How to Interpret the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) of an EIC Accelerator Application (SME Instrument) – Part 1

The Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) provides the EIC Accelerator blended financing applicant (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) with feedback regarding the proposal quality. While separating and grading the central sections of Impact, Excellence and Implementation, it gives additional scores on selected subcriteria (read: Using the ESR).

A professional writer or consultant is used to interpreting such documents but, for many startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) who are looking to resubmit a previously rejected application, it can be a difficult task.

The greatest drawback of the ESR is its lack of comments as part of the report. These are only provided for the pitch interview  (i.e. step 2 of the evaluation process) but not for rejections in step 1 of the process (i.e. the written application). This will likely be changed under Horizon Europe (2021-2027) by the European Commission (EC) and European Innovation Council (EIC) but, without any useful comments, the EIC Accelerator applicants are in the dark with respect to the cause for the rejection.

Interpreting the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR)

The ESR’s structure does not match the official proposal template and the overlap of the individual sub-criteria can make reading the information rather difficult (i.e. a single criterion is used to score commercialisation, financials and scaling). As a result, interpreting the ESR is not as clear or informative as some would expect but it is still possible to gain some useful information from the overall document.

1. Overall EIC Accelerator Score

A successful EIC Accelerator grant proposal has a very high score but, for companies who have re-submitted unsuccessfully multiple times, reaching a great score can be elusive. With the maximum score being 15, the official threshold lying above 13 and the unofficial threshold being above 13.6, many applicants are in need of advice as to how to interpret the ESR and improve their score.

Assessing such a score just based on a single number is very difficult because the problem could lie in a variety of different areas. From experience, there are some areas that can be adjusted based on the general score but only in the broadest way.

Any score below 12 needs extensive work and it is likely that the project is either not innovative enough for the grant if the proposal is high in quality or the proposal needs serious reworking in order to improve its quality (i.e. improved and clearer writing, design, quantifications and explanations).

An application with a score between 12.5 and 13.5 is usually sufficiently high in quality from a writing perspective but it lacks certain details to break the unofficial evaluation threshold and to receive the pitch interview invitation. These detailed changes to be made are very specific and must be customized to each individual project but below is a shortlist of common flaws found in proposals of certain score margins.

2. Scores for Sections

The second scores to investigate are the scores for the three main EIC Accelerator sections, namely Impact, Excellence and Implementation. The graphic above shows the general average score per section which can provide insight into the balance of the proposal.

Impact

If the Impact section is below the other scores then the proposal has not properly addressed the commercial and peripheral factors of the annotated proposal template such as customer needs, market, commercialisation strategy, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), Freedom to Operate (FTO) and regulations. In addition, the European dimension could have been neglected which dampens the impact of the narrative (read: Visual Guide for an EIC Accelerator Application).

Excellence

With a low Excellence section, it is very likely that the product or service presented is not viewed as sufficiently innovative or the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), the current stage of development or competing offers have not been presented in a clear manner. If the innovation is lacking then there is not much that can be done and it should be assured from the start that the innovation is suitable (read: Preparing an Application Internally and TRL for the EIC Accelerator).

Implementation

If the Implementation section is far below the other two then the work packages, further stages, tasks, team, partners, timing, budget or any other of the concrete development steps are insufficient. This might be due to a lack of clarification what the grant financing is used for, a lack of detail in the given tasks or major inconsistencies between different parts of the application (i.e non-bankability – read: EIC Accelerator Buzzwords).

Continuation

Part 2 of this article continues under the provided link.

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.

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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: