Tag Archives: EIC Accelerator 2021

The New EIC Ecosystem, Fast-Track and Pilot Plug-In Schemes (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 8)

The EIC Accelerator funding (grant and equity, with blended financing option) awards up to €2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity financing per project (€17.5 million total). It is a popular funding instrument specializing in DeepTech startups and small mid-caps which aim to finalize their product developments, enter the market and scale globally.

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

While the European Innovation Council (EIC) has remained silent regarding the 2023 Work programme that is yet to be released, ScienceBusiness has published the second draft of the highly anticipated document dated July 2022. This article series is exploring some changes and interesting aspects of the EIC Accelerator that are relevant for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and for professional writers, freelancers or consultants.

ScienceBusiness has likewise published the entire library of Horizon Europe documents by the European Commission (EC) that are mostly in draft form and can be found here.

All the information and conclusions provided in this article are subject to change and the opinion of the author. The following statement by the EIC is part of the 2023 EIC Work Programme draft that this article is based on:

“This document represents a working draft of the EIC work programme for the purpose of feedback and comments from members of the Horizon Europe Programme Committee for the EIC and European Innovation Ecosystems. This draft has not been adopted or endorsed by the European Commission. Any views expressed are the views of the Commission services and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the Commission. The information transmitted is intended only for the Member State or entity to which it is addressed for discussions and may contain confidential and/or privileged material.”

The EIC Ecosystem

In 2021, it was leaked that the EIC is aiming to create an ecosystem not only for DeepTech companies but also for investors, consultancies, coaches and other relevant stakeholders.

“The idea of the platform is to allow […] any applicant at a given moment where he needs […] support from someone […] access to an ecosystem platform […] where he will find different actors but also those private companies, consultants who want to partake into the exercise to be referenced in this in the system and to offer their service. Now, they will have to pay something, a fee to be referenced.”

Nicolas Sabatier (General Counsel & Adviser to the EIC/EISMAE) via AI Tool EIC Training for NCPs 11th12th March 2021, quoted at 1:52:09

While the vision of a subscription-based service might still be far in the future, its first iteration is on the way.

“From 2023, the EIC BAS services will be expanded through EIC Ecosystem Partners which can include, for example, investors, business angels, mentors and coaches, innovation agencies, business associations, clusters, accelerators, incubators, technology transfer offices, venture builders, etc. EIC BAS services provided by Ecosystem Partners includes access to existing incubation and acceleration programmes as well as services specifically designed in collaboration with EIC.”

Especially the search for co-investors is an exciting prospect for applicants since it can help them gain access to EIC Financing without being forced to find private lead investors by themselves.

“The EIC will also continue to directly manage a core set of business acceleration services which provide a clear added value, which include: A platform for EIC Accelerator companies in receipt of equity investment to find co-investors”

Fast Track and Pilot Plug-in Schemes

The EIC’s 2023 Work Programme continues to offer fast-track and plug-in schemes whereas a company funded under specific EU grant or equity financing projects can cross-migrate into the EIC Accelerator application process without having to start from scratch.

“Full proposals to the EIC Accelerator stemming from the Fast Track scheme will be assessed as set out in Section IV, and will be treated in exactly the same way as all other full proposals.“

“In 2023, the funding bodies and schemes which are eligible for the Fast Track for EIC Accelerator cut-off dates are:

  • The EIC Pathfinder and EIC Transition projects (including under EIC pilot);
  • The Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT);
  • The Eureka secretariat for SMEs supported under the Eurostars-2 Joint Programme and the Partnership on Innovative SMEs;
  • Companies supported by the WomenTech.EU programme.”

“Under the Plug-in scheme, applicants do not apply directly to the EIC Accelerator call (Section IV). Instead, a project review is carried out by the certified national or regional programme to assess the innovation or market deployment potential of an existing project supported by the programme, and to decide whether the project is suitable for support under the EIC Accelerator.”

Both mechanisms seem beneficial to applicants on the surface but they are, unfortunately, of limited use. Fast track and plug-in schemes only allow applicants to skip the first of the three evaluation steps (i.e. the Step 1 short application) but this is also the easiest step in the entire process.

If a company can skip Step 1 which consists of a pitch deck, a video and a written proposal then this also means that there is no video for the project that the Step 2 evaluators and the Step 3 jury can look at which can be a disadvantage (read: EIC Accelerator Pitch Video).

Of course, a company can decide to upload a Step 1 video retroactively even if they have been allowed to skip this step which is highly recommended.

“Applicants will then be invited to prepare a full proposal for the EIC Accelerator to one of the cut-off dates within the next 12 months following initial review. […] Full proposals to the EIC Accelerator stemming from the Plug-in scheme will be assessed as set out in Section IV (above) and will be treated exactly the same way as all other full proposals.”

Note: The term “full proposal” refers to the Step 2 application consisting of a detailed business plan.

What further questions the usefulness of the fast track and plug-in programs is the fact that the Step 2 application re-uses a substantial amount of the text from the Step 1 application. In fact, one can use 100% of the text written in Step 1 for the Step 2 application which means that, even if a company skips Step 1, they still have to fill all of these Step 2 sections from scratch.

Considering the limited effort required for the preparation of a Step 1 proposal, their high success rates and the fact that the text, video and pitch deck would need to be prepared for Step 2 anyways, the fast track and plug-in schemes are of little practical benefit. An exception would be a case where a company has significant time restrictions and must unlock the Step 2 EIC Accelerator template in the online platform as soon as possible to meet the next cut-off.

Outlook

A truly useful fast track or plug-in scheme would allow a direct application to the Step 3 interviews especially if the plug-in scheme has already performed additional due diligence on the project specifically for the EIC Accelerator. Step 2 is the most difficult step of the EIC Accelerator program but it is understandable that the EIC aims to retain the integrity of the full application process since it could otherwise compromise the quality of projects reaching the Step 3 interviews.

This article is part of a series whereas the remaining articles can be found here, once published:


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).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



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:

The Grant Proposal Evaluation Criteria (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 6)

The EIC Accelerator funding (grant and equity, with blended financing option) awards up to €2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity financing per project (€17.5 million total). It is a popular funding instrument specializing in DeepTech startups and small mid-caps which aim to finalize their product developments, enter the market and scale globally.

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

While the European Innovation Council (EIC) has remained silent regarding the 2023 Work programme that is yet to be released, ScienceBusiness has published the second draft of the highly anticipated document dated July 2022. This article series is exploring some changes and interesting aspects of the EIC Accelerator that are relevant for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and for professional writers, freelancers or consultants.

ScienceBusiness has likewise published the entire library of Horizon Europe documents by the European Commission (EC) that are mostly in draft form and can be found here.

All the information and conclusions provided in this article are subject to change and the opinion of the author. The following statement by the EIC is part of the 2023 EIC Work Programme draft that this article is based on:

“This document represents a working draft of the EIC work programme for the purpose of feedback and comments from members of the Horizon Europe Programme Committee for the EIC and European Innovation Ecosystems. This draft has not been adopted or endorsed by the European Commission. Any views expressed are the views of the Commission services and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the Commission. The information transmitted is intended only for the Member State or entity to which it is addressed for discussions and may contain confidential and/or privileged material.”

Evaluation Criteria for the Short Application (Step 1)

The evaluation criteria for the EIC Accelerators short application have remained largely consistent whereas the 2023 EIC Work Programme outlines the following scoring criteria for Step 1 applications.

1. Excellence

  • Breakthrough and market creating nature: Does the innovation have a high degree of novelty – compared to existing products, services and business models – with the potential to create or significantly transform markets?

  • Timing: Is the timing right for this innovation in terms of market, user, societal or scientific of technological trends and developments?

2. Impact

  • Scale up potential: Does the innovation have scale up potential, including the potential to develop new markets and impact on the growth of the company? Does the company show a clear and convincing vision, taking into account its current level of development and maturity, in relation to the targeted market, the business model and growth forecasts?

  • Broader impact: Will the innovation, if successfully commercialized achieve positive broader societal, economic, environmental or climate impacts?

3. Level of risk, implementation, and need for Union support

  • Team: Does the team have the capability and motivation to implement the innovation proposal and bring it to the market? Is there a plan to acquire any critical competencies which are currently missing, including adequate representation of women and men?

Complaints and Rebuttals for Step 1 Rejectees

In 2021, the EIC has made a significant step towards transparency by allowing all EIC Accelerator applicants to view comments from the evaluators who have reviewed their proposals. While this is of tremendous benefit to applicants, it has likewise exposed a certain degree of randomness in the way applications are graded including mistakes, negligence or plain ignorance.

This is, of course, to be expected and only natural when facing thousands of applications and multiple reviewers per proposal. Still, this has inevitably led to complaints regarding specific Evaluation Summary Reports (ESR) and especially the remote evaluators.

While the EIC has tried to investigate such complaints in the past, the vast majority of applicants were simply told to re-apply to the next cut-off and summarize their rebuttal in the resubmission of their proposal (i.e. via the email of the European Innovation Council and SME’s Executive Agency: support@eic.eismea.eu).

The new 2023 Work Programme is outlining the conditions for issuing a formal complaint as opposed to relying on the resubmission of rejected Step 1 proposals.

“You may file a complaint if you believe that the evaluator(s) made an incorrect assessment on the following grounds:

  1. a factual mistake;
  2. absence of information which is not required at short proposal stage; and
  3. a manifest error of appreciation on the scope and purpose of the Accelerator.”

Unfortunately, this has only limited use since the EIC Accelerator’s Step 1 is by far the easiest step. If the same rule was applied to Step 2 full applications then the EIC would likely find themselves with a valid complaint for the majority of rejected applicants since it is common to encounter at least one factual mistake in any given Evaluation Summary Report (i.e. misreading Letters of Intent, Freedom to Operate analyses or missing critical information).

In case a rejected Step 1 application is retroactively given a GO grading (i.e. passing the step successfully) then they are able to apply to Step 2 at the original deadline that was reachable in their previous submission.

“If your proposal is reevaluated as a GO, you will be eligible to introduce your full application to the same cutoff date that you would have been able to submit to, with a GO from the initial evaluation.”

This second quote from the EIC’s 2023 Work Programme draft is obscure but this can be understood as the EIC allowing Step 2 applicants to hand in applications past the deadline in case a complaint was approved. But this seems unrealistic due to time constraints in the preparation of Step 2 applications and the limited time window of the evaluation prior to the fixed interview deadlines.

Evaluation Criteria for the Full Application (Step 2)

For the EIC Accelerator’s Step 2, the evaluation criteria are defined as follows

1. Excellence

  • Breakthrough and market creating nature: Does the innovation have a high degree of novelty, compared to existing products, services and business models, with the potential to create or significantly transform markets?

  • Additional sub-criterion for EIC Accelerator Challenges ONLY: How relevant are the proposal objectives in contributing to the specific objectives of the Challenge?

  • Timing: Is the timing right for this innovation in terms of market, user, societal or scientific of technological trends and developments?

  • Technological feasibility: Is the innovation based on a technology or technologies that have been adequately assessed at least in a laboratory environment and relevant environments to characterise the potential and assess the level of risk (at least TRL 5/6)? Is the technology developed in a safe, secure and reliable manner?

  • Intellectual Property: Does your company have the necessary Intellectual Property Rights to ensure freedom to operate and adequate protection of the idea?

2. Impact

  • Scale up potential: Does the innovation have scale up potential, including the potential to develop new markets and impact on the growth of the company? Are the associated financial needs well assessed and realistic?

  • Broader impact: Will the innovation, if successfully commercialised achieve positive broader societal, economic, environmental or climate impacts?

  • Additional sub-criterion for EIC Accelerator Challenges ONLY: Does the proposed application have the potential to contribute to the expected outcomes and impacts set out in the Challenge?

  • Market fit and competitor analysis: Has the potential market for the innovation been adequately assessed, including conditions and growth rates? Has a competitive analysis been thoroughly performed, including identification of potential customers and relevant types of users, including women and men, definition of unique selling points and key differentiation from competitors?

  • Commercialisation strategy: Is there a convincing and well thought-through strategy for commercialisation, including regulatory approvals/compliance needed, time to market/deployment, and business and revenue model?

  • Key partners: Have the key partners required to develop and commercialize the innovation been identified and engaged, including their roles/competences and a sufficient level of commitment and incentivisation?

3. Level of risk, implementation, and need for Union support

  • Team: Does the team have the capability and motivation to implement the innovation proposal and bring it to the market? Is there a plan to acquire any critical competencies which are currently missing, including adequate representation of women and men?

  • Milestones: Is there a clear implementation plan with defined milestones, work packages and deliverables, together with realistic resources and timings?

  • Risk level of the investment: Does the nature and level of risk of the investment in your innovation mean that European market actors are unwilling to commit the full amount alone? Is there evidence that market actors would be willing to invest, either alongside the EIC or at a later stage?

  • Note: Small mid-caps will be expected to provide documentary evidence that their bank has refused the financing needed for the project.

  • Risk mitigation: Have the main risks (e.g. technological, market, financial, regulatory) been identified, together with measures to take to mitigate them?

Step 3 Interview Criteria

For the Step 3 interviews, the same vague criteria used in the previous iterations of the EIC Accelerator apply (read: How to Prepare for the Interview). An interesting feature of the Step 3 interviews is that the EIC Jury can consult external analysts who will assess the project prior to the interview.

“Jury members will also have access to analyses (for example on financial metrics) generated by the EIC AI-based platform and in certain cases the independent assessment of a specialised expert in the field of science or technology. Such analyses will be made available to applicants after the decision.”

This might provide only limited usefulness since it would be more beneficial to make the scientific and technical aspects a fundamental part of the Step 3 selection rather than an optional add-on.

Otherwise, a groundbreaking battery startup without revenues or customer commitments could consistently lose against a software company with excellent financial health and competitive advantages but only limited technological or scientific breakthroughs. In the same way, a scientific team with only 2 or 3 employees will have a difficult time convincing the EIC Jury while a technical Jury member might be impressed by the technology and achievements while being more optimistic.

Through the outsourcing of the EIC Fund’s management to the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Alter Domus (Luxembourg), the EIC could become more risk-averse and, while it claims to fund DeepTech at TRL5, it might end up only picking projects that are already in the market or have significant customer commitments.

This article is part of a series whereas the remaining articles can be found here, once published:


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).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



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:

How Grant-First Projects get Equity Investments (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 2)

The EIC Accelerator funding (grant and equity, with blended financing option) awards up to €2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity financing per project (€17.5 million total). It is a popular funding instrument specializing in DeepTech startups and small mid-caps which aim to finalize their product developments, enter the market and scale globally.

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

While the European Innovation Council (EIC) has remained silent regarding the 2023 Work programme that is yet to be released, ScienceBusiness has published the second draft of the highly anticipated document dated July 2022. This article series is exploring some changes and interesting aspects of the EIC Accelerator that are relevant for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and for professional writers, freelancers or consultants.

ScienceBusiness has likewise published the entire library of Horizon Europe documents by the European Commission (EC) that are mostly in draft form and can be found here.

All the information and conclusions provided in this article are subject to change and the opinion of the author. The following statement by the EIC is part of the 2023 EIC Work Programme draft that this article is based on:

“This document represents a working draft of the EIC work programme for the purpose of feedback and comments from members of the Horizon Europe Programme Committee for the EIC and European Innovation Ecosystems. This draft has not been adopted or endorsed by the European Commission. Any views expressed are the views of the Commission services and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the Commission. The information transmitted is intended only for the Member State or entity to which it is addressed for discussions and may contain confidential and/or privileged material.”

Financing Modes

The introduction of new funding modularities such as grant-first, grant-only, equity-only and blended financing has created confusion and added a variety of conditions that need to be considered (read: 2021 EIC Accelerator Work Programme). These especially relate to the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) and timelines expected from the applicants (read: Technology Readiness Levels). The success rates have historically differed among these options based on data published by the EIC (read: 2022 Results) although these statistics are incomplete due to the ability of the Jury to change the funding request during the Step 3 interviews (read: Changing Grant Requests).

Grant-First Financing

An interesting development of the EIC Accelerator is the introduction of the grant-first application. As opposed to grant-only applications which foresee applicants to reach TRL9 at the end of the project (read: Funding TRL’s), grant-first is designed for very risky projects which need to define and reach important milestones before follow-up equity financing can be issued. The outcome of the grant-first project is expected to be TRL8 and should be accompanied by a milestone which can be assessed and allows the applicant to become eligible for equity investments by the EIC Fund.

In theory, the EIC Accelerator should only fund high-risk projects since the risk level is part of the evaluation criteria. In fact, the 2023 Work Programme writes:

“Financial support is provided through three main funding schemes: the ‘EIC Pathfinder’ for advanced research on breakthrough / game-changing technologies; ‘EIC Transition’ for transforming research results into innovation opportunities; and the ‘EIC Accelerator’ for individual companies to develop and scale up breakthrough innovations with high risk and high impact.”

This is its mission since low-risk and high-return projects are financed by private markets and banks. In reality, the Step 3 EIC Jury will often prefer lower-risk and high-impact projects of companies that are already interesting to private markets so it is common that a company financed by the EIC would have raised private capital anyways as well as cases such as a recently funded software company that has raised €30+ million in the past and then received grant-only support by the EIC in 2022.

It is difficult to imagine that such a company was unable to leverage financing below €2.5M from private markets after raising over €30M in the past.

It could be argued that grant-first support is the original vision of the EIC Accelerator since these projects are the riskiest and most groundbreaking projects that require a safety net in the form of milestones to assess the progress on-the-fly before further funding is committed.

“Grant First: Your innovation is based on a scientific discovery or novel technology and still requires significant work to validate and demonstrate in relevant environments in order to properly assess its commercial potential.”

If the commercial potential for high-risk grant-first projects is uncertain but, on the other hand, it is clear for other projects (i.e. equity-only, grant-only, blended) then the latter should be medium-risk at best by way of comparison since all projects must have functioning technologies already (i.e. TRL5/6:  validated/demonstrated in the relevant environment).

Path to Equity Financing

For grant-first projects, the new 2023 EIC Work Programme now outlines how a company can access the equity component which allows it to reach TRL9. What is interesting is that no re-application via the 3-step EIC Accelerator application process using the online template is required (i.e. at least it is not explicitly mentioned). Instead, a formal assessment is performed which is followed by due diligence conducted by the European Investment Bank (EIB).

“Grant First: Grant-first companies are eligible for a follow on equity component subject to a milestone assessment attesting that the innovation activities are well under way and that the innovation has the potential for deployment or the interest shown by potential strategic/lead investor(s) in co-investing with the EIC into the company, as a sign of maturity of the innovation and of deployment perspective.

If the milestone assessment for a Grant First proposal is positive, you will be:

  • required to demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means (e.g. revenue flow, existing investors or shareholders) to finance or any remaining innovation activities and the deployment and scaling up of your innovation; or
  • invited to enter due diligence and negotiations to receive an EIC equity investment, including to complement any other third party investments if insufficient. Allocation of the equity investment is conditional to the due diligence assessment.

In your proposal for grant-first support, you will have to include a milestone at mid-term or at the latest 6 months before the end of the project, for the EIC to assess and decide whether to proceed or not with the negotiation and the award of an investment component.”

Considering this process, it is reasonable for all new applicants applying for blended finance or grant-first to directly include the respective milestones in the applications albeit this can also be done after the Step 3 interview has been passed successfully.

Limitations of Grant-First Projects

What is interesting to note is that, while equity financing can be used for all activities from TRL5 to TRL9, grant-first applicants are limited to only the grant component which technically limits the maximum budget that can be requested to reach TRL8 to €2.5M (including loans if they become available in the future).

For a blended finance project, financing TRL5 to TRL8 can be supplemented with equity investments which makes the maximum budget to reach TRL8 significantly larger. Considering that grant-first applications are only for the highest-risk projects, this means that the EIC will prioritize the allocation of its budget to medium and low-risk projects that receive blended financing without additional milestones.

A company with high-risk developments for artificial organs or new cancer treatments at TRL5 will be difficult to finance under the EIC because of the substantial funding requirements at low TRL’s, the need for long and expensive clinical trials as well as the limitation of grant-first applications to only obtain a grant to finance the activities.

Even in a less capital-intensive field, a project that requires €10M to reach TRL8 could not be funded without loans from other sources since grant-first applications have a maximum budget limit of €2.5M. There are still cases where an applicant can ask for larger funding amounts but this is only available in rare cases and is unlikely to be significantly higher.

There are mentions of loans provided by the EIC but these will only be available in the future since it is still vaguely described in the Work Programme. In fact, the rule that grant funding can only cover 70% of the costs is still in place so a grant-first applicant also needs sufficient co-financing or a loan by default.

“To provide for the co-financing of TRL5 to 8 activities, the EIC may introduce the option for grant-first applicants to request in their full proposal an investment component to co-finance the 30% of the costs for their TRL5 to 8 activities not covered by the grant component. If and when this option becomes available, the application form will be modified accordingly.”

Grant Budget Amounts

The 2023 EIC Work Programme also outlines the conditions for the request of higher grant amounts and longer durations:

“The grant component should normally be less than EUR 2.5 million but may be for a higher amount in exceptional and well justified cases. The innovation activities to be supported should normally be completed within 24 months but may be longer in well justified cases. “

This article is part of a series whereas the remaining articles can be found here, once published:


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).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



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:

The Eligible Applicants (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 1)

The EIC Accelerator funding (grant and equity, with blended financing option) awards up to €2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity financing per project (€17.5 million total). It is a popular funding instrument specializing in DeepTech startups and small mid-caps which aim to finalize their product developments, enter the market and scale globally.

