EIC Accelerator Interview Preparation Process: Interviewee Considerations (Part 4)

In this fourth part of the EIC Accelerator interview guideline, the focus is shifted to specific training tools targeted at improving how questions are answered. Startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) can use these tools to better prepare for their own pitch event, investor conversations and, of course, interviews by the European Innovation Council (EIC) or European Commission (EC).

Introduction

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) is a highly selective funding program and, even though the chances of receiving funding in Step 3 can be as high as 50%, it should not be left to luck if one will be successful or not since up to €17.5M are at stake.

Note: If the previous steps are included, the overall success rate is 5% or below.

The ideal scenario is to have a consultant, professional writer or pitch coach take the lead in the preparation process since identifying weak spots and fixing them with improved answers or arguments can be difficult for a company.

The following training tools are presenting a way of preparing for interviews but they are by no means the only way and not using them will not lead to a guaranteed rejection. Examples for each segment of the training tools and recommendations on how to practise them will be given in a future article. This article will only provide a general description of such training tools.

What To Practise (Improving Answers)

No Flaws

One important rule for the EIC Accelerator Questions and Answers (Q&A) session is to not display critical flaws. This has been elaborated in earlier parts of the guide and it is relating to every time the interviewees are caught off-guard, have no answer or are unable to refute a negative point (i.e. you are not innovative).

While the jury will be perfectly polite and respectful, there might be one or two jury members that have already decided that the project is insufficient and are finding fault in everything they hear. As a result, they might swing the opinion of the other jury members which will, inevitably, lead to a rejection.

Address the Concern

This is one of the greatest tools for an EIC Accelerator pitch interview. It is too easy to neglect the concern behind a question and just answer it on a surface level which can lead to a dissatisfied questioner or, in the worst case, unwanted follow-up questions. The idea of this tool is to ask yourself: “What concern does the jury member have to ask this question?” And to then address that as opposed to the question being asked. One could say that you are exchanging the posed question with what you deem to be the real question.

Pitfall Answers

Answers can be worse than questions because, instead of addressing the original concern, they can create many additional concerns.

Why? Because an answer can unwillingly reveal ignorance, weaknesses or present an attack vector for critical jury members. It is impossible to prepare for every single question since, while some will be foreseeable, the majority will be unpredictable. This is especially true for follow-up questions since, while the starting question can be obvious, the two or three follow-ups afterwards can be entirely unpredictable since they can have little to no relationship with the original question.

This can be viewed as a chaotic system where prediction is possible in the early stages but becomes increasingly difficult and eventually impossible the further the system progresses. An example of this is the Double Pendulum which can be predicted in its earliest swings but rapidly becomes too chaotic to make any accurate predictions.

To avoid pitfall answers, the strategy should be to (1) control the topics of the conversation as much as possible and (2) avoid giving any answers that can render the jury members less confident in the team or project.

Zoom Out

While someone like Elizabeth Holmes (former CEO of the disgraced blood-testing BioTech company Theranos) is a poor role model for entrepreneurs due to her history of deception and ongoing fraud trial, she was able to demonstrate that you can raise $1.4B in financing without providing any real answers, technology or even allowing due diligence.

Being the technical lead of a BioTech company as a college drop-out was clearly a warning sign but she would have likely excelled in marketing or investor-relations positions since she accomplished what most companies cannot. There are many excellent companies that are applying for €2M under the EIC and are rejected while Holmes raised 700-times that amount without as much as a proof of concept.

Even though the source of this insight literally has blood on its hands, there are lessons to be learned. The way she emotionally directed conversations exceeds the scope of this guide (i.e. slowed speech, staring to trigger a change of topic, very long answers without specifics) but the simple tactic she often used was this: Zooming out.

When asked a specific question on how the technology worked, she would elaborate on her vision. When asked about her customers, she would expand on what she wants to bring to the world. She would always zoom out and take a birds-eye or distant view.

While this approach should not be used by any entrepreneur as a default response (i.e. Pfizer and other consultancies caught her very early on during their due diligence), there is one part that builds trust with investors that many DeepTech companies lack. It is the confidence and the great vision.

This should be used sparingly but it can be essential if the jury feels like the team lacks the ambition to implement a project or see it through until the end. It can also be a great last resort in case the interviewee is stuck and has to answer a difficult question on something not entirely relevant to the project or catches the team off-guard.

Controlling the Follow-Up

A simple but effective habit in answering questions is to carefully consider what a follow-up question could be. If someone responds to my question on the financials and mentions low-profit margins then I will follow up on it. If someone, instead of the profit margins, mentions the year-by-year growth potential of the company then I would be inclined to follow up on that.

The point of controlling the follow-up question is to only mention things that you want to be asked about. The question will, by design, ask for information on a certain topic but the interviewee can decide which angle to take. This especially goes for the ending of the sentence. If one says “We do A and B but we currently mostly focus on C because C is very important” then it is more likely to get a follow-up question on C rather than A and B.

Being Self-Centered

Every company should have a balanced view of their competitors, industry trends or market threats but it can be a significant flaw to overly focus on them. Especially when it comes to startup’s in highly technical fields, there is often a sense of respect for other companies who are innovating in similar areas or for new technology trends that are unrelated to the applicant’s business.

No matter what the reason would be, if a company only has 35 minutes to convince an EIC jury to make a funding decision then the interviewees should refrain from overly focusing on other things. In fact, if a CEO were to praise their competitors and mention that they are “developing amazing technologies” and starts to describe them then this will likely be a poor use of the available time.

Every question has an underlying concern and it will never be “Is your competitor good at what they do?” but more likely be “Can you overcome competitive threats?”. While both questions have their topic in common, they will have very different answers. Whatever the question might be, the interviewee should lead it back to why the project is great.

Are you asked about the market? End with why you are perfectly positioned to enter or create it. Asked about competitors? Mention who they are and then elaborate on why you are better. Asked about your co-investors for the EIC Fund? Mention who they are and then highlight how further de-risking through the EIC is needed before they will invest.

Always bring the conversation back to what is beneficial to you.

The Confused Question

Every once in a while, a jury member will not be an expert on a certain technology but still ask a highly technical question. If this happens, there is a possibility that they have already misunderstood certain aspects of said technology but ask a follow-up question regardless. The interviewee has to always ask themselves: “Does their question reveal their ignorance on a certain subject?” If the answer is yes, then one must take a step back and first explain the concept again but in the simplest terms possible.

This part is critical since highly technical founders with not only a high level of expertise in a scientific field but also exclusive knowledge regarding the innovation will often be too far ahead to understand the viewpoint of someone entirely new to the field. Just answering the question and highlighting the benefits of the technology might not be enough which is why a simplified explanation is in order.

Practise “Dumb” Questions

The EIC jury members are intelligent and highly competent professionals with a great deal of experience. Still, one should prepare for questions that a startup might not view as relevant or simply disregards as unimportant. This can be a question on the safety of using AI if the application is simplistic or the gender balance among the engineering team. There can be many questions that can catch the interviewees off-guard so it is beneficial to practise them.

Prepare Standard Answers

There are many questions that will certainly be asked (i.e. business model, traction, non-bankability, risk, …). While it is not possible to know all questions in advance, one should script out the answers to questions that have a high likelihood of being posed. The same is true for all questions that have been revealed as critical during the practice sessions.

Demeanour of the Answering Person

Depending on the personality of the interviewees, there can be issues that should be addressed in advance. These can be dismissive body language, disengagement from the conversation (i.e. turning away, sighing) or a generally combative nature when faced with criticism.

While the pitch preparation will not be comprehensive enough to change such long-standing habits, it is beneficial to avoid negative body language during the interview.

Short Answers to Pre-Empt Interruptions

A general rule for the EIC Accelerator Q&A is:

There will be more questions than answers.

Often, answers are too elaborate or aim to explain too many things before getting to the point. This will prompt the questioners to keep interrupting and ask follow-up questions because, while the pitch time limit of 10 minutes can be stressful for the interviewees, the Q&A time limit of 35 minutes can be stressful for the jury.

The interviewees are only focusing on presenting their project but the jury members have the difficult job of making a significant funding decision within only 45 minutes. If answers are too long and never get to the actual question then this might frustrate the jury members – something that should be avoided. If you are asked a specific question then answer it briefly first and only then elaborate.

If you are interrupted while you elaborate then you have at least given a short but precise answer in the beginning already. If the brief answer were to be missing and you are interrupted by a follow-up then this would mean that the question was not answered at all.

The Process

Have fun. While being nervous (or excited) is normal in a stressful situation, one should always remember to have some enjoyment for the process. One must have the attitude: “I am happy to explain what we do to an interested audience.” While the jury will heavily assess the technology and suitability of the project for the EIC, it will also be screening the team and its motivation. Both aspects can make or break a funding decision which is why developing some natural enthusiasm is essential.

Previous Articles


These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on January 12th 2022, April 6th 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:

EIC Accelerator Interview Preparation Process: Jury Considerations (Part 3)

One could argue that the Question & Answers (Q&A) session that is part of the EIC Accelerator interviews requires a significant amount of the overall preparation time. With a length of up to 35 minutes after the 10-minute pitch by the startup or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME), it can make or break a fund-raising application.

In this third part of the EIC Accelerator interview guide, the focus will be on the Q&A. This article aims to provide suggestions as to how a company can prepare and be in the ideal position to succeed during the EIC’s pitch week.

Since most companies are used to having long-lasting investor conversations prior to facing a final investment decision, even experienced management teams often have to adjust and practise for this particular, fast-paced interview session.

Core Rules

  1. Be aware of EIC rules and agendas (i.e. what the jury is looking for)
  2. Do not give the jury a reason to reject you (i.e. no red flags)
  3. Do not get cornered on a topic that is of no benefit (i.e. no wasted time)

Note: This article focuses on strategies for practising Q&A sessions while the next articles will focus on how answers can be improved and developed.

How To Practise (The Mock-Jury)

Rapid-Fire Questions

When practising for the pitch interview, it is often difficult to simulate a stressful environment or have supporters who can project the demeanour that is needed for such a practice. But this is an essential part since:

We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.

– Archilochus

If a startup is working with a consultancy or professional writing team then they can take this role but, as a precaution, every applicant team should also make an effort to create such sessions internally. Since nobody wants to alienate their co-workers or partners with a stressful questioning session, a simple way of creating pressure is to add interruptions.

As an example: When the mock jury member asks a particular question on a certain aspect of the project which the interviewee then responds to, the questioner proceeds to cut off the answer with a follow-up question within 10-20 seconds, at a point where it is confusing, too slow or irrelevant. By using this approach, one can simulate being caught off-guard since the follow-up questions will inevitably force the interviewee to make their answers more succinct. It will likewise allow the questioner to quickly screen for weaknesses in the responses and, through multiple follow-ups, find additional areas that must be prepared in detail prior to the pitch.

Example (Interviewee / Mock-Jury)

  • What is your business model?
  • We have a SaaS business. We sell access to our software mainly to Universities and research institutes so–
  • How do universities pay you? Have you demonstrated willingness-to-pay or do you face long tendering processes?
  • Well, we do not have revenues yet but we have pilot tests with some institutes and they have told us that they would pay for this. We also have–
  • So this is unproven. Have you demonstrated willingness-to-pay in any core customer segment?
  • Well…

Recommendation

During the entire Q&A practice, it is beneficial to make interruptions a habit since these will help everyone involved to self-correct their answers and polish them in their minds before they answer. The worst practice environment for a Q&A is one where the team has unlimited time and is allowed to brainstorm as they answer the question or even discuss the answers with their colleagues. The idea is to generate a sharp answer and then move on to the next one. Developing better answers can be done afterwards.

For the mock-jury, the rule is to make almost no answer go uninterrupted.

The Devils Advocate

It is often very difficult to find someone who is able to ask good and tough questions. Consultants and writers will know the project very well while employees, investors and others will likely also be overfamiliar with the company. Additionally, since many DeepTech companies have to guard their Intellectual Property (IP), they often do not want to include additional parties in the process just to ask a few questions.

A solution can be to hire an external party since there are a variety of pitch coaches who specialise in this type of training and can be a suitable support option.

Playing the devil’s advocate can also be done with existing consultants or internal team members since the rule is simple:

Pretend that you do not know the answer and ask the worst possible questions.

Especially if you already know the technology in and out, you will know the business model, the customers and all of the weaknesses, risks and uncertainties. To develop good questions, one should look at the project in the most negative light possible. The idea is to take the side of the competitors or those who would criticise the project.

Example (Interviewee / Mock-Jury)

  • What is your product?
  • We produce and sell battery cells based on a new material.
  • What’s innovative about it?
  • With our approach, we can reduce the energy needed during battery production by 15% as well as the related costs. We–
  • Is the new battery as long-lasting as the conventional materials?
  • We do not have long-term studies yet but we expect that it will have a comparable half-life. So–
  • But if it does not then wouldn’t it be a pointless product? What half-live benchmark do you have to reach to make sure that the 15% upside remains relevant for customers?
  • We have not calculated that yet but do not see this as an issue.
  • It sounds to me that your competition is still the better alternative until you can validate your half-life. Is that wrong?
  • Well…

Recommendation

As a mock-jury member, highlight the weaknesses of the innovation and overexaggerate the benefits of competing products. Question the existence of the innovation in the market to create a robust set of answers.

Looking for Flaws

The EIC Jury interview might be a pleasant experience but it can also turn stressful and be riddled with criticism. As an old saying goes:

Prepare for the worst. The best will take care of itself.

There might be one Jury member who is looking to criticise, who accepts no response to be good enough and who has already made the decision that they do not like the project. Unfortunately, there are many accounts of rejected applicants who found the interview to be stressful and at least one of the EIC jury members to be unpleasant.

If this happens then it is unfortunate but it is one more reason to prepare for such a case.

The principle of practising to look for flaws is simple: Try to entrap the interviewees and corner them in a place where they do not want to be. This can be because they do not know the answer, they have never thought about this or because the answer might lead to even worse questions.

Being critical does not mean that the questioner needs to be unpleasant. On the contrary, playing the role of someone who is looking for flaws can be good practice for everyone involved. If one of the interviewees just stepped into a trap and looks confused while the other two interviewee’s try to suppress their laugh then the practise session is going well.

Example (Interviewee / Mock-Jury)

  • How much financing have you raised so far?
  • In total, €2.5M from grants and angel investors.
  • Are you in discussions with other investors now or expect other investments in the coming months?
  • Yes, we are talking to Venture Capitalists regarding a bridge round at the end of the month.
  • How much are they considering to invest?
  • We are discussing a €1M investment but it can also be higher.
  • Then is it not best if we wait until they have made the decision and you apply again to the EIC in 3 months?

Recommendation

Have one person (the mock-jury) ask questions and follow-ups that progressively become more difficult to try and entrap the interview candidates. These traps will be the basis for the improvement strategies for answers discussed in the following articles.

Learn the Rules & Read the Application

It can be assumed that a majority, if not most, of the applications that are selected for the Step 3 interviews of the EIC Accelerator have either been written by consultants, professional writers or with the strong support of the startup’s employees (i.e. delegation of tasks). No matter how the company reached this last stage, it is likely that the three interviewees are not entirely familiar with all the application documents.

While many might think “I know my company in and out already!”, it would be a fatal error to not be perfectly familiar with the application. With three team members being invited to the EIC’s pitch week, it is not necessary for everyone to know everything but, as a collective, all three team members should know the entire application like the back of their hand.

The CFO should know the financial spreadsheet, the cashflows given in the Technology Adoption Lifecycle (TALC), the work package budgets and all related financial aspects. The CTO should know the development tasks, should be familiar with all the features and uses cases as well as know what the exact pain points described in the application are.

The team should distribute all proposal documents to assure that at least one person knows the relevant information. In addition, all three interviewees must know the EU’s and the EC’s rules which are described in the previous article to avoid displaying red flags (i.e. non-bankability, strategic challenges, risk-level).

Example (Interviewee / Mock-Jury)

  • What developments are you planning under the EIC?
  • We want to optimize our production process, get certifications for the resulting hardware and develop the AI software.
  • What budget are you allocating for the production process optimization?
  • We expect this to cost approximately €0.8-1M.
  • I have seen your Work Package 5 and it shows a very different number there. It list €450K for the production process. Why the discrepancy?

Recommendation

Practice asking precise questions on the proposal documents. These can include the Freedom to Operate (FTO) report, the budget, the competitors and many more sections.

Choose Who Answers What

It is critical for the team to assure that the most suitable expert will be answering the questions in their field of expertise. This can be difficult due to time constraints and it can also be hindered by the most confident member of the team taking the answering role out of pure habit (i.e. the CEO answering a financial question while the CFO remains silent). Suggestions to mitigate any problems are:

Give each person a topic

As an example, the CEO answers business model and market questions, the CTO answers technical questions and the CFO answers budget, investment and financial questions. This sounds simple but there can be significant issues that only become obvious during practice.

What if the question is financial in nature but it asks why the technical development costs are so high? This question might be too technical for the CFO. What if the commercialisation question overlaps with technical customer pain-point or the willingness-to-pay? There are many situations in which the ideal person will be ambiguous. Thus, it should be practised diligently.

Sit in the same room

It is much easier to transfer questions if the team sits right next to each other. The CEO can nod at the CFO and if one person decides to jump in then this can be well-timed as opposed to yielding awkward interruptions or confusion during a video call.

Note: This is only applicable for video calls and not for in-person pitch events in Brussels where all team members are in proximity by default.

Practise question allocations

Since questions will likely overlap greatly when it comes to the themes or topics, it is beneficial to practise this in every pitch session. What must be avoided is that the CEO or the most vocal team member ends up answering all questions. If one person has already answered questions for 15 minutes then it is likely that no other team member will dare to jump in since they are not used to it. It will be beneficial if the team members become accustomed to answering questions as a unit and have an almost immediate response without any awkward looks or confusion as to who should answer.

Conclusion

This practice routine illustrates how the team can integrate critical questioning into their mock sessions while it likewise hints at methods for their preparation. It is recommended to select one or more questioners who can play the devil’s advocate and aim to pressure the team through frequent interruptions.

The following articles will present strategies to develop perfect answers to questions and, most importantly, develop a framework to master unpredictable questions that would catch the team off-guard. This will help the interviewees to not end up in the critical situations given in the examples above.

Other Articles


These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on January 12th 2022, April 6th 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:

EIC Accelerator Interview Preparation Process: The Importance of the Q&A (Part 2)

This article is the second part of the interview preparation guide for the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity). It provides a perspective on how an applicant, Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) or startup could prepare for the EIC Accelerator pitch interview but it is not a pre-requisite to succeed in front of the jury.

While there is no official guidance or template on the preparation process for the EIC pitch, most professional grant writers or consultancies have developed their own processes to prepare their clients for a successful Step 3. This series of articles provides an example for such a process.

Introduction

Introduced in 2018, the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) have created a Jury-system for the evaluation of successful written applications which acts as the final step before the grant approval. This illustrates the desire of the European Union (EU) to fund real companies that not only have interesting projects but also have the desire, confidence and motivation necessary to implement said project. In addition, it allows the EIC to supplement their remote evaluator’s pool with experts in the investment field.

Since most startups have rich experience in talking to investors, giving presentations during pitch events or hosting workshops and seminars themselves, it often comes as a surprise that they need to practise for the EIC Accelerator pitch at all. But consultants understand that this is absolutely necessary since the EIC pitch week differs from a normal Venture Capital (VC) or investor interaction in the following ways.

No Specialised Knowledge

The Jury members might not be experts regarding the technology or might not know the industry dynamics. The EIC Jury is a well-balanced collection of business experts including consultants, angel investors, educators (i.e. business schools), VC partners and entrepreneurs but, while the EIC aims to segment the Jury into thematic groups to facilitate the interview process, one must assume that half or more of the audience neither has previous knowledge about the technology or the market that is being targeted. This also extends to the European Investment Bank (EIB) members which are allowed to sit in and ask questions.

Not Investing Themselves

A second consideration to make is that, while the Jury might contain investors, they are not investing their own money. Usually, startups will be in contact with people who are able to make investment decisions and who are directly benefitting or suffering from a good or a bad funding outcome. This is not the case with the EIC Jury since these generally do not invest in the startups they interview and, if the investment turned out to be poor (i.e. bankruptcy, fraud, failure) then the Jury will face no negative repercussions since the EIC is responsible for the funding approval.

This creates an interesting dynamic where the Jury members have no skin in the game but select companies based on the profile outlined by the EIC (i.e. DeepTech, unicorns, non-bankability, high-risk). This does not mean that their assessments will be lesser than in the private market or that they will not be as stringent as they would be if their own financing or career was at stake but it is worth considering since Jury members might pose different questions compared to conventional investors.

Ambiguous Evaluation Criteria

While many investors have a certain focus (i.e. industry, technology, geography), they all have one primary goal in common: To make a return on their investment within a given time frame while minimizing their risk. But the EIC is turning that on its head with ambiguous criteria that most normal investors would not consider prioritizing: Non-bankability and high-risk.

The EIC aims to close the gap between companies that are too risky to finance and those that have been sufficiently de-risked to warrant substantial Series A investments. As a result, it seeks out companies that are:

  • Non-bankable: A company that can’t leverage financing from other public or private sources (i.e. national grants, bank loans, VC’s, angel investors, etc.)
  • High-risk: A project that is too risky and deters investors.

Why these criteria could be viewed as being ambiguous:

  1. Many of the companies that are funded under the EIC have raised substantial financing above €1M prior to receiving the EIC grant. As such, there is no reason why they could not raise similar financing amounts again even if one-time public grants were a major financing source.
  2. Most companies have access to other grants since there are many options available and a majority of companies apply for more than one grant at a time.
  3. The project must be feasible and the risks must be well-mitigated or it will be rejected by the EIC. The remote evaluators heavily screen for feasibility and a product-market-fit (i.e. traction and willingness-to-pay) which excludes many high-risk projects by default.

Note: The three points above can be argued but it is likely that most EIC Accelerator beneficiaries would have raised financing from other sources if they were rejected by the EIC since they are excellent business cases.

Why These Criteria Still Benefit the EIC

High-Risk Projects

The EIC likely understands that it’s nonsensical to select projects with an unreasonable level of risk (i.e. projects with almost no chance of success) but it does not want to attract easy-to-finance projects, specifically. It uses the term high-risk to inform applicants that they should not be afraid to apply even if they have been rejected by many investors or grants prior because of their risk profile.

This way, the EIC creates a space where highly ambitious and cutting-edge projects gather because they are riskier than others when viewed from an investors perspective. Of course, there will also be applicants who are too high risk and lack the expertise, a product-market-fit or the competence to execute the project but these are filtered in Steps 1 and 2 of the EIC Accelerator evaluation.

Non-Bankability

The EIC wants to be an exclusive financing instrument because it has the goal of turning science into innovation as EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said during her Keynote in 2021:

The so-called European innovation paradox that Europe is a world leader in science and research but that other regions lead on innovation so the EIC will build on the amazing research base in Europe to support disruptive DeepTech and market creation startups. This will be a priority role for the EIC.

Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

In addition, the EIC aims to de-risk such highly technical projects sufficiently to warrant private industry investments which would have been elusive otherwise. This renders the EIC a catalyst for the European DeepTech ecosystem:

We will crowd in private investment. Private investment in European DeepTech. The 10 billion budget of the European Innovation Council aims to crowd in at least €50 billion from the private sector.

Mark Ferguson, Chair of the EIC Advisory Board

This means that the EIC does not aim to be the first choice for all startups in the European ecosystem but seeks to attract a small group of excellent, DeepTech companies that do not have access to capital. The criteria of non-bankability is a way of selecting for this goal.

In reality, the EIC can never know how easy or difficult it is for a company to raise substantial investments since this highly depends on connections, the geography and the ingenuity of the management team. While it can ask for it in a grant proposal template, it is difficult to investigate statements such as “We are unable to raise private financing from VC’s or local grants due to the following rejections…”. In practice, non-bankability often means:

We will invest unless someone else invests before us.

If a company raises €20M right before the Step 3 interview then it will likely be rejected because the EIC would rather spend their budget on companies that have not reached this point yet. If the company describes the difficulty in raising financing to get the EIC funding (i.e. it is non-bankable) and raises €20M only 6 months after the grant has been approved then this will be a great success case for the EIC to announce. Even if the grant did not affect the €20M funding round (i.e. this is extremely difficult to verify).

Introducing the criteria of non-bankability is thus a great way for the EIC to assure that the financing is allocated where it is able to further the goals outlined by Commissioner Gabriel and EIC Chair Ferguson.

Rejecting Over Funding

The EIC Accelerator process is highly selective and, with approval rates of 67% in Step 1 and 16% in Step 2, it can be said that all applicants successfully reaching Step 3 are excellent. With such an in-depth evaluation process that includes video pitches, pitch decks, support documents and, most importantly, a business plan with a length that is greater than most other grant proposals, it would be almost impossible for bad projects to reach the final stage.

As a result, the EIC Jury is faced with the difficult task: Finding the projects with the highest potential among a pool of excellent businesses. And, while this is a reductive perspective, one can view the task of the Jury in a simplified manner: Reject 50% of the applicants.

The EU and the EIC set the budget ahead of time and, even though it should be statistically possible to see 10% or 90% selection rates In the interviews, it is not a realistic outcome.  The Jury will have to meet a quota that, even if it can deviate slightly, should match the set budget. As a result, many great projects will be rejected.

An applicant would be well advised to have the following attitude to the pitch interviews:

Under no circumstances can I give the jury a reason to reject us.

Even if the EIC would disagree with this statement, it is still a useful approach for the applicant since, although the project and business are great, they will fail if the presenters are not aware of all the factors that can be perceived as negative by the jury.

Limited Time & Forced Decisions

No investor wants to make a short-notice funding decision. With very few exceptions (i.e. Masayoshi Son’s gut investment in Jack Ma’s Alibaba), investors will take their time, perform due diligence over many weeks or months and will have multiple in-person conversations with the company.

The EIC is different in this regard since a Jury has to make a decision based on a 45-minute interview without having performed any due diligence up to this point. Since the remote evaluation has been completed ahead of time, it can be viewed as partial due diligence but the selected evaluators are likely neither experts in due diligence proceedings nor do they have access to the applicants for the request of additional data or feedback. And while the jury members have access to the application documents, there is no guarantee that they have studied them.

Still, the EIC has multiple due diligence mechanisms:

Step 1

Step 1 will identify the general suitability of a project for the EIC Accelerator. With funding rates of 67% in 2021, it is not very selective but aims to only peak the evaluator’s interest. Projects can be approved even though 50% of the evaluators reject them which renders Step 1 a very low threshold.

Note: Choosing a minimum of 3 out of 4 GO’s by the evaluators (i.e. 75% consensus) or switching to a 2/3 threshold (i.e. 66%) might be a better choice but the EIC has not published scoring correlations between all three steps. If no project with 2/4 GO’s has succeeded in Step 2 or Step 3, then it might be a good sign to raise the bar of Step 1 and save the applicants months of work.

Step 2

Step 2 is much more in-depth and is a great way of looking at the project from multiple angles but it suffers from the evaluator’s pool which might not provide the level of due diligence found in a VC firm. Still, it is a very useful way of filtering for the EIC-set criteria.

Step 3

There is a high chance that neither the Jury members nor the EIB representatives have read the Step 1 and Step 2 applications in full. This means that they strongly rely on the pitch event and will have to make a funding decision based on a 45-minute pitch alone. While some might have read substantial parts of the application, the due diligence done by the Jury members ahead of the pitch will likely be a fraction of what a VC firm would perform before making a funding decision.

Post-Approval

The EIC will perform detailed technical, commercial and financial due diligence for the equity component of the grant but this is after the public financing announcement. It is very unlikely that a company would be rejected after the EIC has already announced their identity on its website and social media accounts unless there is a strong reason to do so. Still, it is a formal due diligence process with a great level of depth.

Conclusion

This article presents a perspective on the EIC Accelerator pitch and does not represent the opinion of the EIC or the EC. An applicant should be aware of the conditions the jury interviews will be conducted under and should pitch their project as if it was assessed for the first time. They should also consider the following notes on the EIC jury:

  1. They are likely unfamiliar with the project’s details
  2. They are potentially not experts in the technology or industry
  3. They are not investing their own money or face negative repercussions for a misselection
  4. They make a funding decision based on only 45 minutes of pitching and questioning although they have access to all previous documents if they chose to review them post-interview
  5. They must prioritize criteria set out by the EC and EIC (i.e. high-risk, DeepTech and non-bankability)
  6. The due diligence performed pre-interview was limited

Other Articles


These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on January 12th 2022, April 6th 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:

EIC Accelerator Interview Preparation Process: Scripting the Pitch (Part 1)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has introduced mandatory, in-person interviews in 2018 which marked the first multi-step installation of this financing instrument. For the first time, it was necessary to present and justify the innovation project in front of a jury that consisted of different experts such as coaches, consultants, angel investors, VC partners and others.

With success rates for the EIC Accelerator having historically been well below 5%, the interviews tended to be the last but also the least selective step of the evaluation process. These exhibited success rates ranging between 25-50% (i.e. 50% in June 2021) and, if a startup or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) was invited, it was likely that they would obtain the grant financing.

Approaches to Pitch Practise

Often, startups that apply to the EIC Accelerator assume that their past experience from event pitches or conversations with Venture Capitalists (VC) or other investors is sufficient to be prepared for the EIC jury. While it is true that this is a great asset to fall back on and presents an invaluable experience, it is often not enough to increase the success chances of a project above the average since this experience is shared among most founders.

Note: A company can succeed in the EIC Accelerator interviews without any practice or preparation but this approach is risky and not recommended.

What to Expect in a Pitch Interview

Previous articles on the pitch interviews can be found here:

In a nutshell, the pitch interview, online or in-person, will consist of a 10-minute pitch by the presenting team (i.e. usually 3 senior and balanced team members) followed by a max. 35-minute-long Questions and Answers (Q&A) session. The topics, considerations and descriptions of such a session are described in the articles above.

To sufficiently prepare for this event, the presenting team has to focus on two distinctly different segments:

  • The pitch: A 10-minute pitch that should be entertaining and use understandable language, simple sentences and easy-to-digest slides while telling an enticing story as opposed to overly complex content.
  • The Q&A: A 35-minute questioning round that can range from pleasant and supportive to unpleasant and critical, depending on the luck and response the presenting team receives.

How to Prepare for the Pitch

The pitch deck that is submitted in Step 2 of the evaluation process will be used for the EIC Accelerator interview week in Step 3. Unfortunately, this pitch deck cannot be changed later on and it is even forbidden to update numbers or names if they are incorrect. The pitch deck has to be used exactly as it was submitted even if the delay between submission and the actual pitch date can amount to three months or more.

This places an additional limitation on the team since, quite often, a detailed script has not been prepared on the day of submission and, during the script-writing process, one might feel that it is necessary to adjust parts of the pitch deck. Since this is not possible, the team and the consultant or professional writer have to work around the pitch deck and deliver a spoken pitch that works well, is clear and explains all aspects of the technology even if the slides do not perfectly match the communicated content.

The general structure of pitch decks has been discussed in the articles linked above but the following presents a more comprehensive list of the slides that can be used:

Note: Not all items need to be part of a pitch deck but they should all be covered by the spoken script to assure a well-rounded pitch.

  1. Problem
  2. Solution
    • Products
  3. Innovation
    • Patents
  4. Customers and customer value
    • Case study
  5. Competitor comparison
  6. Business model
    • Revenue streams
    • Commercial strategy
    • Traction
  7. Market
    • Timing
    • Growth rate
  8. Current state
    • Prototype
    • Past financing
  9. Development tasks
  10. Financial projections
  11. Funding needs
    • Risk
    • Non-bankability
  12. Team
    • Partners
  13. Vision
  14. Why invest in us

There are different approaches to preparing such a pitch deck but two simple strategies for slides can be:

  1. Prepare slides with complex content (i.e. a complicated graphic, concept or text) and spend at least 1 minute per slide.
  2. Prepare short slides that the presenter shows for 10 to 30 seconds and use them for fluent, fast-paced story-telling.

Since the number of slides in the pitch deck document is unlimited, it is advisable to use this opportunity and create a highly visual pitch deck aimed at leading the audience through a story. Based on the two segments above, it can be a good approach to have 75% of slides fall into the second category while the minority of slides are in the first one. This way, the interviewees have enough opportunities to explain the core and complex technical aspects while the shorter slides can be utilised to tell an engaging and entertaining story.

Even though many presenters focus on the 1-minute-per-slide rule, in reality, a 10-minute pitch deck can easily be 20-slides in length if the following durations are chosen:

  • 5 x 60-second slides
  • 5 x 30-second slides
  • 5 x 20-second slides
  • 5 x 10-second slides
  • Total: 20 slides and 600 seconds = 10 minutes

Note: These durations are suggestions and each presenter has to adjust the length to their own personal style. It is also designed for a pitch that is followed by a long Q&A session which allows presenters to show content briefly since the audience can follow up afterwards.

How to Construct Slides

Pitch decks are often a matter of Corporate Identity (i.e. design, content), choices based on the particular technology or market as well as personal taste but the following presents a general suggestion on the types of slides that can be used without delving into their detailed design.

One eye-catching sentence

A single sentence can be displayed on a slide to focus the audience on a core concept of the technology, a problem in the market or anything that the team thinks is important. Such a slide can easily be presented in 10 seconds. An example could be:

“10,000 citizens die every day and there is still no treatment for condition X.”

Very often, audience members are not listening to every word the presenter says but they try to make sense of what they see on the current slide. As a result, showing one large sentence can be a sure way of gaining the jury’s attention and transmitting a key message.

One image or graphic

It can be useful to add multiple short slides with single images or graphics if they illustrate the problem, the benefits of the solution or any other related segments such as the market or traction. The presenter can even speak a single sentence over multiple slides while showing simple graphics to support each point they make. An example can be:

“The problem in the current medical industry is Describe A (skip to the slide with a simple chart or image), Describe B (skip) and Describe C (skip)”.

If this is well-paced and sufficiently understandable then it can be an engaging way of presenting many aspects of a business model, technology or market dynamic.

A complex concept

There is no way of avoiding complicated slides in a DeepTech pitch event since being highly technical is what allowed the project to reach this point in the first place. Any graphic that is shown should be simplified as much as possible but only up to a point where it does not omit key aspects or renders the innovation too simplistic.

