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, fisheries, marine and fresh water aquaculture (including production and processing of feed and food). However, one of the most important barriers for the development of innovative maritime economic activities is the lack of access to finance for SMEs to develop high-potential, but high-risk innovative ideas and to bring them close to market. The SME instrument offers financial support to SMEs with an EU dimension to put forward their most innovative ideas in the previously mentioned maritime and aquaculture/fisheries sectors with a particular focus on close-to-market solutions and potential for high growth and internationalisation.Scope:
The SME instrument consists of three phases, including a coaching and mentoring service for beneficiaries. Participants can apply to phase 1 or directly to phase 2.
In phase 1, a feasibility study shall be developed in order to verify the technological/practical as well as economic viability of an innovation idea/concept with considerable novelty to the industry sector in which it is presented (new products, processes, design, services and technologies or new market applications of existing technologies). The activities could, for example, comprise risk assessment, market study, user involvement, Intellectual Property (IP) management[[This is not limited to the costs of acquiring and enforcing European or international IPR titles but could include auditing and risk management schemes to protect IP assets across planned supply and distribution chains and more generally IP valorisation plans to enhance return on investment and lever commercial investment into the relevant project.]],
innovation strategy development, partner search, feasibility of concept and the like to establish a solid high-potential innovation project aligned to the enterprise strategy and with a European dimension. Bottlenecks in the ability to increase profitability of the enterprise through innovation shall be detected and analysed during phase 1 and addressed during phase 2 to increase the return in investment in innovation activities. The proposal should contain an initial business plan based on the proposed idea/concept. It should outline the specifications of a more elaborate business plan, which is to be the outcome of the project, and the criteria for success.
Funding will be provided in the form of a lump sum of EUR 50.000. Projects should last around 6 months.
In phase 2, innovation projects[[In the case of SMEInst-05-2016-2017, research type activities in medical application and clinical validation, including support for clinical studies and trials, will be predominant and will necessitate reimbursement at 100%. The Technology Readiness Levels indication does not apply.]]
will be supported that address the specific challenges identified and that demonstrate high potential in terms of company competitiveness and growth underpinned by a strategic business plan. Activities should focus on innovation activities such as demonstration, testing, prototyping, piloting, scaling-up, miniaturisation, design, market replication and the like aiming to bring an innovation idea (product, process, service etc.) to industrial readiness and maturity for market introduction, but may also include some research. For technological innovation, Technology Readiness Levels of 6 or above (or similar for non-technological innovations) are envisaged; please see part G of the General Annexes.
Proposals shall be based on an elaborate business plan. Particular attention must be paid to IP protection and ownership; applicants will have to present convincing measures to ensure the possibility of commercial exploitation ('freedom to operate').
Proposals shall contain a specification for the outcome of the project and criteria for success. They will include an explanation of how the results of the supported project are to be commercialised and of what kind of impact on the company is expected.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 0.5 and 2.5 million[[In the case of SMEInst-05-2016-2017, phase 2 proposals can request a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 and 5 million.]]
would allow phase 2 to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts (higher or lower). Projects should last between 12 and 24 months.
Phase 3 of the SME Instrument aims to increase the economic impact of the funding provided by the SME Instrument phase 1&2 grants and by the business coaching. Phase 3 is not subsequent to phase 1 and/or 2, but provides specific support to SME instrument beneficiaries during and after phase 1 or 2.
All support under phase 3 of the SME instrument will be accessible through a single, dedicated entry point, which will serve as an information portal and a networking space.
This platform will offer access to two main strands of services:
In addition, phase 3 will create opportunities for partnering, networking and training, which are set out in the Dedicated Support Actions at the end of this call.
SME instrument beneficiaries are also offered dedicated business innovation coaching and mentoring support. This service is facilitated by the Enterprise Europe Network and delivered by a dedicated coach through consultation and signposting to the beneficiaries. The coaches are recruited from a central database managed by the Commission and have all fulfilled stringent criteria with regards to business experience and competencies.
Throughout the three phases of the instrument, the Network will complement the coaching support by providing access to its innovation and internationalisation service offering. This could include, for example, depending on the need of the SME, support in identifying growth potential, developing a growth plan and maximising it through internationalisation; strengthening the leadership and management skills of individuals in the senior management team and developing in-house coaching capacity; developing a marketing strategy or raising external finance.Expected Impact: