The SME Instrument provides effective support in developing innovation projects, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. 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 with a view to setting up a European Innovation Council in 2021.
The European Commission launched the SME Instrument in 2014 to support innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups. With an overall budget of €3 billion for 2014-2020, its aim is to fill the gap in funding for innovation and increase private-sector commercialisation of research results. To assess whether the SME Instrument actually supports innovation by SMEs, the auditors focused on its design, management and outputs.
The instrument clearly offers useful and effective support for SMEs and start-ups, say the auditors. In addition, it provides EU branding that gives projects visibility and helps them attract additional investment. Despite a late start, it also provides access to business acceleration services, though their uptake has been low. Moreover, the auditors note that these services are not sufficiently tailored to beneficiaries’ needs.
“Supporting breakthrough innovation by SMEs is vital for EU competitiveness and jobs, and the SME instrument has managed to attract many innovative companies”, said Alex Brenninkmeijer, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “Our recommendations are aimed at ensuring that the European Innovation Council can build on the success of the current instrument, while further improving the design and project selection, as well as creating synergies with other financial instruments”.
Press Release: SME Instrument supporting innovation effectively, say EU Auditors