Part 1 of this article can be found under the provided link.
4. Image Guide for Selected Sections
Whatever type of EIC Accelerator (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2 – grant, equity and blended finance) project it is, in almost all cases, it is useful to create or re-create certain images. A professional writer or consultant should always be aware of the impact of graphics and design on the evaluation process which can be applied to both the proposal (i.e. following the application template) and the EIC Accelerator interview (i.e. the pitch deck).
The following is a shortlist of a few selected image principles under the Excellence section of an EIC Accelerator application:
The introduction sets the stage for the entire application since it connects the innovation and business plan with the context of its European and global impact (read: Identifying a Broad Vision). As such, the images found in this section should be to-the-point and perfectly exemplify the environmental, political, social or commercial issue that is to be solved by the project.
Such a graphic can summarize a whole page of text and express it in simple terms through numbers and charts in order to quickly get a point across. It ideally follows a narrative flow where one fact leads to another and culminates in the main lynchpin of the problem (or business opportunity).
It can sometimes be useful to introduce a certain type of technology or principle before the innovation of the respective startup or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) is detailed. If this is the case, a compact schematic graph or mindmap-like concept chart can be introduced to explain how the technology works in a general sense (i.e. explaining electric microgrids, a chemical process, an IT architecture, etc.) since it will enhance the evaluators understanding of the following product description.
If there is no need to introduce a basic technology principle ahead of the product description, the same principle can also be applied to further illustrate the missing link (read: Providing the Missing Link) and describe what exactly a solution would need to exhibit in order to fill the need as well as its general effect on the problem. Such a graphic helps the evaluators to visualise the overall strategy of fixing the problem and shows how it will be solved.
The Solution section (i.e. the product presentation) should be very visual and, according to the chosen subsegments, help the reviewers properly understand what each product feature or constituent looks like and how it operates.
As such, the types of images used in this section can be very broad and can range from concept charts over simple product photos to screenshots of reports, production machinery, the User Interface (UI) or back-end analytics.
Generally speaking, it can make sense to begin this section with a concept graphic to fully explain the way the innovation is applied or operates and then to segway into images that represent the software side of the product, followed by the hardware components (if applicable) or any other type of sub-classification.
The Innovativeness section revolves around technological and commercial differentiators from the competition which lends itself to adding comparison tables, axis graphics, overlapping-circles graphs or similar variations.
Tables are often the most essential type of graphic in such a section since they allow the clear communication of unique value propositions while showcasing a complete list of the shortcomings of competitors.
In addition, it can make sense to introduce other types of figures into this section which are more technically oriented rather than targeting specific competing differentiators. This might be useful to introduce principles that are true across all competing technologies and are a fact based on the technology-type itself but only represent a small aspect of the overall innovation.
As an example, this can be the comparison of a chemical process with technological alternatives (ie. visualised through a column diagram), a technical principle that bypasses common problems or a variation of an established technical design. Since such comparisons are unique to each EIC Accelerator project, these should be customized for each specific case.
4.5 Timing and Technology Readiness Levels (TRL)
Using timelines and scheme’s to accentuate the past and future developments of a project is always a useful approach to simplifying the evaluation process and improve the proposals score. The timing can be illustrated through a comparison of past and future whereas the current point in time can be highlighted as a unique opportunity to invest now.
The TRL stages have to be addressed in the text since they are an integral part of the official EIC Accelerator template and are also looked for during the evaluation (read: How the EIC Accelerator Funds TRL’s). TRL’s can be presented in a variety of ways by either segmenting the past (ie. TRL1-6) from the future developments (i.e. TRL6-9) or by summarizing the entire project timeline into a full-width spread.
This simple graphical choice can significantly help the evaluators to assess the proposals development stage and benefit the grading of the respective criteria (read: Using the Evaluation Summary Report).
5. Illustration Software to Use
There are no established best practices for the software choices in grant proposal writing since the outcome is all that matters and there are many great choices for software available (read: Software Choices for the Annexes and Microsoft Word vs. Adobe InDesign).
The two general choices for the preparation of dedicated proposal images are vector graphic software products (i.e. Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw) and slide software (i.e. Powerpoint or Google Slides) since they use an artboard-type work environment with responsive elements for drag-and-drop use.
- Slide software has the benefit of being very easy to use and allowing the selection of many presets for shapes and forms that can be used immediately (i.e. arrows, lines, boxes) as well as great design choices (i.e. fills, shadows, inner glow, transparency, opacity).
- Vector graphics, while requiring slightly higher skill levels, has the benefit of providing extensive features to not only design but also customize every image perfectly.
If one is able to use both software choices equally well then the result of vector graphic software will always be higher in quality, more customized and be much faster to create. Vector graphics software also lends itself to working with customized pictograms (read: EIC Accelerator Proposal Design Resources) and other imported vector graphics that can be used without tedious conversions.
6. Page Design
Lastly, the general formatting of the application and the overall page design is an important means to increase the EIC Accelerator proposals appeal. Using a cover page, consistent colours, easy-to-read spacing/fonts, a table of contents and visually separated headers and sub-headers are a simple but useful last step in creating a competitive application.
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) are January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open), March 22nd 2023, June 7th 2023 and October 4th 2023 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.
Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.
EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).
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by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting
General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles:
- EIC Accelerator Interviews: Pitch Deck vs. Proposal Documents (SME Instrument)
- Choosing a Good Project for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- The EIC Accelerator Budget: Grant vs. Blended Finance (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- EIC Accelerator – Introduction and Blended Finance (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- EIC-Accelerator Writing: Providing the Missing Link (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- The Biggest Mistakes When Applying to the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- Identifying a Broad Vision for an EIC Accelerator Project (SME Instrument Phase 2)