Key Takeaways from the EIC Accelerator Deep Tech Report (SME Instrument Phase 2)

The European Innovation Council (EIC) has published The Deep Tech Europe Report: key numbers from the EIC performance (PDF) which summarizes key impact figures and statistics with respect to the EIC Accelerators performance. The EIC Accelerator blended financing program (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) has been active since 2019 and relevant statistics on the equity investments are expected to guide the programmes reshaping throughout Horizon Europe (2021-2027).

The analysis found in this document is not only useful for prospect Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but also for professional writers and consultants who seek to improve their knowledge on the EIC Accelerator and the EU’s future ambitions in general. The detailed information given discusses topics that are valuable and are not generally part of the official work programme or the annotated proposal template such as the selected industries, business models, size of companies and their financing history.

The following is a summary of key takeaways and perspectives on the EIC Accelerator Deep Tech Report:

EIC Budget: Horizon Europe vs. Horizon 2020

The EIC pilot budget will increase from €3bn under Horizon 2020 (2018-2020 – 3 year period) to €10bn for Horizon Europe (2021-2027 – 7 year period). This means that the budget will increase from an average of €1bn a year to €1.42bn per year (a 42% increase).

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

Funded projects were matched by private post-project investments with €3.3 (2015) to €2.9 (2016) for each €1 invested by the EIC in 2015 and 2016.

Female Participation

15% of the beneficiaries for blended finance calls (since June 2019) have had female CEO’s. During the Green Deal deadline in May 2020, this number rose to 34% through the dedicated efforts by the European Commission (EC) to increase the share of women funded by the EIC Accelerator (i.e. gender must now be selected on the Funding and Tenders (F&T) platform – read: Official Proposal Template Updates). Without the Green Deal cut-off, the rate of female CEO’s would have been at only 8% of all beneficiaries.


5% of the former startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) in the EIC’s portfolio are currently valued above €100m.

Applications and Success Rates

With 9,700 applications in a single year, success rates have dropped to 2-3% on average whereas success rates of 1% and potentially lower have likewise been observed due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the strongly advertised Green Deal call (read: The Green Deal) and the generally increased appeal of the grant to startups.

Out of all applications, 2,537 companies have received the Seal of Excellence (SOE) which means that these SME’s have received a score above 13 (read: The EIC Accelerator Score).

Evaluators and Jury Members

2,400 evaluation experts (i.e. for the written application in step 1) and 100 jury members (i.e. for the pitch week interview in step 2 – read: Pitch Deck) have been imperative to selecting the successful applications and assuring high-quality EIC Accelerator awards (read: EIC Accelerator Financing Timeline). The gender of the jury members has been well-balanced with the aim of having fairer results and gender equality whereas 51% of members were male and 49% were female.

While the step 1 evaluators are of varying backgrounds, the jury members have a strong investor-oriented background with 27% being innovation and industry specialists, 24% being venture capitalists, 22% being serial entrepreneurs and 19% being business angels.

Geographic Analysis

The top EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2) companies by country have been Spain (930), Italy (701), the United Kingdom (UK – 459), Germany (377) and France (343) whereas associated countries such as Tunisia (0), Anguilla (2), Greenland (1), Armenia (1) and Gibraltar (0) were less represented.

Size of the SME’s

Judging by the numbers of employees, there has been a strong trend towards micro (1-9 employees) and small businesses (10-49) which are making up 97% of all applicants at equal shares whereas medium-sized businesses (50-249) only made up 3%. This is underlined by the share of medium-sized companies dropping gradually from 12% in 2014 to 3% in 2020.

Age of SME’s

When separating the funded EIC Accelerator companies into their founding dates, a trend towards preferring young SME’s has been observed whereas the share of over 10-year-old companies has dropped from 32% in 2014 to only 9% in 2020. In the same time frame, the youngest startups with an age below 5 years have grown from 47% to 63%. This underlines the interest of the European Union (EU) to encourage breakthrough innovation and reach short time-to-markets.

Selected Industries

From an industry perspective, the top-funded EIC Accelerator projects were representative of the Health (1,262), Energy (922), IT software (735), Transportation (424) and Food industries (396).

Target Customers

From a business model perspective, 77% of companies followed a Business-to-Business (B2B) approach while only 23% were targeting end-users through Business-to-Consumer (B2C) products.

Blended Financing (Grant with Equity Option)

For all awarded blended financing applicants in 2019 and 2020 (4 total cut-offs and 140 winners), the overall budget was €278m in grant financing and €583m in equity with €6.5m being the average financing amount.

EIC Accelerator Follow-Up Investments

EIC Accelerator-awarded companies have attracted a total of €5.3bn in follow-up funding through private investments or similar channels (i.e. equity, debt, Mergers & Acquisitions, Initial Public Offerings – IPO’s).

Equity investments made up a total of €4bn (74%) of the financing in subsequent Series A, growth equity or similar funding founds. Most of the investments were stemming from European sources (69%) whereas 22% were raised from the United States and 4% from Chinese investors.

Successful Exits of EIC Accelerator Companies

Initial Public Offerings (IPO) and acquisitions were the most common exits for EIC Accelerator-awarded companies with 17 and 43 in total, respectively, since 2015. Valuations of the top 10 companies were ranging from €200m to €700m with the annual growth being as high as 40%.

This article was last modified on Jan 12, 2021 @ 10:09

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:

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)