Pictograms can be very helpful in designing concept graphics and in increasing the general appeal of figures and images. Since a single project might have very specific needs regarding the type and look of the desired illustrations, a large database of pictograms is highly beneficial.
The Noun Project offers just that. A database with thousands of pictograms that can be used under a Creative Commons / Royalty-Free license. Here, it is possible to find any type of pictogram that would be useful in enhancing the quality of images and graphics.
If you are using Adobe Illustrator, these images can be directly downloaded and imported as SVG or as PNG files (i.e. the latter can be expanded to yield a vector graphic) which gives significantly more control over colours and shapes.
2. Vector Graphics
Vector graphics can be particularly helpful for the design of the proposal page and for the use in certain illustrations. FreePik and Vecteezy offer large databases consisting of images, vector graphics and illustrations that can help make an application more appealing but can also help in creating a more professional look. Vector designs can be useful for the presentation of headers, the deigns on page margins or for the preparation of a cover page and pitch deck.
Next to the general design (i.e. search for keywords such as business or tech), FreePik can also help in finding device overlays that can be used to place software screenshots (i.e. a UI Dashboard) inside of laptop or smartphone screens. This can be done with Adobe Photoshop (i.e. PSD file format) and can greatly enhance the look (and impact) of a simple screenshot.
There is always a use for images and photos to further enhance the presentation of an application. While Document 1 does usually not require any photographs due to the strict space limitations, Document 2 (i.e. the annexes) and Document 4 (i.e. the pitch deck) can benefit greatly from well-placed images to improve the story-telling.
You can utilise a vast database of royalty-free images from websites such as PixaBay or Unsplash which offer thousands of photographs at no cost (i.e. Creative Commons). These images can be used for the visual structuring of a narrative or just act as a background (i.e. with opacity) to create an appealing watermark-like effect.
4. Image Converter
As a writer or professional consultant, you will often find yourself looking for company logos and other related graphics which need to be taken directly from the respective companies website. Such images are frequently presented in WebP/SVG formats or similarly compressed files which can not be simply fetched like other images (i.e. these cannot be placed in proposal documents). This is done to increase website speed but it is to the detriment of writers who quickly want to implement a logo or image.
Outside of tediously taking and cropping a screenshot, a fast workaround is to use an online converter which can quickly extract the image as a high-quality PNG or JPG file. An example of this is CloudConvert which offers such conversions for free.
For a successful EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) application, the main writing of Document 1 and 2 should stick to the given template guidelines (i.e. Arial or similar at min. 11 pt) but for the headers, images and especially the pitch deck, you have more creative freedom regarding the design of a professional grant application.
Free fonts can be found on websites such as Google Fonts and Adobe Fonts where entire font families can be viewed and easily downloaded. Especially Google Fonts allows the simple scrolling through a multitude of options and finding a font that fits the Corporate Identity or is visually appealing. Examples of interesting fonts for headers are Raleway, Quicksand or Montserrat.
6. Colour Palettes
Colour is an especially important part of a grant application and it is beneficial to decide upon a certain style for the entire proposal prior to working on images or headers. It is recommended to have a proposal consisting of a single main colour or of a primary and a secondary colour to not overload the reader.
Choosing these colours is highly dependant on taste, the type of technology and the general company image. It is useful to just experiment with colours in an empty document and to create colour couples which work well together.
A colour picker tool is the Adobe Color Wheel which allows the advanced selection and experimentation with certain styles. This is not only beneficial for financing applications but is also helpful for the creation of illustrations and slide designs in general.
7. Pitch Deck Design
Lastly, Document 4 of the EIC Accelerator Phase 2 application (i.e. the pitch deck) will need to be designed as well and there is not much guidance from the European Commission as to how it should look like. There is a template for the SME Instrument pitch but the overall structure is very broad and does not aid in creating a presentable design.
A great resource for such pitch designs is SlideBean which is dedicated to creating better pitch decks for startups and SME’s (i.e. they offer an AI-based slide creation tool). The free version provides useful examples from companies such as Uber or Airbnb which can be utilized as a template to craft a suitable pitch for the EIC Accelerator Interviews (i.e. for the Green Deal pitch in June 2020 or for the October cut-off).
If you enjoyed this article then please feel free to also check out other articles regarding the correct narrative of the application, information on how to identify a good project and what software to use (i.e. Microsoft Word vs. Adobe InDesign).
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 likely be on March 23rd 2022, June 15th 2022 and October 5th 2022 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:
- 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)