How to Interpret the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) of an EIC Accelerator Application (SME Instrument) – Part 2

This article is a continuation of Part 1 which can be found under the provided link.

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.

3. Scores for Sub-Criteria

The last parts to investigate in an ESR are the individual scores for the sub-criteria which are graded as:

  • Very Good to Excellent (4.5 – 5)
  • Good to Very Good (3.5 – 4.49)
  • Fair to Good (2.5 – 3.49)
  • Insufficient to Fair (1.5 – 2.49)
  • Insufficient (0-1.49)

All of the sub-criteria are graded in a very general way whereas strong overlap is found for each criterion so that it is not entirely clear where flaws could be. In a broad sense, the best way to analyze these scores is to look at their relative values and identify the parts that do stand out.

For example, If every score is Good to Very Good while only one is listed as Insufficient to Fair then this is a strong clue as to where improvements need to be made. It is meaningless to try and raise every single score higher and much more beneficial to balance the sub-criteria all to the same level and then increase the overall appearance of the proposal as a whole.

If the entire proposal has a score of Good to Very Good then improving the quality of the writing, quantification, consistency, design and narrative alone can be enough to raise the base score to Very Good to Excellent without addressing each sub-criteria. The overall impression of EIC Accelerator proposals is extremely important and if the evaluator sees a cut-off text on the first page, unreadable graphics, inconsistent font use then this alone can reduce the score significantly.

4. Common Improvements

As mentioned above, the general perception is very important and is usually the first thing to address in very low-scoring applications. The following is a list of some general approaches regarding improvements for unsuccessful EIC Accelerator applicants who want to improve their results through a re-submission to the next deadline.

Score <11

  • The proposal has a very low quality and it is likely that the template was now addressed properly or answers were only brief and undetailed (read: Visual Guide for an EIC Accelerator Application).
  • It is also likely that the product or service does not fit the criteria of innovation as defined by the European Union (EU) (read: Assessing the Innovation).
  • Lastly, the writing, design and overall quality are highly insufficient (read: Design Tips).
  • Advice
    • Work with a professional writer or grant consultant since gradual improvements will likely be unsuccessful.

Score 11-12

  • The proposal remains insufficient and the points above are likely still unaddressed to a large degree.

Score 12-13

  • This is an average score and, in many cases, improving the narrative of the application (i.e. EU impact, quantifying sections better, clearer roadmaps) can be sufficient in reaching a higher score.
  • Advice
    • Re-assess the narrative and consistency of the application (incl. design).
    • Re-assess if the innovation is sufficiently presented.

Score 13-14

  • This score level is already excellent and has reached the EU’s Seal of Excellence (SOE) which makes it eligible to receive grant funding.
  • Improvements are usually found in very detailed parts and small in magnitude whereas editions should be done with a scalpel rather than a broadsword.
  • Advice
    • Focus on the consistency of the application and identify parts that could “throw the reader off”.
    • Focus on the impact of the innovation and if it is something the EU cares about (read: A Broad Vision).


  • Overall Score: Decide if the application should be re-worked or abandoned.
  • Scores for Sections: Identify which section is the most lacking and why.
  • Scores for Sub-Criteria: Focus on the balance between scores rather than every single one.
  • Common Improvements: A shortlist of strategies based on experience

This article was last modified on Oct 18, 2020 @ 11:14

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) under Horizon Europe are:

  • Step 1 (short proposal)
    • open now
  • Step 2 (business plan)
    • 1st cut-off: -
    • 2nd cut-off: -
    • 3rd cut-off: -
    • 4th cut-off: October 19th 2023 (extended)
  • Step 3 (interview)
    • 1st cut-off: -
    • 2nd cut-off: -
    • 3rd cut-off: October 2nd to 6th (extended)
    • 4th cut-off: November 27th to December 8th

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:

A Quick FTO Guide for EIC Accelerator Applicants in a Rush

2023 Budget Allocations for EIC Pathfinder, Transition and Accelerator

Developing the Unique Selling Points (USP) for the EIC Accelerator

Explaining the Resubmission Process for the EIC Accelerator

A Short but Comprehensive Explanation of the EIC Accelerator

EIC Accelerator Success Cases

Deciding Between EIC Pathfinder, Transition and Accelerator

A Winning Candidate for the EIC Accelerator

EIC Accelerator Interview Preparation Process: Scripting the Pitch (Part 1)