I’m once again involved in writing two Horizon 2020 proposals. One of them is for the “SME-instrument” where a single SME can apply
The SME-instrument offers support for the commercialisation of innovations that are fairly close to market. A phase-1 project is a feasibility study, where the EC will give a lump sum of EUR 50k to conduct a (commercial) feasibility study and come up with a detailed business plan. In phase-2 this business plan can be further developed through prototyping, operational validation etc. An SME does not have to do a phase-1 project but can directly apply for phase-2 if they have a detailed business plan. In phase-2, 70% of the eligible cost are funded by the EC—which is a pretty good deal.
The proposal I’m writing now is in the field of waste management: Sorting recyclable materials out of a specific waste stream (the precise subject is confidential). The proposal has to be kept to 30 pages (much shorter than the 70 pages for a collaborative research project) which does not pose too much of a problem, and follow the EC-template. In order to get funded you need close to perfect scores on the 3 evaluation criteria of Excellence, Impact and Management, as there is a lot of competition.
An important consideration is the Technology Readiness Level of the innovation. For the SME-instrument the EC only wants to fund innovations that are relatively close to market—they stipulate TRL 6 or above. This means that the technology must have been demonstrated in an operational environment, and in the course of the project will further mature into a system ready for wide adoption.