On Wednesday 22 January 2020, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) will publish a special report on the EU instrument supporting innovation by SMEs.
ABOUT THE AUDIT
The ECA examined whether the SME Instrument was effective in supporting innovation by SMEs. In particular, the audit addressed whether the instrument was well targeted and the selection process well designed and managed to fund the best projects. The auditors also looked at links between SMEs’ financing needs and other EU-backed financial instruments.
Overall, the report is expected to conclude that the SME Instrument delivers the expected benefits and provides effective assistance to SMEs. The auditors will also identify some areas of improvement. They expect their observations and recommendations to feed into the debate on how to set up and administer the SME instrument’s successor under the European Innovation Council.
ABOUT THE TOPIC
The SME Instrument was set up under the Horizon 2020 research framework programme to support innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises. It is targeted towards innovative SMEs in the EU and 16 associated countries.
With an overall budget of €3 billion for the period 2014-2020, the instrument provides grants to high-potential companies to either support them in developing a feasibility study (up to €50 000 in Phase 1) or in conducting research and development and market-testing (€2.5 million in Phase 2). Assistance may also be provided through coaching, mentoring or other business acceleration services (Phase 3).
The SME Instrument has been redesigned for 2021-2027 as part of the European Innovation Council (EIC).
The ECA’s special reports set out the results of its audits of EU policies and programmes or management topics related to specific budgetary areas. The ECA selects and designs these audit tasks to be of maximum impact by considering the risks to performance or compliance, the level of income or spending involved, forthcoming developments and political and public interest.