Advance your innovation project using grant funding

Funding available for SMEs

Ahead of EBRI’s funding workshop for businesses on Tuesday 2nd December, take a look at some of the exciting funding programmes available for innovative SMEs.

One scheme that has received huge interest over the past year is the new Horizon 2020 SME Instrument, the first European funding stream which is exclusively for SMEs. Other interesting funding streams for UK based SMEs include the Smart fund administered by Innovate UK.

Horizon 2020 SME Instrument

Designed specifically for innovative SMEs with international ambitions who are determined to turn strong business ideas into winners on the market. The SME Instrument provides full-cycle support, from idea conception to business planning, development, demonstration and commercialisation.

  • Horizon 2020 Phase 1
    Feasibility/ Proof Of Concept
    Market studies
    Intellectual property rights (IPR) studies
    Risk assessments
    Feasibility and viability assessments
    EUR 50,000
  • Phase 2
    Development/ Demonstration
    Application development
    EUR 0.5 – 2.5 million

  • Phase 3
    This is not direct funding but support for the SMEs through investor readiness activities, IPR support, networking activities, and awareness raising with respect to the financial instruments (both equity and loans).

The scheme is open to any technology, but projects must fit into a defined topic area. Topics include biotech-based industrial processes, advanced material and processing bio-economy, energy efficient products, processes and services, low carbon energy systems and many more. Proposals must be commercially focussed rather than weighted towards the science and technology as they are assessed by the venture capital community rather than academic or industry experts – this is different to many other schemes and extremely attractive for those SMEs who are closer to market and ready to commercialise.

You need to consider if your project is mature enough for SME Instrument. For earlier stage innovation ideas, you might want to consider some of the Innovate UK schemes.


Smart is an extremely attractive funding programme for SMEs. It is a single applicant scheme, open to any technology area, is open on a rolling basis and is a very quick process. Applicants can start their projects around six weeks after submitting their application, which are assessed every two months. Funding is between £25k and £250k (35-60% support) depending on project maturity.

Grants bring more than money

The benefits of grants are far wider than just the financial element. Clearly ‘free money’ is the driving force for many businesses, yet there are many other benefits, including:

  • Increased competitive advantage– your technology is commercialised before your competitors
  • Increased knowledge transfer – by working with academic or other industry partners, you can gain vital knowledge and skills that could help your business grow
  • Business planning – grants help your business to plan ahead, both strategically and financially
  • Technology validation – being awarded a grant can be seen as a ‘quality stamp’ from the government, demonstrating your ideas are innovative and cutting edge
  • External awareness – publicity can help raise your company image and bring further business opportunities to help build further relationships and collaborations both with government, industry networks, and other players in your field
  • Leverage further finance – being awarded a grant makes you extremely attractive to VCs, angel investors and other external funding bodies and can help you leverage additional finance for future projects
  • Free up resources – grants can help you free up resources to work on other innovation projects – this accelerates future R&D and ultimately enables your company to grow more quickly.

Remember to plan ahead

It is important to remember that most grants fund future projects. Be aware that anything you spend before you are awarded the grant cannot be reclaimed. Think about grants at the same time as planning your bioenergy project rather than as an afterthought.

EBRI and PNO Consultants are hosting a funding workshop on and 2nd December to help your SME to access grant funding for your innovative ideas. 

Sign up for EBRI’s funding workshop on Tuesday 2nd December.