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

While the European Innovation Council (EIC) has remained silent regarding the 2023 Work programme that is yet to be released, ScienceBusiness has published the second draft of the highly anticipated document dated July 2022. This article series is exploring some changes and interesting aspects of the EIC Accelerator that are relevant for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and for professional writers, freelancers or consultants.

ScienceBusiness has likewise published the entire library of Horizon Europe documents by the European Commission (EC) that are mostly in draft form and can be found here.

All the information and conclusions provided in this article are subject to change and the opinion of the author. The following statement by the EIC is part of the 2023 EIC Work Programme draft that this article is based on:

“This document represents a working draft of the EIC work programme for the purpose of feedback and comments from members of the Horizon Europe Programme Committee for the EIC and European Innovation Ecosystems. This draft has not been adopted or endorsed by the European Commission. Any views expressed are the views of the Commission services and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the Commission. The information transmitted is intended only for the Member State or entity to which it is addressed for discussions and may contain confidential and/or privileged material.”

EIC Accelerator Applicants

While the EIC Accelerator does fund software products and services, it has retained its focus on funding groundbreaking DeepTech innovations based on scientific breakthroughs and discoveries.

“EIC Accelerator focuses on innovations building on scientific discovery or technological breakthroughs (‘deep tech’) and where significant funding is needed over a long timeframe before returns can be generated (‘patient capital’)”

Non-Associated Third Countries

Next to investors and natural persons associated with an SME in an eligible country or those who are meaning to establish an SME, there are now also new eligibility criteria for other entities and natural persons from non-associated countries. It has long been possible to apply as an investor, a natural person or a parent company as long as the beneficiary, a company registered in a Horizon Europe-associated country, is established prior to signing the grant agreement contract (i.e. after the Step 3 interview was successful).

This allowed persons and entities from countries associated with Horizon Europe to pass through all three steps prior to committing to the creation of a new legal entity. This is, of course, desirable since the success rates of passing through all three Steps of the EIC Accelerator can easily drop below 5% (read: EIC Accelerator 2022 Results).

In the newest Work Programme, the EIC is expanding the rules to allow entities or persons from non-associated third countries (glossary) to apply to the EIC Accelerator if they relocate their headquarters or establish an SME in a country associated with Horizon Europe.

“One or more natural persons (including individual entrepreneurs) or legal entities, which are: From a non-associated third country intending to establish an SME (including start-ups) or to relocate an existing SME to a Member State or an Associated Country. Your company must prove its effective establishment in a Member State or an Associated Country at the time of submission of the full proposal. The Commission may set specific conditions and milestones in the contract to ensure that the interest of the Union is met.”

In contrast to the way natural persons and investors are able to proceed with the full application process up to the final step, non-associated third countries must create a legal entity prior to applying with a Step 2 full application. In the sight of the low success rates of this step, it is not advisable to relocate a business headquarters or create a legal entity prior to gaining any official approval from the European Commission (EC) and the EIC.

Globalization of the EIC Accelerator

Third countries should not take this risk unless there is another strong reason to relocate their headquarters even if the EIC funding is not granted.

It could be seen as beneficial to apply to Step 1 of the EIC Accelerator as a way of assessing the quality of a project and determining the odds of future success but it is still not recommended since the correlation of scores between all three Steps can be small while Step 3 can entirely shift the evaluation criteria (read: EIC Accelerator Interview). The final decision makers will only assess the project in Step 3 and not be involved in Step 1 or Step 2 so any assessment in Step 1 has limited predictive power.

But it is understandable why the EIC is adding this restriction. One of the major goals of the new submission system developed by the EIC and implemented in 2021  is to reduce the number of applicants and to simplify the application and evaluation process (read: The 2021 EIC Accelerator). If the EIC were to open up the full process including Step 2 (full business plan) and Step 3 (face-to-face or online interview) to major American and Asian markets then they would be overwhelmed with tens of thousands of global applicants who try their luck.

In fact, this new rule and the opening up of Step 1 might already overwhelm the Step 1 evaluations since, technically, any company from third countries not associated with Horizon Europe can apply which should lead to a rise in Step 1 applications.

Combined with the effort of the EIC to gain global notoriety through the participation in international conferences (i.e. European Pavilion at CES Las Vegas) as well as the lack of communication on the actual success rates of the program for each Step (read: June 2021 EIC Accelerator Results), it is only a matter of time until the number of Step 1 applications will skyrocket.

This article is part of a series whereas the remaining articles can be found here, once published:


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).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



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 Interview Preparation Process: The Importance of the Q&A (Part 2)

This article is the second part of the interview preparation guide for the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity). It provides a perspective on how an applicant, Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) or startup could prepare for the EIC Accelerator pitch interview but it is not a pre-requisite to succeed in front of the jury.

While there is no official guidance or template on the preparation process for the EIC pitch, most professional grant writers or consultancies have developed their own processes to prepare their clients for a successful Step 3. This series of articles provides an example for such a process.

Introduction

Introduced in 2018, the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) have created a Jury-system for the evaluation of successful written applications which acts as the final step before the grant approval. This illustrates the desire of the European Union (EU) to fund real companies that not only have interesting projects but also have the desire, confidence and motivation necessary to implement said project. In addition, it allows the EIC to supplement their remote evaluator’s pool with experts in the investment field.

Since most startups have rich experience in talking to investors, giving presentations during pitch events or hosting workshops and seminars themselves, it often comes as a surprise that they need to practise for the EIC Accelerator pitch at all. But consultants understand that this is absolutely necessary since the EIC pitch week differs from a normal Venture Capital (VC) or investor interaction in the following ways.

No Specialised Knowledge

The Jury members might not be experts regarding the technology or might not know the industry dynamics. The EIC Jury is a well-balanced collection of business experts including consultants, angel investors, educators (i.e. business schools), VC partners and entrepreneurs but, while the EIC aims to segment the Jury into thematic groups to facilitate the interview process, one must assume that half or more of the audience neither has previous knowledge about the technology or the market that is being targeted. This also extends to the European Investment Bank (EIB) members which are allowed to sit in and ask questions.

Not Investing Themselves

A second consideration to make is that, while the Jury might contain investors, they are not investing their own money. Usually, startups will be in contact with people who are able to make investment decisions and who are directly benefitting or suffering from a good or a bad funding outcome. This is not the case with the EIC Jury since these generally do not invest in the startups they interview and, if the investment turned out to be poor (i.e. bankruptcy, fraud, failure) then the Jury will face no negative repercussions since the EIC is responsible for the funding approval.

This creates an interesting dynamic where the Jury members have no skin in the game but select companies based on the profile outlined by the EIC (i.e. DeepTech, unicorns, non-bankability, high-risk). This does not mean that their assessments will be lesser than in the private market or that they will not be as stringent as they would be if their own financing or career was at stake but it is worth considering since Jury members might pose different questions compared to conventional investors.

Ambiguous Evaluation Criteria

While many investors have a certain focus (i.e. industry, technology, geography), they all have one primary goal in common: To make a return on their investment within a given time frame while minimizing their risk. But the EIC is turning that on its head with ambiguous criteria that most normal investors would not consider prioritizing: Non-bankability and high-risk.

The EIC aims to close the gap between companies that are too risky to finance and those that have been sufficiently de-risked to warrant substantial Series A investments. As a result, it seeks out companies that are:

  • Non-bankable: A company that can’t leverage financing from other public or private sources (i.e. national grants, bank loans, VC’s, angel investors, etc.)
  • High-risk: A project that is too risky and deters investors.

Why these criteria could be viewed as being ambiguous:

  1. Many of the companies that are funded under the EIC have raised substantial financing above €1M prior to receiving the EIC grant. As such, there is no reason why they could not raise similar financing amounts again even if one-time public grants were a major financing source.
  2. Most companies have access to other grants since there are many options available and a majority of companies apply for more than one grant at a time.
  3. The project must be feasible and the risks must be well-mitigated or it will be rejected by the EIC. The remote evaluators heavily screen for feasibility and a product-market-fit (i.e. traction and willingness-to-pay) which excludes many high-risk projects by default.

Note: The three points above can be argued but it is likely that most EIC Accelerator beneficiaries would have raised financing from other sources if they were rejected by the EIC since they are excellent business cases.

Why These Criteria Still Benefit the EIC

High-Risk Projects

The EIC likely understands that it’s nonsensical to select projects with an unreasonable level of risk (i.e. projects with almost no chance of success) but it does not want to attract easy-to-finance projects, specifically. It uses the term high-risk to inform applicants that they should not be afraid to apply even if they have been rejected by many investors or grants prior because of their risk profile.

This way, the EIC creates a space where highly ambitious and cutting-edge projects gather because they are riskier than others when viewed from an investors perspective. Of course, there will also be applicants who are too high risk and lack the expertise, a product-market-fit or the competence to execute the project but these are filtered in Steps 1 and 2 of the EIC Accelerator evaluation.

Non-Bankability

The EIC wants to be an exclusive financing instrument because it has the goal of turning science into innovation as EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said during her Keynote in 2021:

The so-called European innovation paradox that Europe is a world leader in science and research but that other regions lead on innovation so the EIC will build on the amazing research base in Europe to support disruptive DeepTech and market creation startups. This will be a priority role for the EIC.

Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

In addition, the EIC aims to de-risk such highly technical projects sufficiently to warrant private industry investments which would have been elusive otherwise. This renders the EIC a catalyst for the European DeepTech ecosystem:

We will crowd in private investment. Private investment in European DeepTech. The 10 billion budget of the European Innovation Council aims to crowd in at least €50 billion from the private sector.

Mark Ferguson, Chair of the EIC Advisory Board

This means that the EIC does not aim to be the first choice for all startups in the European ecosystem but seeks to attract a small group of excellent, DeepTech companies that do not have access to capital. The criteria of non-bankability is a way of selecting for this goal.

In reality, the EIC can never know how easy or difficult it is for a company to raise substantial investments since this highly depends on connections, the geography and the ingenuity of the management team. While it can ask for it in a grant proposal template, it is difficult to investigate statements such as “We are unable to raise private financing from VC’s or local grants due to the following rejections…”. In practice, non-bankability often means:

We will invest unless someone else invests before us.

If a company raises €20M right before the Step 3 interview then it will likely be rejected because the EIC would rather spend their budget on companies that have not reached this point yet. If the company describes the difficulty in raising financing to get the EIC funding (i.e. it is non-bankable) and raises €20M only 6 months after the grant has been approved then this will be a great success case for the EIC to announce. Even if the grant did not affect the €20M funding round (i.e. this is extremely difficult to verify).

Introducing the criteria of non-bankability is thus a great way for the EIC to assure that the financing is allocated where it is able to further the goals outlined by Commissioner Gabriel and EIC Chair Ferguson.

Rejecting Over Funding

The EIC Accelerator process is highly selective and, with approval rates of 67% in Step 1 and 16% in Step 2, it can be said that all applicants successfully reaching Step 3 are excellent. With such an in-depth evaluation process that includes video pitches, pitch decks, support documents and, most importantly, a business plan with a length that is greater than most other grant proposals, it would be almost impossible for bad projects to reach the final stage.

As a result, the EIC Jury is faced with the difficult task: Finding the projects with the highest potential among a pool of excellent businesses. And, while this is a reductive perspective, one can view the task of the Jury in a simplified manner: Reject 50% of the applicants.

The EU and the EIC set the budget ahead of time and, even though it should be statistically possible to see 10% or 90% selection rates In the interviews, it is not a realistic outcome.  The Jury will have to meet a quota that, even if it can deviate slightly, should match the set budget. As a result, many great projects will be rejected.

An applicant would be well advised to have the following attitude to the pitch interviews:

Under no circumstances can I give the jury a reason to reject us.

Even if the EIC would disagree with this statement, it is still a useful approach for the applicant since, although the project and business are great, they will fail if the presenters are not aware of all the factors that can be perceived as negative by the jury.

Limited Time & Forced Decisions

No investor wants to make a short-notice funding decision. With very few exceptions (i.e. Masayoshi Son’s gut investment in Jack Ma’s Alibaba), investors will take their time, perform due diligence over many weeks or months and will have multiple in-person conversations with the company.

The EIC is different in this regard since a Jury has to make a decision based on a 45-minute interview without having performed any due diligence up to this point. Since the remote evaluation has been completed ahead of time, it can be viewed as partial due diligence but the selected evaluators are likely neither experts in due diligence proceedings nor do they have access to the applicants for the request of additional data or feedback. And while the jury members have access to the application documents, there is no guarantee that they have studied them.

Still, the EIC has multiple due diligence mechanisms:

Step 1

Step 1 will identify the general suitability of a project for the EIC Accelerator. With funding rates of 67% in 2021, it is not very selective but aims to only peak the evaluator’s interest. Projects can be approved even though 50% of the evaluators reject them which renders Step 1 a very low threshold.

Note: Choosing a minimum of 3 out of 4 GO’s by the evaluators (i.e. 75% consensus) or switching to a 2/3 threshold (i.e. 66%) might be a better choice but the EIC has not published scoring correlations between all three steps. If no project with 2/4 GO’s has succeeded in Step 2 or Step 3, then it might be a good sign to raise the bar of Step 1 and save the applicants months of work.

Step 2

Step 2 is much more in-depth and is a great way of looking at the project from multiple angles but it suffers from the evaluator’s pool which might not provide the level of due diligence found in a VC firm. Still, it is a very useful way of filtering for the EIC-set criteria.

Step 3

There is a high chance that neither the Jury members nor the EIB representatives have read the Step 1 and Step 2 applications in full. This means that they strongly rely on the pitch event and will have to make a funding decision based on a 45-minute pitch alone. While some might have read substantial parts of the application, the due diligence done by the Jury members ahead of the pitch will likely be a fraction of what a VC firm would perform before making a funding decision.

Post-Approval

The EIC will perform detailed technical, commercial and financial due diligence for the equity component of the grant but this is after the public financing announcement. It is very unlikely that a company would be rejected after the EIC has already announced their identity on its website and social media accounts unless there is a strong reason to do so. Still, it is a formal due diligence process with a great level of depth.

Conclusion

This article presents a perspective on the EIC Accelerator pitch and does not represent the opinion of the EIC or the EC. An applicant should be aware of the conditions the jury interviews will be conducted under and should pitch their project as if it was assessed for the first time. They should also consider the following notes on the EIC jury:

  1. They are likely unfamiliar with the project’s details
  2. They are potentially not experts in the technology or industry
  3. They are not investing their own money or face negative repercussions for a misselection
  4. They make a funding decision based on only 45 minutes of pitching and questioning although they have access to all previous documents if they chose to review them post-interview
  5. They must prioritize criteria set out by the EC and EIC (i.e. high-risk, DeepTech and non-bankability)
  6. The due diligence performed pre-interview was limited

Other Articles


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).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



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 Interview Preparation Process: Scripting the Pitch (Part 1)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has introduced mandatory, in-person interviews in 2018 which marked the first multi-step installation of this financing instrument. For the first time, it was necessary to present and justify the innovation project in front of a jury that consisted of different experts such as coaches, consultants, angel investors, VC partners and others.

With success rates for the EIC Accelerator having historically been well below 5%, the interviews tended to be the last but also the least selective step of the evaluation process. These exhibited success rates ranging between 25-50% (i.e. 50% in June 2021) and, if a startup or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) was invited, it was likely that they would obtain the grant financing.

Approaches to Pitch Practise

Often, startups that apply to the EIC Accelerator assume that their past experience from event pitches or conversations with Venture Capitalists (VC) or other investors is sufficient to be prepared for the EIC jury. While it is true that this is a great asset to fall back on and presents an invaluable experience, it is often not enough to increase the success chances of a project above the average since this experience is shared among most founders.

Note: A company can succeed in the EIC Accelerator interviews without any practice or preparation but this approach is risky and not recommended.

What to Expect in a Pitch Interview

Previous articles on the pitch interviews can be found here:

In a nutshell, the pitch interview, online or in-person, will consist of a 10-minute pitch by the presenting team (i.e. usually 3 senior and balanced team members) followed by a max. 35-minute-long Questions and Answers (Q&A) session. The topics, considerations and descriptions of such a session are described in the articles above.

To sufficiently prepare for this event, the presenting team has to focus on two distinctly different segments:

  • The pitch: A 10-minute pitch that should be entertaining and use understandable language, simple sentences and easy-to-digest slides while telling an enticing story as opposed to overly complex content.
  • The Q&A: A 35-minute questioning round that can range from pleasant and supportive to unpleasant and critical, depending on the luck and response the presenting team receives.

How to Prepare for the Pitch

The pitch deck that is submitted in Step 2 of the evaluation process will be used for the EIC Accelerator interview week in Step 3. Unfortunately, this pitch deck cannot be changed later on and it is even forbidden to update numbers or names if they are incorrect. The pitch deck has to be used exactly as it was submitted even if the delay between submission and the actual pitch date can amount to three months or more.

This places an additional limitation on the team since, quite often, a detailed script has not been prepared on the day of submission and, during the script-writing process, one might feel that it is necessary to adjust parts of the pitch deck. Since this is not possible, the team and the consultant or professional writer have to work around the pitch deck and deliver a spoken pitch that works well, is clear and explains all aspects of the technology even if the slides do not perfectly match the communicated content.

The general structure of pitch decks has been discussed in the articles linked above but the following presents a more comprehensive list of the slides that can be used:

Note: Not all items need to be part of a pitch deck but they should all be covered by the spoken script to assure a well-rounded pitch.

  1. Problem
  2. Solution
    • Products
  3. Innovation
    • Patents
  4. Customers and customer value
    • Case study
  5. Competitor comparison
  6. Business model
    • Revenue streams
    • Commercial strategy
    • Traction
  7. Market
    • Timing
    • Growth rate
  8. Current state
    • Prototype
    • Past financing
  9. Development tasks
  10. Financial projections
  11. Funding needs
    • Risk
    • Non-bankability
  12. Team
    • Partners
  13. Vision
  14. Why invest in us

There are different approaches to preparing such a pitch deck but two simple strategies for slides can be:

  1. Prepare slides with complex content (i.e. a complicated graphic, concept or text) and spend at least 1 minute per slide.
  2. Prepare short slides that the presenter shows for 10 to 30 seconds and use them for fluent, fast-paced story-telling.

Since the number of slides in the pitch deck document is unlimited, it is advisable to use this opportunity and create a highly visual pitch deck aimed at leading the audience through a story. Based on the two segments above, it can be a good approach to have 75% of slides fall into the second category while the minority of slides are in the first one. This way, the interviewees have enough opportunities to explain the core and complex technical aspects while the shorter slides can be utilised to tell an engaging and entertaining story.

Even though many presenters focus on the 1-minute-per-slide rule, in reality, a 10-minute pitch deck can easily be 20-slides in length if the following durations are chosen:

  • 5 x 60-second slides
  • 5 x 30-second slides
  • 5 x 20-second slides
  • 5 x 10-second slides
  • Total: 20 slides and 600 seconds = 10 minutes

Note: These durations are suggestions and each presenter has to adjust the length to their own personal style. It is also designed for a pitch that is followed by a long Q&A session which allows presenters to show content briefly since the audience can follow up afterwards.

How to Construct Slides

Pitch decks are often a matter of Corporate Identity (i.e. design, content), choices based on the particular technology or market as well as personal taste but the following presents a general suggestion on the types of slides that can be used without delving into their detailed design.

One eye-catching sentence

A single sentence can be displayed on a slide to focus the audience on a core concept of the technology, a problem in the market or anything that the team thinks is important. Such a slide can easily be presented in 10 seconds. An example could be:

“10,000 citizens die every day and there is still no treatment for condition X.”

Very often, audience members are not listening to every word the presenter says but they try to make sense of what they see on the current slide. As a result, showing one large sentence can be a sure way of gaining the jury’s attention and transmitting a key message.

One image or graphic

It can be useful to add multiple short slides with single images or graphics if they illustrate the problem, the benefits of the solution or any other related segments such as the market or traction. The presenter can even speak a single sentence over multiple slides while showing simple graphics to support each point they make. An example can be:

“The problem in the current medical industry is Describe A (skip to the slide with a simple chart or image), Describe B (skip) and Describe C (skip)”.

If this is well-paced and sufficiently understandable then it can be an engaging way of presenting many aspects of a business model, technology or market dynamic.

A complex concept

There is no way of avoiding complicated slides in a DeepTech pitch event since being highly technical is what allowed the project to reach this point in the first place. Any graphic that is shown should be simplified as much as possible but only up to a point where it does not omit key aspects or renders the innovation too simplistic.

It should not contain text that is impossible for the audience member to read (i.e. too much or too small) and it should also not require them to be experts in the field to understand it. To avoid losing the audience after one technical slide, it can be useful to utilise multiple slides and explain the concepts through a story. An example can be to lead into the slides by saying:

“So, how do we accomplish this?”

after the solution has been introduced since this will pick up the audience members that were lost during the technical slide. The graphic can show the magic of what the company does, potentially even directly compared to how it is conventionally performed. Examples can be:

  • Conventional vs. quantum computing
  • Biologically extracting compounds from animals vs. genetic modifications of E. Coli via synthetic biology
  • Manual labour vs. Artificial Intelligence-based automation

A detailed look

There are slides that are difficult to simplify but are not overly complex in nature. There can also be cases where it is advisable to not skip too rapidly because the audience members are especially interested in them. Examples for this can be a market analysis, the business model (i.e. partners, traction, commitments), the competing technologies or the financials. Resting longer on such slides can be essential in gaining the viewer’s confidence and can also be timed in such a way that they are balanced with the fast-paced slides.

Generally speaking, it is advisable to prepare a word-for-word script and practise it until one can deliver a well-paced and natural version of it even if the final result will deviate. One can likewise focus on delivering one key message that needs to be transmitted on each slide.

The only restriction that must be honoured is the length of the pitch: Under no circumstances should it exceed 10 minutes since this will be strictly enforced by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC).

Continuation


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).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



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:

The June 2021 EIC Accelerator Results and the STABL Energy GmbH Success Story

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has finally completed its first iteration in 2021 despite the delayed launch of Horizon Europe (2021-2027) and only two deadlines in this first year. With the application process having changed dramatically after Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) ended, many professional writers and consultants had to adapt their approach to grant preparations (read: Re-Inventing the EIC Accelerator). With a longer proposal document, new templates, pitch videos, read-only pitch decks and more supporting information being requested, it was an interesting experiment for both the applicants and the European Innovation Council (EIC).

Many Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups have applied to the EIC’s grant and, as has always been the case, only a fraction has been successful. The following article describes one of these success cases as well as the overall statistics of the June 2021 EIC Accelerator call.

The June 2021 EIC Accelerator Call

With the application process having changed dramatically, it comes as no surprise that there were many differences compared to the 2020 cut-offs. One of these differences is that the final statistics for the June deadline are not as clear as they were in 2020 since the new 3-Step process has an obscured number of total applicants.

This is due to the fact that there is no Step 1 deadline and it is unknown how many of the approved Step 1 projects actually applied to Step 2 in June since a significant number might have delayed the application to October 2021. The information communicated by the EIC is also limited with makes a detailed look at the overall statistics difficult.

Nonetheless, with the information that is available today (Linkedin: Nicolas Sabatier and EIC Support), one can conclude that:

Step 1

On May 17th, 67% or 755 out of 1,114 applicants had passed the threshold and received a GO for Step 1. With the Step 2 deadline having been on June 16th, this number continued to increase since at least 1,523 total Step 1 applications had been submitted at this point in time (but not all were evaluated yet). It is unlikely that all Step 1 successes decided to apply to the June deadline since, due to the limited time, many might have postponed the application to October 2021. If the success rate of selected applications has remained the same and 801 applicants eventually applied to Step 2 then an approximate 1,196 applicants have applied to Step 1 with the intention to apply to Step 2 in June 2021, yielding 801 approved projects and a 67% success rate for Step 1.

Note: To calculate a success rate for June 2021, one has to filter the number of applicants who applied to Step 1 and aimed for the June 2021 cut-off. It must also be considered that many rejected companies might not have applied to Step 2 even if they were selected. Since there is no publically available data on this, the numbers given here are estimated.

Step 2

With the deadline having been on June 16th 2021 (it was delayed by 7 days from its original date), the number of applicants amounted to 801. It was later announced that 130 applicants were selected for the interviews, thereby yielding a 16% success rate for this Step.

Step 3

The EIC Accelerator pitch week occurred via remove video calls with the EIC Jury and was conducted in mid-September 2021. Out of the 130 candidates, 65 were able to convince the Jury and succeed in gaining the EIC Accelerator funding. This yielded a 50% success rate for this Step although 24 Swiss applicants were excluded from the process due to the political developments between the EU and the Swiss government.

Step 1-3 Total

With success rates of 67%, 16% and 50% for the respective Steps, the overall success rate for the June 2021 EIC Accelerator was an approximate 5.4% with 65 out of an estimated 1,196 applicants having been successful.

Additional Statistics

Budget

The original budget in the official EIC Accelerator Work Programme (read: The 2021 EIC Accelerator Work Programme) was set at €500M+ but, due to the lack of excellent cases, it was reduced in retrospect (i.e. only €360M+ were allocated to successful candidates). This is a very interesting development since the 2020 applications tended to have far more suitable candidates while budgets were generally too low.

In fact, all 2020 projects with a score of over 13 out of 15 were technically eligible to receive funding, pending the Jury assessment, and the total budgets requested by said projects were, as an example, €1.8B in January 2020 or €2.7B in May 2020. If a Jury assessment were to be applied and only 50% of selected companies were approved, it would still yield budgets that far exceed the 2021 numbers.

It is clear that the EIC Accelerator has become more selective. But it has also become less selective in some ways.

It is more selective since it had an excess budget but deemed most companies to be unsuitable to receive this funding. It has become less selective since success rates have exceeded 5% while 2020 saw rates between 1% and 3%.

A reasonable conclusion to make is that the new barrier for the EIC Accelerator is not the chasing of decimal points (i.e. a 2020 score of 13.7 could be invited to the interviews while 13.6 is not) but the effort applied to preparing the proposal documents for each step. Since many companies have no interest in spending such an extreme effort for almost a year, the pool of serious applicants will be minimized. If this is a good process will remain to be seen but, clearly, the European Innovation Council is not afraid to innovate.

Note: As this was the first cut-off of the new EIC Accelerator, the success rates and budget allocation might differ greatly for the October deadline and those in 2022.

Gender

The EIC has managed to gain a 20% ratio for female entrepreneurs amongst all beneficiaries (i.e. female CEO’s) due to its strict gender equity goals.

Top 3 Countries

Clear winners during this 2021 Call in June were France (18% of the successful beneficiaries), Germany (17%) and the Netherlands (12%).

Type of Funding

92% of successful applicants received both grant and equity financing (blended finance) according to the EIC’s Twitter account but this data does not seem to fit the beneficiaries list. The more accurate and official list of all beneficiaries shows the following statistic:

  • 31/65 blended (48%)
  • 5/65 grant-only (8%)
  • 24/65 grant-first (37%)
  • 5/65 equity-only (8%)

Note: The given statistics of 92% of applicants receiving grant and equity financing would fit if either the 8% grant-only or the 8% equity-only was excluded from the total. Although, this does not seem to yield an accurate statement and is likely an error.

EIC Accelerator Success: STABL Energy GmbH

One of the 11 funded German projects is STABL Energy GmbH which has been among the 5% of selected applicants. During the 6 month process after Step 1 opened in April 2021, they were able to successfully pass all three Steps of the EIC Accelerator evaluation and succeed in securing blended financing under the EIC.

STABL is developing innovative power electronics for Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) and, with their modular approach, they are able to deliver unprecedented benefits to the industry such as higher energy efficiency, software control, unique data services and lifecycle extensions through second-life use cases.

Why STABL was the perfect fit for the EIC Accelerator

STABL is enabling a sustainable, versatile and future-proof energy storage ecosystem that serves all relevant industries such as utilities, renewables and electric transport. As such, it was able to be part of the Green Deal Strategic Challenge and was an ideal fit for the subsegment of Battery and Energy Storage which was amongst the preferred project types (read: EIC Accelerator Work Programme).

In addition, STABL is a startup with high-level partnerships, traction and an excellent management team. The EIC aims to fund ambitious companies such as STABL that have a strong vision and the capability to realise them as well as the ability to change the European technological landscape for the better.

Note: Segler Consulting has supported STABL Energy GmbH for the entire application process.


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).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



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:

Delays: Updates on the EIC Accelerators Step 1 Results, Step 3 Interview Dates and More (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has opened its doors to Step 1 submissions in early April 2021. After a long wait, the first evaluation results have been published on May 12th 2021 after more than one month of evaluations. While no notifications of these results were sent to applicants, a delayed email signed by Head of Unit Cornelius Schmaltz was sent 2 days later which contained an official letter detailing the results of the Step 1 evaluation.

This article presents a short update on the specifics of the process as conducted by the European Innovation Council (EIC) with respect to the templates, deadlines and further evaluation stages:

  • EIC Accelerator Step 1 results have been released on May 12th 2021 on the EIC’s AI Platform for those who have applied by mid-April 2021.
  • Detailed feedback and a scoring (GO vs. NO GO) from 4 to 6 evaluators are provided for each project giving all applicants the most elaborate information on their submission yet. A detailed analysis of these evaluations will follow in a separate article.
  • The EIC aimed to simulate the past Seal of Excellence (SOE) threshold in Step 1 which means that 2020’s scoring threshold of ’13’ should be as difficult to pass as 2021’s Step 1. This would have meant that 70% of all applicants were rejected but it seems like it was rather only less than 50% being rejected. This would match the previously predicted effort-chances scenario 1 in this article.
  • The official template for Step 2 has already been published but the AI Platform for Step 2 is not ready yet.
  • The Step 2 AI Tool’s Ideation and Development modules will be available as of May 17th 2021.
  • The Step 2 AI Tool’s Go2Market module will be available as of May 21st 2021.
  • The coach selection module will become available on May 25th 2021.
  • In-person coaching support is offered on a first-come-first-serve basis in June 2021 but will be available for all applicants for their submission to the October 2021 deadline.
  • The interview sessions are planned in:
    • September 2021 for proposals submitted to the June 2021 deadline.
    • December 2021 or January 2022 for proposals submitted to the October 2021 deadline.

The Step 3 interviews come with a significant delay and instead of being 6 weeks after the Step 2 deadline, they are pushed back to 3 months after the June cut-off (read: Having a Successful Interview Pitch).


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).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



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:

Last-Minute Restrictions of EIC Accelerator Step 1 Submissions

On May 5th 2021, it has been announced that all submissions for Step 1 of the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) application process are closed until June 22nd. This has come as a surprise to many since the call was supposed to be continuously open by design. In fact, it was created in order to have an ongoing application opportunity for applicants independent of the 4 annual application deadlines (or 2 in 2021).

Needless to say, there are a variety of reasons why this decision was made and a number of repercussions for applicants. Without going into further detail regarding the EIC’s insufficient announcements regarding this issue, the following presents a shortlist of updates and notes on this newest change:

  • The Step 1 submissions were suspended in order to allow the IT team to update the platform and add features to Step 1.
  • While Step 2 is not ready for use just yet, a preliminary (but still official) proposal template for the EIC Accelerator’s Step 2 has been published (see this link).
  • Step 2 of the application process will be published on May 17th and submissions will be possible starting June 9th.
  • Over 1,200 Step 1 application’s have been submitted since April.
  • Step 1 submissions that have not been submitted yet will be unable to apply to the June deadline (see here) but still have the opportunity to meet the last 2021 deadline in October.


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).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



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:

The New EIC Accelerators Read Deck (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has recently introduced a new type of pitch deck for Step 1 of the evaluation process. This can be viewed as a ‘real-only deck‘ or a ‘read deck‘ since it will not be used for the Step 3 interviews (read: Interview Preparation) but simply acts as a reference for the evaluators.

This is an interesting experiment on the side of the European Commission (EC) since the read deck has no technical restrictions outside of the page limit. This means that this is, for the first time, a PDF document that can be uploaded with full creative freedom with regard to font sizes, formatting, margins, sections and all related aspects.

Depending on how this experiment will turn out, it could be short-lived since it needs only a few bold applicants who exploit the lack of restrictions and aim to upload a full 10-page business plan with small font sizes and slim margins. Technically, such an unconventional Step 1 pitch document would have to be evaluated by the reviewers since it does not violate the application requirements.

It can be expected that strict rules, similar to the ones for the previous full applications, will be enforced after 2021 to avoid such exploitations.

Nonetheless, this article explores some ways the read deck could be treated and how it can differ from the pitch reck. A detailed look at the types of slides to choose (read: Pitch Deck) and information on the pitch interviews (read: Pitch Success) can be found elsewhere.

General Information and Restrictions

  • Must be a PDF
  • 10-page limit
  • Below 10 MB
  • This read deck is not used for the Step 3 pitch interview (“read-only deck”)

Changes for the Pitch Interview Deck

Interestingly, the original pitch deck used in Step 3 has fewer limitations since it does not have a page limit. This is likely due to the nature of its use whereas all applicants know that they will be heavily judged for a ‘bad‘ pitch deck and it is their own responsibility to look good in front of the jury.

This changes with the read deck since the impression made on the evaluators will be without the 10 minute time constraints of the interview and entirely lack a verbal component or live feedback. In fact, the read deck, when compared to the pitch deck, has to stand entirely on its own and must hold up to close scrutiny which is not limited by time pressure.

Slides to Omit

Since 10 slides are valuable digital real estate, the title and ending slides should be omitted. There is no need to account for any social aspects such as introducing the speakers or thanking the audience for listening to the pitch since all this information is available to the evaluator already (read: A Broad Vision).

The same is true for extensive product presentations that can be flipped through like a dia show during the interview but take up too much space in a 10-page read deck. If the presentation of the product critically needs to be in the form of multiple angles or images then this should be reduced to a single slide and the remaining footage can be part of the pitch video. In fact, the video is an excellent choice for the presentation of the product in a comprehensive and visual way.

Changing the Text

Since speakers cannot leave certain aspects of the project to the Questions and Answers part of the EIC Accelerator pitch interviews, the text should be comprehensive. To stand on its own, the traditionally scarce text on a pitch deck should be elaborated for the read deck.

Instead of adding only bullet points and keywords, the read deck should have full sentences on each slide to explain the concepts without leaving any doubt in the reviewer’s mind. Since verbally expressing the traction of the company and their pilot customer is impossible in the Step 1 deck, it should be laid out in a written form.

This is likely the most important aspect of the new read deck since most pitch decks aim to avoid text as much as possible and present a clean and elegant design. The read deck, on the other hand, requires a merger of elegant simplicity and a fully fletched text.

Graphics and Photos

Graphics already used to be an important part of every pitch deck but, even though the read deck will contain more text, graphics also become even more important. While an introduction slide could lean heavily on the speaker’s voice and simply present a small chart as support, the read deck will require graphics to transmit a full concept with little to no support (read: Design Resources).

Illustrations cannot be too minimalistic in the read deck but have to be comprehensive enough to transmit a complex idea. This approach is supported by the fact that there is no time limit. The evaluator can stop at a single slide for 5 minutes or more and let a complicated chart sink in. They can also go back to the chart after they have watched the video and have read the entire application – or right before they give their final verdict on the proposal’s success or failure.

It is advisable to put great thought into this aspect and find a balance between easy-to-digest and enough-to-understand.

Summary

  • Restrictions: 10 slides as a PDF below 10MB
  • Slides to Omit: Remove title and ending slides to save space.
  • Changing the Text: Full sentences to explain all relevant concepts in detail.
  • Graphics: These can be more complex than in a traditional pitch deck since the evaluator can pause indefinitely.


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).

Any more questions? View the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Want to see all articles? They can be found here.

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



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: