Writing a successful EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) application is always challenging due to the competitive nature of the grant and the 2 step evaluation process (i.e. written application and in-person interview).
Typical success rates range between 2% and 5% depending on the individual budget and the number of applicants but this does not mean that it’s impossible to receive the financing, it just means that you will have to be dedicated and determined to perfect your proposal until you have reached your target. To not be discouraged by setbacks and to understand that the reviewing process for the written application will require you to cover many parts which are not directly relevant to your business but are relevant to the EU.
With high-quality writing and the determination to improve the application in case of a rejection, you can increase your success rate to at least 30% but there will always be a chance for failure. Attention to detail will ultimately lead you to your goal but you must be committed to placing yourself into the reviewer’s position by not only looking at the official proposal template but by also studying the criteria which are the actual basis for your score.
Writing and Financing
Pre-empt any concerns or questions the reviewer might have by covering all grading criteria convincingly throughout the proposal. Creating a new market or a new value-chain might not be relevant to you and addressing gender equality is in no way part of your business model but if its part of your score then you must address it. Do not consider any text, image or graphic to ever be good enough but treat it as a place holder until you have created a better version.
For a single project, you are able to request up to €17,500,000 in financing (or even more if duly justified) whereas €2,500,000 is the maximum non-refundable grant amount by the European Commission (EC) while €15,000,000 is the equity component by the European Innovation Council (EIC) Fund which requires the applicant to offer company ownership (i.e. 10% to 25%) in exchange. It is possible to either ask for a pure grant or for blended finance (a combination of equity and grant) but it is not possible to ask for equity-only financing.
The grant is always paid as 70% of the presented costs which means that a project which requires €1m will be eligible for a €0.7m grant while the applicant has to explain how the 30% co-financing of €0.3m will be reached. The requested equity amount will be paid in full but there is always the option to receive a counteroffer by the EC if the project budget does not fit the jury’s expectations or assessment.
While the reviewing process (step 1 and 2) will remain the same regardless of choosing grant or blended finance, the contribution itself is managed by the EC in the case of a grant and by the EIC governing bodies with support from the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group in the case of equity financing. The latter is associated with a more sophisticated due diligence process and the project will be offered to a pool of private investors who can provide financing in place of the EIC.
As a result, there are different recommendations with respect to the types of projects or companies that are to be funded by each source. For example, equity financing is targeted at especially high-risk projects that are not attractive for the market yet. This criterion is also important for grant requests but equity financing further identifies companies with low or limited turnover as well as negative EBITDA as preferred targets (see Blended Finance Guidelines).
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)