Category Archives: Phase 2

Investing in Well-Funded Projects: How the EIC is Breaking its Own Rules (EIC Accelerator)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) awards up to €2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity financing per project (€17.5 million total) to startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME).

It is advertised as a risk-taking DeepTech fund that nurtures European innovation and allows companies that are early stage and too high risk for private investors to gain substantial financial investments and scale up to reach the market.

Startups often rely on consultants, professional writers or freelancers to help them assess their success chances since it is well-known that success rates for the EIC Accelerator are as low as 5% (see 2022 Results).

The EIC Accelerators Mission

The 2023 Work Programme 2023 explains the mission of the EIC Accelerator as follows (see Work Programme Analysis):

“The EIC Accelerator focuses in particular on innovations, building on scientific discovery or technological breakthroughs (‘deep tech’) and where significant funding is needed over a long timeframe before returns can be generated (‘patient capital’). Such innovations often struggle to attract financing because the risks and time period involved are too high. Funding and support from the EIC Accelerator is designed to enable such innovators to attract the full investment amounts needed for scale up in a shorter timeframe.“

This means that the EIC Accelerator, especially in the case of grant contributions, is designed to:

  • Fund DeepTech with high capital needs
  • Bridge the funding gap until revenues can be generated
  • Support projects that are too risky to attract private capital
  • Signaling to investors that a project is investable

This describes the ideal case for the EIC Accelerator since any technology that does not fit such criteria but has a groundbreaking and disruptive product would be financed through private markets. The EIC is a special vehicle to support high-risk and high-reward projects rather than to invest in “safe bets” which is not its role.

Breaking the Rules

An interesting exception to this mission has occurred in 2022 and, while this is likely not the only exception, it is an obvious one since it seems to be so far removed from the scope of the EIC that it warrants a discussion.

Note: The name of the company is omitted since this article is focusing on the EIC’s decision-making process and not on any individual beneficiary. Every company funded under the EIC Accelerator is likely well deserving and presents an impressive technology and business case irrespective of the EIC’s original mission. The exact cut-off and industry are likewise obscured.

What Is DeepTech?

The company is operating a software platform used in varying industry applications. Generally speaking, software products exhibit higher difficulty in receiving financing from the EIC Accelerator compared to hardware products due to the lower capital requirements and, generally, the higher availability of funds from private investors who expect faster Return on Investments (ROI) from software products compared to lengthy DeepTech developments.

This was likewise true for the software company in question which, by 2021, had already raised over €24 million in financing. Among EIC Accelerator beneficiaries, this is at the higher end of past funding amounts since most companies at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5-7 are struggling to raise substantial capital.

The company then applied to a Step 2 cut-off in 2022 of the EIC Accelerator for grant-only support. This is an interesting choice since grant-only applications are for a maximum amount of €2.5 million which is dwarfed by the already raised amount in excess of €24 million.

It could have made more logical sense from the EIC’s perspective if the company had difficulty raising a follow-up financing round and required a co-investment from the EIC Fund in the form of equity. This would have translated to blended financing or equity-only support rather than grant-only.

Furthermore, justifying the need for grant support by the EIC is not helped by the fact that the company already has substantial revenues.

A Drop In The Ocean

The EIC Accelerators’ mission is to bridge the financing gap for companies that have difficulties leveraging sufficient funding and are “stuck” in the valley of death between rounds due to lacking investor interest.

This particular software company could not be further from that mission since it had significant revenues, had raised substantial funding and does not obviously meet the general DeepTech case found in capital-intensive hardware projects.

A Role for the EIC

It could still be argued that the grant investment was essential to de-risk the project and to attract additional private financing. But, this would be questionable since the company has high staff numbers with a high burn rate that does not match the financing via grant-only support.

This new financing would be capped at €2.5 million since this is the maximum amount provided by the EIC grant and, since every company has to fill out and justify form fields regarding their difficulty in raising that financing, it should be expected that the same was true for this particular company.

The question becomes – what difference would this grant make for a company in that position? According to the EIC’s mission, it would be to help them if they “struggle to attract financing” or help to “attract full financing”.

As will be evident below, neither option is applicable.

Why Funding From Other Sources Was Not Available

Contrary to the EIC’s mission, funding was clearly available and de-risking the project with a comparatively small grant seemed unnecessary.

The application deadline for the Step 2 submissions is generally multiple weeks ahead of the Step 3 interviews which creates a waiting period between the steps. Right within that time frame, the company raised an additional €25+ million which it announced a few weeks before the Step 3 interview on its website.

This means that the company has raised at least 10-times as much funding as they would request a month later in front of the EIC Jury. It also meant that there was no role for the EIC to play since equity was not requested, funding was available and private investors were willing to invest already.

The EIC Jury was likely aware of the funding round and, even if this was not the case, the due diligence following the successful approval of the EIC Accelerators Step 3 would have identified this fact.

150+ Rejectees

This article is not designed to call out any particular company which is why the name was omitted. A company receiving the EIC Accelerator grant is always a cause for celebration and it shows that it has a timely, disruptive and excellent innovation.

What this article is about is the investigation of the EIC’s decision-making progress.

For the respective Step 2 deadline, 200+ companies were invited to the Step 3 interviews while 150+ companies ended up being rejected. All 150+ rejectees have successfully passed Step 1 and Step 2 which means that they are excellent innovation and business cases.

Some of them have likely resubmitted their applications and obtained the EIC Accelerator funding at a later date (see Resubmissions).

The question becomes: Were there no companies among the 150+ rejectees that fit the EIC’s mission more than the company discussed in this article?

Conclusion: Hypocrisy or Poor Communication?

It is important for the EIC to address cases that are outliers from the general scope of the EIC Accelerator to build trust with the ecosystem and to clearly manage the expectations of future applicants. This likewise extends to the large number of consultancies that are often the first stakeholders to interact with prospective applicants and must make accurate recommendations.

In conclusion, there are a variety of potential motives for this funding decision. The company was largely US-funded and the EIC could have tried to add financing to manufacture a closer relationship to the EU. Equity financing would be preferable but it appears that the beneficiary rejected that by applying for grant-only support.

Another likely explanation is that the Step 3 Jury selects the most investable companies irrespective of the EIC’s mission. The most investable companies are low-risk, have a good business model, have high scale-up potential, have existing revenues and have significant investor interest.

In contrast to the typical DeepTech case.


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:

  • January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open)
  • March 22nd 2023
  • June 7th 2023
  • October 4th 2023

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:

A Short but Comprehensive Explanation of the EIC Accelerator

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) by the European Commission (EC) and European Innovation Council (EIC) is a complex funding instrument for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME).

It is often supported by professional writers, freelancers or consultants since it can be challenging for startups to navigate the lengthy assessment and proposal writing process. This article aims to provide a brief but comprehensive overview of the program to help future applicants decide if the EIC Accelerator is the right instrument for them.

What is the EIC Accelerator?

The EIC Accelerator is a funding program by the European Commission (EC) and the European Innovation Council (EIC) as part of Horizon Europe.

It funds innovative DeepTech companies with grant and/or equity financing of up to €2.5 million and €15 million, respectively (see 2023 Budget).

Applicants can be from the EU-27 countries or from countries associated with Horizon Europe (see Eligibility).

The company’s technology should have reached Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 5 at least and be able to reach TRL8 within 24 months but exceptions can apply (see Technology Readiness Levels).

What does the EIC Accelerator provide?

Next to business acceleration, coaching and networking opportunities, it provides funding in the form of 4 different application options:

  • Grant-only: A non-dilutive grant with the company reaching TRL8 at the end of the project and subsequently reaching TRL9 without the help of the EIC.
  • Grant-first: A non-dilutive grant with the company reaching TRL8 at the end of the project. There is an option to apply for dilutive equity financing from the EIC Fund afterward to reach TRL9 (see Grant-First).
  • Equity-only: Dilutive equity funding from the EIC Fund to reach TRL9.
  • Blended finance: A mix of non-dilutive grant and dilutive equity financing to reach TRL9 at the end of the project.

How do the different funding options finance development work?

In general, grant funding can only be used for activities up to TRL8 (i.e. TRL5 to TRL8) while equity funding can be used for developments up to TRL9 including innovation activities (i.e. TRL5 to TRL9).

What industries can apply and are there topic limitations?

The EIC publishes topics every year in the EIC Work Programme which outlines specific budget allocations. Generally, the budget is split between the options of an “Open” and a “Challenge” Call which are usually available on the same cut-off dates (see Deadline). A company can therefore decide which topic they would like to apply for. The two options are:

  • EIC Accelerator Open: This call is open to applicants of all industries provided they are not violating the agendas of the European Union (EU) in terms of climate, human rights, ethics and other political and social targets.
  • EIC Accelerator Challenges: These topics are clearly defined technology and industry themes that must be achieved or covered by the applicant (see EIC Accelerator Challenges). The applicant can select the respective Challenge during the Step 2 submission process.

When and how can I apply?

The EIC Accelerator generally has 3-4 cut-offs per year which are set for Step 2 submissions (see Deadline). The following conditions apply:

  • Step 1: This step encompasses a short application including a pitch deck (see Pitch Deck), a video (see Pitch Video) and a short proposal. Submitting a proposal is possible at all times since the call is continuously open.
  • Step 2: This step requires a very detailed business plan in addition to multiple annexes such as financials, Letters of Intent (LOI), a Freedom to Operate (FTO) analysis, a Data Management Plan (DMP), a pitch deck and a customizable company profile. After Step 1 has been passed, the applicants can apply to Step 2 to any of the designated deadlines (see Deadlines).
  • Step 3: This step is an interview with the EIC Jury that is usually conducted online through a video call. It encompasses a 10-minute pitch by the applicant using the pitch deck submitted in Step 2 and an up to 35-minute Question and Answer session by the jury (see Interview Preparation). If Step 2 has been passed successfully, the interview dates are generally a few weeks after the Step 2 evaluation was completed.

The EU application process is performed on a dedicated website provided by the EIC where an online form is acting as the proposal template. Each applicant can create the appropriate proposals and begin writing applications inside the web browser although it is recommended to use off-platform templates to prepare all documents in collaboration with a team and then upload the content for the submission.

What does the result of an application look like?

The EIC has increased the level of transparency compared to earlier years and has introduced detailed feedback from evaluators. For Step 1 and Step 2, four or three evaluators will grade the application, respectively, and leave feedback for the applicants.

  • Each evaluator will be able to grade the proposal with a GO or NO GO rating.
  • For Step 1, at least 2/4 of evaluators have to provide a GO for the application to be successful.
  • For Step 2, at least 3/3 of evaluators have to provide a GO for the application to be successful.

Feedback is provided to the applicants irrespective of the GO or NO GO grading through detailed responses by the evaluators for all evaluation criteria (see Evaluation Criteria).

For the Step 3 interviews, a unanimous decision by the EIC Jury is presented and the applicants likewise receive responses regarding the evaluation criteria as well as the GO or NO GO result.

If the applicant passes all three steps, the preparation for the Grant Agreement Contract (GAC) and a due diligence process are initiated.

How long does it take to apply for the EIC Accelerator?

The time it takes to apply for the EIC Accelerator will differ depending on the number of resubmissions and the efficiency of preparing an application. It can be further delayed if the due diligence process is slowed down from the side of the EIC.

In general, one can expect a timeline of 2-4 weeks for the preparation of Step 1 followed by a 5-30 day average assessment period. For Step 2, a 50-70 day preparation period followed by a 30-40 day assessment period should be expected. With the Step 3 interviews following approximately 2-6 weeks after the Step 2 result is obtained, one can add an additional 3-5 weeks to receive the final grading by the EIC Jury.

A fast application process can go from the Step 1 start to Step 3 approval within 6 months if no rejections have occurred and if all documents were prepared efficiently without waiting times.

In case of rejections and multiple resubmissions, the total process can also take multiple years and there is never a guarantee that a project will be funded.

What are the success chances for the EIC Accelerator?

Since the 3-Step application process is complex, it is difficult to estimate exact numbers for success rates. If 1,000 companies apply for Step 1 and 70% receive a GO over multiple weeks then it cannot be determined based on the published data how many of these exact companies proceed to the subsequent Step 2 deadline (see Deadlines).

The metrics are further obscured through the previous batch being able to resubmit their applications or abandon the application entirely.

Based on past data, the following estimations can be made (see 2021, 2022A, 2022B):

  • Step 1: ~67% pass rate
  • Step 2: ~22% pass rate
  • Step 3: ~32.5% pass rate
  • Total EIC Accelerator success rate: 4.8%

What limitations exist regarding the submissions?

The EIC Accelerator has introduced freezing periods for resubmissions whereas every applicant generally receives two attempts for each written proposal step (i.e. “two strikes, you’re out”). This means that a company that has failed twice in Step 1 will be blocked from submitting the same application for 12 months. The same is true for Step 2 applications.

There are nuances in the case of the Step 3 interviews which are explained here: Resubmission Process Explained.

What types of companies actually win the EIC Accelerator grant?

The companies that generally win the EIC Accelerator are often DeepTech hardware businesses but there are likewise software and IT industry winners among the funded projects (complete beneficiary lists are linked here: 2021, 2022A, 2022B).

How do I know if I should apply or not?

Predicting who will receive funding under the EIC is difficult even for seasoned consultancies. While it is possible to estimate the chances, the level of randomness during the evaluation process and the unknown variables introduced by the company during the proposal writing process render any estimate to be speculative.

If the company has an excellent technology, a great team, a scalable business model and is aligned with EU interests then the EIC Accelerator is worth pursuing.

Here is a list of general considerations for an ideal project: A Winning EIC Accelerator Candidate


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:

  • January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open)
  • March 22nd 2023
  • June 7th 2023
  • October 4th 2023

The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

EIC Accelerator 2022 October Results: Funding Rates and Circu Li-ion & Iris.AI Success Cases

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has recently closed its last funding round of 2022 (see Deadlines). Following the multi-step grant application process, the last Step 2 deadline was set on October 5th while the interviews for Step 3 were being conducted in December (see Interview Preparation Process).

Designed for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME), the EIC Accelerator awards up to €2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity financing per project (maximum of €17.5 million total). This article provides an overview of the latest cut-off results as well as useful information for professional writers, freelancers or consultants (see Eligible Applicants).

While the previous cut-off’s have seen high levels of competitiveness with success rates of approximately 5% for all three evaluation steps, this article analyses the success rates for the latest cut-off (see June 2021 & May 2022).

The October 2022 Cut-Off

In general, the total success rates are obscured through the 3-step application process where not all steps are associated with a deadline and not all applicants successively apply to the next steps. Since there is a possibility for re-submitting proposals and skipping application deadlines, the calculations in this article should be viewed as approximate (PDF, article).

Step 1

The exact success rates are difficult to assess but based on past data, an average success rate of 67% can be assumed (June 2021).

Step 2 & 3

Out of 1,092 Step 2 applicants, 240 were invited to the Step 3 interviews (22%) while a total of 78 companies were successfully selected for funding. This yields a total EIC Accelerator success rate of 7.1% starting at Step 2 and an interview selection rate of 32.5% for Step 3.

Multiplying the Step 2 and 3 success rates with the average success rate for Step 1 yields an approximate total success rate for the complete EIC Accelerator application process of 4.8%.

Funding Breakdown

  • Grant-only: 12 funded companies (15.4%)
  • Grant-first: 21 funded companies (26.9%)
  • Equity-only: 1 funded company (1.3%)
  • Blended finance: 44 funded companies (56.4%)

The total budget allocated to the 78 winners is €470 million which corresponds to an average EIC Accelerator ticket size of €6.03 million.

Circu Li-ion Receives the EIC Accelerator Funding

Circu Li-ion (Luxembourg) is addressing one of the greatest challenges of the coming decade: Sustainable battery energy storage. Renewable energy installations, electric vehicles, power tools, micromobility and utility systems all depend on battery storage but Lithium is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive.

With large quantities of batteries reaching their end-of-life after only a few years of operation, Circu Li-ion has identified that there is an urgent need to establish an upcycling ecosystem that is able to scale with the exponential industry growth.

By reusing end-of-life batteries and giving them a second life, Circu Li-ion is addressing a major industry pain point through its automated, data-driven and AI-controlled upcycling technology.

Note: Circu Li-ion was supported by Segler Consulting throughout the entire application process.

Iris.AI

Special congratulations to Iris.AI (Norway) which has received the EIC Accelerator financing as well and was supported by Segler Consulting in some of the application stages.


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:

  • January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open)
  • March 22nd 2023
  • June 7th 2023
  • October 4th 2023

The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

EIC Accelerator 2022 Results and the Vanevo GmbH Success Case

The EIC Accelerator funding (grant and equity, with blended financing option) by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) has recently closed its latest financing cut-off with a total budget of €396.7 million (read: Diverse Grant Strategy).

The 75 winners are startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) from 21 countries who requested grant and blended financing support back in June 2022 and, after passing all evaluation steps, they have finally been rewarded (read: Interview Preparation Process).

The EIC program awards up to €2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity financing per project (€17.5 million total) which provides a lucrative option for startups that are currently building innovative projects, especially those in the DeepTech space.

With the official proposal template having grown in size due to the latest change in the application framework, many companies rely on external consultants, professional writers or freelancers to help them prepare a successful application but it is very feasible to perform such a grant proposal in-house (read: Consultancies for the EIC Accelerator).

EIC Accelerator Results June 2022

The EIC has announced the latest cut-off results online (PDF, Web, Twitter) and the following statistics can be extracted.

Success Rates

986 Step 2 applications were received in the June 15th cut-off with 74% applying for the EIC Open as opposed to the Strategic Challenges. 638 companies (65%) requested blended financing while 158 (16%) requested grant-only and 190 (19%) grant-first.

When regarding the success rates from Step 2, this yields the following percentages for each application type:

  • Grant-first: 24 of 190 applicants succeeded with a 12.6% success rate.
  • Grant-only: 8 of 158 succeeded with a 5.1% success rate
  • Blended financing: 43 of 638 succeeded with a 6.7% success rate
  • Overall: 75 of 986 gives an average success rate of 7.6%

It is important to note that the Step 1 success rates of 50-80% have to be included in the assessment which will lower success rates slightly. It is also interesting to consider that 7 out of the 8 grant-only winners are from the UK who only had the grant-only option. This can be a sign that the EIC wants to avoid handing out pure grants without the chance of following up with the EIC Fund’s equity at a later stage (grant-first) or right away (blended).

Grant vs. Equity

Grant-first: 24 Companies (or 32%) are receiving grant-first contributions which is the model where a company is looking to cover innovation activities up to TRL8 with the EIC contribution. These companies can choose to apply for the EIC Fund’s equity at a later date to reach TRL9 (read: Inside Look into the EIC Fund).

Blended financing: 43 Companies (or 57%) are receiving blended financing which includes both the grant and the EIC Fund’s equity contribution and the expected end of the project is TRL9 (read: Technology Readiness Levels).

Grant-only: 8 Companies (or 11%) have decided to apply for grant-only support with the goal of reaching TRL9. Since this is the only available funding option for UK companies, it is unsurprising that 7 out of the 8 grant-only winners are from the UK.

In total, 43% of all funded companies receive a pure grant while 57% are receiving a mix of grant and equity financing while there are no companies who will receive equity-only support.

Geography

From a geographical perspective, the winners are located in:

  • 13 in France,
  • 8 in Germany,
  • 7 in the United Kingdom,
  • 6 in the Netherlands,
  • 5 in Sweden,
  • 4 in Austria,
  • 4 in Ireland,
  • 4 in Israel,
  • 3 in Belgium,
  • 3 in Finland,
  • 3 in Norway,
  • 3 in Spain,
  • 2 in Denmark,
  • 2 in Italy,
  • 2 in Portugal,
  • 1 in Czechia,
  • 1 in Estonia,
  • 1 in Greece,
  • 1 in Iceland,
  • 1 in Romania,
  • 1 in Slovenia.

Only 21 countries are represented among the winners which means that countries such as Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Latvia or Cyprus as well as all other third countries have had no approved projects during this cut-off.

Budget

Considering the EIC’s statement that 88% of applicants receive grant and equity financing and that there are no equity-only projects during this cut-off, the 32 companies receiving grant-only or -first support are sharing 12% of the total €396.7M budget yielding an average grant of €1.49M.

Vanevo: Successful Grant Application

Vanevo is setting a new standard for RedOx flow batteries through their platform technology approach. By reinventing and simplifying the manufacturing process of the battery stack and delivering a uniquely versatile and scalable business model, they are able to accelerate the mass adoption of RedOx flow technologies in critical sectors that require long-term energy storage.

Supported by Segler Consulting, Vanevo was awarded the EIC Accelerator grant in October 2022 which will allow them to reach commercial readiness and realise their vision of low-cost, sustainable and low-emission energy storage.


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:

  • January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open)
  • March 22nd 2023
  • June 7th 2023
  • October 4th 2023

The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

What To Practise (Improving Answers)

No Flaws

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

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

Address the Concern

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

Pitfall Answers

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

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

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

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

Zoom Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlling the Follow-Up

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

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

Being Self-Centered

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

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

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

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

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

The Confused Question

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

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

Practise “Dumb” Questions

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

Prepare Standard Answers

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

Demeanour of the Answering Person

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

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

Short Answers to Pre-Empt Interruptions

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

There will be more questions than answers.

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

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

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

The Process

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

Previous Articles


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

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) under Horizon Europe are:

  • January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open)
  • March 22nd 2023
  • June 7th 2023
  • October 4th 2023

The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

No Specialised Knowledge

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

Not Investing Themselves

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

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

Ambiguous Evaluation Criteria

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

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

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

Why these criteria could be viewed as being ambiguous:

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

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

Why These Criteria Still Benefit the EIC

High-Risk Projects

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

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

Non-Bankability

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Ferguson, Chair of the EIC Advisory Board

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

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

We will invest unless someone else invests before us.

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

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

Rejecting Over Funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Limited Time & Forced Decisions

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

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

Still, the EIC has multiple due diligence mechanisms:

Step 1

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

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

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

Post-Approval

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

Conclusion

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

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

Other Articles


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

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) under Horizon Europe are:

  • January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open)
  • March 22nd 2023
  • June 7th 2023
  • October 4th 2023

The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

Approaches to Pitch Practise

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

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

What to Expect in a Pitch Interview

Previous articles on the pitch interviews can be found here:

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

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

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

How to Prepare for the Pitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Construct Slides

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

One eye-catching sentence

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

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

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

One image or graphic

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

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

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

A complex concept

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

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

“So, how do we accomplish this?”

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

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

A detailed look

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

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

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

Continuation


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

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) under Horizon Europe are:

  • January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open)
  • March 22nd 2023
  • June 7th 2023
  • October 4th 2023

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 June 2021 EIC Accelerator Results and the STABL Energy GmbH Success Story

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has finally completed its first iteration in 2021 despite the delayed launch of Horizon Europe (2021-2027) and only two deadlines in this first year. With the application process having changed dramatically after Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) ended, many professional writers and consultants had to adapt their approach to grant preparations (read: Re-Inventing the EIC Accelerator). With a longer proposal document, new templates, pitch videos, read-only pitch decks and more supporting information being requested, it was an interesting experiment for both the applicants and the European Innovation Council (EIC).

Many Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups have applied to the EIC’s grant and, as has always been the case, only a fraction has been successful. The following article describes one of these success cases as well as the overall statistics of the June 2021 EIC Accelerator call.

The June 2021 EIC Accelerator Call

With the application process having changed dramatically, it comes as no surprise that there were many differences compared to the 2020 cut-offs. One of these differences is that the final statistics for the June deadline are not as clear as they were in 2020 since the new 3-Step process has an obscured number of total applicants.

This is due to the fact that there is no Step 1 deadline and it is unknown how many of the approved Step 1 projects actually applied to Step 2 in June since a significant number might have delayed the application to October 2021. The information communicated by the EIC is also limited with makes a detailed look at the overall statistics difficult.

Nonetheless, with the information that is available today (Linkedin: Nicolas Sabatier and EIC Support), one can conclude that:

Step 1

On May 17th, 67% or 755 out of 1,114 applicants had passed the threshold and received a GO for Step 1. With the Step 2 deadline having been on June 16th, this number continued to increase since at least 1,523 total Step 1 applications had been submitted at this point in time (but not all were evaluated yet). It is unlikely that all Step 1 successes decided to apply to the June deadline since, due to the limited time, many might have postponed the application to October 2021. If the success rate of selected applications has remained the same and 801 applicants eventually applied to Step 2 then an approximate 1,196 applicants have applied to Step 1 with the intention to apply to Step 2 in June 2021, yielding 801 approved projects and a 67% success rate for Step 1.

Note: To calculate a success rate for June 2021, one has to filter the number of applicants who applied to Step 1 and aimed for the June 2021 cut-off. It must also be considered that many rejected companies might not have applied to Step 2 even if they were selected. Since there is no publically available data on this, the numbers given here are estimated.

Step 2

With the deadline having been on June 16th 2021 (it was delayed by 7 days from its original date), the number of applicants amounted to 801. It was later announced that 130 applicants were selected for the interviews, thereby yielding a 16% success rate for this Step.

Step 3

The EIC Accelerator pitch week occurred via remove video calls with the EIC Jury and was conducted in mid-September 2021. Out of the 130 candidates, 65 were able to convince the Jury and succeed in gaining the EIC Accelerator funding. This yielded a 50% success rate for this Step although 24 Swiss applicants were excluded from the process due to the political developments between the EU and the Swiss government.

Step 1-3 Total

With success rates of 67%, 16% and 50% for the respective Steps, the overall success rate for the June 2021 EIC Accelerator was an approximate 5.4% with 65 out of an estimated 1,196 applicants having been successful.

Additional Statistics

Budget

The original budget in the official EIC Accelerator Work Programme (read: The 2021 EIC Accelerator Work Programme) was set at €500M+ but, due to the lack of excellent cases, it was reduced in retrospect (i.e. only €360M+ were allocated to successful candidates). This is a very interesting development since the 2020 applications tended to have far more suitable candidates while budgets were generally too low.

In fact, all 2020 projects with a score of over 13 out of 15 were technically eligible to receive funding, pending the Jury assessment, and the total budgets requested by said projects were, as an example, €1.8B in January 2020 or €2.7B in May 2020. If a Jury assessment were to be applied and only 50% of selected companies were approved, it would still yield budgets that far exceed the 2021 numbers.

It is clear that the EIC Accelerator has become more selective. But it has also become less selective in some ways.

It is more selective since it had an excess budget but deemed most companies to be unsuitable to receive this funding. It has become less selective since success rates have exceeded 5% while 2020 saw rates between 1% and 3%.

A reasonable conclusion to make is that the new barrier for the EIC Accelerator is not the chasing of decimal points (i.e. a 2020 score of 13.7 could be invited to the interviews while 13.6 is not) but the effort applied to preparing the proposal documents for each step. Since many companies have no interest in spending such an extreme effort for almost a year, the pool of serious applicants will be minimized. If this is a good process will remain to be seen but, clearly, the European Innovation Council is not afraid to innovate.

Note: As this was the first cut-off of the new EIC Accelerator, the success rates and budget allocation might differ greatly for the October deadline and those in 2022.

Gender

The EIC has managed to gain a 20% ratio for female entrepreneurs amongst all beneficiaries (i.e. female CEO’s) due to its strict gender equity goals.

Top 3 Countries

Clear winners during this 2021 Call in June were France (18% of the successful beneficiaries), Germany (17%) and the Netherlands (12%).

Type of Funding

92% of successful applicants received both grant and equity financing (blended finance) according to the EIC’s Twitter account but this data does not seem to fit the beneficiaries list. The more accurate and official list of all beneficiaries shows the following statistic:

  • 31/65 blended (48%)
  • 5/65 grant-only (8%)
  • 24/65 grant-first (37%)
  • 5/65 equity-only (8%)

Note: The given statistics of 92% of applicants receiving grant and equity financing would fit if either the 8% grant-only or the 8% equity-only was excluded from the total. Although, this does not seem to yield an accurate statement and is likely an error.

EIC Accelerator Success: STABL Energy GmbH

One of the 11 funded German projects is STABL Energy GmbH which has been among the 5% of selected applicants. During the 6 month process after Step 1 opened in April 2021, they were able to successfully pass all three Steps of the EIC Accelerator evaluation and succeed in securing blended financing under the EIC.

STABL is developing innovative power electronics for Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) and, with their modular approach, they are able to deliver unprecedented benefits to the industry such as higher energy efficiency, software control, unique data services and lifecycle extensions through second-life use cases.

Why STABL was the perfect fit for the EIC Accelerator

STABL is enabling a sustainable, versatile and future-proof energy storage ecosystem that serves all relevant industries such as utilities, renewables and electric transport. As such, it was able to be part of the Green Deal Strategic Challenge and was an ideal fit for the subsegment of Battery and Energy Storage which was amongst the preferred project types (read: EIC Accelerator Work Programme).

In addition, STABL is a startup with high-level partnerships, traction and an excellent management team. The EIC aims to fund ambitious companies such as STABL that have a strong vision and the capability to realise them as well as the ability to change the European technological landscape for the better.

Note: Segler Consulting has supported STABL Energy GmbH for the entire application process.


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:

  • January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open)
  • March 22nd 2023
  • June 7th 2023
  • October 4th 2023

The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) under Horizon Europe are:

  • January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open)
  • March 22nd 2023
  • June 7th 2023
  • October 4th 2023

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) under Horizon Europe are:

  • January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open)
  • March 22nd 2023
  • June 7th 2023
  • October 4th 2023

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: