Should a Company Hire a Professional Consultant or Write an EIC Accelerator Grant Application Internally? (SME Instrument Phase 2)

The EIC Accelerator Grant financing (SME Instrument Phase 2) is an interesting opportunity for both early-stage startups and established Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) that aim to further develop an innovative product. Many prospect applicants ask themselves if they should write an application on their own or if they should hire a professional consultant or grant writer who could prepare a successful application for them.

Answering this question can be difficult since it does depend on the individual companies skill set as well as past success in securing financing in highly competitive evaluation processes. Since consultants are often not the best people to ask if they should be hired or not, here is a basic list of things to consider for companies to make an informed decision regarding grant writing services:

Project Quality

The first question to be answered is with respect to the quality of the project. While a broad spectrum of industries and projects are eligible for an application, the success chances can vary greatly based on certain criteria such as innovativeness, commercial traction, European impact and the quality of the team (read: Identifying a Broad Vision).

This quality aspect is often difficult to assess for companies (i.e. “My company is the best!”) so it is recommended to reach out to a variety of consultancies and get a free assessment regarding the project quality, especially in terms of its innovative character. This can be a useful first step in planning the EIC Accelerator application process.

The Skill of Writing Proposals

From experience, most companies have very little expertise in writing, editing and perfecting competitive grant proposals but such a skill is absolutely essential in being successful. Even the most unique and excellent unicorn-company cannot succeed in securing the EIC Accelerator grant without great proposal writing. Some companies are naturally well-positioned to apply on their own and reach high evaluation scores but this is quite rare.

If a company has the skills needed for such an application then they usually have a strong track record of obtaining research grants with extensive experience in writing business plans, crafting commercial strategies and having had exhaustive feedback from investors and related stakeholders. This part is difficult to self-assess since most companies believe that they have such expertise but very few are actually correct since the template of the EIC Accelerator is highly simplified and does not properly reflect what an application should contain (read: The Biggest Mistakes When Applying to the EIC Accelerator).

Time & Focus

The time and focus needed to prepare an application and to perform potential re-submissions, research the evaluation process and master the subsequent hurdles that lead up to participating in the evaluation interview (i.e. pitch event) and signing the grant agreement contract all need to be calculated into the decision of hiring a grant consultant. Most companies lack the freedom to focus on such tasks and diverting their attention away from their core business or research can be detrimental in many cases.

As a result, hiring a writer is a great option since it removes all of the time-consuming efforts and reduces the workload to the simple gathering of data and the provision of feedback on certain aspects of the project (read: The Financing Timeline for the EIC Accelerator).

Financial Considerations

Some early-stage SME’s or startups are not in a position to pay the fees that are charged by consultancies which can make financial factors a possible barrier in seeking grant writing support. What needs to be considered is the budget a company has available for the writing process and what the opportunity-cost would be if internal team members spend 30 to 60 days in preparing an application as well as the time spent on re-submissions and editions which can span over a year in total. Since this time could be used for product development activities, businesses should carefully assess the internal costs related to preparing an application.

External consultancies that are offering grant writing services can vary greatly in their business models and fee structures which is why it is recommended to identify a number of different options and to discuss the pricing with each of them before making a decision. This way, the ideal budget for a startup can be assessed and an informed decision can be made (read: Pre-Requisites for an EIC Accelerator Application).

Summary

The major components to be assessed when considering to hire a professional writer or consultant for the EIC Accelerator are:

  • Project Quality: Is the project suitable for the EIC Accelerator?
  • Internal Skill Level: Does the team have the skill level necessary to apply?
  • Time & Focus: Can the company divert their focus from their core business activities?
  • Finances: Is the company able to afford a consultancy or cannot afford to prepare it internally?

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: