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.
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 March 16th 2022, June 1st 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).
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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 Interviews: Pitch Deck vs. Proposal Documents (SME Instrument)
- Choosing a Good Project for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- The EIC Accelerator Budget: Grant vs. Blended Finance (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- EIC Accelerator – Introduction and Blended Finance (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- EIC-Accelerator Writing: Providing the Missing Link (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- The Biggest Mistakes When Applying to the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- Identifying a Broad Vision for an EIC Accelerator Project (SME Instrument Phase 2)