On 22 January 2020, the European Court of Auditors published a new report on the SME Instrument. The SME Instrument was launched as part of Horizon 2020 in 2014 to support innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups. To assess whether the SME Instrument actually supports innovation by SMEs, the auditors focused on its design, management and outputs.
According to the report, the instrument provides effective support in developing innovation projects. More than 5,000 projects have been funded and EU branding has helped SMEs to attract additional investment. However, the auditors also identify areas of improvement e.g. that these services are not sufficiently tailored to beneficiaries’ needs.
The successor to the SME Instrument will be part of the European Innovation Council under Horizon Europe. Against this backdrop, the auditors make a number of recommendations, in particular:
- preserving aspects of its design;
- targeting the right beneficiaries, while expanding the geographical reach;
- improving project selection;
- enhancing business acceleration services; and
- creating synergies with other financial instruments.
The full report can be downloaded here.