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How to write a winning SME instrument grant proposal

December 12 2017

Since its launch in 2014 the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Programme has continuously grown to attract an ever increasing number of highly innovative SMEs.

About the SME Instrument grant

The number of submitted proposals for the SME instrument has almost tripled within one year. On February 3rd, 2016, a total number of 553 proposals were submitted in response to the SME Phase II cut-off compared to 1534 proposals on January 18th 2017. Despite the ever increasing number of applications for the SME instrument, this instrument is still considered as one of European most attractive funding schemes due to its attractive conditions and funding rates. 

How to write a convincing SME instrument grant proposal

Writing a convincing and appealing SME instrument proposal is thus of utmost importance in order to convince the European Commission to provide your company with the required funding to take your innovative idea to the next level. Within this article, we provide you with 5 essential tips that will help you to write a winning SME instrument proposal.

1. Innovative idea that seizes European business opportunities

With the SME instrument, the European Commission provides funding for ground-breaking innovative ideas for products, services or processes that are ready to face global market competition. Thus, only highly innovative SMEs will be funded with this instrument. Before you take a strategic decision to apply, make sure that your idea is innovative enough. Since most reviewers will start by reading the excellence, make sure to, after a short introduction including the identified unmet need(s), include the different innovative aspects of your product in the first page. An additional box with the unique selling points (UPS) of your idea is for example a way to get the reviewer’s attention. Also include how your innovative idea will seize European (or even global) business opportunities; e.g. will this open up a new market and thereby create opportunities for new SMEs or will this result in significant growth of existing EU SMEs?

2. Business that is scalable to European level

An important determinant in obtaining funding is the credibility of the company. This means that a company applying for funding is able, in terms of resources, to bring the innovation to the market and scale (some parts of the route-to-market will not be part of your project). Therefore, you must clearly show that your business will generate sufficient revenues and will grow to a certain size that is scalable to EU or global level. An important part of this is the revenue forecast in section 2 (“impact”) where you need to show at least 3 years of projection of sales volume, turnover and number of jobs created (include the number of jobs needed to generate the proposed sales volumes). Similar to (1), make sure to include the credibility of your company on already the first page of the application.

3. Clearly defined goal and SMART objectives

First of all, the objectives of your project should be in line with the objectives as set out by the respective work programme. In section 1, the excellence, you will sketch the outline of your project including a clearly defined goal (what do you plan to do in your project?) and SMART objectives (statements describing how you will to attain the desired goal). Ideally speaking, an objective should be:

  • Specific– target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable– quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Agreed upon– specify who will do it.
  • Realistic– state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related– specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

4. Impact amongst different levels

The impact is the most important section of the proposal. Here you need to answer the question how your solution will be used by end-users and clarify how the solution will get from idea phase to implementation and commercialisation. This section needs to show there is a market (define clearly your market), there are users willing to buy (who will be your end-users and try to include letters of recommendation of these end-users to strengthen this statement) and it should provide evidence in numbers and references. Provide concrete and realistic figures on the market size, the market share, the sales price. Also, include a dissemination (how will you disseminate your project results to your key stakeholders) and commercialisation (how will you commercialise your product/idea/service to the end-users) plan. Regarding the commercialisation plan, include measures such as how often you will use specific communication activities and which actions you will undertake to measure the effectivity of these communication activities.

5. Implementation that include risks and mitigation measures

Section 3, the implementation, involves the work plan of your project including work packages that directly relate to your objectives (see (3)). One of the most important, and often neglected, parts is the risk and mitigation part. The risk mitigation part involves development of mitigation plans designed to manage, eliminate, or reduce risk to an acceptable level. Try to include as many project-related risks as possible (e.g. scalability risks), but also try to include other types of risks such as commercialisation risks (e.g. regulatory approval or clinical adoption risks).

Request assistance

Do you need support with your SME Instrument application? We can advise on how to develop a competitive project, review your proposal before submission or provide full support for your application. Fill in the form below to get in touch with us to find out about the possibilities.

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Contact

Georgia Taxiarchopoulou, MSc
+31 (0)30 73 70 779