The EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) grant program follows a two-step evaluation process consisting of a written application (step 1) and an in-person interview (step 2). Each evaluation stage is equally important but, due to the differing mechanisms for scoring a respective project, the approach for preparing the individual parts of an application should differ as well. Documents 1-3 (i.e. the written application) and Document 4 (i.e. the pitch deck) should be aligned with the following general considerations:
The written application follows a very straightforward evaluation process whereas four reviewers are grading Documents 1-3 according to pre-defined criteria. The full list of these criteria can be found in this article: Using the ESR to Improve Grant Proposal Writing. The written application must appeal to these evaluation criteria as much as possible and the overall rule for these Documents is more is more since missing out on even a single criterion can jeopardize the success of obtaining the grant financing.
Of course, the proposal should still be clearly written, not be a single block of text and have enough spaces as to not appear overcrowded but adding more information is always better than omitting it. It is meaningless to rank very high on a single criterion (i.e. the gender impact or the European aspect) while neglecting criteria such as Key Performance Indicators (KPI), experience in startup scaling or making the technology appear more professional (i.e. see these Design Tips).
The written application must be as complete as possible and function as the perfect representation of a project without any need for further clarification. This is the key difference between the pitch and the written proposal since there will be no option for the reader to give feedback or request more information. Every deficit found in the writing and in the overall presentation will be negatively affecting the score.
The pitch deck, while technically a part of the written application, will be the central focus of the jury during the interview. The jurors might not be familiar with the application and will likely judge the applicant largely based on the information given in the pitch. As such, the presenters have to convey the most important aspects of the project in only 10 minutes which is not enough time to compress all the information found in the written application.
As such, the pitch deck must omit a vast amount of information which might have been relevant for step 1 but is of less relevance to the jury (i.e. gender dimension, new-markets, job creation). The jury will largely focus on the business model (i.e. innovation, competition, customer journey, go-to-market, user needs, projections, etc.) while not being too pre-occupied with a scoring card.
After the 10 min pitch, the jurors have 30 minutes to clarify every question they might have. This is a fundamental difference between step 1 & 2 since it allows the presenter to only hint at certain information during the pitch without fully detailing it. This enables the team to focus on selling the idea and to follow a less is more approach rather than trying to compress as much information as possible. If a juror has a question, they will likely ask it during the 30 minutes of questioning.
There is also a chance of the evaluators having read the application carefully which can then lead to targeted questions regarding specific proposal sections. Such attention to detail only enforces the general rule of less is more since all relevant questions can be answered during the 30 min Q&A. During the pitch, the applicants should focus on presenting an excellent investment opportunity with a great ROI that holds up even if the written application were non-existent.
While the written application is graded with specific ESR criteria and should follow a more is more approach, the pitch given will be in a VC-like setting and, due to the time constraints, a less is more approach is beneficial.
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These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.
Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) under Horizon Europe are:
- Step 1 (short proposal)
- open now
- Step 2 (business plan)
- 1st cut-off: (early 2024)
- 2nd cut-off: -
- 3rd cut-off: -
- 4th cut-off: -
- Step 3 (interview)
- 1st cut-off: -
- 2nd cut-off: -
- 3rd cut-off: -
- 4th cut-off: January 29th to February 9th 2024 (extended again)
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: