Which EU funding for SMEs?

Which EU funding for SMEs?

Posted 9 months ago

Of all companies in the EU, 99% are micro, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These enterprises employ around 100 million people and are the backbone of the EU economy. They account for two-thirds of the private-sector jobs and their share in the total value added of businesses in the EU is more than half. 

SMEs are an essential source of entrepreneurial skills and innovation, which are crucial for the competitiveness of European businesses. Therefore, several action programmes have been adopted by the European Commission to increase the competitiveness of SMEs through research and innovation and to improve access to finance.

The EU has several different funding programmes that SMEs may be able to apply for, depending on the nature of the business or project. There are two different types: indirect funding and direct funding.

Indirect funding is managed by national and regional authorities and comprises nearly 80% of the EU budget, mainly through 5 big funds that come under the umbrella of the European Structural and Investment Funds.

The allocation of direct funding capital is managed by the European Institutions. There are two types of funding available: contracts and grants. You can apply for contracts and grants and managed by the European Commission on the Funding and Tenders portal. Contracts are issued by EU institutions to buy services, goods or works that they need for their operations – such as studies, training, conference organisation or IT equipment.

Grant programmes for SME's

Grants are given to specific projects that relate to EU policies, usually following a public announcement known as a call for proposals. Some well-known EU programmes are the following:

Horizon Europe (2021-2027)

Horizon Europe is the European Union's framework programme for research and innovation (R&I) for the period 2021-2027.

It aims to strengthen the EU's science and technology base, including developing solutions for policy priorities such as green and digital transition. It also contributes to the achievement of sustainable development goals, boosting competitiveness and growth. It is the EU's flagship programme to support R&I, from concept to market introduction.

Digital Europe programme (2021-2027) DIGITAL

The Digital Europe programme (2021-2027) focuses on the EU's digital transformation and will contribute to the implementation of the Digital Single Market strategy. DIGITAL focuses on five key areas: artificial intelligence, digital skills, supercomputing, cybersecurity and the use of digital technology.

EU4 Health

The EU4Health programme (2021 - 2027) is the EU's response to the huge impact COVID-19 has had on healthcare staff, patients and the entire healthcare system in Europe.

European Defence Fund (EDF)

Through the European Defence Fund (EDF), Europe aims to support and develop the strategic autonomy of its own defence industry.

European Green Deal

Climate change and environmental degradation pose an existential threat to Europe and the world. To counter them, Europe needs a new growth strategy that turns the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy that:
- reduces net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050;
- delivers economic growth without depleting resources;
- leaves no person or region to its fate.
The European Green Deal is the roadmap to make the EU's economy sustainable.

EU Space Programme

The European Space Programme (EUSP) brings together existing and new space-related activities in a single programme for the period 2021 to 2027.


LIFE is the European Union's financial instrument for the protection of the environment. The programme aims to contribute to a better European nature, environment and climate policy. E.g., it subsidises innovative projects that contribute to environmental and resource conservation, to the preservation of nature and biodiversity and to awareness and dissemination of information.

If you want to discover the upcoming calls for proposals issued by the European Commission, start your free GrantApp trial today.