Catalonia, leading European region in number of SMEs attracting EU funding for innovation projects

04 Jun 2021

  • In total, 246 Catalan SMEs and startups have raised €108M under the SME Instrument programme of the European Commission with grants up to €2.5M.
  • Although Catalonia represents 1.5% of Europe’s total population, Catalan companies represent 4.5% of the beneficiaries, ahead of Lombardy and Madrid.
  • This was announced by ACCIÓ’s CEO, Joan Romero, during the inauguration of Horizon Europe Week, a series of sessions to learn about EU funding opportunities, to which more than 1,600 companies have registered.

Catalonia is the first region in Europe in terms of the number of SMEs to have received grants for innovation projects from the European Commission (EC). According to data from ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment, a total of 246 small and medium-sized Catalan companies and startups have obtained €108M in competitive tendering from the EC's SME Instrument programme, which began in 2014 and ended in 2020 within the framework of Horizon2020.

This was announced by the CEO of ACCIÓ- Catalonia Trade & Investment, Joan Romero, as part of the inauguration of Horizon Europe Week, a series of seminars and workshops in virtual format to bring the opportunities of European Union funding to Catalan companies - and to which more than 1,600 companies have registered.

Romero emphasized that "Catalonia has been the top region in the number of companies participating in the SME Instrument, with a very high representation that positions us significantly".

The CEO of ACCIÓ- Catalonia Trade & Investment highlighted the growth of Catalan participation in recent years in European programmes "with excellent results" and highlighted the new Horizon Europe programme, “which will have a budget of 100,000 million euros between 2021 and 2027 and that will be the most ambitious on a global scale to support innovation and research”.

Catalan participation in the SME Instrument programme

According to Joan Romero, although Catalonia represents 1.5% of the total European population, the 246 Catalan SMEs account for 4.5% of the total number of European SME Instrument beneficiaries. As such, Catalonia establishes itself, as regard the number of companies accessing these grants, ahead of Lombardy, Madrid, Île-de-France and Emilia-Romagna.

In volume of funding raised, the €108M obtained by Catalan SMEs represents 3.8% of the total budget granted. In this way, Catalonia has concentrated 27.7% of the volume obtained by the Spanish state as a whole and 26.4% as regards the number of companies.

Top 5


No. of companies

% of total


















Emilia Romagna



TOP 5 regions in number of companies

Source: ACCIÓ using SME Instrument Data Hub figures

The 246 Catalan SMEs that have raised funds from the SME Instrument – which has a global budget of almost 3,000 million euros – have obtained direct grants ranging from 50,000 euros to €2.5M per company to carry out feasibility studies of their business plans or develop the necessary pilot tests to bring their technology to market.

To access this funding, ACCIÓ- Catalonia Trade & Investment was appointed by the European Commission as the entity responsible in Catalonia for analysing the needs of innovation projects and provide coaching services both to help Catalan SMEs submit applications to access the aid and to advise them on project development. ACCIÓ- Catalonia Trade & Investment offers this advisory service as a coordinating member in Catalonia of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).

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