It should not contain text that is impossible for the audience member to read (i.e. too much or too small) and it should also not require them to be experts in the field to understand it. To avoid losing the audience after one technical slide, it can be useful to utilise multiple slides and explain the concepts through a story. An example can be to lead into the slides by saying:

“So, how do we accomplish this?”

after the solution has been introduced since this will pick up the audience members that were lost during the technical slide. The graphic can show the magic of what the company does, potentially even directly compared to how it is conventionally performed. Examples can be:

  • Conventional vs. quantum computing
  • Biologically extracting compounds from animals vs. genetic modifications of E. Coli via synthetic biology
  • Manual labour vs. Artificial Intelligence-based automation

A detailed look

There are slides that are difficult to simplify but are not overly complex in nature. There can also be cases where it is advisable to not skip too rapidly because the audience members are especially interested in them. Examples for this can be a market analysis, the business model (i.e. partners, traction, commitments), the competing technologies or the financials. Resting longer on such slides can be essential in gaining the viewer’s confidence and can also be timed in such a way that they are balanced with the fast-paced slides.

Generally speaking, it is advisable to prepare a word-for-word script and practise it until one can deliver a well-paced and natural version of it even if the final result will deviate. One can likewise focus on delivering one key message that needs to be transmitted on each slide.

The only restriction that must be honoured is the length of the pitch: Under no circumstances should it exceed 10 minutes since this will be strictly enforced by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC).

Continuation


These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on January 12th 2022, April 6th 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:

Delays: Updates on the EIC Accelerators Step 1 Results, Step 3 Interview Dates and More (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has opened its doors to Step 1 submissions in early April 2021. After a long wait, the first evaluation results have been published on May 12th 2021 after more than one month of evaluations. While no notifications of these results were sent to applicants, a delayed email signed by Head of Unit Cornelius Schmaltz was sent 2 days later which contained an official letter detailing the results of the Step 1 evaluation.

This article presents a short update on the specifics of the process as conducted by the European Innovation Council (EIC) with respect to the templates, deadlines and further evaluation stages:

  • EIC Accelerator Step 1 results have been released on May 12th 2021 on the EIC’s AI Platform for those who have applied by mid-April 2021.
  • Detailed feedback and a scoring (GO vs. NO GO) from 4 to 6 evaluators are provided for each project giving all applicants the most elaborate information on their submission yet. A detailed analysis of these evaluations will follow in a separate article.
  • The EIC aimed to simulate the past Seal of Excellence (SOE) threshold in Step 1 which means that 2020’s scoring threshold of ’13’ should be as difficult to pass as 2021’s Step 1. This would have meant that 70% of all applicants were rejected but it seems like it was rather only less than 50% being rejected. This would match the previously predicted effort-chances scenario 1 in this article.
  • The official template for Step 2 has already been published but the AI Platform for Step 2 is not ready yet.
  • The Step 2 AI Tool’s Ideation and Development modules will be available as of May 17th 2021.
  • The Step 2 AI Tool’s Go2Market module will be available as of May 21st 2021.
  • The coach selection module will become available on May 25th 2021.
  • In-person coaching support is offered on a first-come-first-serve basis in June 2021 but will be available for all applicants for their submission to the October 2021 deadline.
  • The interview sessions are planned in:
    • September 2021 for proposals submitted to the June 2021 deadline.
    • December 2021 or January 2022 for proposals submitted to the October 2021 deadline.

The Step 3 interviews come with a significant delay and instead of being 6 weeks after the Step 2 deadline, they are pushed back to 3 months after the June cut-off (read: Having a Successful Interview Pitch).


These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on January 12th 2022, April 6th 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:

Last-Minute Restrictions of EIC Accelerator Step 1 Submissions

On May 5th 2021, it has been announced that all submissions for Step 1 of the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) application process are closed until June 22nd. This has come as a surprise to many since the call was supposed to be continuously open by design. In fact, it was created in order to have an ongoing application opportunity for applicants independent of the 4 annual application deadlines (or 2 in 2021).

Needless to say, there are a variety of reasons why this decision was made and a number of repercussions for applicants. Without going into further detail regarding the EIC’s insufficient announcements regarding this issue, the following presents a shortlist of updates and notes on this newest change:

  • The Step 1 submissions were suspended in order to allow the IT team to update the platform and add features to Step 1.
  • While Step 2 is not ready for use just yet, a preliminary (but still official) proposal template for the EIC Accelerator’s Step 2 has been published (see this link).
  • Step 2 of the application process will be published on May 17th and submissions will be possible starting June 9th.
  • Over 1,200 Step 1 application’s have been submitted since April.
  • Step 1 submissions that have not been submitted yet will be unable to apply to the June deadline (see here) but still have the opportunity to meet the last 2021 deadline in October.


These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on January 12th 2022, April 6th 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:

Balancing Content for the EIC Accelerators Step 1 Video, Deck and Proposal (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has recently introduced a novel Step 1 to the application process. This is presenting a new challenge to professional writers, consultancies and freelancers but it is also an interesting new way of displaying an innovation project (read: New Process).

With many startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) seeking guidance for this process due to the absence of useful templates by the European Innovation Council (EIC), it is useful to explore the balance between the content presented in the 3 required proposal documents – the deck (‘read deck‘), the pitch video and the written application (read: Pitch Deck Guideline).

Should You Repeat Yourself?

Since there is no strict structure for the read deck or the video, these can either match the content of the proposal text or aim to only show content that is not found anywhere else. Both approaches have a risk.

On the one hand, matching the content of the 3 documents with each other can have an opportunity cost since space is limited. Omitting all of the content found in the written parts of the proposal from the deck and video, on the other hand, can lead to confusion if these are reviewed first.

You can only make a first impression once and no applicant can predict which document the evaluator will pick up first. Will they read the abstract? Watch the video? Read the deck? The decision regarding the order that will be chosen is so personal that all speculation would be pure guesswork (read: A Broad Project Vision).

In the end, it is hard to predict what will be used to gain a first impression which means that every single document should be able to tell the whole story – in its own way and format. But, instead of simply repeating the same content in each media, there is another way of viewing this challenge.

Matching the Presentation to the Media

Instead of simply repeating yourself in each document, it is useful to consider how things are presented rather than what. As an example, each document must contain some type of beginning which can also be viewed as the problem, the introduction or the motivation. Without it, the entire project would make no sense. But does this mean that it will always sound the same independent of the media? Well, that depends on the imagination of the writer.

Quantified – The Written Proposal

Due to the nature of its content, the written proposal should be precise, quantified and in-depth enough to give a technical understanding of the innovation, team and overall market opportunity. From a content perspective, this will be the technical basis for the evaluation and will likely be studied with the most scrutiny (read: Proposal Narrative).

Numbers should be used wherever possible, narratives should be waterproof and the overall impression should be that the applicant is highly competent.

Visual – The Read Deck

The read deck is a highly visual way of presenting a narrative since it can heavily rely on graphics, charts and imagery. While it still requires quantifications and needs to be waterproof, it can bring everything together in a way plain text cannot.

This visual representation can be used to connect the different aspects of an application and to simplify it in a way that makes the investment opportunity seem more straightforward.

Vision – The Pitch Video

The pitch video has the unique opportunity to give a human touch to an application in a way the writing and pitch deck are unable to. It presents similar content to both other documents but it focuses rather on the mission, the motivation of the team and the behind-the-scenes.

Instead of requiring the focus on a simple market problem, it can paint a vision for the way the world will change because of the innovation rather than how the innovation will change because of the funding.

Balancing the Content

Professional writers understand that the amount of content for a single project always far exceeds any space limitation for a grant application. Distilling content into a small section of text is a challenge and it always leads to tough edits where great parts must be omitted. Having multiple media choices at hand that have overlapping content is, in this regard, a blessing in disguise.

If a narrative has multiple lanes that could be taken (i.e. Point 1 can lead to Point 2A or to 2B) or has different emphases (i.e. a cold view on EU policies can be exchanged with a warm view on the health of citizens) then using multiple media to express them is ideal.

In the same way in which the employees inside a company should be uniform in their culture but diverse in their skillsets, the different media of the EIC Accelerator Step 1 application should be uniform in their storyline but diverse in their content (read: Assessing a Project).

Overlaps cannot be avoided but the different opportunities in each media should be embraced to maximize the chances of success in Step 1.

Conclusion

In summary, the following balance can be pursued for the Step 1 EIC Accelerator application:

  • Written proposal: Focusing on a waterproof narrative with quantifications.
  • Read deck: Focusing on a visual presentation that brings complex parts together.
  • Pitch video: Focusing on the vision, motivation and team behind the project while giving a human touch.


These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on January 12th 2022, April 6th 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:

The New EIC Accelerators Read Deck (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has recently introduced a new type of pitch deck for Step 1 of the evaluation process. This can be viewed as a ‘real-only deck‘ or a ‘read deck‘ since it will not be used for the Step 3 interviews (read: Interview Preparation) but simply acts as a reference for the evaluators.

This is an interesting experiment on the side of the European Commission (EC) since the read deck has no technical restrictions outside of the page limit. This means that this is, for the first time, a PDF document that can be uploaded with full creative freedom with regard to font sizes, formatting, margins, sections and all related aspects.

Depending on how this experiment will turn out, it could be short-lived since it needs only a few bold applicants who exploit the lack of restrictions and aim to upload a full 10-page business plan with small font sizes and slim margins. Technically, such an unconventional Step 1 pitch document would have to be evaluated by the reviewers since it does not violate the application requirements.

It can be expected that strict rules, similar to the ones for the previous full applications, will be enforced after 2021 to avoid such exploitations.

Nonetheless, this article explores some ways the read deck could be treated and how it can differ from the pitch reck. A detailed look at the types of slides to choose (read: Pitch Deck) and information on the pitch interviews (read: Pitch Success) can be found elsewhere.

General Information and Restrictions

  • Must be a PDF
  • 10-page limit
  • Below 10 MB
  • This read deck is not used for the Step 3 pitch interview (“read-only deck”)

Changes for the Pitch Interview Deck

Interestingly, the original pitch deck used in Step 3 has fewer limitations since it does not have a page limit. This is likely due to the nature of its use whereas all applicants know that they will be heavily judged for a ‘bad‘ pitch deck and it is their own responsibility to look good in front of the jury.

This changes with the read deck since the impression made on the evaluators will be without the 10 minute time constraints of the interview and entirely lack a verbal component or live feedback. In fact, the read deck, when compared to the pitch deck, has to stand entirely on its own and must hold up to close scrutiny which is not limited by time pressure.

Slides to Omit

Since 10 slides are valuable digital real estate, the title and ending slides should be omitted. There is no need to account for any social aspects such as introducing the speakers or thanking the audience for listening to the pitch since all this information is available to the evaluator already (read: A Broad Vision).

The same is true for extensive product presentations that can be flipped through like a dia show during the interview but take up too much space in a 10-page read deck. If the presentation of the product critically needs to be in the form of multiple angles or images then this should be reduced to a single slide and the remaining footage can be part of the pitch video. In fact, the video is an excellent choice for the presentation of the product in a comprehensive and visual way.

Changing the Text

Since speakers cannot leave certain aspects of the project to the Questions and Answers part of the EIC Accelerator pitch interviews, the text should be comprehensive. To stand on its own, the traditionally scarce text on a pitch deck should be elaborated for the read deck.

Instead of adding only bullet points and keywords, the read deck should have full sentences on each slide to explain the concepts without leaving any doubt in the reviewer’s mind. Since verbally expressing the traction of the company and their pilot customer is impossible in the Step 1 deck, it should be laid out in a written form.

This is likely the most important aspect of the new read deck since most pitch decks aim to avoid text as much as possible and present a clean and elegant design. The read deck, on the other hand, requires a merger of elegant simplicity and a fully fletched text.

Graphics and Photos

Graphics already used to be an important part of every pitch deck but, even though the read deck will contain more text, graphics also become even more important. While an introduction slide could lean heavily on the speaker’s voice and simply present a small chart as support, the read deck will require graphics to transmit a full concept with little to no support (read: Design Resources).

Illustrations cannot be too minimalistic in the read deck but have to be comprehensive enough to transmit a complex idea. This approach is supported by the fact that there is no time limit. The evaluator can stop at a single slide for 5 minutes or more and let a complicated chart sink in. They can also go back to the chart after they have watched the video and have read the entire application – or right before they give their final verdict on the proposal’s success or failure.

It is advisable to put great thought into this aspect and find a balance between easy-to-digest and enough-to-understand.

Summary

  • Restrictions: 10 slides as a PDF below 10MB
  • Slides to Omit: Remove title and ending slides to save space.
  • Changing the Text: Full sentences to explain all relevant concepts in detail.
  • Graphics: These can be more complex than in a traditional pitch deck since the evaluator can pause indefinitely.


These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on January 12th 2022, April 6th 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:

Lessons from the EIC Accelerators Pitch Video Shooting (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has recently introduced pitch videos into the evaluation process which presents a new challenge for professional grant writers, freelancers and consultancies (read: New Application Process). While there are no official guidelines or templates for the process of shooting a pitch video, this article looks at some brief lessons learned from preparing such videos with clients in a remote fashion.

Information on how to structure a pitch video (read: Video Selection), how to script the video (read: Video Scripting) and how to remotely organize the shooting (read: Video Shooting) can be found elsewhere.

1. The Video Script is Everything

One of the restrictions of the EIC Accelerator pitch video is the length which is limited to only 3 minutes. This can be a surprisingly difficult challenge if the footage recorded by the Step 1 applicant, a Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) or startup, is very difficult to shorten without losing the storyline or making certain sections non-sensical.

Having a clear script that goes over all relevant sections of the project and is brief but succinct is important since it allows to cut out segments without impeding the overall story. Since it is advisable to always record more than the needed footage, cutting the length of content becomes an important task for the proposal writer.

If a great script has been prepared in advance, the video editor can always fall back on it and never needs to worry about the 3 minutes not telling a cohesive story. Not being able to include every single part of the project’s story is to be expected but the script should be holding up even if certain parts are omitted in the final cut (read: Story Lines).

