for the participation of industry and SMEs. In Pillar 2, " Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness", the EU earmarks a total of 53.5 billion euros for research projects in which companies play an essential role in the commercialisation of project results. Of the 13.6 billion euros under Pillar 3 "Innovative Europe", 10.1 billion euros is available for the commercialisation of the best innovative ideas (see also European Innovation Council (EIC) below). The funding instruments under the EIC cover the entire innovation chain – from basic research to manufacturing to market maturity of the product. The target group is highly innovative SMEs, including start-ups or scale-ups. In some cases, they can also receive funding as individual applicants.
European Innovation Council (EIC)
After a two-year pilot phase, the European Innovation Council (EIC) now has its own work programme under Horizon Europe. The EIC is intended to ensure that Europe's research activities and innovations give rise to new companies that can quickly operate on a larger scale (scale-ups). It now brings together the previous specific funding instruments for high-risk, visionary and breakthrough ideas from basic research to commercialisation. This includes, for example, the "EIC Accelerator". It is aimed at SMEs with growth potential that pursue long-term innovative and risky ideas with European added value and already have market experience.
SME funding outside Horizon Europe
Outside Horizon Europe, other SME funding programmes such as EUREKA Eurostars, the LIFE programme or the "Cascade funding" offer numerous opportunities to participate in transnational cooperation projects.
Further information on the individual SME funding programmes:
The national and European programmes listed below are either aimed exclusively at SMEs or are structured in such a way that they are particularly suitable for SMEs.
Support from BayFOR
Are you a Bavarian SME and are you interested in national and European funds for your company? Would you like to know which programme is best suited for your project? Are you looking for relevant partners for transnational cooperation? Do you have any questions about the required timing and the costs related to a funding application? Do you need support in submitting your application? Then please get in touch with us! We are here to help!