What a difference an interview makes!
We knew the new SMEI interview phase was going to have an impact on the general results. Now, with the official results of the first SME Instrument Phase 2 call of 2018 in hand, we can already see the effects. The good news is that English does not seem to be a barrier to success.
In total, 57 companies will share over €94 million
A total of 57 projects were selected for funding and will share €94.25 million. Th EC highlights that the winning companies have breakthrough ideas and a clear ability to create new markets.
What are the numbers?
The European Commission received 1154 eligible proposals for this first cut-off of the SME Instrument. A few extra ones were inadmissible (6), ineligible (2) or withdrawn (1). For this call, the new evaluation protocol was applied. After the first stage of remote evaluation by experts, 405 proposals received over 13 total points and were qualified as above threshold. Of these and due to budget limitations, 124 proposals with the highest grades were selected for the next step: interviews in Brussels. In Brussels, each proposer had the opportunity to pitch their project to an expert jury of innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and VCs. The jury finally selected 57 of them for funding.
Fewer projects funded than expected
In this call, the EC enjoyed the privilege of not using the entire planned budget. They granted a bit over €94 million, which is €10 million less than expected (total indicative budget for this call was over €104 million). That translates into 57 funded projects when the expected amount was of almost 70. While there is no official explanation for this short funding, low satisfaction rates with the pitches could be one possible motive. The lower budget also translated to a lower success rate than expected: 4,94% of proposals were funded, when at least 6% was expected.
Most popular industries
Most funded projects are in the fields of health, engineering and ICT. Health and ICT were the most popular topics, engineering less so which makes it a bit unusual.
57 companies from 17 countries funded
Of the 31 countries that applied, companies from 17 of them received funding. For the first time, the total number of funded proposals is the same as the number of SMEs (57). It is also the first call where almost all companies applied as a single entity (93%). This is probably also due to the new pitch stage – it is more complicated to coordinate your pitch with another company.
Shakeup in the leaderboard, but Spain is doing fine (again)
This call has shaken up the status quo at the lead of funding per country. Germany, Italy and the UK saw their success rates fall, while France and especially Spain performed above the general success rate. The call was particularly harsh for Italian SMEs compared to their usual performance within the SME Instrument. As for the worry that the interview in English would prove an unfair disadvantage to companies from non-English speaking countries, the UK’s performance compared to Spain would seem to show this is not the case.
New leaders – the most funded countries
The shakeup brings new leaders in total SME Instrument proposals funded per country. Spain is still in the lead, more than doubling the Netherlands in second place. We cannot assess the success rate of most of them, unfortunately, because the EC has not provided data on how many proposals were submitted by companies from the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Israel and Sweden.
However, there is at least one aspect that links these countries – they all have vivid start-up scenes with experience in making pitches to investors. For now, that would seem to be the principal key to success in this new era of the SME Instrument.
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