The SME Instrument (now called the EIC Accelerator) is part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme to help high-potential small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to develop ground-breaking innovative ideas for products, services or processes that are ready for competition in the global market.


In 2019, Pilot submitted its technology as a proposed solution to challenges faced by optical network system vendors and operators. Using the project name PICOMB, Pilot’s PIC optical comb lasers are the disruptive technology needed to enable parallelisation in DWDM optical networks to deliver multi-terabit per second channel rates at reduced cost, and power consumption, compared to multiple single-frequency laser sources. The PICOMB project was selected from more than 2,000 applications for entry into the SME Instrument and work began in Dec 2020. The two- year single entity programme is worth € 2.3 million and will support the growth of Pilot’s team, creation of valuable European Photonics IP, and see the PIC comb source technology launched to the market. 


Depending on the stage of their projects, SMEs can apply for funding for different phases as follows:

Phase 1: Feasibility assessment

Feasibility studies can receive funding to verify if a project has economic viability. This should cover risk assessment, market study, user involvement, Intellectual Property (IP) management, innovation strategy development, and partner search – and have a solid, high-potential innovation dimension. Funding may be provided in the form of a lump sum of €50 000

Phase 2: Innovation project

Innovation projects in the following areas may receive funding: prototyping, miniaturisation, scaling-up, design, performance verification, testing, demonstration, development of pilot lines, and validation for market replication. This can also include other activities related to bringing innovation to investment readiness and maturity for market take-up. The amount of funding would be between €500 000 and €2.5 million or more (covering up to 70% of eligible costs, in some cases up to 100%). Projects should last around one to two years.

Pilot’s PICOMB project is currently in this phase 2”

Phase 3: Commercialisation

Funding is available for specific activities, including support for further development of investment readiness, linking with private investors and customers through brokerage support activities and services offered via the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN)

“This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 881158”.

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