The European Commission (EC) and the European Innovation Council (EIC) in particular have a variety of keywords (or buzzwords) that are often asked for in the official EIC Accelerator grant proposal template (SME Instrument Phase 2). Such keywords are not required to be part of a good business model but, since evaluators will have to grade certain pre-defined criteria, it is useful to be aware of them and, if possible, include them in the writing process.
Especially professional writers and consultants should be able to implement certain keywords so that the evaluators have them in the back of their head when its time to review each individual criterion (read: Using the Evaluation Summary Report). The following is a list that can be used by innovation startups or Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) who are aiming to apply for the EIC Accelerator or similarly competitive grant financing programs.
It can also be useful to edit existing applications and investigate if the following keywords have been considered thoroughly or if they have been neglected in previous submissions. Such attention to detail can make the difference between a barely rejected proposal and a funded project.
While being directly mentioned in the EIC Accelerator template, the phrasing game-changing can be valuable to add to the product description or when addressing how the customer needs are addressed. (Read: Identifying a Broad Vision)
Non-bankability is a very important criterion to address and can, arguably, be the most difficult to receive a high score on. It should be used in the context of other efforts made to receive financing, its general accessibility and how it relates to the EIC Accelerator. (Read: The EIC Accelerator Budget)
Being a very commonly used term in startup circles, it can be useful to use agile while discussing the value chain, implementation and general scaling efforts since companies that can adapt quickly generally do better.
Disruptive and New Markets
The EU and EIC generally want to fund projects that bring something new to the table and have a significant, long-term impact. This means that phrases such as disruption and new market creation should be used throughout the Impact Section (read: Developing a Commercial Strategy). It should be highlighted how a new market is created and why a current market is disrupted in a believable way.
Scalability is a key focus for the EIC Accelerator and it should be used whenever applicable, i.e. in the commercial strategy, work packages, scale-up potential and related sections. If an innovation is not scalable then receiving the EIC Accelerator grant financing will be near impossible (read: Business Models for EIC Accelerator Applications).
New Value-Chains and Business Models
To further illustrate the impact of the applying company and innovation on the industry and European Union (EU) as a whole, it should be described what the effect on adjacent stakeholders will be. This can be related to the creation of new value-chains (i.e. by providing a missing link) or by enabling new business models through a new product or service.
High Risk and De-Risking
Discussing the risk of the EIC Accelerator project is very important and its description is directly requested in multiple parts of the proposal template (i.e. in all major sections). The project should be identified as a high-risk / high-reward project and the EIC Accelerator grant must be presented as the only support available in order to de-risk the project and reach the appropriate Technolgy Readiness Level (TRL) (read: How the EIC Accelerator Funds Technology Readiness Levels).
Gender equality is an important topic for the European Union (EU) and it should be understood as increasing the presence and outcomes of women in a variety of different environments. The evaluators will respond to any company, project or innovation that specifically benefits women whereas a fully female management team will be more favourably evaluated than its male counterpart. It is useful to identify female issues wherever applicable and, if suitable, include them in the editing process.
Inclusion and Diversity
Just like gender equality, inclusion and diversity are other political terms that have made its way into the business world which means that it is useful to include it into certain sections. These words could be applied to the hiring description, team strengths, strategic partners, marketing efforts and the broader impact.
Sustainability and a Circular Economy
Discussing the environmental impact of an EIC Accelerator project can greatly affect the results and success of the application and terms such as sustainable and circular economy can be useful tools to illustrate a certain principle. These words can be added to the introduction or the broader impact section.
Ease-of-Use and Value-for-Money
When discussing the innovation (i.e. in the Innovativeness section), describing the ease-of-use and value-for-money is a must since evaluators will be looking for these exact terms. In the end, pricing and convenience are key metrics that determine buying decisions so they should be given extra care when discussing the Unique Selling Points (USP), Key-Value Propositions (KVP) and competitive differentiators.
The term unicorn loosely describes a startup with a €1bn+ valuation and the EC, naturally, is aiming to create a nourishing environment to help such companies grow. The reason why the EIC Accelerator is so competitive and why a project must be impressive in order to succeed is because the EU wants more unicorns and not fall too far behind the US and China. While the term does not need to be used directly, the companies vision should reflect that such a scale is possible and that it is part of the companies future.
This is a rather simple term but it should not be underestimated how much the EU likes the creation of jobs. A healthy economy has a low incidence of unemployment which means that any EIC Accelerator application should discuss direct and indirect job creations. This can be part of multiple proposal sections since it can also include the avoidance of unemployment in certain sectors.
Important buzzwords for an EIC Accelerator application are:
- Disruptive and New Markets
- New value-chains and Business models
- High Risk and De-Risking
- Inclusion and Diversity
- Sustainability and a Circular Economy
- Ease-of-use and value-for-money
- Unicorn Start-Up
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) are January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open), March 22nd 2023, June 7th 2023 and October 4th 2023 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).
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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:
- EIC Accelerator Interviews: Pitch Deck vs. Proposal Documents (SME Instrument)
- Choosing a Good Project for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- The EIC Accelerator Budget: Grant vs. Blended Finance (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- EIC Accelerator – Introduction and Blended Finance (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- EIC-Accelerator Writing: Providing the Missing Link (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- The Biggest Mistakes When Applying to the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- Identifying a Broad Vision for an EIC Accelerator Project (SME Instrument Phase 2)