Category Archives: Phase 2

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 June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 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 June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 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 June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 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 June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 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 June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 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 June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 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:

Insights from the EU Science & Innovation YouTube Leak (EIC Accelerator, SME Instrument) 

With the 2021’s EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) program being adopted shortly, many startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) are eagerly waiting for the call to open (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

Most consultancies and professional writers have likely already gathered significant information on the new template and process but the latest video leak from the EU Science & Innovation YouTube Channel (here, here and herethey were ‘public’, then ‘private’ and are now ‘unlisted’) gives great insight into the details (read: The 2021 Work Programme). The Questions and Answers session served as a training for National Contact Points (NCP) and presented hour-long meetings with a variety of key stakeholders including developers of the AI Tool and Stéphane Ouaki, the chair of the investment committee of the EIC Fund (read: An Inside Look into Equity Financing).

The following presents a shortlist of the insights given in the meetings as they relate to the EIC Accelerator. EIC Pathfinder and Transition sessions are also available but are not covered by this article.

Attention: Since this information was presented informally, some of these points might be inaccurate or are subject to change over the coming weeks. The information was given in mid-March 2021.

  • The Step 1 pitch video will be fully uploaded to the platform and not be submitted as a link.
  • No template for the pitch deck will be given but a guide for the video.
  • The pitch deck from Step 1 will not be used for the Step 3 interview.
  • The challenge/topic will be chosen in Step 2 and not in Step 1.
  • The AI Tool for Step 2 will be ready in mid-April 2021.
  • In the long-term, the EIC envisions consultants to become part of their platform (for a fee, of course). The platform also contains Venture Capitalist’s (VC) and loan agencies.
  • Involvement of NCP’s will be stronger with them receiving the application once submitted but this can be optional.
  • The Step 1 threshold will likely be at the same level as the previous score of 13 (30-40% success rates) under Horizon 2020 (read: Interpreting the ESR).
  • The remote (expert) evaluators have not been briefed yet since the Work Programme is not legally adopted.
  • New investment guidelines for the EIC Fund will be published at the end of March 2021.
  • The due diligence for equity investments aims at a 3-4 month duration.
  • The due diligence looks closely at the capital structure of companies and, if an exit seems complex or impossible, it will not invest.
  • The equity investments from the EIC fund were presented and showed a majority of funds moving towards MedTech (28%) as well as France as the main beneficiary for equity financing (31 beneficiaries – Israel as the second most-funded has 17).
  • General steps for the EIC Fund’s due diligence process were presented in 9 steps (letter, contact, compliance, recommendation, discussion, decision, term sheet, agreement, signature).

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 June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 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:

Gender Equality Targets in the Age of Gender Identification (EIC Accelerator)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) is a competitive funding program by the European Commission (EC) and has always been heavily affected by European Union (EU) policies. Examples for this are the requirements to meet sustainability targets, address societal challenges and other recent developments such as the Green Deal and strict gender equity goals (read: EIC Accelerator 2021 Work Program).

Gender Equity Targets

Especially the latter has been strongly advertised by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and has proven to be very beneficial for female entrepreneurs (read: Being a Female Entrepreneur) since their normal funding rates of under 5% were effectively increased to 35% or higher (read: EIC Impact Report).

Such a strictly followed target has a tremendous impact since a female Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will have a slight but important advantage over a male CEO which can, due to the tight competition at the EIC Accelerator interviews, make the difference between being funded successfully and being rejected (read: EIC Pitch Week).

This not only affects the startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) applying for grant financing in the EU but is also impacting the focus of professional writers and consultancies since female CEO’s who are excellent and have a great project now have a lower risk profile than their male counterparts if all other variables are matched.

Unfortunately, this special advantage for women, in addition to the newly introduced coaching support for female entrepreneurs, might be shorter-lived than anticipated.

EU Definitions

In the past, the designation of the CEO’s gender in the Funding & Tenders Portal was optional and could be omitted since undisclosed was presented as an alternative option.

In 2021, the newest Horizon Europe grant proposal template changes this and asks their applicants to select their gender among the choices of male, female and non-binary. While, previously, the selection of undisclosed was effectively equal to choosing male when it comes to the evaluation process, it is difficult to imagine that choosing non-binary will have the same effect.

Gender identification and non-binary genders have emerged in recent years with more political power and influence than gender equality and feminism itself which is why this new option might radically change the EIC’s female CEO targets over the coming decade. After all, in today’s times, policies and political opinions are only one viral social media campaign away from being changed overnight.

In an official report by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers from June 2020, the term non-binary is defined as follows:

“An umbrella term for people whose gender identity is not encompassed or represented by ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.”

By simply introducing this option to the evaluation process of a financial instrument such as the EIC Accelerator, the EU might have opened the door for exploitation since gender identity is explicitly not based on biological sex or the time spent within a certain identity. To clarify this, the EC defines gender identity as follows:

“A person’s gender identity is defined as each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of their own gender, whether as a man, a woman or non-binary, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.”

When the beneficial treatment of female CEO’s was announced, it was also made clear that the respective person would have to be in the CEO position for a longer timeframe and not be elected CEO just for the purpose of the EIC Accelerator submission. This covered the obvious weakness of the gender-targets and allowed female CEO’s to receive the benefits as they were intended.

Non-Binary Applicants

By including non-binary genders and by defining gender as, in the EC’s words, a “deeply felt […] experience” without limiting the time spent within that identity, the EC could be opening the door to a reshaping of the playing field. If the status of non-binary becomes equal to the status of a female due to political pressures, then there could be an incentive for all-male CEO’s to designate themselves as non-binary since being non-binary does not need to come alongside a certain lifestyle, look or behaviour.

In fact, being non-binary is subject to no restrictions or societal norms by design.

Conclusion

Of course, such a development is pure speculation and most male CEO’s would have no interest in explaining their gender in front of a jury even if a multi-million grant is at stake. Although, to think that no CEO would make that decision even after a previous rejection is unlikely as well if any critical jury question can simply be dismissed by saying “I would prefer not to discuss my gender identity“.

It will be interesting to see how the EC is handling this new development since balancing a culture of inclusion and social rights with clear-cut targets such as gender equity might not be possible in the long-term. When it comes to democratic government organisations, political pressure will always win over old policies which means that excellent female entrepreneurs should seize their opportunity to apply to the EIC Accelerator now as long as high funding rates of 35% are still enforced.

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 June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 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 2021 EIC Accelerator Work Programme and Newest Updates (SME Instrument Phase 2)

Update 1: The EIC Accelerator Work Programme 2021 was published on March 17th 2021.

Update 2: The EIC has presented the latest news in a YouTube leak which reveals information not found in the published Work Programme.

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is being re-invented and is transitioning from its initial pilot phase into a fully-fledged investment arm of the European Commission (EC) and European Innovation Council (EIC). With the launch of the EIC Accelerator in 2021 having been announced for March 18th 2021, this article discusses the most important aspects of the new Work Programme (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

The new Work Programme includes a different application process, additional evaluation steps and significant technical changes that are relevant for both Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups as well as for professional writers and consultants focusing on preparing successful grant applications (read: Hiring a Consultant).

While the official template for the proposal documents is not published yet, conclusions regarding their set-up can be drawn from the evaluation criteria themselves. All information given in this article is still preliminary but is expected to accurately reflect how the EIC Accelerator will look like under Horizon Europe (2021-2027).

1. General Changes

1.1 Open Calls vs. Strategic Challenges

The EIC Accelerator will follow the previous SME Instrument’s strategy of imposing certain topic restrictions on applicants whereas all applicants will remain eligible for Open Calls but only select projects can apply to the Strategic Challenges. Accordingly, each funding arm will receive its own budget and be subject to specific guidelines with respect to the types of companies that are selected as well as their impact on the EU’s key policy targets.

1.2 Scoring & Ranking System

While the EIC Pathfinder and the EIC Transition will still include scoring and ranking systems, the EIC Accelerator will entirely omit such evaluation methods and solely rely on YES/NO gradings for every step. As discussed in a previous article (read: Analyzing Success Rates for Each Step), this might lead to a non-transparent evaluation process whereas rankings will have to be established internally since this is the only way of controlling the number of beneficiaries.

If there were truly neither thresholds nor rankings then there would likely be an excess of applications successfully progressing to the third evaluation step since the previous EIC Accelerator instalment already saw 30+% of all companies reaching the quality threshold of 13. Only a subsequent ranking process was able to reduce that number to a manageable amount for the interview stage.

1.3 UK Participation

After Brexit, the UK will participate in the EIC Accelerator grant but will not be eligible for equity financing (read: The United Kingdom under Horizon Europe). This, of course, is not to the detriment of UK companies since non-dilutive grants are increasingly sought after and there is no additional risk of receiving an equity-counter-offer that would replace the requested grant.

2. The Application Documents

2.1 Step 1: The Short Application

This first stage will require the preparation of a 5-pager to summarize the project in written form, a 3-minute pitch video and the conventional pitch deck which will later be used for the Step 3 interview.

≥ 5-Pager: The 5-pager does not currently have an official proposal template yet but conclusions can be drawn from the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) criteria in the newest EIC Accelerator work packages (not shown here). The document will likely focus on the Excellence and Impact of the technology with very broad questions regarding its key aspects and why the EU should be interested in the project (see DARPA’s Heilmeier Catechism). The Implementation will receive less attention and only address the quality of the team and the overall risk level of the project (read: Assessing an EIC Accelerator Project).

The EU has additionally given hints at the 5-pager template through its public tender for an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven writing support tool which further illuminates the direction it will take. All in all, the 5-pager should be viewed as a compressed version of the previous full application with a stronger focus on being impressive rather than being detailed or feasible (read: Identifying a Broad Vision).

≥ Pitch Video: The 3-minute pitch video will likely have no restrictions and give full creative freedom to the applicants (read: Pitch Video Production) but it should be treated as a project pitch that is addressing all criteria rather than an advertisement (read: Pitch Video Resources).

≥ Pitch Deck: The pitch deck will likely follow the exact same structure as the previous installations of the Step 3 interviews (read: Pitch Deck Creation).

2.2 Step 2: The Full Application

Once Step 1 is passed, the applicants will be invited to submit a full application to the evaluators which will likely be a 20-30 page document that includes the business plan, financials, work packages as well as annexes that contain information on the company (read: EU Work Packages).

2.3 Step 3: The Remote or In-Person Interview

This step will follow the same structure as previous interviews (read: Preparing for an Interview & The Biggest Mistakes).

3. The Application Process

The application process will likely see great changes with the introduction of an online tool supported by an AI-interface similar to web-based word processors, a re-invented Funding and Tenders Portal as well as the introduction of freezing periods for unsuccessful applicants. It is evident that the EIC has put great thought into increasing the quality of applications but also into filtering out low-quality projects early.

3.1 AI Tool

Similar to GoogleDocs, this web-interface is meant to be used for the writing of the proposal and should give useful assessments and guidelines to support the process. The exact details and its release date are not clear yet but it could be a valuable way of providing immediate feedback to low-quality applications.

3.2 Freezing Periods

≥ Two Attempts: The general approach is to give rejected companies a second attempt while they will be blocked for 12 months from further submissions if they cannot succeed in a respective evaluation Step on their second try. The rules are more complex when it comes to the rejections in Step 3 but all applicants should assume that two attempts are all they will have available and that no submission should be wasted.

Consultants and professional writers often receive inquiries from companies who have applied to the EIC Accelerator on their own but failed, prompting them to seek support from an expert. This was always a great option for startups because there was no risk in preparing an application in-house since professionals could still be hired down the road (read: Should you apply on your Own? & Getting Good at Grant Writing).

Unfortunately, this is currently changing since the risk of failing is now associated with being blocked from any further applications for at least one year and maybe even indefinitely when it comes to a particular company or project. It is expected that many applicants will now seek professional help before even applying on their own to minimize their risk while there could also be a large number of unsuccessful companies seeking out writing support with one out of two rejections already received (read: EIC Accelerator Consulting Industry).

≥ Virgin Projects: Since such freezing periods are a new concept, there will likely be a new focus among professional writers and consultants on virgin projects which have not applied to the EIC Accelerator yet and have a lower risk for rejection. This is expected to become a major factor since success-fees and -rates are key for consultancies while investing time and resources into a project with only one remaining attempt can become an unreasonable risk.

Undoubtedly, the latter risk consideration will prompt consultancies to adjust their pricing model specifically for one-time EIC Accelerator rejectees. As with everything, good intentions can backfire and the EIC’s radical changes to the evaluation process, depending on how they will unfold, could end up harming the startups and SME’s they aim to support.

4. The Evaluation Process

Without scoring, without a transparent ranking system and with automated AI-tools, the evaluation process will change drastically. In the past, the pool of evaluators used for the assessment of applications has frequently faced criticism but the new installation of the EIC Accelerator might mitigate this depending on how the changes will be implemented. One major improvement is the introduction of concrete feedback for rejected applicants, although its exact nature is unknown at this point.

4.1 Step 1

Two evaluators will decide, unanimously, if the application is approved or rejected. If their opinions differ, two new evaluators will be added and the application will be successful if only one of them approves all evaluation criteria. This means that a proposal can win Step 1 if the result is 2/2 or if it is 2/4, provided the approvals are given for all evaluation criteria.

4.2 Step 2

Three evaluators will assess all criteria as in the previous EIC Accelerator installation. They will now also gain access to automated data analysis tools to cross-reference metrics and collect relevant data but the details for this AI tool are not known yet.

4.3 Step 3

6 jurors will evaluate the pitch and have access to all previous applications and feedback. They can also suggest lower grant amounts to be offered in case TRL8+ activities are detected or make a counter-offer consisting of equity financing but they are unable to provide more funding than has been requested (read: Technology Readiness Levels & How the EU Funds TRL’s).

5. Strategic Challenges (Topics)

Outside of the open calls, the newly introduced topics will focus on (1) the green deal, (2a) digital technologies and (2b) health care.

For (1) the Green Deal, 50% of companies invited to the Step 3 pitch have to address (a) batteries and energy stage, (b) green hydrogen and (c) renovation (read: A Proposal Narrative). For (2a) digital technologies and (2b) health care, 40% of interviewees have to address each sub-topic.

Open calls and specific topics will be available in parallel which means that companies have to decide which call they apply to.

5.1 The Green Deal Strategic Challenge (1)

The Green Deal will aim to target the following environmental goals in a similar fashion as the dedicated cut-off in May 2020 (read: The Green Deal EIC Accelerator):

  • Climate mitigation
  • Clean, affordable and secure energy
  • Clean industry & circular economy
  • Efficient building and renovating
  • Sustainable and smart mobility
  • Fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system’s
  • Preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Zero pollution and a toxin-free environment

Specifically, the following technologies and areas are sought after under the 2021 EIC Accelerator Strategic Challenges for the Green Deal:

  • Batteries and Energy Storage: Strategic battery value chain • critical raw materials • recycling • chemical as well as physical storage (including ultracapacitors) • stationary and transport applications.
  • Green Hydrogen: Produce and store renewable hydrogen • different scales • centralized to on-demand • stationary and transport applications.
  • Renovation: Accelerate the growth of the renovation market • energy-efficient buildings • innovative technologies • financial schemes or business models.
  • Low-carbon Industry: De-carbonisation of industries • electrification • circularity • industrial symbiosis • industrial processes • carbon capture storage • digitisation of industrial processes.

5.2 The Digital Technology Strategic Challenge (2a)

≥ Digital technologies: Information and communications technology (ICT) • advanced high-performance computing • edge computing • quantum technologies • cybersecurity • artificial intelligence • block-chain • cloud infrastructure technologies • Internet of Things (IoT).

5.3 The Healthcare Strategic Challenge (2b)

≥ Healthcare technologies: AI-driven diagnostics • point-of-care (POC) diagnostics • cell and gene therapy (esp. cancer) • novel biomarkers for clinical prognosis • patient stratification/monitoring • bioprocessing 4.0 (digitalisation) • healthcare intelligence services • e-health solutions.

6. Ambitions to Control the Outcome

While the evaluation of all EIC Accelerator applicants is expected to be fair and prioritize the Excellence of the project, it is undeniable that there are policies in place that will fix the outcome. These are coming in the form of gender targets, societal impacts and related EU political agendas (read: EU Policies).

≥ Gender Outcomes: 40% all EIC Accelerator interviewee’s in Step 3 of the evaluation process must have female Chief Executive Officers (CEO) while 35% of all funded businesses must meet this criterion (read: Why it’s Great to Be a Woman). To facilitate this, special coaching will be given to female founders and the pool of evaluators, while 40% are already female, will be expanded to meet a 50% female share.

Considering that, without outcome-interventions by the EC, only <5% of beneficiaries had female CEO’s, this new target is an exceptional change but it is not clear how exactly the first two evaluation steps are affected by this Step 3 quota (read: The EIC Accelerator Performance Report).

≥ Sustainable Development: Amongst other targets, the EIC wants to support impact-oriented companies out of which 90% have to address sustainable development goals such as the Green Deal or similar targets. It is not clear how this focus will affect the EIC Accelerator.

≥ Geographic Diversity: A staggering change to the Step 3 pitch is that each EU member state and each associated country has to be represented in the interview stage with a number that is proportionate to the total number of applicants in earlier steps. This means that, for the first time, the EIC Accelerator is imposing geographic restrictions on its beneficiaries. This can be a double-edged sword since it has long been shown that some countries easily meet the 13-score funding threshold (i.e. 50% of applicants) while other countries have a more difficult time (i.e. 10%).

Countries that prioritize quantity over quality will be unfairly rewarded while countries that prioritize quality are being punished. It is still unclear at this point how strictly this rule will be enforced (read: Pre-Requisites for an EIC Accelerator Application).

7. Technical Changes

7.1 Coaching

3 days of coaching will be provided to all successful Step 1 applicants but at the costs of €1,000 per coaching day for the EC. The coaches will likely be external contractors and it is not clear how their experience could contribute to the preparation of the Step 2 application or to the practice of a successful Step 3 pitch.

7.2 Seal of Excellence (SOE)

SOE’S are awarded based on the Impact and Excellence criteria while the Implementation (i.e. risk-level and need for EU support) will be the determining factor to decide if the project is funded or if it is rejected (read: Evaluation Summary Report Analysis).

7.3 Applicants

Applicants can now, for the first time, be natural persons instead of only being Value Added Tax (VAT)-registered companies as long as an SME or Small-Mid Cap is formed prior to signing the EIC Accelerator contract. Of course, the natural person has to be a citizen of the EU or of an associated country (read: Associated Countries).

7.4 Equity

Next to direct equity investments by the EIC Fund in financing rounds initiated by the SME’s themselves (read: Inside Look into EIC Fund), convertible notes and other debt-related funding can be provided to beneficiaries. It is also finally clear that the obscure 30% co-financing of the EIC Accelerator grant can be financed through a parallel equity investment-request, thereby requiring no existing funding sources or revenues to fill the gap.

Direct equity applications without the request for grant support are now possible for applicants although the evaluation and proposal submission will differ.

Equity components can also be postponed by first opting for a grant application (i.e. grant-first) and later re-applying directly for equity-support.

7.5 The Pitch Video

This document will likely be submitted through a link since the cloud storage-needs and the requirement of government institutions to store files long-term would exceed existing capacities. One important repercussion of this decision is that, if startups can self-host their videos, enforcing a 3-minute restriction is extremely difficult since it is not possible to have an automated restriction as it exists for PDF page-limitations (read: Pitch Video Types).

The fairest way of implementing this would be to have direct file uploads to the EU platform and an automated time-trimmer to assure that all applicants only have 3 minutes to work with. If the EIC is using an AI-tool for the proposal development then introducing cloud video-hosting is only a minor challenge.

7.6 Timelines & Feedback

The Step 1 call will be open continuously and have no specified deadline. It will approximately take 4-6 weeks to receive feedback on the Step 1 5-pager whereas both successful and rejected applications will receive comments from the evaluators. For the Step 2 full application, the feedback is expected to be received 5-6 weeks from the cut-off date.

A 4-6 week feedback cycle for Step 1 does seem underwhelming since it is supposed to be a screening Step and not act as a full assessment. The estimated timing will potentially be different in practice and could be as fast as 2-3 weeks.

Face-to-face interviews will be 8-9 weeks after the Step 2 cut-offs (read: Deadlines) while 6 jury members will be responsible for the questions and assessments. EIC Fund associates can also join the pitch but they will not be in a position to ask questions or influence the evaluation result. The interview results will be ready within 2-3 weeks.

7.7 Reimbursement Advances

For short innovation life-cycles, SME’s can apply for a reimbursement advance that matches the grant condition but has to be paid back. With a 70% maximum contribution of €2.5M, the EU can provide financing that has to either be paid back (interest-free) or is converted into equity after a certain time period. The exact nature of the funding opportunity will be published soon but it will likely be at the discretion of the jury members who can directly assess the innovation life-cycle and time-to-market to make a recommendation.

7.8 Budget

Initial communications by the EC suggest that there were meant to be 3 cut-offs for Step 2 in 2021 but they then were reduced to two deadlines. The budget is already set and will be distributed across all topics. As of today, the total budget for 2021 is €1.109BN while the open calls have a €602M budget and the strategic calls share a €507M budget. Considering two parallel calls, namely the open call and the strategic challenges, this would give each cut-off an approximate budget of €554M which is significantly higher than even the COVID-relief and Green Deal cut-offs in 2020 (read: COVID and Green Deal 2020).

7.9 Inclusion of Small-Mid Caps

Historically, the SME Instrument and the EIC Accelerator have focused on SME’s, exclusively, but this will change under Horizon Europe. While SME’s are subject to specific size-restrictions that include the number of employees (max. 250), turnover (max. €50M) and balance sheets (max. €43M), Small Mid Caps can exceed these amounts. While restricted to only equity investments under the EIC Accelerator, companies can be 499-employees in size.

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 June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 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:

Why it’s Important to Have a Diverse Grant Strategy (EIC Accelerator, SME Instrument) – Part 2

This article is a continuation of Part 1 and describes a perspective as to how startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) should view grant applications. Since especially the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is highly competitive and templates can be difficult to work with, care should be taken in pursuing a diverse financing strategy (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction). Especially when working with professional writers or consultancies, it is useful for applicants to have an understanding of the place grants can have for a business.

Post-Project Fund Raising

Irrespective of a single grant being secured or not, any startup should be in contact with some private investors such as Venture Capitalist’s (VC) since they will eventually need to raise post-project financing rounds during their scaling process. The EIC Accelerator, in particular, is even preferring companies that can proactively onboard VC’s on their own which is why it can be a requirement (read: Insight into EIC Equity Financing).

The reimbursement rate is also a factor to consider since often a grant issuer is only funding certain percentages of the presented costs and seeks justifications detailing how the remaining financing will be allocated (i.e. a 70% rate for the EIC Accelerator). Such a scenario makes co-financing a must for pre-revenue startups and should underline how the reliance on a single grant is not the best strategy.

Different Project Focus

Many companies start with one idea and end up pivoting multiple times until the market, timing and innovation match up perfectly. Especially events such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic have led a variety of companies and research institutes to switch their focus because they either saw a significant opportunity on the horizon or had to abandon a project out of necessity.

Grants can be a low-stakes tool to test out a new idea or concept and can be used to pivot into a new market or technology that would not be feasible otherwise. A company can identify its core value proposition and propose a variety of application cases to different funding providers whereas the project that gains traction first will win.

Private over Public Financing

While grants from public sources are lucrative, they tend to be significantly smaller than private funding especially when it comes to innovative for-profit businesses. Grants are an interesting opportunity but should not be an exclusive strategy since it can have additional benefits to onboard a strategic investor or be part of accelerator programs that bring a significant amount of experience to the table.

Like most grants, the EIC Accelerator is lacking in that regard and it should be considered that financing itself is not the only benefit of forming investor relationships since simple decisions can make or break a startups success. Government bodies who issue grants can provide valuable coaching support but, due to their strong reliance on having politicians rather than entrepreneurs in leadership positions, they will always be inferior to private financiers who have a long-term interest in the founder team.

Changing EU Policies

Grants can be fickle especially when it comes to policy-driven opportunities that are recent or en vogue. A perfect example is the Green Deal in the European Union (EU) which has been launched in 2019 and has received a tremendous financing budget in a short time span that even disrupted existing grants (read: Green Deal EIC Accelerator Call). In the same vein, many funding arms in the EU have started to switch towards coronavirus-friendly projects during 2020 due to the emerging pandemic (read: Corona-Virus Call).

Such erratic changes can be a double-edged sword since they can be either beneficial or detrimental to applicants depending on the respective funding increasing or running dry overnight. Private investors are usually less affected by such changes since they are not subject to policies and are not required to operate in the publics best interest albeit regulations can still affect them.

Competing Projects

Lastly, the European Commission (EC) aims to fund innovative projects but, due to the tracking on the Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) database, it is also aware of competing projects that receive funding which can jeopardize a companies success chances in case a competitor has received a grant before. This can be entirely independent of the validity of the business model and can be purely based on the subjective reason that the EU aims to only fund an innovation once. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule but it is wise to identify past grant financing projects before applying with a new project.

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 June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 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.

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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: