The EIC Accelerator financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) by the European Commission (EC) and European Innovation Council (EIC) uses a 3-step evaluation process to select successful startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME).
It awards up to €2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity financing per project (€17.5 million total) but the application process is often lengthy and can be subject to randomness especially in the last interview stage (see EIC Accelerator 2020 Report).
Applicants often rely on professional writers, freelancers or consultants to support them through this process since it can be challenging to perform in-house (see What is the EIC Accelerator?).
This article presents a brief breakdown of the statistics related to companies that have been invited to the Step 3 interviews in November 2021 of which some were successful and some were unsuccessful.
Note: The information in this article is based on a complete list of invitees to the Step 3 interviews for October 2021 which is publicly available as of today – albeit likely unintentionally. It is not linked here since the original document contains personal information related to the invited companies.
The October 2021 Interviews
The last cut-off in 2021 was on October 6th which closed the first year of the new EIC Accelerator program in its reinvented form. 1,109 companies applied in Step 2 out of which 211 or 19% were successfully invited to the Step 3 interviews (see EIC Accelerator Interview Success Rates).
In the interviews, the selection rate was remarkably high with 99 companies or 47% being successful in the process, leading to an overall success rate for the EIC Accelerator of 9%, excluding Step 1. The 99 winners were able to access a €627 million budget albeit a majority in the form of equity which is still delayed (see EIC Fund).
The types of technologies and industries funded under the EIC Accelerator are always subject to the Strategic Challenges of that year (see 2021 Work Programme). In 2021, there were two Strategic Challenges, namely Digital Health and Green Deal technologies which greatly influenced the criteria for both the Step 2 and Step 3 selections.
Due to COVID-19’s status as a global health crisis in 2021 and the EIC’s Digital Health focus, the participation of health-related projects was exceptionally high and greatly outperformed all other industries.
It is aligned with the EIC’s general focus on DeepTech with most projects focusing on very scientific and technical industries related to health, engineering, environment, agriculture, energy and BioTech.
Interestingly, the transport sector was only funded at a 14% rate which is understandable since it is a highly competitive industry that often relies on public subsidies and is difficult to penetrate. This often leads to a high-risk profile that the EIC is not entirely comfortable with.
Agriculture and space projects have seen the highest funding rates while construction and security projects saw the lowest rates but such statistics have limited significance due to the small sample sizes.
The EIC Accelerator is generally available to all EU member states and countries associated with Horizon Europe (see All Eligible Applicants). In that context, it is interesting to analyze which countries are generally performing well in the interview since the EIC rarely publishes such data.
While the EIC does publish the nationalities of the winning companies, the losing companies and their nationalities are obscured. This makes sense since the EIC wants to encourage the participation of as many countries as possible since every country is effectively paying a participation fee but it would be of little interest to reveal an unequal funding selection.
It is no surprise that the most winners in the EIC Accelerator for October 2021 were also from the countries that have seen the highest number of passing Step 2 applications with France, Germany, Israel, Spain and the Netherlands taking the lead. Success rates in the Step 3 interviews ranged from 48% to 57% for the top countries but showed significantly higher variabilities for the remaining countries.
Due to the small sample sizes, the data is not fully representative as a whole but it is obvious that Norway, Denmark and Belgium had particularly poor outcomes with only 20%, 27% and 17% success rates.
For applicants from Portugal, Hungary and Slovenia, the outcomes were even worse whereas the representatives of these countries were rejected by the EIC Jury at a 100% rate even after passing Step 1 and Step 2 and in spite of the 47% overall success rate in Step 3.
Croatia, Lithuania and Romania were far more lucky with all of the country’s representatives being funded.
The EIC Accelerator has a complicated resubmission procedure which generally allows for only two attempts before a freezing period is reached but there are certain exceptions (see Resubmission Process). It is possible for applicants that have been rejected in Step 3 to be re-invited to the next Step 3 interviews without requiring a Step 2 resubmission.
Such direct invitations have been noted in the EIC Accelerator Step 3 interviewee list and it is obvious that their success was far more likely. Out of 11 direct invitations, a total of 9 or 82% were successful while only 45% were successful for standard invitations from Step 2 submissions.
Due to the small sample size and the influence of the specific Work Programme, the takeaways from this article are limited but it is still obvious that certain countries, industries and mechanisms such as direct invitations have more success than others.
The EIC should publish such data periodically since it is insightful and can help applicants and consultants in making decisions regarding the EIC Accelerator. It would be beneficial if they further publish anonymized information regarding the team size, financing status, revenue range and customer numbers to allow prospective applicants to gain a realistic view of their success chances.
Further, statistics related to Step 2 success chances based on simplified data of industries, team sizes and others would likewise benefit the ecosystem even if they are provided as simple spreadsheets.
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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) under Horizon Europe are:
- Step 1 (short proposal)
- open now
- Step 2 (business plan)
- 1st cut-off: -
- 2nd cut-off: -
- 3rd cut-off: June 7th 2023
- 4th cut-off: October 4th 2023
- Step 3 (interview)
- 1st cut-off: -
- 2nd cut-off: May 22nd to June 2nd
- 3rd cut-off: September 11th to 22nd
- 4th cut-off: November 27th to December 8th
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:
A Quick FTO Guide for EIC Accelerator Applicants in a Rush
2023 Budget Allocations for EIC Pathfinder, Transition and Accelerator
Developing the Unique Selling Points (USP) for the EIC Accelerator
Explaining the Resubmission Process for the EIC Accelerator
A Short but Comprehensive Explanation of the EIC Accelerator
Deciding Between EIC Pathfinder, Transition and Accelerator
A Winning Candidate for the EIC Accelerator
EIC Accelerator Interview Preparation Process: Scripting the Pitch (Part 1)