EIC Accelerator Writer

The following collection of articles is relevant for EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) applicants who seek to improve their writing and success chances under the competitive evaluation process. If you want to seek professional support for the writing and submission of a grant application then please reach out via this contact form:

Reach out to Segler Consulting:

    Articles:

    Lessons from the EIC Accelerators Pitch Video Shooting (SME Instrument)

    The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has recently introduced pitch videos into the evaluation process which presents a new challenge for professional grant writers, freelancers and consultancies (read: New Application Process). While there are no official guidelines or templates for the process of shooting a pitch video, this article looks at some brief lessons learned from preparing such videos with clients in a remote fashion.

    Information on how to structure a pitch video (read: Video Selection), how to script the video (read: Video Scripting) and how to remotely organize the shooting (read: Video Shooting) can be found elsewhere.

    1. The Video Script is Everything

    One of the restrictions of the EIC Accelerator pitch video is the length which is limited to only 3 minutes. This can be a surprisingly difficult challenge if the footage recorded by the Step 1 applicant, a Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) or startup, is very difficult to shorten without losing the storyline or making certain sections non-sensical.

    Having a clear script that goes over all relevant sections of the project and is brief but succinct is important since it allows to cut out segments without impeding the overall story. Since it is advisable to always record more than the needed footage, cutting the length of content becomes an important task for the proposal writer.

    If a great script has been prepared in advance, the video editor can always fall back on it and never needs to worry about the 3 minutes not telling a cohesive story. Not being able to include every single part of the project’s story is to be expected but the script should be holding up even if certain parts are omitted in the final cut (read: Story Lines).

    2. Simple Tips for Pitch Recordings Go a Long Way

    Applying SME’s and startups need sufficient guidance for the video recording. A video editor or videographer might take certain things for granted but these aspects could be entirely foreign to the management team of a technology company.

    Every consultant or freelancer should present their clients not only with a pre-written script and instructions as to which members should partake in the shooting but also prepare guidelines for best practices. Information on ideal camera choice, settings (framerates, ISO, shutter speed, etc.), lighting and background setup can easily increase the video quality.

    A limitation to this is the presentation of the CEO and the management team in general since preparing extra coaching for an exciting and enthusiastic video will likely be exceeding both the time and resources one should spend on the video. Still, giving some guidance as to how to transmit personality and excitement can be very helpful.

    3. Small Editing Techniques are Key

    Just cutting recorded footage together is one way of preparing the video but small additions such as stock footage, effects, titles and similar techniques can significantly increase the quality of the content.

    Every applicant can assume that all the selected evaluators will watch the videos from start to finish at least once but this does not mean that boring videos will make the same impression as entertaining ones.

    Having a professionally produced video is by no means a requirement but producing an entertaining video does not require professional production quality. Understanding what the listener wants to know as well as making sure that there is a start, a middle and an end while constantly keeping the viewer’s attention is key.

    The thought after watching the video should be: “Wow, the project seems really interesting and the team seems great!“. A video that is bland and uninviting might make the first impression of the team less favourable since motivation, alongside competence, is an important criterion in the evaluation as well (read: Design Resources).

    4. Adapting to the Client

    Every client is different and has a different starting point when it comes to content creation. Some have extensive footage available and routinely do interviews or pitch their products in video format while others have been in stealth mode and have never recorded a single second of footage. This project diversity likewise extends to the video structuring and editing process since two projects can require different coverage durations for their unique segments.

    The same is true for the technology itself since not all projects can be easily translated into video format. Showing how an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm looks in an appealing manner is nearly impossible while demonstrating a hardware production process or data visualisation tool lends itself far more readily to the video format.

    Time and geographic constraints are other determining factors since many teams are operating remotely and there might be a lack of time or accessibility to collect all the needed footage. A laboratory might be empty and in sleep mode until the regional COVID-19 lockdown is completed while team members could be busy with core business activities.

    Summary

    The following key lessons apply to the EIC Accelerator pitch video shooting for Step 1 of the evaluation process:

    • Scripting: Having a solid script prepared will make sure that the final video has a distinct storyline.
    • Guidance: Most applicants will need help with the pitch recording and this should be provided by the consultant or writer.
    • Editing: This will be valuable in order to give the footage a semi or fully professional look and grab the viewers attention.
    • Adapting: Every startup or SME has different footage available and different capabilities which means that guidelines must be adapted if needed.

    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.

    Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

    For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



    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:

    The 2021 EIC Accelerator Work Programme and Newest Updates (SME Instrument Phase 2)

    Update 1: The EIC Accelerator Work Programme 2021 was published on March 17th 2021.

    Update 2: The EIC has presented the latest news in a YouTube leak which reveals information not found in the published Work Programme.

    The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is being re-invented and is transitioning from its initial pilot phase into a fully-fledged investment arm of the European Commission (EC) and European Innovation Council (EIC). With the launch of the EIC Accelerator in 2021 having been announced for March 18th 2021, this article discusses the most important aspects of the new Work Programme (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

    The new Work Programme includes a different application process, additional evaluation steps and significant technical changes that are relevant for both Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups as well as for professional writers and consultants focusing on preparing successful grant applications (read: Hiring a Consultant).

    While the official template for the proposal documents is not published yet, conclusions regarding their set-up can be drawn from the evaluation criteria themselves. All information given in this article is still preliminary but is expected to accurately reflect how the EIC Accelerator will look like under Horizon Europe (2021-2027).

    1. General Changes

    1.1 Open Calls vs. Strategic Challenges

    The EIC Accelerator will follow the previous SME Instrument’s strategy of imposing certain topic restrictions on applicants whereas all applicants will remain eligible for Open Calls but only select projects can apply to the Strategic Challenges. Accordingly, each funding arm will receive its own budget and be subject to specific guidelines with respect to the types of companies that are selected as well as their impact on the EU’s key policy targets.

    1.2 Scoring & Ranking System

    While the EIC Pathfinder and the EIC Transition will still include scoring and ranking systems, the EIC Accelerator will entirely omit such evaluation methods and solely rely on YES/NO gradings for every step. As discussed in a previous article (read: Analyzing Success Rates for Each Step), this might lead to a non-transparent evaluation process whereas rankings will have to be established internally since this is the only way of controlling the number of beneficiaries.

    If there were truly neither thresholds nor rankings then there would likely be an excess of applications successfully progressing to the third evaluation step since the previous EIC Accelerator instalment already saw 30+% of all companies reaching the quality threshold of 13. Only a subsequent ranking process was able to reduce that number to a manageable amount for the interview stage.

    1.3 UK Participation

    After Brexit, the UK will participate in the EIC Accelerator grant but will not be eligible for equity financing (read: The United Kingdom under Horizon Europe). This, of course, is not to the detriment of UK companies since non-dilutive grants are increasingly sought after and there is no additional risk of receiving an equity-counter-offer that would replace the requested grant.

    2. The Application Documents

    2.1 Step 1: The Short Application

    This first stage will require the preparation of a 5-pager to summarize the project in written form, a 3-minute pitch video and the conventional pitch deck which will later be used for the Step 3 interview.

    ≥ 5-Pager: The 5-pager does not currently have an official proposal template yet but conclusions can be drawn from the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) criteria in the newest EIC Accelerator work packages (not shown here). The document will likely focus on the Excellence and Impact of the technology with very broad questions regarding its key aspects and why the EU should be interested in the project (see DARPA’s Heilmeier Catechism). The Implementation will receive less attention and only address the quality of the team and the overall risk level of the project (read: Assessing an EIC Accelerator Project).

    The EU has additionally given hints at the 5-pager template through its public tender for an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven writing support tool which further illuminates the direction it will take. All in all, the 5-pager should be viewed as a compressed version of the previous full application with a stronger focus on being impressive rather than being detailed or feasible (read: Identifying a Broad Vision).

    ≥ Pitch Video: The 3-minute pitch video will likely have no restrictions and give full creative freedom to the applicants (read: Pitch Video Production) but it should be treated as a project pitch that is addressing all criteria rather than an advertisement (read: Pitch Video Resources).

    ≥ Pitch Deck: The pitch deck will likely follow the exact same structure as the previous installations of the Step 3 interviews (read: Pitch Deck Creation).

    2.2 Step 2: The Full Application

    Once Step 1 is passed, the applicants will be invited to submit a full application to the evaluators which will likely be a 20-30 page document that includes the business plan, financials, work packages as well as annexes that contain information on the company (read: EU Work Packages).

    2.3 Step 3: The Remote or In-Person Interview

    This step will follow the same structure as previous interviews (read: Preparing for an Interview & The Biggest Mistakes).

    3. The Application Process

    The application process will likely see great changes with the introduction of an online tool supported by an AI-interface similar to web-based word processors, a re-invented Funding and Tenders Portal as well as the introduction of freezing periods for unsuccessful applicants. It is evident that the EIC has put great thought into increasing the quality of applications but also into filtering out low-quality projects early.

    3.1 AI Tool

    Similar to GoogleDocs, this web-interface is meant to be used for the writing of the proposal and should give useful assessments and guidelines to support the process. The exact details and its release date are not clear yet but it could be a valuable way of providing immediate feedback to low-quality applications.

    3.2 Freezing Periods

    ≥ Two Attempts: The general approach is to give rejected companies a second attempt while they will be blocked for 12 months from further submissions if they cannot succeed in a respective evaluation Step on their second try. The rules are more complex when it comes to the rejections in Step 3 but all applicants should assume that two attempts are all they will have available and that no submission should be wasted.

    Consultants and professional writers often receive inquiries from companies who have applied to the EIC Accelerator on their own but failed, prompting them to seek support from an expert. This was always a great option for startups because there was no risk in preparing an application in-house since professionals could still be hired down the road (read: Should you apply on your Own? & Getting Good at Grant Writing).

    Unfortunately, this is currently changing since the risk of failing is now associated with being blocked from any further applications for at least one year and maybe even indefinitely when it comes to a particular company or project. It is expected that many applicants will now seek professional help before even applying on their own to minimize their risk while there could also be a large number of unsuccessful companies seeking out writing support with one out of two rejections already received (read: EIC Accelerator Consulting Industry).

    ≥ Virgin Projects: Since such freezing periods are a new concept, there will likely be a new focus among professional writers and consultants on virgin projects which have not applied to the EIC Accelerator yet and have a lower risk for rejection. This is expected to become a major factor since success-fees and -rates are key for consultancies while investing time and resources into a project with only one remaining attempt can become an unreasonable risk.

    Undoubtedly, the latter risk consideration will prompt consultancies to adjust their pricing model specifically for one-time EIC Accelerator rejectees. As with everything, good intentions can backfire and the EIC’s radical changes to the evaluation process, depending on how they will unfold, could end up harming the startups and SME’s they aim to support.

    4. The Evaluation Process

    Without scoring, without a transparent ranking system and with automated AI-tools, the evaluation process will change drastically. In the past, the pool of evaluators used for the assessment of applications has frequently faced criticism but the new installation of the EIC Accelerator might mitigate this depending on how the changes will be implemented. One major improvement is the introduction of concrete feedback for rejected applicants, although its exact nature is unknown at this point.

    4.1 Step 1

    Two evaluators will decide, unanimously, if the application is approved or rejected. If their opinions differ, two new evaluators will be added and the application will be successful if only one of them approves all evaluation criteria. This means that a proposal can win Step 1 if the result is 2/2 or if it is 2/4, provided the approvals are given for all evaluation criteria.

    4.2 Step 2

    Three evaluators will assess all criteria as in the previous EIC Accelerator installation. They will now also gain access to automated data analysis tools to cross-reference metrics and collect relevant data but the details for this AI tool are not known yet.

    4.3 Step 3

    6 jurors will evaluate the pitch and have access to all previous applications and feedback. They can also suggest lower grant amounts to be offered in case TRL8+ activities are detected or make a counter-offer consisting of equity financing but they are unable to provide more funding than has been requested (read: Technology Readiness Levels & How the EU Funds TRL’s).

    5. Strategic Challenges (Topics)

    Outside of the open calls, the newly introduced topics will focus on (1) the green deal, (2a) digital technologies and (2b) health care.

    For (1) the Green Deal, 50% of companies invited to the Step 3 pitch have to address (a) batteries and energy stage, (b) green hydrogen and (c) renovation (read: A Proposal Narrative). For (2a) digital technologies and (2b) health care, 40% of interviewees have to address each sub-topic.

    Open calls and specific topics will be available in parallel which means that companies have to decide which call they apply to.

    5.1 The Green Deal Strategic Challenge (1)

    The Green Deal will aim to target the following environmental goals in a similar fashion as the dedicated cut-off in May 2020 (read: The Green Deal EIC Accelerator):

    • Climate mitigation
    • Clean, affordable and secure energy
    • Clean industry & circular economy
    • Efficient building and renovating
    • Sustainable and smart mobility
    • Fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system’s
    • Preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity
    • Zero pollution and a toxin-free environment

    Specifically, the following technologies and areas are sought after under the 2021 EIC Accelerator Strategic Challenges for the Green Deal:

    • Batteries and Energy Storage: Strategic battery value chain • critical raw materials • recycling • chemical as well as physical storage (including ultracapacitors) • stationary and transport applications.
    • Green Hydrogen: Produce and store renewable hydrogen • different scales • centralized to on-demand • stationary and transport applications.
    • Renovation: Accelerate the growth of the renovation market • energy-efficient buildings • innovative technologies • financial schemes or business models.
    • Low-carbon Industry: De-carbonisation of industries • electrification • circularity • industrial symbiosis • industrial processes • carbon capture storage • digitisation of industrial processes.

    5.2 The Digital Technology Strategic Challenge (2a)

    ≥ Digital technologies: Information and communications technology (ICT) • advanced high-performance computing • edge computing • quantum technologies • cybersecurity • artificial intelligence • block-chain • cloud infrastructure technologies • Internet of Things (IoT).

    5.3 The Healthcare Strategic Challenge (2b)

    ≥ Healthcare technologies: AI-driven diagnostics • point-of-care (POC) diagnostics • cell and gene therapy (esp. cancer) • novel biomarkers for clinical prognosis • patient stratification/monitoring • bioprocessing 4.0 (digitalisation) • healthcare intelligence services • e-health solutions.

    6. Ambitions to Control the Outcome

    While the evaluation of all EIC Accelerator applicants is expected to be fair and prioritize the Excellence of the project, it is undeniable that there are policies in place that will fix the outcome. These are coming in the form of gender targets, societal impacts and related EU political agendas (read: EU Policies).

    ≥ Gender Outcomes: 40% all EIC Accelerator interviewee’s in Step 3 of the evaluation process must have female Chief Executive Officers (CEO) while 35% of all funded businesses must meet this criterion (read: Why it’s Great to Be a Woman). To facilitate this, special coaching will be given to female founders and the pool of evaluators, while 40% are already female, will be expanded to meet a 50% female share.

    Considering that, without outcome-interventions by the EC, only <5% of beneficiaries had female CEO’s, this new target is an exceptional change but it is not clear how exactly the first two evaluation steps are affected by this Step 3 quota (read: The EIC Accelerator Performance Report).

    ≥ Sustainable Development: Amongst other targets, the EIC wants to support impact-oriented companies out of which 90% have to address sustainable development goals such as the Green Deal or similar targets. It is not clear how this focus will affect the EIC Accelerator.

    ≥ Geographic Diversity: A staggering change to the Step 3 pitch is that each EU member state and each associated country has to be represented in the interview stage with a number that is proportionate to the total number of applicants in earlier steps. This means that, for the first time, the EIC Accelerator is imposing geographic restrictions on its beneficiaries. This can be a double-edged sword since it has long been shown that some countries easily meet the 13-score funding threshold (i.e. 50% of applicants) while other countries have a more difficult time (i.e. 10%).

    Countries that prioritize quantity over quality will be unfairly rewarded while countries that prioritize quality are being punished. It is still unclear at this point how strictly this rule will be enforced (read: Pre-Requisites for an EIC Accelerator Application).

    7. Technical Changes

    7.1 Coaching

    3 days of coaching will be provided to all successful Step 1 applicants but at the costs of €1,000 per coaching day for the EC. The coaches will likely be external contractors and it is not clear how their experience could contribute to the preparation of the Step 2 application or to the practice of a successful Step 3 pitch.

    7.2 Seal of Excellence (SOE)

    SOE’S are awarded based on the Impact and Excellence criteria while the Implementation (i.e. risk-level and need for EU support) will be the determining factor to decide if the project is funded or if it is rejected (read: Evaluation Summary Report Analysis).

    7.3 Applicants

    Applicants can now, for the first time, be natural persons instead of only being Value Added Tax (VAT)-registered companies as long as an SME or Small-Mid Cap is formed prior to signing the EIC Accelerator contract. Of course, the natural person has to be a citizen of the EU or of an associated country (read: Associated Countries).

    7.4 Equity

    Next to direct equity investments by the EIC Fund in financing rounds initiated by the SME’s themselves (read: Inside Look into EIC Fund), convertible notes and other debt-related funding can be provided to beneficiaries. It is also finally clear that the obscure 30% co-financing of the EIC Accelerator grant can be financed through a parallel equity investment-request, thereby requiring no existing funding sources or revenues to fill the gap.

    Direct equity applications without the request for grant support are now possible for applicants although the evaluation and proposal submission will differ.

    Equity components can also be postponed by first opting for a grant application (i.e. grant-first) and later re-applying directly for equity-support.

    7.5 The Pitch Video

    This document will likely be submitted through a link since the cloud storage-needs and the requirement of government institutions to store files long-term would exceed existing capacities. One important repercussion of this decision is that, if startups can self-host their videos, enforcing a 3-minute restriction is extremely difficult since it is not possible to have an automated restriction as it exists for PDF page-limitations (read: Pitch Video Types).

    The fairest way of implementing this would be to have direct file uploads to the EU platform and an automated time-trimmer to assure that all applicants only have 3 minutes to work with. If the EIC is using an AI-tool for the proposal development then introducing cloud video-hosting is only a minor challenge.

    7.6 Timelines & Feedback

    The Step 1 call will be open continuously and have no specified deadline. It will approximately take 4-6 weeks to receive feedback on the Step 1 5-pager whereas both successful and rejected applications will receive comments from the evaluators. For the Step 2 full application, the feedback is expected to be received 5-6 weeks from the cut-off date.

    A 4-6 week feedback cycle for Step 1 does seem underwhelming since it is supposed to be a screening Step and not act as a full assessment. The estimated timing will potentially be different in practice and could be as fast as 2-3 weeks.

    Face-to-face interviews will be 8-9 weeks after the Step 2 cut-offs (read: Deadlines) while 6 jury members will be responsible for the questions and assessments. EIC Fund associates can also join the pitch but they will not be in a position to ask questions or influence the evaluation result. The interview results will be ready within 2-3 weeks.

    7.7 Reimbursement Advances

    For short innovation life-cycles, SME’s can apply for a reimbursement advance that matches the grant condition but has to be paid back. With a 70% maximum contribution of €2.5M, the EU can provide financing that has to either be paid back (interest-free) or is converted into equity after a certain time period. The exact nature of the funding opportunity will be published soon but it will likely be at the discretion of the jury members who can directly assess the innovation life-cycle and time-to-market to make a recommendation.

    7.8 Budget

    Initial communications by the EC suggest that there were meant to be 3 cut-offs for Step 2 in 2021 but they then were reduced to two deadlines. The budget is already set and will be distributed across all topics. As of today, the total budget for 2021 is €1.109BN while the open calls have a €602M budget and the strategic calls share a €507M budget. Considering two parallel calls, namely the open call and the strategic challenges, this would give each cut-off an approximate budget of €554M which is significantly higher than even the COVID-relief and Green Deal cut-offs in 2020 (read: COVID and Green Deal 2020).

    7.9 Inclusion of Small-Mid Caps

    Historically, the SME Instrument and the EIC Accelerator have focused on SME’s, exclusively, but this will change under Horizon Europe. While SME’s are subject to specific size-restrictions that include the number of employees (max. 250), turnover (max. €50M) and balance sheets (max. €43M), Small Mid Caps can exceed these amounts. While restricted to only equity investments under the EIC Accelerator, companies can be 499-employees in size.

    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.

    Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

    For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



    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:

    The EIC Accelerator Grant Consulting Industry (SME Instrument)

    In order to apply to the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing), many startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) are looking for expert consultancies or professional writers to facilitate the ever more complex evaluation process (read: Proposed 2021 Application Process). Navigating the grant writing industry and finding a great partner to hire can be difficult but this article is aiming to shed light on the intricacies of how exactly this sector operates (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

    Consultancies & the EU

    The European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Agency for SME’s (EASME) seek to facilitate the evaluation process for innovative companies and enable them to apply autonomously but, if more and more evaluation steps with cryptic proposal templates are being added, applicants have no choice but to seek consultancy support (read: Relying on Consultancies).

    The EIC Accelerator grant writing industry is characterized by a high demand from startups and, with some exceptions, increasingly selective consultancy firms. As a result, an important task that is placed on consultancies and writers is the assessment of the innovation project ahead of a potential collaboration since the requirements for written, video and in-person evaluations are becoming more and more demanding (read: Assessing a Project & Writing Internally).

    Consultancy Business Models

    Within this framework, there are a variety of models that consultancies follow ranging from the indiscriminative “we take everyone” to the selective “we wouldn’t even take half of the beneficiaries” approach. The reason for this discrepancy is that consultancies, like all business, have to think of their bottom line. Inevitably, this means that each company has to consider how their fee-structure can remain profitable over time and how they can maximize funded projects while compensating for projects that do not end up receiving a grant.

    The general approaches are to either charge high retainer fees and low success-fees or to charge low retainer fees and very high success-fees. Variations of this approach are also found in offering extensive project-assessments via multi-day workshops, additional consulting for market scaling or through the addition of project management services for funded projects.

    Regardless of what the model is, applicants will always carry the risk of investing their time and attention into a project irrespective of how the service is paid for. In the end, opportunity costs are a hidden factor in work-intensive grant applications even if the writing is outsourced to expert consultants. With the newly introduced freezing periods, this opportunity cost is increased further and startups or SME’s are better advised to judge the expertise and dedication of a consultancy rather than its business model.

    Scaling vs. Quality

    Scaling a consultancy business within a competitive grant like the EIC Accelerator or the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program can be difficult since expertise can easily be diluted while talented experts on grant writing can be hard to find (read: Hiring a Consultant). Due to the high degree of fluctuation between the numbers of applicants per deadline, the capacities of consultancies at scale could also start to exceed the demand of excellent projects which means that they might onboard clients out of necessity rather than out of confidence.

    The way most consulting companies mitigate such risks is by diversifying its revenue streams and by employing only a core team of full-time experts with clearly defined responsibilities while most of the writing is outsourced to a pool of freelancers. This can be, of course, a double-edged sword as well since having the freedom to decline clients can also lead to the possibility of onboarding more clients since scaling a consultancy over freelancers is a lucrative business model albeit to the detriment of success rates.

    Still, such business models have found their own validity in the industry since there are plenty of startups who, after having been told that a grant application would be too high risk, are still determined to move on regardless.

    Good vs. Bad

    This assessment does not mean that large consultancies are inferior to small consultancies or vice versa. On the contrary, it sheds light on the fact that the size or business model of the consultancy is less important than its modus operandi and its internal incentive-structure. The traits exhibited by excellent consultancies are selectiveness, transparency and dedication but these are entirely independent of the business model and scale. They are only evident in direct communication with the consultants themselves.

    Every prospective grant applicant should know who exactly will write the proposal, who else will be involved (i.e. editor, pitch-expert, designer, videographer) and if the team will be changed throughout the duration of the contract. This, in addition to requesting an in-depth project assessment beforehand, can prevent a negative experience for the startup or SME since a consultancy that cannot be transparent in this regard or lacks certainty will likely place less focus on each respective client (read: Assessing an Innovation).

    Conclusion

    In summary, each prospect EIC Accelerator grant applicant should pose the following questions to a consultancy prior to beginning a collaboration:

    • How does our company compare to the businesses that typically receive EIC Accelerator funding (i.e. industry, team, innovation)?
    • Who will be writing the proposal and will the writer be exchanged throughout the process?
    • Who will be our fixed contact point at the consultancy for the duration of the project?
    • Has our project been sufficiently vetted prior to beginning a collaboration?
    • Does the writer understand the intricacies of our innovation project and business model?

    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.

    Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

    For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



    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:

    How a Consultant can Produce an EIC Accelerator Pitch Video Remotely (SME Instrument) – Part 2

    This article is a continuation of Part 1 and presents a proposed workflow for the creation of a pitch video for the EIC Accelerator blended financing program (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2 – grant and equity financing). Due to the new process under Horizon Europe (2021-2027), the pitch video will be an additional barrier for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) to apply for the grant financing and increase their reliance on consultancies and professional writers (read: Relying on Consultants).

    Since the official proposal template and work programme will likely not provide sufficient guidance, the following content aims to remedy the most pressing concerns of future applicants (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

    1.2 Discussing the Resources Available

    The KOM should likewise be used to clarify the resources and capabilities an applicant has at their disposal. This includes the available footage (i.e. produced videos, features, animations) and the available hardware such as cameras, lights and related equipment (read: Types of Pitch Videos). Many smartphones can already record high-definition (HD) footage while Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are quite common as well.

    Lastly, the SME’s team should clarify the locations and capabilities of their members so that tasks can be distributed accordingly and the shooting of the pitch video can be timed appropriately. If some employees have experience with video production then the process can be facilitated greatly while having all of the team members meet in a single location for a joint video can be beneficial.

    1.3 Guidance for Best Practises

    If no suitable expertise is available in a startup, the consultancy should provide a shortlist of best practises helping the team to maximize the quality of the production. These should include tutorials, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), tips & tricks as well as recommendations for camera settings, lights and related topics.

    Most of this information is easy to learn and readily available but a brief guideline targeted at short EIC Accelerator grant pitch videos is expected to significantly benefit the production quality. If the team has no time to perform the shooting themselves, an external videography team can also be contracted for an on-site project.

    1.4 Creating the Script

    Before the shooting begins, the script should be prepared by the professional writer or consultant so that the production can be planned in advance. The script should clearly identify the content, speakers and setting so that the applicant understands the requirements and resources that are needed.

    Preparing a script is complementary to the proposal writing and the pitch deck creation with the exception that the storytelling can be much more creative. The storyline of the video should be clear to all participants and care should be taken that the script is rich enough to not require any additional footage collection at a later stage. It is better to include additional content in the first script but cut it from the final video rather than to shoot less but then require a re-shoot at a later stage.

    1.5 Screen Test (optional)

    After the script has been created, the company should proceed with a first screen test where the team takes a few hours to create the video content to the best of their abilities. This includes the set-up of the lighting, camera settings, microphone and the final recording at the respective set.

    This stage is supposed to be a low-stakes practise run but, if the footage is high-quality, it could be directly used for the pitch video. Once the screen test has been recorded, it can be reviewed and discussed with the consultant or writer to optimize the content, script and execution of the shoot.

    1.6 The Real Recording

    After the screen test has been reviewed and the script and execution have been corrected, the applicant will take a second day to perform the recording and collect all of the required footage. This 2-stage production will likely provide superior results and allow the creation of a high-quality end product with little effort or overhead.

    1.7 Editing and Exporting the Pitch Video

    Lastly, the editing of the footage can be performed either by the consultancy, a third-party contractor or a team member of the startup depending on how responsibilities have been distributed in the agreement. The editing will be an essential step to assure that colour grading, basic corrections, audio enhancements as well as related aspects are all exhibiting the highest quality.

    Afterwards, the final video can be exported in the appropriate format and be ready for the first submission.

    2. Summary

    A process for the remote production of the EIC Accelerator pitch video could be structured as follows:

    1. Planning the Process: Discussing the core responsibilities of the shoot.
    2. Discussing the Resources Available: Reviewing the availability of equipment and skills.
    3. Guidance for Best Practises: The provision of guidelines to facilitate the production.
    4. Creating the Script: Developing a comprehensive script to avoid re-shoots at a later stage.
    5. Screen Test: A practice run (optional).
    6. The Real Recording: Recording the final video footage.
    7. Editing and Exporting the Pitch Video: Editing to increase the quality and export within file size restrictions.

    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.

    Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

    For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



    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:

    How a Consultant can Produce an EIC Accelerator Pitch Video Remotely (SME Instrument) – Part 1

    In 2021, the new EIC Accelerator blended financing program (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2 – grant and equity financing) will include a more sophisticated 3-step evaluation process which includes a pitch video (read: Proposed 2021 EIC Accelerator Process). This will likely place an additional burden on Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and professional writers or consultancies since video production is rarely part of their established skill set (read: Pitch Video).

    While the pitch video is an interesting addition to the evaluation process, it is also a new challenge for early-stage startups who often lack the funds for video production or DeepTech companies who are less focused on marketing compared to a digital innovator. Additionally, producing a video can take a lot of time and, as opposed to written content or a pitch deck for the interviews, it must be created in person which places a significant burden on both startups and consultancies.

    Implications of the Pitch Video

    Just by introducing the pitch video, the European Innovation Council (EIC) has directly increased the reliance of startups on consultancies which, in many cases, have to perform an in-person video production (read: Relying on Consultants). Unfortunately, adding another layer of expertise to the evaluation process only widens the gap between an excellent project and a funded project since consultancy support becomes increasingly indispensable for applicants.

    The greatest challenge for new applicants will come in the form of planning the video creation since, while editing a proposal over multiple re-submissions is common, re-editing a video is resource-intensive if it includes additional video production. As a result, the video should be perfect right from the start which means that the narrative of the project and proposal have to be perfected in the beginning so that the correct footage can be collected in a single day and does not need to be re-recorded continuously. More than anything, planning the video production will become a major burden for applicants.

    Even if a company is working with an expert video production team, understanding what a resulting pitch video must contain and synchronizing its message with the written application and pitch deck will be a challenge. Often, companies are in a position of having limited funds, limited grant writing experience and have a lack of video footage or production skills. In such a situation, creating a framework to simplify the process of a remote and lean video production should be a must for the EIC and European Commission (EC).

    1. Remote Video Production Workflow

    Since the official proposal template and documentation are likely unable to provide suitable guidance for applicants, this article will present a proposed workflow for the creation of a pitch video in a remote fashion. Preparing a video remotely will remain the most efficient way for both consultancies and applicants but there are a variety of barriers to this workflow. The following is a shortlist of concerns from clients:

    • There is no video footage available
    • The company has no camera or related equipment
    • The team lacks video production skills or suitable contractors
    • The team is unable to script a video
    • All employees are working remotely and are not in the same city or country
    • The team is unfamiliar with editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro

    These points can be a challenge but are still surmountable through meticulous planning and guidance from a consultancy, writer or freelancer.

    1.1 Planning the Process

    The normal work-flow when collaborating with a consultancy or writer is to start with a prolonged Kick-Off Meeting (KOM) to discuss the project with the founders of the company and the writing-team. This precedes every other task and has the purpose of bringing everyone on the same page while defining the project and its scope.

    Adjusting this process to include video scripting can simply be done by taking the time to define the core messages that need to be communicated for a particular project (read: How to Script a Pitch Video). These should be customized to every startup since the ingenious aspects of a technology or business model will likely vary greatly from company to company.

    This article continues in Part 2.

    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.

    Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

    For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



    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:

    Helpful Resources for an EIC Accelerator Pitch Video (SME Instrument)

    In 2021, the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) will include a video pitch as a new proposal document which is expected to place an additional burden on applying startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME). While tips on choosing an appropriate video type (read: Types of Pitch Videos) and the scripting process (read: Scripting a Pitch Video) can be found elsewhere, this article will focus on the resources that can be used for the actual editing process.

    While the European Innovation Council (EIC) will likely not provide sufficient material as part of the official proposal template or guidelines, professional writers and consultancies should have access to a variety of resources needed for video production such as video clips, background music, images and software. These will likely become indispensable since a hired consultant must be able to efficiently coordinate all aspects of the production (read: Remote Video Production Workflow).

    1. Resources for Stock Music

    Royalty-free music or music under the Creative Commons license is readily available for creators but their exact licencing conditions can vary greatly. Such variations come in the form of attributions, commercial use, regional restrictions or the type of project it is used for. Since the EIC Accelerator proposal is confidential and should only be viewed by the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators and pitch interview jurors, there should generally be no problem in using copyrighted music but it could be a problem if the video finds its way online.

    Since the company name will be directly linked to the video content, it would be best to only use non-copyrighted music or to pay for the use of a certain license. The advantage of this approach is also that the video can be shared more freely on social media or with a variety of investors who have shown interest in the project.

    • Pixabay is a great resource for free music under the Creative Commons licence whereas commercial use is allowed and no attribution of the composer is required.
    • SoundCloud and YouTube contain a variety of channels that do advertise royalty-free music but these are sometimes part of a complex licensing structure and are not entirely free. Still, its worth having a look since they contain a large number of different tracks.
    • The FreeMusicArchive contains a multitude of different songs but care should be placed on their exact licencing conditions.
    • CreativeCommons.Org has created a shortlist of sources for music under a creative commons license.
    • Websites such as AudioJungle, ShutterStock or AdobeStock are premium services which offer high-quality music at a low price as a subscription or one-off purchase.

    2. Resources for Stock Video

    • PixaBay tops the list once again with its video archive where attribution and cost-free video clips can be found. Many of the items are of high-quality and will likely meet most short-video production needs.
    • Pexels is similar to PixaBay and offers attribution-free stock videos for free.
    • Videezy likewise offers free video footage but also includes premium content that can be purchased for a small price.
    • AdobeStock and ShutterStock, once again, offer subscription or one-off purchases of stock footage with high quality. Since such libraries are highly curated, one can expect to find more customized footage on these platforms but most free alternatives are also presenting a competitive portfolio.

    3. Resources for Stock Images

    • Unsplash and PixaBay are great resources not only for pitch videos but also for grant proposal writing (read: Design Templates for Grant Writing). They offer cost- and attribution-free photos and designs for commercial use. From experience, Unsplash usually offers better content for certain keywords and the images tend to be higher in quality.
    • Pexels offers a Freemium model for stock images wheres some can be used for free while others are behind a paywall but the costs are still very low.
    • iStockPhoto, ShutterStock and AdobeStock offer high-quality and curated photo libraries for commercial use with a variety of pricing plans.

    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.

    Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

    For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



    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:

    Tips to Quickly Improve Grant Writing (EIC Accelerator, SME Instrument)

    Writing an EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) application can be difficult for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) (read: Writing Internally). This can be due to a variety of factors such as a lack of grant writing experience, an absent business plan or simple time restrictions. Startups often lack the expertise exhibited by consultancies or professional grant writers but there are ways to quickly improve grant writing skills for those unaccustomed to it.

    Since the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Commission (EC) do not provide useful guidance in this regard, the following list presents a guideline as to how companies can improve their grant writing ahead of a successful EIC Accelerator application.

    Learning by Example

    One of the fastest ways to improve grant-writing is to study examples of successful applications which can act as a template for the structure and design of such an application. Examples are usually very guarded since they are subject to secrecy and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) which prohibit their free circulation. Nonetheless, studying them remains the fastest way of improving grant writing and is usually superior to using the official proposal template (read: The Biggest Proposal Writing Mistakes).

    A potential strategy for obtaining examples could be to directly contact beneficiaries (read: Finding EIC Accelerator Results) who might share their proposal after an NDA is signed or to work for consultancies as a freelancer in order to be taught by them and receive examples. The latter is, of course, quite the detour from the original plan and unfeasible in most cases but the former method can be quite useful if one of the beneficiaries happens to be a partner, collaborator or is acquainted with a member of the management team.

    Outside of these methods, examples are also provided by some consultancies (i.e. find them here on Segler Consulting) who provide proposal examples to prospect EIC Accelerator grant beneficiaries.

    Studying Business Plans

    The next best thing after an exemplary grant application is a high-level business plan which is easily accessible and can provide a great resource for grant writing. Business plan examples are usually offered for free from a variety of sources such as consultancies, business accelerators or investment companies while supporting guidelines are also a great way to rapidly improve grant writing.

    What such business plans are often lacking is a focus on storytelling, a narrative that is aligned to the European Union’s (EU) politics as well as social and environmental analyses. These present an additional layer of expertise that business plans rarely include but that is relevant to European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators (read: EU Funding Buzzwords).

    Learning Storytelling

    Storytelling, as it is often neglected in business writing, is an important skill to focus on in successful grant applications. It should not be confused with the type of storytelling found in novels or non-fiction books but has to be viewed as a continuous thread inside a story-line. It has to be consistent inside a narrative and is taking the reader from a starting point (i.e. the market problem) to the desired end-point (i.e. the innovative solution). Good resources for this are scientific articles since these routinely have to address political issues, policy targets or significant economic and societal problems that need to be solved.

    Great resources for this are any chemistry, biology, biochemistry, pharmaceutical or physics journals since papers from these fields often have to appease grant providers with very elaborate and often far-fetched introductions (i.e. a new synthesis that will cure cancer). Due to the limited space in such publications, these articles are likewise excellent learning tools when it comes to a comprehensive narrative with an optimised word-economy (read: A Proposal Narrative & EIC Accelerator Story-Telling).

    Learning Illustration

    A business plan and a scientific paper, in combination, are often a great start for the preparation of a successful EIC Accelerator grant application but an important part that can easily be neglected is the use of illustrations (read: Design Resources for Grants & Creating Images). This becomes important not only due to the increase of visualisations and storytelling via appealing and clear graphics but is also essential due to the limited attention and time of the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators. These will have to go through multiple applications in short periods while images can greatly enhance their experience which, as a result, improves the evaluation outcome.

    The practising of graphic design can be performed in parallel to the writing process and there are a variety of resources on sites such as YouTube or Udemy that provide simple tutorials for Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw (read: Software to Use).

    Involvement of the Management Team

    Lastly, one of the simplest ways to quickly improve grant writing is to gain support from the entire management team of the applying company. This might sound like an odd recommendation but, from experience, the more the CEO, CTO and CFO are involving themselves in a proposal, the better the outcome will be. This is essential as it is often the case that proposals are rushed, outsourced in the last minute or neglected which significantly impedes the success chances of a competitive grant such as the EIC Accelerator.

    Summary

    Whenever a company is able to succeed in the EIC Accelerator then it is usually enabled by grant writing experience (i.e. internally or via hiring a consultant), expertise in preparing business plans and very strong involvement of the entire management team to perfect each proposal section (read: Writing Grant Applications Internally).

    In summary, the following aspects can greatly increase the success chances of written grant applications:

    • Studying Business Plans – Business plans are the skeleton of any for-profit grant application and have to be practised in-depth.
    • Learning Storytelling – Storytelling is important for grant writing due to the politics involved in the evaluation process as well as the focus on high-impact projects.
    • Learning Illustration – Illustrations are a great tool to communicate ideas quickly and to compensate for the limited time and expertise exhibited by evaluators.
    • Involvement of the Management Team – Involving the founders and leaders of a company in the grant writing is an absolute must if a project wants to have high success chances.

    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.

    Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

    For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



    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:

    How to Select an EU Grant Financing Program such as the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) – Part 3

    This article is a continuation of Part 2 and describes a list of considerations to be made by startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) that seek to raise grant financing from the European Union (EU). One of these options is the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) which is highly suitable for innovative companies and has a strong support network of professional writers and expert consultancies (contact a professional writer here).

    8. Country Restrictions

    Which countries can apply?

    Country restrictions have to be considered whenever they could be applicable. As an example, there are funding programs by the EU where only a certain country can apply while others are open to non-EU countries (i.e. Tunesia, Israel, Ukraine) such as most Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe programs (read: Countries for the EIC Accelerator).

    There can also be specific restrictions imposed due to special circumstances such as Brexit. Since the United Kingdoms (UK) participation in Horizon Europe was unclear throughout 2020 and 2019, UK applicants were only allowed to apply for grant financing under the EIC Accelerator but not blended financing since the EIC did not want to take equity stakes in foreign entities. Such potential issues have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

    9. Submission Process

    How is the submission process for the grant applicants?

    The requirements for grant applications can vary greatly and have to be assessed based on their submission types, evaluation process and document requirements. Such variations have to be explored for each case but the general scopes for grant application can be summarised as follows:

    Submission type: Online submissions (i.e. document uploads) are possible in many cases but the submission to local contact points or federal government institutes can be required as well. The EIC Accelerator uses the Funding &Tenders Portal for fully digitized submissions (read: Financing Timeline).

    Evaluation process: The evaluation process will vary depending on the type of evaluators, their numbers, backgrounds and general focus. The EIC Accelerator uses a remote pool of evaluators via the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) and in-person juries for the pitch interviews (read: Interview).

    Document types: The document types that are requested under a grant, as defined by the official proposal template, will vary but a normal PDF document like a business plan or a research plan are a must in almost all cases. The EIC Accelerator additionally requests financial spreadsheets, a short summary, a video pitch and a pitch deck (read: 2021 Application Proces).

    10. Local Support Networks

    What local support is available for companies?

    Support on a national level is well organized in the EU due to an abundance of SME contact points in key European areas. These can provide a strong support network and can provide resources that help in future applications. Such help might not be available for all grant opportunities especially if the applicant does not classify as an SME which needs to be assessed beforehand.

    11. Available Consultancies

    Are there many consultancies specialising in the filed?

    Lastly, it is useful to assess the number of consultancies or experienced writers that are available for a specific grant so that each prospect applicant is able to have a variety of options to choose from when hiring such supporters. It can also be beneficial to assess if the consultancies are working with multiple grants so that a more suitable option can be chosen instead of the original one in case of a rejection or if a more thorough assessment warrants such a transition.

    For the EIC Accelerator, there are a variety of available consultancies to choose from with varying business models and industry focus (read: Preparing an Application). To reach out to a professional writer or consultant, please use the following contact form.

    Summary

    When choosing an EU financing program, the following aspects should be considered:

    1. Budget: How much is the total available budget and the financing per application?
    2. Covered Costs: Are all costs covered or only a percentage?
    3. Competitiveness: How high is the success rate?
    4. Thematic Focus: What specific conditions do projects need to fulfil (i.e. innovation, Technology Readiness Levels, industry)?
    5. Local Alternatives: Are there national funding projects available with easier accessibility?
    6. Number of Submissions: How often can an applicant submit an application?
    7. Single Applicant or Consortium: Is it a single-applicant program or exclusively for consortia?
    8. Country Restrictions: What restrictions are imposed on applicants when it comes to their country of origin?
    9. Submission Process: Is an online submission possible or a complex federal process?
    10. Local Support Networks: Are there support networks available or resources for applicants (i.e. templates, proposal examples, annotated guidelines)?
    11. Available Consultancies: Are expert consultancies and professional grant writers available for hire?

    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.

    Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

    For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



    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:

    How to Select an EU Grant Financing Program such as the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) – Part 1

    The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) program is an interesting opportunity for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but it might not be suitable for all applicants (read: Introduction). There are a variety of considerations to be made in advance which can help companies to make an informed decision and assess if the EIC Accelerator is the correct funding project to choose or if alternatives such as FET Open, Pathfinder, the Green Deal Call or similar opportunities are more suitable.

    The European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Commission (EC) provide a variety of funding arms to support SME’s while the official Funding & Tenders Portal gives information and guidance on the details of such programs. A professional writer or consultant can support companies in investigating the suitability of a project for grant funding but startups can often initiate such an assessment themselves.

    The following list presents a few select criteria to assess a suitable funding opportunity since a successful application can only be prepared once the right conditions are met.

    1. Budget

    What is the total budget available and how much can be requested per applicant?

    Prior to selecting a grant opportunity, the exact amount of available financing and the expected budget per project should be assessed since seed-stage companies might not warrant large financing rounds while scale-ups could have long exceeded smaller grants. Total budgets and request-amounts are often published in Work Programs or directly on the call page on the Funding & Tenders portal. The EIC Accelerator provides a budget of approximately €100M to €300M per call with up to €17.5M per project in grant and equity financing (read: EIC Accelerator Budget).

    2. Covered Costs

    What percentage of the project’s costs are covered?

    Often, grant financing covers a percentage of the total project costs whereas the grant contribution will have to be supplemented with external financings such as revenues, investments or other sources. The exact conditions can vary by the type of grant chosen but the EIC Accelerator finances 70% of the total costs (read: Grant vs. Equity).

    3. Competitiveness

    How many applicants will apply to a single call?

    It can be difficult to assess how competitive a grant will be but the total budget amount and the number of submission in previous calls are a good indicator. Such information is usually published on the call page or on social outlets like Twitter (read: Finding News). For one-off calls, it can be difficult to gauge the number of applications submitted per deadline but consultants and other funding experts are usually able to provide guidance in such cases based on similar or previous calls.

    For the EIC Accelerator, the budget and competitiveness has varied greatly over the past years and especially in 2020 but the success rate has historically been between 1% and 6% in most cases with 1,000 to 4,000 applications per call (read: EIC Impact Report).

    This article continues in Part 2.

    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.

    Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

    For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



    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:

    How to Prepare for an EIC Accelerator Pitch Interview (SME Instrument Phase 2) – Part 1

    The pitch interviews for the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) have been introduced quite recently but they are expected to remain a pillar of the evaluation process moving forward (read: Pitch vs. Proposal). With the jury consisting of mostly Venture Capitalists (VC) and angel investors, the focus of the interview is very commercialisation-oriented meaning that each applicant must understand their go-to-market strategy in and out (read: Why Companies Fail).

    The European Commission (EC) and European Innovation Council (EIC) do not give clear guidance on pitch preparation in their documentation or the official template which makes smart in-house practise a must. The following presents a shortlist of the steps to take before the interview and how a successful EIC Accelerator pitch interview could be facilitated. It is important to assess each pitch individually and that things that are omitted on this list might be relevant in specified cases (i.e. bringing a hardware prototype, preparing a video, etc.).

    When working with a professional writer or consultant, it is ideal to use the opportunity to extensively practise the pitch with them in the days and weeks leading up to the interview. In the end, “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training” (Archilochus, 680-645 BC). Since you already know the specific restrictions of the interview, you can now use this knowledge to perfectly prepare your impact ahead of time and make use of all the resources at your disposal.

    1. Restrictions

    • Limited time: 10 min pitch & 30 min of questioning
    • Limited attention: Jury has to go through multiple interviews per day
    • Limited knowledge: The Jury does not need to know the project or proposal
    • Limited responsibility: The Jury will not invest their own money but only need to help the EU reject excess projects

    2. How to Prepare for the Pitch

    2.1 Learn from Past Pitches

    One of the easiest ways of gaining insight into past pitch sessions is to look through the list of recently funded beneficiaries and contact the companies to inquire about their experience (read: EIC Accelerator Results). This can be very useful since the prospective pitch participant can pre-select companies based on their region or industry to gain very customized information and increase their own success chances. Many companies will happily provide a list of questions and tips to help their fellow startups or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) out.

    Another great method is to contact professional writers or consultancies specialised on the EIC Accelerator or VC-like pitch events. If a writer has not been hired prior, it can still be useful to have a few practise calls with consultants in order to assure that all the speakers have all the support they need. Common questions, reasons for rejections or issues can be prepared for so that the applicant is not caught off-guard during the pitch (read: Reasons for Rejections).

    2.2 Practise

    It seems very obvious to advise companies to practise their pitch thoroughly but it is still skipped too often. The reason for that is that practising the pitch itself is just one part of the preparations and it can fall to the sidelines if too many other things are prioritized. Reading the pitch, researching topics, creating handouts, discussing the pitch and all related activities are not actual pitch practise – they should only be supplementary.

    Practising the pitch means to simulate a real-life scenario (i.e. having a live audience or a remote-call audience), to have a stopwatch ready and to present the pitch from start to finish including the 30 min of questioning from critical but unaffiliated listeners. Practising means to actually go through the pitch and gain feedback on the speaker’s performance.

    2.3 Open Pitch Sessions

    Over a 2 week period, a company’s management team can meet every second or third day and have one full practice call whereas they can use the remaining days to prepare supporting documents, research relevant topics and improve their scripts. This will also allow them to exchange the audience for every call and gain fresh and difficult questions for each run which will present a perfect preparation for a real-life scenario.

    If a company is affiliated with VC’s, accelerators, startup networks or industry mentors then there will likely be seasoned experts available who would be interested in supporting a promising startup – this could even lead to new investment opportunities in the future. The same goes for companies that already have a substantial audience on social media sites such as Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook whereas the pitch, if not under confidentiality, can be presented to a live audience with an open questioning in the end.

    This article continues in Part 2.

    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.

    Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

    For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



    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:

     

    Professional Grant Proposal Writing for the EIC Accelerator and Horizon Europe Programs (SME Instrument)