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EIC Accelerator Interview Preparation Process: Interviewee Considerations (Part 4)

In this fourth part of the EIC Accelerator interview guideline, the focus is shifted to specific training tools targeted at improving how questions are answered. Startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) can use these tools to better prepare for their own pitch event, investor conversations and, of course, interviews by the European Innovation Council (EIC) or European Commission (EC).

Introduction

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) is a highly selective funding program and, even though the chances of receiving funding in Step 3 can be as high as 50%, it should not be left to luck if one will be successful or not since up to €17.5M are at stake.

Note: If the previous steps are included, the overall success rate is 5% or below.

The ideal scenario is to have a consultant, professional writer or pitch coach take the lead in the preparation process since identifying weak spots and fixing them with improved answers or arguments can be difficult for a company.

The following training tools are presenting a way of preparing for interviews but they are by no means the only way and not using them will not lead to a guaranteed rejection. Examples for each segment of the training tools and recommendations on how to practise them will be given in a future article. This article will only provide a general description of such training tools.

What To Practise (Improving Answers)

No Flaws

One important rule for the EIC Accelerator Questions and Answers (Q&A) session is to not display critical flaws. This has been elaborated in earlier parts of the guide and it is relating to every time the interviewees are caught off-guard, have no answer or are unable to refute a negative point (i.e. you are not innovative).

While the jury will be perfectly polite and respectful, there might be one or two jury members that have already decided that the project is insufficient and are finding fault in everything they hear. As a result, they might swing the opinion of the other jury members which will, inevitably, lead to a rejection.

Address the Concern

This is one of the greatest tools for an EIC Accelerator pitch interview. It is too easy to neglect the concern behind a question and just answer it on a surface level which can lead to a dissatisfied questioner or, in the worst case, unwanted follow-up questions. The idea of this tool is to ask yourself: “What concern does the jury member have to ask this question?” And to then address that as opposed to the question being asked. One could say that you are exchanging the posed question with what you deem to be the real question.

Pitfall Answers

Answers can be worse than questions because, instead of addressing the original concern, they can create many additional concerns.

Why? Because an answer can unwillingly reveal ignorance, weaknesses or present an attack vector for critical jury members. It is impossible to prepare for every single question since, while some will be foreseeable, the majority will be unpredictable. This is especially true for follow-up questions since, while the starting question can be obvious, the two or three follow-ups afterwards can be entirely unpredictable since they can have little to no relationship with the original question.

This can be viewed as a chaotic system where prediction is possible in the early stages but becomes increasingly difficult and eventually impossible the further the system progresses. An example of this is the Double Pendulum which can be predicted in its earliest swings but rapidly becomes too chaotic to make any accurate predictions.

To avoid pitfall answers, the strategy should be to (1) control the topics of the conversation as much as possible and (2) avoid giving any answers that can render the jury members less confident in the team or project.

Zoom Out

While someone like Elizabeth Holmes (former CEO of the disgraced blood-testing BioTech company Theranos) is a poor role model for entrepreneurs due to her history of deception and ongoing fraud trial, she was able to demonstrate that you can raise $1.4B in financing without providing any real answers, technology or even allowing due diligence.

Being the technical lead of a BioTech company as a college drop-out was clearly a warning sign but she would have likely excelled in marketing or investor-relations positions since she accomplished what most companies cannot. There are many excellent companies that are applying for €2M under the EIC and are rejected while Holmes raised 700-times that amount without as much as a proof of concept.

Even though the source of this insight literally has blood on its hands, there are lessons to be learned. The way she emotionally directed conversations exceeds the scope of this guide (i.e. slowed speech, staring to trigger a change of topic, very long answers without specifics) but the simple tactic she often used was this: Zooming out.

When asked a specific question on how the technology worked, she would elaborate on her vision. When asked about her customers, she would expand on what she wants to bring to the world. She would always zoom out and take a birds-eye or distant view.

While this approach should not be used by any entrepreneur as a default response (i.e. Pfizer and other consultancies caught her very early on during their due diligence), there is one part that builds trust with investors that many DeepTech companies lack. It is the confidence and the great vision.

This should be used sparingly but it can be essential if the jury feels like the team lacks the ambition to implement a project or see it through until the end. It can also be a great last resort in case the interviewee is stuck and has to answer a difficult question on something not entirely relevant to the project or catches the team off-guard.

Controlling the Follow-Up

A simple but effective habit in answering questions is to carefully consider what a follow-up question could be. If someone responds to my question on the financials and mentions low-profit margins then I will follow up on it. If someone, instead of the profit margins, mentions the year-by-year growth potential of the company then I would be inclined to follow up on that.

The point of controlling the follow-up question is to only mention things that you want to be asked about. The question will, by design, ask for information on a certain topic but the interviewee can decide which angle to take. This especially goes for the ending of the sentence. If one says “We do A and B but we currently mostly focus on C because C is very important” then it is more likely to get a follow-up question on C rather than A and B.

Being Self-Centered

Every company should have a balanced view of their competitors, industry trends or market threats but it can be a significant flaw to overly focus on them. Especially when it comes to startup’s in highly technical fields, there is often a sense of respect for other companies who are innovating in similar areas or for new technology trends that are unrelated to the applicant’s business.

No matter what the reason would be, if a company only has 35 minutes to convince an EIC jury to make a funding decision then the interviewees should refrain from overly focusing on other things. In fact, if a CEO were to praise their competitors and mention that they are “developing amazing technologies” and starts to describe them then this will likely be a poor use of the available time.

Every question has an underlying concern and it will never be “Is your competitor good at what they do?” but more likely be “Can you overcome competitive threats?”. While both questions have their topic in common, they will have very different answers. Whatever the question might be, the interviewee should lead it back to why the project is great.

Are you asked about the market? End with why you are perfectly positioned to enter or create it. Asked about competitors? Mention who they are and then elaborate on why you are better. Asked about your co-investors for the EIC Fund? Mention who they are and then highlight how further de-risking through the EIC is needed before they will invest.

Always bring the conversation back to what is beneficial to you.

The Confused Question

Every once in a while, a jury member will not be an expert on a certain technology but still ask a highly technical question. If this happens, there is a possibility that they have already misunderstood certain aspects of said technology but ask a follow-up question regardless. The interviewee has to always ask themselves: “Does their question reveal their ignorance on a certain subject?” If the answer is yes, then one must take a step back and first explain the concept again but in the simplest terms possible.

This part is critical since highly technical founders with not only a high level of expertise in a scientific field but also exclusive knowledge regarding the innovation will often be too far ahead to understand the viewpoint of someone entirely new to the field. Just answering the question and highlighting the benefits of the technology might not be enough which is why a simplified explanation is in order.

Practise “Dumb” Questions

The EIC jury members are intelligent and highly competent professionals with a great deal of experience. Still, one should prepare for questions that a startup might not view as relevant or simply disregards as unimportant. This can be a question on the safety of using AI if the application is simplistic or the gender balance among the engineering team. There can be many questions that can catch the interviewees off-guard so it is beneficial to practise them.

Prepare Standard Answers

There are many questions that will certainly be asked (i.e. business model, traction, non-bankability, risk, …). While it is not possible to know all questions in advance, one should script out the answers to questions that have a high likelihood of being posed. The same is true for all questions that have been revealed as critical during the practice sessions.

Demeanour of the Answering Person

Depending on the personality of the interviewees, there can be issues that should be addressed in advance. These can be dismissive body language, disengagement from the conversation (i.e. turning away, sighing) or a generally combative nature when faced with criticism.

While the pitch preparation will not be comprehensive enough to change such long-standing habits, it is beneficial to avoid negative body language during the interview.

Short Answers to Pre-Empt Interruptions

A general rule for the EIC Accelerator Q&A is:

There will be more questions than answers.

Often, answers are too elaborate or aim to explain too many things before getting to the point. This will prompt the questioners to keep interrupting and ask follow-up questions because, while the pitch time limit of 10 minutes can be stressful for the interviewees, the Q&A time limit of 35 minutes can be stressful for the jury.

The interviewees are only focusing on presenting their project but the jury members have the difficult job of making a significant funding decision within only 45 minutes. If answers are too long and never get to the actual question then this might frustrate the jury members – something that should be avoided. If you are asked a specific question then answer it briefly first and only then elaborate.

If you are interrupted while you elaborate then you have at least given a short but precise answer in the beginning already. If the brief answer were to be missing and you are interrupted by a follow-up then this would mean that the question was not answered at all.

The Process

Have fun. While being nervous (or excited) is normal in a stressful situation, one should always remember to have some enjoyment for the process. One must have the attitude: “I am happy to explain what we do to an interested audience.” While the jury will heavily assess the technology and suitability of the project for the EIC, it will also be screening the team and its motivation. Both aspects can make or break a funding decision which is why developing some natural enthusiasm is essential.

Previous 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:

Lessons from the EIC Accelerators Pitch Video Shooting (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has recently introduced pitch videos into the evaluation process which presents a new challenge for professional grant writers, freelancers and consultancies (read: New Application Process). While there are no official guidelines or templates for the process of shooting a pitch video, this article looks at some brief lessons learned from preparing such videos with clients in a remote fashion.

Information on how to structure a pitch video (read: Video Selection), how to script the video (read: Video Scripting) and how to remotely organize the shooting (read: Video Shooting) can be found elsewhere.

1. The Video Script is Everything

One of the restrictions of the EIC Accelerator pitch video is the length which is limited to only 3 minutes. This can be a surprisingly difficult challenge if the footage recorded by the Step 1 applicant, a Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) or startup, is very difficult to shorten without losing the storyline or making certain sections non-sensical.

Having a clear script that goes over all relevant sections of the project and is brief but succinct is important since it allows to cut out segments without impeding the overall story. Since it is advisable to always record more than the needed footage, cutting the length of content becomes an important task for the proposal writer.

If a great script has been prepared in advance, the video editor can always fall back on it and never needs to worry about the 3 minutes not telling a cohesive story. Not being able to include every single part of the project’s story is to be expected but the script should be holding up even if certain parts are omitted in the final cut (read: Story Lines).

2. Simple Tips for Pitch Recordings Go a Long Way

Applying SME’s and startups need sufficient guidance for the video recording. A video editor or videographer might take certain things for granted but these aspects could be entirely foreign to the management team of a technology company.

Every consultant or freelancer should present their clients not only with a pre-written script and instructions as to which members should partake in the shooting but also prepare guidelines for best practices. Information on ideal camera choice, settings (framerates, ISO, shutter speed, etc.), lighting and background setup can easily increase the video quality.

A limitation to this is the presentation of the CEO and the management team in general since preparing extra coaching for an exciting and enthusiastic video will likely be exceeding both the time and resources one should spend on the video. Still, giving some guidance as to how to transmit personality and excitement can be very helpful.

3. Small Editing Techniques are Key

Just cutting recorded footage together is one way of preparing the video but small additions such as stock footage, effects, titles and similar techniques can significantly increase the quality of the content.

Every applicant can assume that all the selected evaluators will watch the videos from start to finish at least once but this does not mean that boring videos will make the same impression as entertaining ones.

Having a professionally produced video is by no means a requirement but producing an entertaining video does not require professional production quality. Understanding what the listener wants to know as well as making sure that there is a start, a middle and an end while constantly keeping the viewer’s attention is key.

The thought after watching the video should be: “Wow, the project seems really interesting and the team seems great!“. A video that is bland and uninviting might make the first impression of the team less favourable since motivation, alongside competence, is an important criterion in the evaluation as well (read: Design Resources).

4. Adapting to the Client

Every client is different and has a different starting point when it comes to content creation. Some have extensive footage available and routinely do interviews or pitch their products in video format while others have been in stealth mode and have never recorded a single second of footage. This project diversity likewise extends to the video structuring and editing process since two projects can require different coverage durations for their unique segments.

The same is true for the technology itself since not all projects can be easily translated into video format. Showing how an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm looks in an appealing manner is nearly impossible while demonstrating a hardware production process or data visualisation tool lends itself far more readily to the video format.

Time and geographic constraints are other determining factors since many teams are operating remotely and there might be a lack of time or accessibility to collect all the needed footage. A laboratory might be empty and in sleep mode until the regional COVID-19 lockdown is completed while team members could be busy with core business activities.

Summary

The following key lessons apply to the EIC Accelerator pitch video shooting for Step 1 of the evaluation process:

  • Scripting: Having a solid script prepared will make sure that the final video has a distinct storyline.
  • Guidance: Most applicants will need help with the pitch recording and this should be provided by the consultant or writer.
  • Editing: This will be valuable in order to give the footage a semi or fully professional look and grab the viewers attention.
  • Adapting: Every startup or SME has different footage available and different capabilities which means that guidelines must be adapted if needed.


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 2021 EIC Accelerator Work Programme and Newest Updates (SME Instrument Phase 2)

Update 1: The EIC Accelerator Work Programme 2021 was published on March 17th 2021.

Update 2: The EIC has presented the latest news in a YouTube leak which reveals information not found in the published Work Programme.

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is being re-invented and is transitioning from its initial pilot phase into a fully-fledged investment arm of the European Commission (EC) and European Innovation Council (EIC). With the launch of the EIC Accelerator in 2021 having been announced for March 18th 2021, this article discusses the most important aspects of the new Work Programme (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

The new Work Programme includes a different application process, additional evaluation steps and significant technical changes that are relevant for both Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups as well as for professional writers and consultants focusing on preparing successful grant applications (read: Hiring a Consultant).

While the official template for the proposal documents is not published yet, conclusions regarding their set-up can be drawn from the evaluation criteria themselves. All information given in this article is still preliminary but is expected to accurately reflect how the EIC Accelerator will look like under Horizon Europe (2021-2027).

1. General Changes

1.1 Open Calls vs. Strategic Challenges

The EIC Accelerator will follow the previous SME Instrument’s strategy of imposing certain topic restrictions on applicants whereas all applicants will remain eligible for Open Calls but only select projects can apply to the Strategic Challenges. Accordingly, each funding arm will receive its own budget and be subject to specific guidelines with respect to the types of companies that are selected as well as their impact on the EU’s key policy targets.

1.2 Scoring & Ranking System

While the EIC Pathfinder and the EIC Transition will still include scoring and ranking systems, the EIC Accelerator will entirely omit such evaluation methods and solely rely on YES/NO gradings for every step. As discussed in a previous article (read: Analyzing Success Rates for Each Step), this might lead to a non-transparent evaluation process whereas rankings will have to be established internally since this is the only way of controlling the number of beneficiaries.

If there were truly neither thresholds nor rankings then there would likely be an excess of applications successfully progressing to the third evaluation step since the previous EIC Accelerator instalment already saw 30+% of all companies reaching the quality threshold of 13. Only a subsequent ranking process was able to reduce that number to a manageable amount for the interview stage.

1.3 UK Participation

After Brexit, the UK will participate in the EIC Accelerator grant but will not be eligible for equity financing (read: The United Kingdom under Horizon Europe). This, of course, is not to the detriment of UK companies since non-dilutive grants are increasingly sought after and there is no additional risk of receiving an equity-counter-offer that would replace the requested grant.

2. The Application Documents

2.1 Step 1: The Short Application

This first stage will require the preparation of a 5-pager to summarize the project in written form, a 3-minute pitch video and the conventional pitch deck which will later be used for the Step 3 interview.

≥ 5-Pager: The 5-pager does not currently have an official proposal template yet but conclusions can be drawn from the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) criteria in the newest EIC Accelerator work packages (not shown here). The document will likely focus on the Excellence and Impact of the technology with very broad questions regarding its key aspects and why the EU should be interested in the project (see DARPA’s Heilmeier Catechism). The Implementation will receive less attention and only address the quality of the team and the overall risk level of the project (read: Assessing an EIC Accelerator Project).

The EU has additionally given hints at the 5-pager template through its public tender for an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven writing support tool which further illuminates the direction it will take. All in all, the 5-pager should be viewed as a compressed version of the previous full application with a stronger focus on being impressive rather than being detailed or feasible (read: Identifying a Broad Vision).

≥ Pitch Video: The 3-minute pitch video will likely have no restrictions and give full creative freedom to the applicants (read: Pitch Video Production) but it should be treated as a project pitch that is addressing all criteria rather than an advertisement (read: Pitch Video Resources).

≥ Pitch Deck: The pitch deck will likely follow the exact same structure as the previous installations of the Step 3 interviews (read: Pitch Deck Creation).

2.2 Step 2: The Full Application

Once Step 1 is passed, the applicants will be invited to submit a full application to the evaluators which will likely be a 20-30 page document that includes the business plan, financials, work packages as well as annexes that contain information on the company (read: EU Work Packages).

2.3 Step 3: The Remote or In-Person Interview

This step will follow the same structure as previous interviews (read: Preparing for an Interview & The Biggest Mistakes).

3. The Application Process

The application process will likely see great changes with the introduction of an online tool supported by an AI-interface similar to web-based word processors, a re-invented Funding and Tenders Portal as well as the introduction of freezing periods for unsuccessful applicants. It is evident that the EIC has put great thought into increasing the quality of applications but also into filtering out low-quality projects early.

3.1 AI Tool

Similar to GoogleDocs, this web-interface is meant to be used for the writing of the proposal and should give useful assessments and guidelines to support the process. The exact details and its release date are not clear yet but it could be a valuable way of providing immediate feedback to low-quality applications.

3.2 Freezing Periods

≥ Two Attempts: The general approach is to give rejected companies a second attempt while they will be blocked for 12 months from further submissions if they cannot succeed in a respective evaluation Step on their second try. The rules are more complex when it comes to the rejections in Step 3 but all applicants should assume that two attempts are all they will have available and that no submission should be wasted.

Consultants and professional writers often receive inquiries from companies who have applied to the EIC Accelerator on their own but failed, prompting them to seek support from an expert. This was always a great option for startups because there was no risk in preparing an application in-house since professionals could still be hired down the road (read: Should you apply on your Own? & Getting Good at Grant Writing).

Unfortunately, this is currently changing since the risk of failing is now associated with being blocked from any further applications for at least one year and maybe even indefinitely when it comes to a particular company or project. It is expected that many applicants will now seek professional help before even applying on their own to minimize their risk while there could also be a large number of unsuccessful companies seeking out writing support with one out of two rejections already received (read: EIC Accelerator Consulting Industry).

≥ Virgin Projects: Since such freezing periods are a new concept, there will likely be a new focus among professional writers and consultants on virgin projects which have not applied to the EIC Accelerator yet and have a lower risk for rejection. This is expected to become a major factor since success-fees and -rates are key for consultancies while investing time and resources into a project with only one remaining attempt can become an unreasonable risk.

Undoubtedly, the latter risk consideration will prompt consultancies to adjust their pricing model specifically for one-time EIC Accelerator rejectees. As with everything, good intentions can backfire and the EIC’s radical changes to the evaluation process, depending on how they will unfold, could end up harming the startups and SME’s they aim to support.

4. The Evaluation Process

Without scoring, without a transparent ranking system and with automated AI-tools, the evaluation process will change drastically. In the past, the pool of evaluators used for the assessment of applications has frequently faced criticism but the new installation of the EIC Accelerator might mitigate this depending on how the changes will be implemented. One major improvement is the introduction of concrete feedback for rejected applicants, although its exact nature is unknown at this point.

4.1 Step 1

Two evaluators will decide, unanimously, if the application is approved or rejected. If their opinions differ, two new evaluators will be added and the application will be successful if only one of them approves all evaluation criteria. This means that a proposal can win Step 1 if the result is 2/2 or if it is 2/4, provided the approvals are given for all evaluation criteria.

4.2 Step 2

Three evaluators will assess all criteria as in the previous EIC Accelerator installation. They will now also gain access to automated data analysis tools to cross-reference metrics and collect relevant data but the details for this AI tool are not known yet.

4.3 Step 3

6 jurors will evaluate the pitch and have access to all previous applications and feedback. They can also suggest lower grant amounts to be offered in case TRL8+ activities are detected or make a counter-offer consisting of equity financing but they are unable to provide more funding than has been requested (read: Technology Readiness Levels & How the EU Funds TRL’s).

5. Strategic Challenges (Topics)

Outside of the open calls, the newly introduced topics will focus on (1) the green deal, (2a) digital technologies and (2b) health care.

For (1) the Green Deal, 50% of companies invited to the Step 3 pitch have to address (a) batteries and energy stage, (b) green hydrogen and (c) renovation (read: A Proposal Narrative). For (2a) digital technologies and (2b) health care, 40% of interviewees have to address each sub-topic.

Open calls and specific topics will be available in parallel which means that companies have to decide which call they apply to.

5.1 The Green Deal Strategic Challenge (1)

The Green Deal will aim to target the following environmental goals in a similar fashion as the dedicated cut-off in May 2020 (read: The Green Deal EIC Accelerator):

  • Climate mitigation
  • Clean, affordable and secure energy
  • Clean industry & circular economy
  • Efficient building and renovating
  • Sustainable and smart mobility
  • Fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system’s
  • Preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Zero pollution and a toxin-free environment

Specifically, the following technologies and areas are sought after under the 2021 EIC Accelerator Strategic Challenges for the Green Deal:

  • Batteries and Energy Storage: Strategic battery value chain • critical raw materials • recycling • chemical as well as physical storage (including ultracapacitors) • stationary and transport applications.
  • Green Hydrogen: Produce and store renewable hydrogen • different scales • centralized to on-demand • stationary and transport applications.
  • Renovation: Accelerate the growth of the renovation market • energy-efficient buildings • innovative technologies • financial schemes or business models.
  • Low-carbon Industry: De-carbonisation of industries • electrification • circularity • industrial symbiosis • industrial processes • carbon capture storage • digitisation of industrial processes.

5.2 The Digital Technology Strategic Challenge (2a)

≥ Digital technologies: Information and communications technology (ICT) • advanced high-performance computing • edge computing • quantum technologies • cybersecurity • artificial intelligence • block-chain • cloud infrastructure technologies • Internet of Things (IoT).

5.3 The Healthcare Strategic Challenge (2b)

≥ Healthcare technologies: AI-driven diagnostics • point-of-care (POC) diagnostics • cell and gene therapy (esp. cancer) • novel biomarkers for clinical prognosis • patient stratification/monitoring • bioprocessing 4.0 (digitalisation) • healthcare intelligence services • e-health solutions.

6. Ambitions to Control the Outcome

While the evaluation of all EIC Accelerator applicants is expected to be fair and prioritize the Excellence of the project, it is undeniable that there are policies in place that will fix the outcome. These are coming in the form of gender targets, societal impacts and related EU political agendas (read: EU Policies).

≥ Gender Outcomes: 40% all EIC Accelerator interviewee’s in Step 3 of the evaluation process must have female Chief Executive Officers (CEO) while 35% of all funded businesses must meet this criterion (read: Why it’s Great to Be a Woman). To facilitate this, special coaching will be given to female founders and the pool of evaluators, while 40% are already female, will be expanded to meet a 50% female share.

Considering that, without outcome-interventions by the EC, only <5% of beneficiaries had female CEO’s, this new target is an exceptional change but it is not clear how exactly the first two evaluation steps are affected by this Step 3 quota (read: The EIC Accelerator Performance Report).

≥ Sustainable Development: Amongst other targets, the EIC wants to support impact-oriented companies out of which 90% have to address sustainable development goals such as the Green Deal or similar targets. It is not clear how this focus will affect the EIC Accelerator.

≥ Geographic Diversity: A staggering change to the Step 3 pitch is that each EU member state and each associated country has to be represented in the interview stage with a number that is proportionate to the total number of applicants in earlier steps. This means that, for the first time, the EIC Accelerator is imposing geographic restrictions on its beneficiaries. This can be a double-edged sword since it has long been shown that some countries easily meet the 13-score funding threshold (i.e. 50% of applicants) while other countries have a more difficult time (i.e. 10%).

Countries that prioritize quantity over quality will be unfairly rewarded while countries that prioritize quality are being punished. It is still unclear at this point how strictly this rule will be enforced (read: Pre-Requisites for an EIC Accelerator Application).

7. Technical Changes

7.1 Coaching

3 days of coaching will be provided to all successful Step 1 applicants but at the costs of €1,000 per coaching day for the EC. The coaches will likely be external contractors and it is not clear how their experience could contribute to the preparation of the Step 2 application or to the practice of a successful Step 3 pitch.

7.2 Seal of Excellence (SOE)

SOE’S are awarded based on the Impact and Excellence criteria while the Implementation (i.e. risk-level and need for EU support) will be the determining factor to decide if the project is funded or if it is rejected (read: Evaluation Summary Report Analysis).

7.3 Applicants

Applicants can now, for the first time, be natural persons instead of only being Value Added Tax (VAT)-registered companies as long as an SME or Small-Mid Cap is formed prior to signing the EIC Accelerator contract. Of course, the natural person has to be a citizen of the EU or of an associated country (read: Associated Countries).

7.4 Equity

Next to direct equity investments by the EIC Fund in financing rounds initiated by the SME’s themselves (read: Inside Look into EIC Fund), convertible notes and other debt-related funding can be provided to beneficiaries. It is also finally clear that the obscure 30% co-financing of the EIC Accelerator grant can be financed through a parallel equity investment-request, thereby requiring no existing funding sources or revenues to fill the gap.

Direct equity applications without the request for grant support are now possible for applicants although the evaluation and proposal submission will differ.

Equity components can also be postponed by first opting for a grant application (i.e. grant-first) and later re-applying directly for equity-support.

7.5 The Pitch Video

This document will likely be submitted through a link since the cloud storage-needs and the requirement of government institutions to store files long-term would exceed existing capacities. One important repercussion of this decision is that, if startups can self-host their videos, enforcing a 3-minute restriction is extremely difficult since it is not possible to have an automated restriction as it exists for PDF page-limitations (read: Pitch Video Types).

The fairest way of implementing this would be to have direct file uploads to the EU platform and an automated time-trimmer to assure that all applicants only have 3 minutes to work with. If the EIC is using an AI-tool for the proposal development then introducing cloud video-hosting is only a minor challenge.

7.6 Timelines & Feedback

The Step 1 call will be open continuously and have no specified deadline. It will approximately take 4-6 weeks to receive feedback on the Step 1 5-pager whereas both successful and rejected applications will receive comments from the evaluators. For the Step 2 full application, the feedback is expected to be received 5-6 weeks from the cut-off date.

A 4-6 week feedback cycle for Step 1 does seem underwhelming since it is supposed to be a screening Step and not act as a full assessment. The estimated timing will potentially be different in practice and could be as fast as 2-3 weeks.

Face-to-face interviews will be 8-9 weeks after the Step 2 cut-offs (read: Deadlines) while 6 jury members will be responsible for the questions and assessments. EIC Fund associates can also join the pitch but they will not be in a position to ask questions or influence the evaluation result. The interview results will be ready within 2-3 weeks.

7.7 Reimbursement Advances

For short innovation life-cycles, SME’s can apply for a reimbursement advance that matches the grant condition but has to be paid back. With a 70% maximum contribution of €2.5M, the EU can provide financing that has to either be paid back (interest-free) or is converted into equity after a certain time period. The exact nature of the funding opportunity will be published soon but it will likely be at the discretion of the jury members who can directly assess the innovation life-cycle and time-to-market to make a recommendation.

7.8 Budget

Initial communications by the EC suggest that there were meant to be 3 cut-offs for Step 2 in 2021 but they then were reduced to two deadlines. The budget is already set and will be distributed across all topics. As of today, the total budget for 2021 is €1.109BN while the open calls have a €602M budget and the strategic calls share a €507M budget. Considering two parallel calls, namely the open call and the strategic challenges, this would give each cut-off an approximate budget of €554M which is significantly higher than even the COVID-relief and Green Deal cut-offs in 2020 (read: COVID and Green Deal 2020).

7.9 Inclusion of Small-Mid Caps

Historically, the SME Instrument and the EIC Accelerator have focused on SME’s, exclusively, but this will change under Horizon Europe. While SME’s are subject to specific size-restrictions that include the number of employees (max. 250), turnover (max. €50M) and balance sheets (max. €43M), Small Mid Caps can exceed these amounts. While restricted to only equity investments under the EIC Accelerator, companies can be 499-employees in size.


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 EIC Accelerator Grant Consulting Industry (SME Instrument)

In order to apply to the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing), many startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) are looking for expert consultancies or professional writers to facilitate the ever more complex evaluation process (read: Proposed 2021 Application Process). Navigating the grant writing industry and finding a great partner to hire can be difficult but this article is aiming to shed light on the intricacies of how exactly this sector operates (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

Consultancies & the EU

The European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Agency for SME’s (EASME) seek to facilitate the evaluation process for innovative companies and enable them to apply autonomously but, if more and more evaluation steps with cryptic proposal templates are being added, applicants have no choice but to seek consultancy support (read: Relying on Consultancies).

The EIC Accelerator grant writing industry is characterized by a high demand from startups and, with some exceptions, increasingly selective consultancy firms. As a result, an important task that is placed on consultancies and writers is the assessment of the innovation project ahead of a potential collaboration since the requirements for written, video and in-person evaluations are becoming more and more demanding (read: Assessing a Project & Writing Internally).

Consultancy Business Models

Within this framework, there are a variety of models that consultancies follow ranging from the indiscriminative “we take everyone” to the selective “we wouldn’t even take half of the beneficiaries” approach. The reason for this discrepancy is that consultancies, like all business, have to think of their bottom line. Inevitably, this means that each company has to consider how their fee-structure can remain profitable over time and how they can maximize funded projects while compensating for projects that do not end up receiving a grant.

The general approaches are to either charge high retainer fees and low success-fees or to charge low retainer fees and very high success-fees. Variations of this approach are also found in offering extensive project-assessments via multi-day workshops, additional consulting for market scaling or through the addition of project management services for funded projects.

Regardless of what the model is, applicants will always carry the risk of investing their time and attention into a project irrespective of how the service is paid for. In the end, opportunity costs are a hidden factor in work-intensive grant applications even if the writing is outsourced to expert consultants. With the newly introduced freezing periods, this opportunity cost is increased further and startups or SME’s are better advised to judge the expertise and dedication of a consultancy rather than its business model.

Scaling vs. Quality

Scaling a consultancy business within a competitive grant like the EIC Accelerator or the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program can be difficult since expertise can easily be diluted while talented experts on grant writing can be hard to find (read: Hiring a Consultant). Due to the high degree of fluctuation between the numbers of applicants per deadline, the capacities of consultancies at scale could also start to exceed the demand of excellent projects which means that they might onboard clients out of necessity rather than out of confidence.

The way most consulting companies mitigate such risks is by diversifying its revenue streams and by employing only a core team of full-time experts with clearly defined responsibilities while most of the writing is outsourced to a pool of freelancers. This can be, of course, a double-edged sword as well since having the freedom to decline clients can also lead to the possibility of onboarding more clients since scaling a consultancy over freelancers is a lucrative business model albeit to the detriment of success rates.

Still, such business models have found their own validity in the industry since there are plenty of startups who, after having been told that a grant application would be too high risk, are still determined to move on regardless.

Good vs. Bad

This assessment does not mean that large consultancies are inferior to small consultancies or vice versa. On the contrary, it sheds light on the fact that the size or business model of the consultancy is less important than its modus operandi and its internal incentive-structure. The traits exhibited by excellent consultancies are selectiveness, transparency and dedication but these are entirely independent of the business model and scale. They are only evident in direct communication with the consultants themselves.

Every prospective grant applicant should know who exactly will write the proposal, who else will be involved (i.e. editor, pitch-expert, designer, videographer) and if the team will be changed throughout the duration of the contract. This, in addition to requesting an in-depth project assessment beforehand, can prevent a negative experience for the startup or SME since a consultancy that cannot be transparent in this regard or lacks certainty will likely place less focus on each respective client (read: Assessing an Innovation).

Conclusion

In summary, each prospect EIC Accelerator grant applicant should pose the following questions to a consultancy prior to beginning a collaboration:

  • How does our company compare to the businesses that typically receive EIC Accelerator funding (i.e. industry, team, innovation)?
  • Who will be writing the proposal and will the writer be exchanged throughout the process?
  • Who will be our fixed contact point at the consultancy for the duration of the project?
  • Has our project been sufficiently vetted prior to beginning a collaboration?
  • Does the writer understand the intricacies of our innovation project and business model?


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 a Consultant can Produce an EIC Accelerator Pitch Video Remotely (SME Instrument) – Part 2

This article is a continuation of Part 1 and presents a proposed workflow for the creation of a pitch video for the EIC Accelerator blended financing program (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2 – grant and equity financing). Due to the new process under Horizon Europe (2021-2027), the pitch video will be an additional barrier for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) to apply for the grant financing and increase their reliance on consultancies and professional writers (read: Relying on Consultants).

Since the official proposal template and work programme will likely not provide sufficient guidance, the following content aims to remedy the most pressing concerns of future applicants (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

1.2 Discussing the Resources Available

The KOM should likewise be used to clarify the resources and capabilities an applicant has at their disposal. This includes the available footage (i.e. produced videos, features, animations) and the available hardware such as cameras, lights and related equipment (read: Types of Pitch Videos). Many smartphones can already record high-definition (HD) footage while Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are quite common as well.

Lastly, the SME’s team should clarify the locations and capabilities of their members so that tasks can be distributed accordingly and the shooting of the pitch video can be timed appropriately. If some employees have experience with video production then the process can be facilitated greatly while having all of the team members meet in a single location for a joint video can be beneficial.

1.3 Guidance for Best Practises

If no suitable expertise is available in a startup, the consultancy should provide a shortlist of best practises helping the team to maximize the quality of the production. These should include tutorials, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), tips & tricks as well as recommendations for camera settings, lights and related topics.

Most of this information is easy to learn and readily available but a brief guideline targeted at short EIC Accelerator grant pitch videos is expected to significantly benefit the production quality. If the team has no time to perform the shooting themselves, an external videography team can also be contracted for an on-site project.

1.4 Creating the Script

Before the shooting begins, the script should be prepared by the professional writer or consultant so that the production can be planned in advance. The script should clearly identify the content, speakers and setting so that the applicant understands the requirements and resources that are needed.

Preparing a script is complementary to the proposal writing and the pitch deck creation with the exception that the storytelling can be much more creative. The storyline of the video should be clear to all participants and care should be taken that the script is rich enough to not require any additional footage collection at a later stage. It is better to include additional content in the first script but cut it from the final video rather than to shoot less but then require a re-shoot at a later stage.

1.5 Screen Test (optional)

After the script has been created, the company should proceed with a first screen test where the team takes a few hours to create the video content to the best of their abilities. This includes the set-up of the lighting, camera settings, microphone and the final recording at the respective set.

This stage is supposed to be a low-stakes practise run but, if the footage is high-quality, it could be directly used for the pitch video. Once the screen test has been recorded, it can be reviewed and discussed with the consultant or writer to optimize the content, script and execution of the shoot.

1.6 The Real Recording

After the screen test has been reviewed and the script and execution have been corrected, the applicant will take a second day to perform the recording and collect all of the required footage. This 2-stage production will likely provide superior results and allow the creation of a high-quality end product with little effort or overhead.

1.7 Editing and Exporting the Pitch Video

Lastly, the editing of the footage can be performed either by the consultancy, a third-party contractor or a team member of the startup depending on how responsibilities have been distributed in the agreement. The editing will be an essential step to assure that colour grading, basic corrections, audio enhancements as well as related aspects are all exhibiting the highest quality.

Afterwards, the final video can be exported in the appropriate format and be ready for the first submission.

2. Summary

A process for the remote production of the EIC Accelerator pitch video could be structured as follows:

  1. Planning the Process: Discussing the core responsibilities of the shoot.
  2. Discussing the Resources Available: Reviewing the availability of equipment and skills.
  3. Guidance for Best Practises: The provision of guidelines to facilitate the production.
  4. Creating the Script: Developing a comprehensive script to avoid re-shoots at a later stage.
  5. Screen Test: A practice run (optional).
  6. The Real Recording: Recording the final video footage.
  7. Editing and Exporting the Pitch Video: Editing to increase the quality and export within file size restrictions.


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 a Consultant can Produce an EIC Accelerator Pitch Video Remotely (SME Instrument) – Part 1

In 2021, the new EIC Accelerator blended financing program (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2 – grant and equity financing) will include a more sophisticated 3-step evaluation process which includes a pitch video (read: Proposed 2021 EIC Accelerator Process). This will likely place an additional burden on Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and professional writers or consultancies since video production is rarely part of their established skill set (read: Pitch Video).

While the pitch video is an interesting addition to the evaluation process, it is also a new challenge for early-stage startups who often lack the funds for video production or DeepTech companies who are less focused on marketing compared to a digital innovator. Additionally, producing a video can take a lot of time and, as opposed to written content or a pitch deck for the interviews, it must be created in person which places a significant burden on both startups and consultancies.

Implications of the Pitch Video

Just by introducing the pitch video, the European Innovation Council (EIC) has directly increased the reliance of startups on consultancies which, in many cases, have to perform an in-person video production (read: Relying on Consultants). Unfortunately, adding another layer of expertise to the evaluation process only widens the gap between an excellent project and a funded project since consultancy support becomes increasingly indispensable for applicants.

The greatest challenge for new applicants will come in the form of planning the video creation since, while editing a proposal over multiple re-submissions is common, re-editing a video is resource-intensive if it includes additional video production. As a result, the video should be perfect right from the start which means that the narrative of the project and proposal have to be perfected in the beginning so that the correct footage can be collected in a single day and does not need to be re-recorded continuously. More than anything, planning the video production will become a major burden for applicants.

Even if a company is working with an expert video production team, understanding what a resulting pitch video must contain and synchronizing its message with the written application and pitch deck will be a challenge. Often, companies are in a position of having limited funds, limited grant writing experience and have a lack of video footage or production skills. In such a situation, creating a framework to simplify the process of a remote and lean video production should be a must for the EIC and European Commission (EC).

1. Remote Video Production Workflow

Since the official proposal template and documentation are likely unable to provide suitable guidance for applicants, this article will present a proposed workflow for the creation of a pitch video in a remote fashion. Preparing a video remotely will remain the most efficient way for both consultancies and applicants but there are a variety of barriers to this workflow. The following is a shortlist of concerns from clients:

  • There is no video footage available
  • The company has no camera or related equipment
  • The team lacks video production skills or suitable contractors
  • The team is unable to script a video
  • All employees are working remotely and are not in the same city or country
  • The team is unfamiliar with editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro

These points can be a challenge but are still surmountable through meticulous planning and guidance from a consultancy, writer or freelancer.

1.1 Planning the Process

The normal work-flow when collaborating with a consultancy or writer is to start with a prolonged Kick-Off Meeting (KOM) to discuss the project with the founders of the company and the writing-team. This precedes every other task and has the purpose of bringing everyone on the same page while defining the project and its scope.

Adjusting this process to include video scripting can simply be done by taking the time to define the core messages that need to be communicated for a particular project (read: How to Script a Pitch Video). These should be customized to every startup since the ingenious aspects of a technology or business model will likely vary greatly from company to company.

This article continues in Part 2.


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:

Helpful Resources for an EIC Accelerator Pitch Video (SME Instrument)

In 2021, the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) will include a video pitch as a new proposal document which is expected to place an additional burden on applying startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME). While tips on choosing an appropriate video type (read: Types of Pitch Videos) and the scripting process (read: Scripting a Pitch Video) can be found elsewhere, this article will focus on the resources that can be used for the actual editing process.

While the European Innovation Council (EIC) will likely not provide sufficient material as part of the official proposal template or guidelines, professional writers and consultancies should have access to a variety of resources needed for video production such as video clips, background music, images and software. These will likely become indispensable since a hired consultant must be able to efficiently coordinate all aspects of the production (read: Remote Video Production Workflow).

1. Resources for Stock Music

Royalty-free music or music under the Creative Commons license is readily available for creators but their exact licencing conditions can vary greatly. Such variations come in the form of attributions, commercial use, regional restrictions or the type of project it is used for. Since the EIC Accelerator proposal is confidential and should only be viewed by the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators and pitch interview jurors, there should generally be no problem in using copyrighted music but it could be a problem if the video finds its way online.

Since the company name will be directly linked to the video content, it would be best to only use non-copyrighted music or to pay for the use of a certain license. The advantage of this approach is also that the video can be shared more freely on social media or with a variety of investors who have shown interest in the project.

  • Pixabay is a great resource for free music under the Creative Commons licence whereas commercial use is allowed and no attribution of the composer is required.
  • SoundCloud and YouTube contain a variety of channels that do advertise royalty-free music but these are sometimes part of a complex licensing structure and are not entirely free. Still, its worth having a look since they contain a large number of different tracks.
  • The FreeMusicArchive contains a multitude of different songs but care should be placed on their exact licencing conditions.
  • CreativeCommons.Org has created a shortlist of sources for music under a creative commons license.
  • Websites such as AudioJungle, ShutterStock or AdobeStock are premium services which offer high-quality music at a low price as a subscription or one-off purchase.

2. Resources for Stock Video

  • PixaBay tops the list once again with its video archive where attribution and cost-free video clips can be found. Many of the items are of high-quality and will likely meet most short-video production needs.
  • Pexels is similar to PixaBay and offers attribution-free stock videos for free.
  • Videezy likewise offers free video footage but also includes premium content that can be purchased for a small price.
  • AdobeStock and ShutterStock, once again, offer subscription or one-off purchases of stock footage with high quality. Since such libraries are highly curated, one can expect to find more customized footage on these platforms but most free alternatives are also presenting a competitive portfolio.

3. Resources for Stock Images

  • Unsplash and PixaBay are great resources not only for pitch videos but also for grant proposal writing (read: Design Templates for Grant Writing). They offer cost- and attribution-free photos and designs for commercial use. From experience, Unsplash usually offers better content for certain keywords and the images tend to be higher in quality.
  • Pexels offers a Freemium model for stock images wheres some can be used for free while others are behind a paywall but the costs are still very low.
  • iStockPhoto, ShutterStock and AdobeStock offer high-quality and curated photo libraries for commercial use with a variety of pricing plans.


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:

Tips to Quickly Improve Grant Writing (EIC Accelerator, SME Instrument)

Writing an EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) application can be difficult for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) (read: Writing Internally). This can be due to a variety of factors such as a lack of grant writing experience, an absent business plan or simple time restrictions. Startups often lack the expertise exhibited by consultancies or professional grant writers but there are ways to quickly improve grant writing skills for those unaccustomed to it.

Since the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Commission (EC) do not provide useful guidance in this regard, the following list presents a guideline as to how companies can improve their grant writing ahead of a successful EIC Accelerator application.

Learning by Example

One of the fastest ways to improve grant-writing is to study examples of successful applications which can act as a template for the structure and design of such an application. Examples are usually very guarded since they are subject to secrecy and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) which prohibit their free circulation. Nonetheless, studying them remains the fastest way of improving grant writing and is usually superior to using the official proposal template (read: The Biggest Proposal Writing Mistakes).

A potential strategy for obtaining examples could be to directly contact beneficiaries (read: Finding EIC Accelerator Results) who might share their proposal after an NDA is signed or to work for consultancies as a freelancer in order to be taught by them and receive examples. The latter is, of course, quite the detour from the original plan and unfeasible in most cases but the former method can be quite useful if one of the beneficiaries happens to be a partner, collaborator or is acquainted with a member of the management team.

Outside of these methods, examples are also provided by some consultancies (i.e. find them here on Segler Consulting) who provide proposal examples to prospect EIC Accelerator grant beneficiaries.

Studying Business Plans

The next best thing after an exemplary grant application is a high-level business plan which is easily accessible and can provide a great resource for grant writing. Business plan examples are usually offered for free from a variety of sources such as consultancies, business accelerators or investment companies while supporting guidelines are also a great way to rapidly improve grant writing.

What such business plans are often lacking is a focus on storytelling, a narrative that is aligned to the European Union’s (EU) politics as well as social and environmental analyses. These present an additional layer of expertise that business plans rarely include but that is relevant to European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators (read: EU Funding Buzzwords).

Learning Storytelling

Storytelling, as it is often neglected in business writing, is an important skill to focus on in successful grant applications. It should not be confused with the type of storytelling found in novels or non-fiction books but has to be viewed as a continuous thread inside a story-line. It has to be consistent inside a narrative and is taking the reader from a starting point (i.e. the market problem) to the desired end-point (i.e. the innovative solution). Good resources for this are scientific articles since these routinely have to address political issues, policy targets or significant economic and societal problems that need to be solved.

Great resources for this are any chemistry, biology, biochemistry, pharmaceutical or physics journals since papers from these fields often have to appease grant providers with very elaborate and often far-fetched introductions (i.e. a new synthesis that will cure cancer). Due to the limited space in such publications, these articles are likewise excellent learning tools when it comes to a comprehensive narrative with an optimised word-economy (read: A Proposal Narrative & EIC Accelerator Story-Telling).

Learning Illustration

A business plan and a scientific paper, in combination, are often a great start for the preparation of a successful EIC Accelerator grant application but an important part that can easily be neglected is the use of illustrations (read: Design Resources for Grants & Creating Images). This becomes important not only due to the increase of visualisations and storytelling via appealing and clear graphics but is also essential due to the limited attention and time of the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators. These will have to go through multiple applications in short periods while images can greatly enhance their experience which, as a result, improves the evaluation outcome.

The practising of graphic design can be performed in parallel to the writing process and there are a variety of resources on sites such as YouTube or Udemy that provide simple tutorials for Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw (read: Software to Use).

Involvement of the Management Team

Lastly, one of the simplest ways to quickly improve grant writing is to gain support from the entire management team of the applying company. This might sound like an odd recommendation but, from experience, the more the CEO, CTO and CFO are involving themselves in a proposal, the better the outcome will be. This is essential as it is often the case that proposals are rushed, outsourced in the last minute or neglected which significantly impedes the success chances of a competitive grant such as the EIC Accelerator.

Summary

Whenever a company is able to succeed in the EIC Accelerator then it is usually enabled by grant writing experience (i.e. internally or via hiring a consultant), expertise in preparing business plans and very strong involvement of the entire management team to perfect each proposal section (read: Writing Grant Applications Internally).

In summary, the following aspects can greatly increase the success chances of written grant applications:

  • Studying Business Plans – Business plans are the skeleton of any for-profit grant application and have to be practised in-depth.
  • Learning Storytelling – Storytelling is important for grant writing due to the politics involved in the evaluation process as well as the focus on high-impact projects.
  • Learning Illustration – Illustrations are a great tool to communicate ideas quickly and to compensate for the limited time and expertise exhibited by evaluators.
  • Involvement of the Management Team – Involving the founders and leaders of a company in the grant writing is an absolute must if a project wants to have high success chances.


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 to Select an EU Grant Financing Program such as the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) – Part 3

This article is a continuation of Part 2 and describes a list of considerations to be made by startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) that seek to raise grant financing from the European Union (EU). One of these options is the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) which is highly suitable for innovative companies and has a strong support network of professional writers and expert consultancies (contact a professional writer here).

8. Country Restrictions

Which countries can apply?

Country restrictions have to be considered whenever they could be applicable. As an example, there are funding programs by the EU where only a certain country can apply while others are open to non-EU countries (i.e. Tunesia, Israel, Ukraine) such as most Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe programs (read: Countries for the EIC Accelerator).

There can also be specific restrictions imposed due to special circumstances such as Brexit. Since the United Kingdoms (UK) participation in Horizon Europe was unclear throughout 2020 and 2019, UK applicants were only allowed to apply for grant financing under the EIC Accelerator but not blended financing since the EIC did not want to take equity stakes in foreign entities. Such potential issues have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

9. Submission Process

How is the submission process for the grant applicants?

The requirements for grant applications can vary greatly and have to be assessed based on their submission types, evaluation process and document requirements. Such variations have to be explored for each case but the general scopes for grant application can be summarised as follows:

Submission type: Online submissions (i.e. document uploads) are possible in many cases but the submission to local contact points or federal government institutes can be required as well. The EIC Accelerator uses the Funding &Tenders Portal for fully digitized submissions (read: Financing Timeline).

Evaluation process: The evaluation process will vary depending on the type of evaluators, their numbers, backgrounds and general focus. The EIC Accelerator uses a remote pool of evaluators via the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) and in-person juries for the pitch interviews (read: Interview).

Document types: The document types that are requested under a grant, as defined by the official proposal template, will vary but a normal PDF document like a business plan or a research plan are a must in almost all cases. The EIC Accelerator additionally requests financial spreadsheets, a short summary, a video pitch and a pitch deck (read: 2021 Application Proces).

10. Local Support Networks

What local support is available for companies?

Support on a national level is well organized in the EU due to an abundance of SME contact points in key European areas. These can provide a strong support network and can provide resources that help in future applications. Such help might not be available for all grant opportunities especially if the applicant does not classify as an SME which needs to be assessed beforehand.

11. Available Consultancies

Are there many consultancies specialising in the filed?

Lastly, it is useful to assess the number of consultancies or experienced writers that are available for a specific grant so that each prospect applicant is able to have a variety of options to choose from when hiring such supporters. It can also be beneficial to assess if the consultancies are working with multiple grants so that a more suitable option can be chosen instead of the original one in case of a rejection or if a more thorough assessment warrants such a transition.

For the EIC Accelerator, there are a variety of available consultancies to choose from with varying business models and industry focus (read: Preparing an Application). To reach out to a professional writer or consultant, please use the following contact form.

Summary

When choosing an EU financing program, the following aspects should be considered:

  1. Budget: How much is the total available budget and the financing per application?
  2. Covered Costs: Are all costs covered or only a percentage?
  3. Competitiveness: How high is the success rate?
  4. Thematic Focus: What specific conditions do projects need to fulfil (i.e. innovation, Technology Readiness Levels, industry)?
  5. Local Alternatives: Are there national funding projects available with easier accessibility?
  6. Number of Submissions: How often can an applicant submit an application?
  7. Single Applicant or Consortium: Is it a single-applicant program or exclusively for consortia?
  8. Country Restrictions: What restrictions are imposed on applicants when it comes to their country of origin?
  9. Submission Process: Is an online submission possible or a complex federal process?
  10. Local Support Networks: Are there support networks available or resources for applicants (i.e. templates, proposal examples, annotated guidelines)?
  11. Available Consultancies: Are expert consultancies and professional grant writers available for hire?


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: