5 tips to increase your chances of SME Instrument funding (H2020)

A disruptive innovation, proper technology readiness level and well-prepared application – these are the factors that in theory should suffice to get a grant from the SME Instrument (Horizon 2020). However, in practice it is not always the case. That is why it is worth examining a few missing pieces of the SMEI application puzzle to increase your funding chances.

What is important to the SME Instrument? First of all, it is looking for innovation that will change the world if implemented. It wants a ready prototype at TRL 6 or higher (more on TRL here). The Commission also appreciates experienced and stable teams who will successfully launch their product in the market. With these ingredients you have the basic recipe for SMEI funding. But in such a highly competitive arena it never hurts to add a special touch or secret sauce to your main dish. Here are five tips to help you spice up your application and give it that special je ne sais quoi.

1. Pitch Power (in English)

Even with a great idea and a perfect application, if you cannot properly present your project in person to the Commission evaluators in Brussels, it’s over. But I’ve made hundreds of pitches, I don’t need to practice anything, said no SMEI grant winner ever.

The second stage of Phase 2 evaluation, known as the pitch of doom, requires not just “alright” or even “good” but “crazy amazing” preparation and presentation skills. Not just the ability to talk about the project in English in a comprehensible manner, but also to answer very concrete questions about your company, technology, commercialization, team and financial results made by a panel of crunchy investors and spicy business experts.

Practise the pitch in front of an audience. Have someone record the speech to identify mistakes you make. Prepare a list of difficult questions and answers to avoid surprises during the meeting. For more tips on how to survive the million euro interview, check our article “Are you mentally prepared to pitch in Brussels?”

2. The trust issue

Most people find it easier to trust a company which has the confidence of well-known institutions and investors. The European Commission does too. Companies that can add grants, investors and experts to their sauce simply have a greater chance of being co-financed. C’est la vie.

3. Who do you know?

They say it’s not important what you know but who you know. Contacts with other companies are essential while building your business. The more contacts you establish, in particular international ones, the closer you are to your potential clients or investors. The EU Commission wants to co-finance projects with the best prospects of global success. Toss information about your network in the sauce, finely chopped and sprinkled.

4. Don’t be shy

Modesty makes the sauce bland. Highlight your reliability by mentioning awards received by your company. These distinctions show that the idea attracts attention, other people have already analysed and appreciated it.

5. Have IPR strategy

The European Commission pays a lot of attention to the protection of intellectual property by companies applying for funding from Horizon 2020. Be generous with information regarding how the project is protected, what patents it has and in which markets.

When applying for grant in Phase 2 of the SME Instrument even the best project has to sell itself. Proper preparation and emphasis on the elements valued by the European Commission can help improve your chances of funding.

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