2. Simple Tips for Pitch Recordings Go a Long Way

Applying SME’s and startups need sufficient guidance for the video recording. A video editor or videographer might take certain things for granted but these aspects could be entirely foreign to the management team of a technology company.

Every consultant or freelancer should present their clients not only with a pre-written script and instructions as to which members should partake in the shooting but also prepare guidelines for best practices. Information on ideal camera choice, settings (framerates, ISO, shutter speed, etc.), lighting and background setup can easily increase the video quality.

A limitation to this is the presentation of the CEO and the management team in general since preparing extra coaching for an exciting and enthusiastic video will likely be exceeding both the time and resources one should spend on the video. Still, giving some guidance as to how to transmit personality and excitement can be very helpful.

3. Small Editing Techniques are Key

Just cutting recorded footage together is one way of preparing the video but small additions such as stock footage, effects, titles and similar techniques can significantly increase the quality of the content.

Every applicant can assume that all the selected evaluators will watch the videos from start to finish at least once but this does not mean that boring videos will make the same impression as entertaining ones.

Having a professionally produced video is by no means a requirement but producing an entertaining video does not require professional production quality. Understanding what the listener wants to know as well as making sure that there is a start, a middle and an end while constantly keeping the viewer’s attention is key.

The thought after watching the video should be: “Wow, the project seems really interesting and the team seems great!“. A video that is bland and uninviting might make the first impression of the team less favourable since motivation, alongside competence, is an important criterion in the evaluation as well (read: Design Resources).

4. Adapting to the Client

Every client is different and has a different starting point when it comes to content creation. Some have extensive footage available and routinely do interviews or pitch their products in video format while others have been in stealth mode and have never recorded a single second of footage. This project diversity likewise extends to the video structuring and editing process since two projects can require different coverage durations for their unique segments.

The same is true for the technology itself since not all projects can be easily translated into video format. Showing how an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm looks in an appealing manner is nearly impossible while demonstrating a hardware production process or data visualisation tool lends itself far more readily to the video format.

Time and geographic constraints are other determining factors since many teams are operating remotely and there might be a lack of time or accessibility to collect all the needed footage. A laboratory might be empty and in sleep mode until the regional COVID-19 lockdown is completed while team members could be busy with core business activities.

Summary

The following key lessons apply to the EIC Accelerator pitch video shooting for Step 1 of the evaluation process:

  • Scripting: Having a solid script prepared will make sure that the final video has a distinct storyline.
  • Guidance: Most applicants will need help with the pitch recording and this should be provided by the consultant or writer.
  • Editing: This will be valuable in order to give the footage a semi or fully professional look and grab the viewers attention.
  • Adapting: Every startup or SME has different footage available and different capabilities which means that guidelines must be adapted if needed.


These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on January 12th 2022, April 6th 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:

Glitches on the EIC Accelerator’s AI Platform and Changes to the Work Programme (SME Instrument)

In 2021, the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has been re-launched into its most sophisticated iteration yet. With a new AI Tool, a semi-automated evaluation process and a clear focus on disruptive projects, it has now opened its doors for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups in the European Union (EU) and associated countries (read: New Process).

Right after the launch of this new platform, many applicants as well as professional writers, freelancers and consultants have noticed that there were still quite a few errors and glitches that showed up. This article presents a shortlist of noticeable areas that were affected by such glitches and also discusses some of the changes to the 2021 Work Programme which differ from the unpublished draft version discussed earlier (read: The Work Programme).

Changes & Glitches

Geographic Restrictions & Diversity

The draft version of the EIC Accelerator Work Programme discussed the requirement for geographic diversity which meant that all applicants applying to the grant would need to be invited to the Step 3 interviews in proportion to the number of received applications (read: Interview Preparation & How To Succeed). This would have been an extreme measure since it could have incentivised countries to prepare many low-quality applications to boost their chances in Step 3 of the process. Luckily, this rule was removed.

Non-Binary Gender

The latest template for the EIC Accelerator’s AI Platform and the draft for Horizon Europe proposals indicated non-binary as an option for the gender selection of the applicant’s CEO (read: The EIC Youtube Leak). This, of course, was an example of the European Union being too progressive for its own good (read: Gender Identification vs. Gender Equality).

The EU’s strong gender equity agenda enforces the funding of 35% female CEO’s under the EIC Accelerator which presents 7-times the number at which female CEO’s would naturally be funded in the program. If a non-binary CEO who was born as a woman was treated like a man with respect to this agenda or, even worse, a transgender person identifying as a woman was treated like a man – the EU would have a political disaster on their hands.

Eventually, the European Innovation Council (EIC) has decided that this political double bind between gender identification and gender equality was too much to handle and reverted back to giving only a single third gender option: Unspecified – which is treated as male and lacks the benefits of choosing female.

TRL Descriptions

The Technology Readies Levels (TRL) and Market Readiness Levels (MRL) have been changed even after the opening of the call on April 9th whereas on Friday, it still stated that TRL6 required 100 customers, while on Monday, it reverted back to only requiring pilot studies and a prototype. This is significant since the change happened after the call was already open which means that many applicants could have applied under false premises (read: TRL Levels Explained).

AI Tool Diagnostics Results

Another change over the weekend after April 9th was that the Diagnostics evaluation feedback by the AI Tools changed drastically. The technical breakthrough scorings were quite easy to ‘max out‘ to the top of the A-chart while breakthrough scientific scores were much harder to increase. On Monday, the scoring difficulty was reversed even though no changes were made to the proposal text.

On Monday, an A in technical scores can have turned into a B while the scientific scores saw the opposite change happen. Once again, there are a number of applicants who might have applied under false premises since the call was already accepting submissions.

Budget & Evaluation

The Work Programme has seen some minor adjustments in the budgeting and evaluation process but these were not dramatic and will not significantly impact the success chances of applicants.

One relevant part of these changes is the automatic coverage of the 30% co-financing of the grant by the equity financing if blended financing is selected. This means that, if an applicant wants to request €5M in equity from the EIC Fund then this will be in addition to the 30% of the grant contribution (read: EIC Fund Behind the Scenes). Applicants also have to estimate the co-financing of their Series A or similar round and identify the outside contributors.

Glitches and Errors

Since the AI Platform for the EIC Accelerator is new, it is expected that bugs and errors will be encountered frequently. Still, there was a discrepancy in the performance between different accounts whereas one account had a smooth opening and saving of the proposal while others were exhibiting long loading times, errors and shutdowns.

One of the most severe glitches observed was the replacement of the Abstract of the proposal by the Solution section which ended up appearing twice in the final proposal. This was an automatic replacement that happened in some accounts over the weekend after April 9th.

For all applicants who have applied early to the EIC Accelerator, it is worth looking back at their submitted application and double checking if their Abstract was affected. If it was, it is advisable to contact support@accelerator.eismea.eu as soon as possible to correct this error so that the evaluation will not suffer from this mistake.


These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on January 12th 2022, April 6th 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:

Professional Grant Proposal Writing for the EIC Accelerator and Horizon Europe Programs (SME Instrument)