The EIC Accelerator funding (grant and equity, with blended financing option) by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) is a selective program designed for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME).
The funding per project can reach €17.5 million in total (€2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity) and applicants often rely on professional writers, freelancers or consultants to support their applications since the evaluation criteria are often obscured in the EIC’s communication (see Evaluation).
This article presents a short list of what a company needs to succeed in the EIC Accelerator program. While the following list will not be true for every successful company, it is a useful guide to adhere to when venturing into the lengthy and high-risk EIC Accelerator evaluation process (see Winning Candidate).
1. Letters of Intent (LOI) and Traction
While it is possible to succeed in Step 1 and Step 2 of the EIC Accelerator with a poor commercial description, it is very difficult to succeed in the Step 3 interviews without clear commercial traction and strategies (see Interview Preparation). This is due to the background of the remote evaluators for Step 1 and 2 in comparison to the Step 3 jury whereas the former often lacks commercial expertise while the latter lacks technical expertise.
Still, LOI’s are helpful in Step 2 and Step 3 of the evaluation process since they demonstrate a market need and real customers who have an interest in purchasing a product. They also allow the applicants to introduce case studies that can further elaborate on the impact of the innovative solution.
Any EIC Accelerator applicant should assure that they have commercial traction in some capacity since the program is designed to scale up rather than seed-fund companies. The general rule is to obtain as many support documents as possible whereas contracts, letters of intent, letters of support, customers lists and even informal email requests are helpful.
2. Clear Disruption Potential
There should be clear evidence that the innovation has the potential to disrupt the status quo which can be based on political pressures (i.e. climate, semiconductors, vaccines, AI) or can be focused on an isolated industry (i.e. real estate, computing, diagnostics).
The narrative should contain a broad explanation of the current state of the industry and clearly explain what is missing or what the lynchpin of disruption will be. If an industry is saturated, has many competing offerings and differentiation is not easily understood (or absent), then a disruptive potential will be difficult to argue for.
Clarity and simplicity are the keys in this aspect since, if the evaluator is confused about why the project is important, they will not provide a good review.
3. Innovative Technology
In the EIC Accelerator program, there is no way around a sophisticated technology. While it is clear that not all funded companies fall into the DeepTech category, no company’s technology will be funded if it was not complex and very difficult to copy.
While the narrative should be broad but easy to understand, the technology should be explained in all of its complexity. The EIC Accelerator template often requests that no jargon is used but no evaluator will ever admit that they are too ignorant to understand something.
If a technical description is too sophisticated for them, evaluators will often accept it at face value and leave a positive review. Of course, this is only true if the technical description is well-structured and -written, even if complex.
On the other hand, if a technical description is simplistic and not comprehensive, the evaluators will claim that it is not innovative or that it is incremental rather than ground-breaking.
4. Consistent and Detailed Descriptions
A very common cause of a bad evaluation in the EIC Accelerator program is a lack of text and arguments. Since the proposal is extremely lengthy (see Timeline), applicants who do not contract professional grant writers or consultants often try to cut corners.
This is, of course, to the detriment of the perceived project quality.
It is important to decide, in the beginning, on the clear messages and quantifiers that need to be presented. The problem should be well quantified from a global, EU and customer perspective. The same is true for the solution which must have clear quantifiers for the benefits of the product and the needs of the market.
These numbers and facts should be used throughout the application and can be repeated in every section which benefits from them. If something is true and impactful, evaluators will generally not complain even if they have read the same statistic dozens of times.
Since the application is very long, the most important numbers and facts should be repeated the most often so that they will not be missed. Of course, this should not be an excuse to copy/paste the same text everywhere but should be an incentive to answer questions in a new way using consistent data.
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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: (early 2024)
- 2nd cut-off: -
- 3rd cut-off: -
- 4th cut-off: -
- Step 3 (interview)
- 1st cut-off: -
- 2nd cut-off: -
- 3rd cut-off: -
- 4th cut-off: January 29th to February 9th 2024 (extended again)
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: