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Gender Equality Targets in the Age of Gender Identification (EIC Accelerator)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) is a competitive funding program by the European Commission (EC) and has always been heavily affected by European Union (EU) policies. Examples for this are the requirements to meet sustainability targets, address societal challenges and other recent developments such as the Green Deal and strict gender equity goals (read: EIC Accelerator 2021 Work Program).

Gender Equity Targets

Especially the latter has been strongly advertised by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and has proven to be very beneficial for female entrepreneurs (read: Being a Female Entrepreneur) since their normal funding rates of under 5% were effectively increased to 35% or higher (read: EIC Impact Report).

Such a strictly followed target has a tremendous impact since a female Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will have a slight but important advantage over a male CEO which can, due to the tight competition at the EIC Accelerator interviews, make the difference between being funded successfully and being rejected (read: EIC Pitch Week).

This not only affects the startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) applying for grant financing in the EU but is also impacting the focus of professional writers and consultancies since female CEO’s who are excellent and have a great project now have a lower risk profile than their male counterparts if all other variables are matched.

Unfortunately, this special advantage for women, in addition to the newly introduced coaching support for female entrepreneurs, might be shorter-lived than anticipated.

EU Definitions

In the past, the designation of the CEO’s gender in the Funding & Tenders Portal was optional and could be omitted since undisclosed was presented as an alternative option.

In 2021, the newest Horizon Europe grant proposal template changes this and asks their applicants to select their gender among the choices of male, female and non-binary. While, previously, the selection of undisclosed was effectively equal to choosing male when it comes to the evaluation process, it is difficult to imagine that choosing non-binary will have the same effect.

Gender identification and non-binary genders have emerged in recent years with more political power and influence than gender equality and feminism itself which is why this new option might radically change the EIC’s female CEO targets over the coming decade. After all, in today’s times, policies and political opinions are only one viral social media campaign away from being changed overnight.

In an official report by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers from June 2020, the term non-binary is defined as follows:

“An umbrella term for people whose gender identity is not encompassed or represented by ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.”

By simply introducing this option to the evaluation process of a financial instrument such as the EIC Accelerator, the EU might have opened the door for exploitation since gender identity is explicitly not based on biological sex or the time spent within a certain identity. To clarify this, the EC defines gender identity as follows:

“A person’s gender identity is defined as each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of their own gender, whether as a man, a woman or non-binary, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.”

When the beneficial treatment of female CEO’s was announced, it was also made clear that the respective person would have to be in the CEO position for a longer timeframe and not be elected CEO just for the purpose of the EIC Accelerator submission. This covered the obvious weakness of the gender-targets and allowed female CEO’s to receive the benefits as they were intended.

Non-Binary Applicants

By including non-binary genders and by defining gender as, in the EC’s words, a “deeply felt […] experience” without limiting the time spent within that identity, the EC could be opening the door to a reshaping of the playing field. If the status of non-binary becomes equal to the status of a female due to political pressures, then there could be an incentive for all-male CEO’s to designate themselves as non-binary since being non-binary does not need to come alongside a certain lifestyle, look or behaviour.

In fact, being non-binary is subject to no restrictions or societal norms by design.

Conclusion

Of course, such a development is pure speculation and most male CEO’s would have no interest in explaining their gender in front of a jury even if a multi-million grant is at stake. Although, to think that no CEO would make that decision even after a previous rejection is unlikely as well if any critical jury question can simply be dismissed by saying “I would prefer not to discuss my gender identity“.

It will be interesting to see how the EC is handling this new development since balancing a culture of inclusion and social rights with clear-cut targets such as gender equity might not be possible in the long-term. When it comes to democratic government organisations, political pressure will always win over old policies which means that excellent female entrepreneurs should seize their opportunity to apply to the EIC Accelerator now as long as high funding rates of 35% are still enforced.

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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

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) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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

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:

Why it’s Important to Have a Diverse Grant Strategy (EIC Accelerator, SME Instrument) – Part 2

This article is a continuation of Part 1 and describes a perspective as to how startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) should view grant applications. Since especially the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is highly competitive and templates can be difficult to work with, care should be taken in pursuing a diverse financing strategy (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction). Especially when working with professional writers or consultancies, it is useful for applicants to have an understanding of the place grants can have for a business.

Post-Project Fund Raising

Irrespective of a single grant being secured or not, any startup should be in contact with some private investors such as Venture Capitalist’s (VC) since they will eventually need to raise post-project financing rounds during their scaling process. The EIC Accelerator, in particular, is even preferring companies that can proactively onboard VC’s on their own which is why it can be a requirement (read: Insight into EIC Equity Financing).

The reimbursement rate is also a factor to consider since often a grant issuer is only funding certain percentages of the presented costs and seeks justifications detailing how the remaining financing will be allocated (i.e. a 70% rate for the EIC Accelerator). Such a scenario makes co-financing a must for pre-revenue startups and should underline how the reliance on a single grant is not the best strategy.

Different Project Focus

Many companies start with one idea and end up pivoting multiple times until the market, timing and innovation match up perfectly. Especially events such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic have led a variety of companies and research institutes to switch their focus because they either saw a significant opportunity on the horizon or had to abandon a project out of necessity.

Grants can be a low-stakes tool to test out a new idea or concept and can be used to pivot into a new market or technology that would not be feasible otherwise. A company can identify its core value proposition and propose a variety of application cases to different funding providers whereas the project that gains traction first will win.

Private over Public Financing

While grants from public sources are lucrative, they tend to be significantly smaller than private funding especially when it comes to innovative for-profit businesses. Grants are an interesting opportunity but should not be an exclusive strategy since it can have additional benefits to onboard a strategic investor or be part of accelerator programs that bring a significant amount of experience to the table.

Like most grants, the EIC Accelerator is lacking in that regard and it should be considered that financing itself is not the only benefit of forming investor relationships since simple decisions can make or break a startups success. Government bodies who issue grants can provide valuable coaching support but, due to their strong reliance on having politicians rather than entrepreneurs in leadership positions, they will always be inferior to private financiers who have a long-term interest in the founder team.

Changing EU Policies

Grants can be fickle especially when it comes to policy-driven opportunities that are recent or en vogue. A perfect example is the Green Deal in the European Union (EU) which has been launched in 2019 and has received a tremendous financing budget in a short time span that even disrupted existing grants (read: Green Deal EIC Accelerator Call). In the same vein, many funding arms in the EU have started to switch towards coronavirus-friendly projects during 2020 due to the emerging pandemic (read: Corona-Virus Call).

Such erratic changes can be a double-edged sword since they can be either beneficial or detrimental to applicants depending on the respective funding increasing or running dry overnight. Private investors are usually less affected by such changes since they are not subject to policies and are not required to operate in the publics best interest albeit regulations can still affect them.

Competing Projects

Lastly, the European Commission (EC) aims to fund innovative projects but, due to the tracking on the Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) database, it is also aware of competing projects that receive funding which can jeopardize a companies success chances in case a competitor has received a grant before. This can be entirely independent of the validity of the business model and can be purely based on the subjective reason that the EU aims to only fund an innovation once. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule but it is wise to identify past grant financing projects before applying with a new project.

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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

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 2

This article is a continuation of Part 1 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).

4. Thematic Focus

What types of projects are selected?

Grant funding by the European Union (EU) can vary greatly by the respective focus area whereas some programs only fund research projects, universities, for-profits, non-profits, companies focusing on the Green Deal (read: A Dedicated Cut-Off) or those projects related to specific targets such as Key Enabling Technologies (KET) and policy directives.

The topic of the funding call is the single most important aspect to consider since it will define what evaluators are looking for and which companies have high success chances to become grant beneficiaries. The EIC Accelerator focuses on for-profit businesses at a certain Technology Readiness Level (TRL – read: here) while the project must also be innovative and disruptive.

5. Local Alternatives

Are there national grants available?

While the EU has the largest grant budgets, simple evaluation platforms and provides clear communication of the requirements, there are a variety of local alternatives that could provide equal opportunities with higher success chances. An example for this is the Cyprus Entrepreneurship Fund (CYPEF) that is supported by the European Investment Bank (EIB) which also supports the equity financing of the EIC Accelerator (read: Equity Financing).

Such local alternatives should be investigated since they tend to be less competitive when it comes to the strict requirements imposed on grant programs such as the EIC Accelerator. In addition, applications can likely be prepared in the native language which can significantly simplify the application process for many startups (read: Preparing an Application Internally).

6. Number of Submissions

How many times can an applicant submit an application?

Depending on the type of financing call, there can be restrictions to the numbers of applications due to limited cut-off dates (i.e. a one-off call vs. a continuous call) or through freeze-periods as they are imposed on the EIC Accelerator in 2021 (read: 2021 Process).

Since the competitiveness of a certain funding opportunity can vary greatly, understanding if re-submissions are possible is an important consideration before the first application.

7. Single Applicant or Consortium

How many companies or institutions must apply?

While the type of applicant is important, prospect grant beneficiaries likewise have to assess if they can apply alone or are required to form a consortium. The latter can have restrictions imposed on them such as a specific location (i.e. 3 entities from at least 2 member states) or a specific type of collaboration (i.e. one non-profit university and one for-profit business).

The EIC Accelerator is a single-applicant funding scheme without an option to apply as a consortium as of 2020. The SME Instrument (the original name of the EIC Accelerator) historically had an option for multiple EU companies forming a consortium so this option might be reintroduced after 2021 under Horizon Europe.

This article continues in Part 3.

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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

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 1

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) program is an interesting opportunity for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but it might not be suitable for all applicants (read: Introduction). There are a variety of considerations to be made in advance which can help companies to make an informed decision and assess if the EIC Accelerator is the correct funding project to choose or if alternatives such as FET Open, Pathfinder, the Green Deal Call or similar opportunities are more suitable.

The European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Commission (EC) provide a variety of funding arms to support SME’s while the official Funding & Tenders Portal gives information and guidance on the details of such programs. A professional writer or consultant can support companies in investigating the suitability of a project for grant funding but startups can often initiate such an assessment themselves.

The following list presents a few select criteria to assess a suitable funding opportunity since a successful application can only be prepared once the right conditions are met.

1. Budget

What is the total budget available and how much can be requested per applicant?

Prior to selecting a grant opportunity, the exact amount of available financing and the expected budget per project should be assessed since seed-stage companies might not warrant large financing rounds while scale-ups could have long exceeded smaller grants. Total budgets and request-amounts are often published in Work Programs or directly on the call page on the Funding & Tenders portal. The EIC Accelerator provides a budget of approximately €100M to €300M per call with up to €17.5M per project in grant and equity financing (read: EIC Accelerator Budget).

2. Covered Costs

What percentage of the project’s costs are covered?

Often, grant financing covers a percentage of the total project costs whereas the grant contribution will have to be supplemented with external financings such as revenues, investments or other sources. The exact conditions can vary by the type of grant chosen but the EIC Accelerator finances 70% of the total costs (read: Grant vs. Equity).

3. Competitiveness

How many applicants will apply to a single call?

It can be difficult to assess how competitive a grant will be but the total budget amount and the number of submission in previous calls are a good indicator. Such information is usually published on the call page or on social outlets like Twitter (read: Finding News). For one-off calls, it can be difficult to gauge the number of applications submitted per deadline but consultants and other funding experts are usually able to provide guidance in such cases based on similar or previous calls.

For the EIC Accelerator, the budget and competitiveness has varied greatly over the past years and especially in 2020 but the success rate has historically been between 1% and 6% in most cases with 1,000 to 4,000 applications per call (read: EIC Impact Report).

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) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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

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 the Future of the EIC Accelerator Could Look Like (SME Instrument) – Part 2

This article is a continuation of Part 1 and presents a collection of areas that the EIC Accelerator might evolve towards in the future.

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is a constantly evolving and growing funding arm of the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC). It aims to support startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) who are working on innovative technologies through extensive financial support of up to €17.5M and coaching support to simplify business development and scaling efforts (read: Introduction).

While this article presents an exploration, it is also useful for both professional writers or consultants to stay up to date on new developments relating to the official proposal template, new funding decisions by the European Union (EU) and related developments (read: Finding Updates).

3. Adjusting the Evaluation Criteria

Government funds will always have to adhere to politics, directives and bureaucracy which is the reason why EIC Accelerator evaluations are slightly easier for projects that have a focus on societal challenges, female CEO’s or a broader EU impact (read: Visual EIC Accelerator Narrative). While this is clearly valuable for politicians, it does obscure the focus that should be on innovation, business models and, ultimately, financial success.

If the EIC wants to fund projects that support the environment then this should simply receive a dedicated call (read: Green Deal Call) and if it wants to fund more female CEO’s then this can also receive its own call instead of retrospectively adjusting the established ranking order based on gender (read: Why It’s Great to be a Female Entrepreneur in the EU). Creating a women-only call under the EIC Accelerator (i.e. “EIC Accelerator Female Founders Call”) is entirely feasible and it would create a better perception of the evaluation since each applicant under a specific call will be evaluated based on the same criteria.

4. Simplifying the Bureaucracy

The sections for the costs, implementation, resources and KPI’s are important for tracking and budget allocation but their assessment could be streamlined more. If cost items, subcontractors and budget allocations per month were directly entered into the browser’s form fields, they could be assessed quickly by algorithms and could be tracked much more efficiently if the project is funded. This will also remove the need for evaluators to re-calculate all the given metrics of an application (i.e. if the resources fit to the workpackages or the hiring to the payroll)

Just like it is already done on EU-platforms like Eurostat, the financial projections, costs and workpackages could be visualised with charts automatically so that the applications themselves become much leaner and especially the implementation section can focus on tasks, risks and team members rather than financials. In the same vein, the Impact section can focus on the users, commercial strategy and the market instead of detailing the financial projections.

Summary

  • Separating Grant & Equity: Allowing direct equity applications with an open budget through a pool of private investors
  • Becoming a VC-Hub: Creating an online environment where past applicants can participate in pitch sessions outside of the normal process
  • Adjusting the Evaluation Criteria: Establish fair evaluation criteria without exceptions and use separate calls to enforce political targets (i.e. Green Deal)
  • Simplifying the Bureaucracy: Make more use of the online form fields to auto-generate and check financial information

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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

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:

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

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

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

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

EIC Budget: Horizon Europe vs. Horizon 2020

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

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

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

Female Participation

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

Valuation

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

Applications and Success Rates

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

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

Evaluators and Jury Members

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

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

Geographic Analysis

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

Size of the SME’s

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

Age of SME’s

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

Selected Industries

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

Target Customers

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

Blended Financing (Grant with Equity Option)

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

EIC Accelerator Follow-Up Investments

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

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

Successful Exits of EIC Accelerator Companies

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

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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

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:

Visual Representation of an EIC Accelerator Proposal Narrative (SME Instrument Phase 2) – Part 2

Part 1 of this article can be found under the provided link.

The following article as a continuation of the visual guide (i.e. Part 2) for the preparation of an EIC Accelerator blended financing proposal (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) which can be used by startups or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) as well as professional writers or consultants.

The EIC Accelerator is a highly competitive grant program offered by the European Commission (EC) and the European Innovation Council (EIC) for all eligible companies based in the European Union (EU) and associated countries (read: Pre-Requisites for an Application).

Narrative (top half)

Information on what is meant by The Narrative can be found elsewhere (read: Providing the Missing Link) but, in summary, it describes the way the technological innovation is contextualized outside of the business model or differentiating features. The Narrative expands the storytelling to encompass and connect each proposal section so that it makes sense as a whole.

This approach of thinking about a proposal has the advantage of assuring that all sub-sections are working well together and are connected enough to create an urgent need for EIC support in the evaluator’s eyes. It seamlessly integrates a business plan with a European and global impact while heavily considering the added benefits for the funding provider, namely the EC, and why the problem should concern them (i.e. the missing link).

1. Politics

It can be useful to begin explaining the context of the innovation through a European dimension (i.e. from an EU perspective) which can help set the stage of where the new and disruptive technology fits in. The EU is regularly publishing updates on policies, statistics (i.e. Eurostat), regulations and adjacent resources such as Key Enabling Technologies (KET), the Green Deal and all other industry-specific targets set by the EC.

Every innovation can be connected to at least one of these resources which can help strengthen the application and score high in the proposals Impact section. Generally speaking, identifying policies, targets, statistics, communications or other EU-focused goals is an often neglected part of low scoring applications (read: Common EIC Accelerator Mistakes)

2. Impact

The next step in the narrative is to connect the policies, targets and related topics to negative repercussions in the EU. This further illustrates the point as to why innovation is needed and highlights the gravity of the problem in the status quo. Such problems can be in the form of costs (i.e. excessive but preventable health-care expenditures), deaths (i.e. the number of car accidents caused by human error), environmental impacts (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions) and issues with the resource availability (i.e. overfishing, lack of mining capacities, etc.).

These are designed to create the impression that, without a change in the current stage, problems will get worse over time and jeopardize the economic and social positioning of the European Union or related countries.

3. State-of-the-Art

This section, following the EU dimension and the Impact, highlights how the current problem-solving approaches do not work and why they are limited. After reading the first two sections, the reader will think “Surely, companies are working on a solution already.” but this section will explain that this is not the case.

The problem is currently unsolved and will likely remain unsolved due to a lack of technological ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking. Here, it is useful to only briefly explain the downsides of the current products or services (esp. their approach to the problem) since they will be detailed in-depth in later parts (i.e. see the annotated proposal template). This sections only acts as a segway to further enhance the impact of the introduction.

4. Barrier

At this point, the reader will understand that the problem is important (1. Politics), is impactful (2. Impact) and is unsolved (3. State-of-the-art) but it is not clear just yet as to why that is. This section, Barrier, is designed to explain just that.

Why is it so difficult to solve the problem and why has no company been able to accomplish this? A grant writer should be able to give an answer to that question and outline the significance of technological barriers.

This can be done in the form of citing scientific reviews, describing case studies which highlight the problem or introducing concepts which have been challenging to the industry. The main takeaway of this section is to make it seem impossible to find a solution so that, when the solution is finally introduced, it will seem much more impactful.

5. Missing Link

The final part of the EIC Accelerator proposals introduction is the missing link which is the point that all previous sections culminate into and what is the major issue in the industry and in Europe.

The EU wants to turn “A” into “C” but “B” is missing. There is no solution to creating “B” in the current state and the barriers of doing so are prohibitively high. As such, the problem must be expected to persist indefinitely unless a new and innovative solution was developed.

The missing link should then be highlighted and quantified according to its worth to remind the reader of to the costs of not finding a solution or the savings of doing so.

This concludes the narrative and introduction part of the proposal and such a structure can be directly used as a template for a written application. The same reasoning is also applicable to the pitch deck (i.e. the EIC Accelerator interviews) albeit in a much more compact form so that the jury is able to understand the gravity of the problem.

Continuation

Part 3 of this article can be found under the provided link.

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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

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:

Visual Representation of an EIC Accelerator Proposal Narrative (SME Instrument Phase 2) – Part 1

The EIC Accelerator grant and equity financing (formerly SME instrument Phase 2, with blended finance option) provides a springboard for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) who are developing a disruptive innovation and seek additional financial support to complete their R&D from the prototype stage to a complete, commercial product (read: Budget: Grant vs. Blended Finance).

Provided by the European Commission (EC) and the European Innovation Council (EIC), this grant funding program has recently grown in popularity with the number of applications doubling in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) as well as extensive advertising made in the European Union (EU) regarding the sustainability-themed deadlines which provided a dedicated EIC Accelerator Green Deal call for all projects with a strong environmental impact.

With the EIC Accelerator quickly growing into a European instrument with strong mass-appeal, a significant number of first-time grant applicants are wondering how to successfully craft a proposal since the official EIC Accelerator grant template is highly simplified and can be cryptic at times (read: Hiring a Consultant or Writing Internally?).

A professional writer or consultant is usually versed in identifying and creating a compelling narrative (read: Identifying a Broad Vision and Providing the Missing Link) but for newcomers, the following presents a guide in respect to the general proposal structure from a story-perspective.

This guide is not a definite rulebook and it is by no means the only way of conceptualising a grant application but simply acts as a starting point for developing a well-written proposal draft:

Each individual part of the graphic shows a simplified way of connecting key aspects of the innovation and the industry or policy context in order to provide strong and logically sound reasoning as to why the project needs funding by the EU (i.e. as requested by the official proposal template).

In order to assure that an application has high success chances and receives positive evaluation results, it is beneficial to align the proposal with a strong narrative so that a submission or re-submission to the next deadline will have superior success chances.

Editing a proposal in a connected way also has the benefit of further refining each individual section since some details that are well known by the applicant might have been omitted by accident but, by viewing the entire proposal as a narrative, they could be introduced to perfect the storytelling.

Once again, the following method of connecting the dots is optional and should by no means be seen as the only way of thinking about an EIC Accelerator proposal but, since the annotated proposal template is not entirely detailed, this list can act as an additional resource.

Continuation

Part 2 of this article can be found under the provided link.

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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

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:

Why It’s Great to be a Female Entrepreneur in the EU (EIC Accelerator)

The Europen Commission has long implemented policies and targets to increase gender equality across all industries and government institutions. While the EIC Accelerator (formerly the SME Instrument Phase 2) has been largely free from any interventions of such policies, there are a variety of factors that have been part of the evaluation process for a long time.

The Gender Dimension of the EIC Accelerator

The proposal template and the evaluation results have always included comments on gender equality for all applying Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) or startups which means that the score of a submitted proposal has always been affected by gender-related policies (see Using the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) to Improve Grant Proposal Writing). Furthermore, if two applicants have a matching score, the number of female team members in the respective company could influence the success of the application as well.

In every EIC Accelerator application, it is therefore of benefit for the success of the proposal to address hiring, gender treatment and the effect of the project on gender equality as a whole. It is also useful to research the repercussions of a certain technology on gender differences.

Preferential Selection of Female CEO’s

Since the Green Deal cut-off in May (see The European Green Deal – A Dedicated Cut-Off for the EIC Accelerator), the EU has implemented new progressive policies to increase the number of female entrepreneurs. The initial goal was to boost the number of women-led companies who successfully received the grant funding from the previously small level (i.e. 1-5%) to 25% of all selected companies under the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2).

For the May cut-off, this target has even been exceeded with the total share of female CEO’s who received the grant being an unprecedented 34%. This means that the number of women-led companies that have been financed in May 2020 is higher than the number of all female CEO’s funded in the previous deadlines combined (i.e. 22 were funded in May and 16 combined for March and January).

source: @JeanDavidMALO1 on twitter

The ambitious quota was reached by reducing the threshold (i.e the minimum score needed to receive an interview invitation) for female CEO’s so that the number of invited female-led companies increased accordingly. To organize such a policy, the EC had each EIC Accelerator applicant declare the gender of their CEO within the submission forms so that such selections could be automated to reach the required number. If the gender was not declared, it was considered to be male by default. In addition, if the quotas were not being reached during a single interview week, previously rejected female-led companies would be eligible for a runner-up interview to reach the 25% mark.

Conclusion

This policy presents a great opportunity for female-led companies since the threshold for the invitation, influenced by the selection quota, is lower for female CEO’s than for male CEO’s. This, of course, does not mean that women have it easy in any way but it can make the difference between almost not receiving an invitation to the pitch week in Brussels and being invited (and potentially funded).

The projects that are reaching evaluation scores above 13.5/15 and are entering step 2 of the EIC Accelerator, female or not, are all high-level business proposals deserving of funding with the difference between invited and not invited being obscure in many cases. As such, every advantage should be welcomed by eligible companies.

Considering that the shares of invited and funded women-led companies have been as low as 5.9% and 2.3%, respectively, earlier in 2020, the overall rise can be seen as 5- to 17-fold in only six months (and likely much higher compared to 2019). Depending on the cut-off and some luck, women can have a substantial advantage and should consider applying to the EIC Accelerator if they are working on an innovative technology with significant scale-up potential (see Business Models for EIC Accelerator Applications).

This can also be of benefit for companies that have unsuccessfully applied to the grant before since they might have an easier time receiving the interview invite in the future. This, of course, does not mean that a low-quality or poorly edited application would receive a high score just because of the CEO’s gender but a professionally written proposal can have higher chances for the October 7th cut-off.

These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant. 

EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only). 

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

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by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

General information on the EIC Accelerator template, professional grant writing and how to prepare a successful application can be found in the following articles: