Identifying a Broad Vision for an EIC Accelerator Project (SME Instrument Phase 2)

The introduction is an important aspect of an EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2) application and, even though it is not specifically mentioned in the template, it sets up much of the perceived project impact (see EIC Accelerator Writing: Providing the Missing Link).

In general, the introduction should be as broad as possible and unify all of the potentials a certain technology has in a given environment. This means that the technology, in turn, should also be viewed as expandable since the current application of the prototype might not reflect what a fully mature product would have to offer.

In summary, next to other essential parts which should be aligned to improve the projects perceived impact (see Using the Evaluation Summary Report), a grant application should adhere to the following principles:

1. The Great Vision

It is often useful for a professional writer or consultant to strip down the project into its bare essence and to ask: “What is the biggest story I can tell with these ingredients?” This means re-assessing the applicant’s past accomplishments, their customers, their prototype, their selling points and the future potential of the technology.

In order to be successful with an EIC Accelerator application, the project should not only embody “profit” and “feasibility” but also sell a vision that is out of the ordinary – i.e. a broad impact.

A startup or Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) should be aware that what makes for a good company does not necessarily make for a good grant application. The grant financing, and especially the EIC Accelerator, is highly competitive and only those companies who can combine a great innovation with an even greater vision are able to persevere through the 2-step evaluation process (i.e. written application and in-person pitch).

2. Aligned with the EU’s Vision

To answer the question “What does the EU want?”, directives, targets and policies should always be considered as well as the specific key enabling technologies, as defined by the European Commission. These can change in short time frames which is why new developments should periodically be researched for new grant submissions as well as during editions and resubmissions of a previously rejected application.

In general, it is always useful to fully align the vision of a project with what the EU cares about. In almost all cases, a well-aligned narrative can be created around a core technology and company which maximizes the project’s impact.

As a side note, it should also be considered if there are aspects of a particular project or technology that the EU might not be interested in. There are critical areas that should be avoided if they are directly violating key targets of the European Commission. These could be concerning fossil fuels, embryonic research, dangerous human testing or political topics.

3. Future Proof Technologies and Business Models

It is too easy to lead a business and only have a very narrow view of the future. Understandably, most startups are concerned with their cash flow and their immediate financing status rather than considering what the future holds 10 to 20 years down the line.

Still, the EU, and investors in general, will look at the longevity of a project just as much as at its current company health. It is important to consider if a certain project could be disrupted in the following years either through regulations, alternative technologies, changing user demands or similar mechanisms.

At the very least, it should be assured that there are no critical stakeholders in a given grant application which will be obviously outdated in only a few years (i.e. the phase-out of fossil fuels, the transition to platooning/autonomous driving or blockchain-enabled cross-border payments).

4. A Realistic Ability to Scale

A fourth factor to consider for a successful EIC Accelerator application is a company’s ability to grow in a certain industry. This is centrally important to the EU since scaling and growth are key factors for the evaluation and required for a project to reach its envisioned economic impact.

There is a great difference between having small amounts of traction with a certain prototype versus scaling to a reasonable size while gaining market share from established competitors. The latter usually have mechanisms to react to commercial threats in the market such as pricing leverage at scale (i.e. pushing down the price to outcompete startups), copying competing products (i.e. larger teams and R&D expenditures) or by poaching customers based on a stronger branding & trust.

A commercial strategy which is realistic and relates to such threats is indispensable in a grand future vision since its neglect would make the proposal sound too good to be true.

Summary

A key feature of a successful EIC Accelerator Phase 2 application is to always provide a great vision since this will define the interest the evaluators have in the project and make it stand out. The four core pillars of the project vision are:

  1. Expanded vision for maximum impact
  2. Aligned to what the European Union cares about
  3. Future-proof and no obvious deal-breakers
  4. Realistic scaling and mitigation measures

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: