Designing Images for an EIC Accelerator Application (SME Instrument Phase 2) – Part 1

The EIC Accelerator grant or blended finance program (incl. equity option, formerly SME Instrument Phase 2) is a highly competitive funding scheme by the European Union and the European Innovation Council (EIC). While the formatting and proposal design should not be the first thing to focus on, without it, the proposal might be evaluated far below its actual worth.

1. Illustrations and Graphics

Professional writers and grant consultants should at least be somewhat skilled in page design and illustration work in order to increase the quality of the application which can significantly improve the chances of success. Editing a proposal to make it more appealing is beneficial since chances are, the reviewers will at least once scroll through the application and only take in the visual aspects to assess the quality.

It is also common practice to pay attention to an image first before reading the respective section since our minds are trying to take shortcuts in the hopes of accelerating the reading process. As such, images are a powerful tool to improve the proposal score and, since they are not mentioned in the official EIC Accelerator proposal template, their importance can easily be missed by the author.

This article presents a very short guide with respect to the images used in EIC Accelerator applications and a variety of approaches regarding their quality. The EIC Accelerator results will be highly influenced by the proposals visual presentation and receiving the grant award, be it on the first submission or re-submission, can well depend on the work applied to illustrations.

2. Quality of the Illustrations

A grant proposal should be visually appealing which means that each page should have some type of image, photo, table, figure etc. in order to draw the readers attention. Outside of formatting tweaks (i.e. lines, boxes, pictograms, overlays, etc.), illustrations are the best way of reaching this goal since they usually contain a compressed message that helps the reader understand a certain principle.

As such, using existing images (i.e. from pitch decks, business plans, websites, market reports) is not always a useful approach since these might have poor formatting (i.e. text that is too small or too much empty space), low image quality or might not be able to convey the principle which is requested through the official EIC Accelerator template.

Outside of photographs, logos and specific technical graphics (i.e. a colour grid graph), it is recommended to re-create all the images relevant to the application to assure that these are perfectly encompassing the message that is to be conveyed. This approach is helpful since having a proposal with consistent font sizes, colour schemes and resolution quality further enhances the applications overall appeal and success chances.

3. Dedicated Illustrations for the EIC Accelerator

Dedicated illustrations that are newly created are especially preferred since many ideas for new ways to convey a certain point emerge during the writing process. An EIC Accelerator proposal is very detailed and requires a certain innovation project of a startup or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) to be looked at from a variety of new angles that have often not been relevant before.

Discussing the timing of the innovation, the Technology Readiness levels (TRL), the financing history, non-bankability or need for EIC support is often not part of any existing pitch decks in a visual form (read: How the EIC Accelerator Funds TRL’s).

In addition, there might be unique parts of the innovation project that perfectly lend themselves to be portrait as an image rather than lengthy text such as projected Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission savings, a specific scientific principle or a complex and multi-channelled commercial strategy.

Part 2 of this article can be found under the provided link.

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

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

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

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

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

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by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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