Tag Archives: EIC Accelerator hiring

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.

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by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

EIC Accelerator Success Rates and Feasibility Studies (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is a competitive program targeted at innovative Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups. Under the name SME Instrument, it was active for many years and provided a financial support system over two phases – Phase 1 and Phase 2. The former consisted of a small grant of €50,000 while the latter is identical to the EIC Accelerator today (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

With the last Phase 1 deadline having been in September 2019, startups today do not have the option to first apply for this seed-grant which was a great opportunity to nourish early-stage startups and allow them to fully assess a project through a feasibility study. Such a study was not only useful to analyse the validity of an innovation or business model but also acted as a springboard to prepare the information-dense Phase 2 (EIC Accelerator) proposal since it requires extensive market studies, customer descriptions and a full business plan that includes the workpackages for the grant support (read: EIC Accelerator Workpackages).

This was a very useful setup and its effects were evident in the statistics collected on the Phase 1 & Phase 2 applicant success cases throughout 2018 (read: Impact Report). In the statistical report, it was found that the chances of receiving the SME instrument Phase 2 funding were 4.1% if no Phase 1 was secured beforehand while the chances rose to 6.8% with a completed Phase 1 project. This means that just having received and completed a Phase 1 project significantly increased the success chances of grant applicants (i.e. a 65% increase).

This increase, of course, can be due to a variety of reasons and the following article presents a shortlist of effects a Phase 1 project could have on a successful Phase 2 evaluation as well as strategies to emulate this advantage for the EIC Accelerator.

Description of the Pilot Results

The most obvious reason as to why the Phase 2 application is improved after a completed Phase 1 is that such projects likely have a comprehensive description of their respective pilot studies. Since the Phase 1 report includes content on the project’s feasibility, the corresponding sections of the proposal template can be filled with suitable content. This includes the documentation on the technical feasibility, test results and the descriptions of use-cases in the relevant environment.

When writing a Phase 2 application like the EIC Accelerator, it can often happen that pilot tests are neglected or not described with great detail. To remedy this, the obsolete Phase 1 feasibility studies have incentivised applicants to elaborate on them in-depth which is likely a contributing factor for the increased success rates.

Financial and Commercial Feasibility

The Phase 1 study directly requests validations of the feasibility from a commercial and financial point of view which can easily be overlooked when writing a business plan. Key factors in this validation process are the customer demand, willingness-to-pay, expected margins and a general analysis of the opportunity which can dramatically enhance the quality of an application.

Having a separate section describing such a detailed feasibility assessment is beneficial and can be neglected if the EIC Accelerator template does not directly ask for it. Even if no Phase 1 project has been funded prior, professional writers and consultants can still benefit from adding the respective section to an application.

Budget Allocation

Workpackages are a critical part of every EIC Accelerator application but they can be tricky since companies do not usually define their development work in such a distinct manner (read: Work packages). As a result, it is easy to rush the workpackage creation and its budgeting as a mere afterthought but this can make the respective implementation less believable or too vague. The Phase 1 feasibility study did remedy this since it requested information on the project’s future, required developments and budgets which could be directly used to inform the EIC Accelerator application.

Proposal Quality

In General, the narrative of the proposal is critical and the vision should be in full alignment with the expected impact, the innovation and the project itself (read: Assessing a Project). If a company has spent 5-6 months in preparing a report for Phase 1, they have likely further refined and aligned key cornerstones of an application (read: A Proposal Narrative). This can enhance every single proposal section since the Freedom to Operate (FTO), the timing, the introduction, the hiring needs, the Key Performance Indicators (KPI), the broader impact, etc. are all highly relevant but are often only briefly addressed.

The quality of a proposal is enhanced in relation to the amount of attention that is placed on its details. This is perfectly supported by a Phase 1 feasibility study which aids in just that – giving the applicant time and a structure to fill in the blanks.

Evaluators’ Bias

Lastly, there is always a bias from the evaluator’s position since seeing that a project has successfully completed Phase 1 will make Phase 2 more appealing to them. From their perspective, the applicant has already succeeded in a highly competitive application process, has completed the stringent documentation responsibilities and has delivered a final report. This element of ‘social proof’ has an effect on the reader and, in and of itself, is expected to increase the evaluation score (read: Buzzwords for the EIC Accelerator).

How to Use this Information

First of all, the absence of a Phase 1 option under the EIC Accelerator program should not be a reason to neglect the points listed above (read: Biggest EIC Accelerator Mistakes). A feasibility study or pilot project can be conducted independently, can come from other funding sources or be performed directly with customers. Taking the time to describe the past milestones, the results of extensive R&D and presenting technical as well as commercial and financial information to validate the project should be prioritized when planning an application.

Some documentation on the now obsolete Phase 1 process can be found in the official template for the feasibility study (here) and the Grant Agreement Contract (GAC).

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 Reliance of EU Startups on Consultancies for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is an innovation funding program that provides up to €17.5M to startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME). It is very attractive for eligible companies since it allows single-applicants to directly apply online and participate in the program with little to no help from third parties (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

Since the evaluation is performed by the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) and European Innovation Council (EIC), it appears to be the ideal framework for the European Commission (EC) to directly help excellent companies in the region.

Or so it seems.

Insufficient Documentation & Transparency

Unfortunately, many applicants who investigate the EIC Accelerator process and proposal template find that the official documentation is not entirely helpful. Instead of presenting what a good business case should be, the European Union (EU) focuses on communicating its goals for policies, gender equality, finding startup unicorns and describing innovation from a political perspective.

As a result, prospective applicants turn to professional writers and consultants since they are concerned that “they do not know what the EU wants to hear” (read: Hiring a Writer). They recognize early in the process that the EIC Accelerator is a policy-driven element, spearheaded by politicians as the primary decision-makers while entrepreneurs take an advisory role.

Becoming Entrepreneur-Friendly

The EIC is making progress in becoming more entrepreneur-friendly by aiming to be Venture Capital (VC)-like and presenting itself as a true start-up ecosystem in the EU via equity investments, pitch-oriented evaluations and expert entrepreneurs for critical evaluation steps. Unfortunately, while the EIC aims to simplify the application process, the direction the EIC Accelerator is moving towards is becoming less and less applicant-friendly.

This is not only evident in the recent equity-affair whereas granted applicants from 2019 have only received part of their equity financing in 2021 (read: Interview with EIC Fund Member) but also in the addition of more and more evaluation steps (read: Proposed 2021 Process).

Making the Application Process More Difficult

In 2018, in-person pitch interviews were introduced as an additional layer to the formerly 1-step evaluation procedure and 2021 will see the EIC Accelerator become a 3-step process which will, for the first time, include video submissions (read: Pitch Video Types). This not only increases the workload for all applicants but also requires a broad skill set which is not commonly found in DeepTech startups (i.e. design, video production, storytelling, marketing).

This clearly is a contradictory approach by the EU since adding steps to the process will increase the reliance of grant applicants on consultants and professional writers instead of reducing it (read: The Grant Writing Industry).

Understandably, the EIC is in a double bind. It wants to attract excellent companies and help them to apply without hiring external help but, by attracting an excess of applicants, it has to increase the evaluation barriers since the budget is limited. This, in combination with a less transparent evaluation process (read: Applying Early to the EIC Accelerator), leaves innovative companies no choice but to rely on external partners more than ever before.

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 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) 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:

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) 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 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) 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:

Project Management and the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)

Project management is a central part of every Research and Development (R&D) project but it is especially important when considering the strict budgeting and tracking under the EIC Accelerator blended financing program (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing). Managing a specific project, a task and performance indicators are three core aspects of the overall process whereas the European Commission (EC) and the European Innovation Council (EIC) require constant updates on such aspects to assure the continuing progress of the beneficiarie’s development work (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

When hiring a professional writer or consultancy, project management is often simplified through coordination and support activities but startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) should be aware of the bureaucracy involved in a funding project by the European Union (EU). The following presents a shortlist of the tracking and organisational-aspects for such a grant project that is relevant for both the application (i.e. as part of the annotated EIC Accelerator template) and for successful grant beneficiaries who have received a positive evaluation (read: Finding EIC Accelerator Results).

The individual aspects of a development project can be classified into three tiers with project management at the top (i.e. top-down delegation), the task management at the center (i.e. development work) and the tracking of daily, weekly or monthly Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) at the bottom (i.e. individual metrics). This order only presents one out of many ways to structure project management but it can be useful for companies new to the strict tracking requirements in the EU or those who lack experience in executing long-term development projects.

Managing a Project

Project management traditionally requires the use of cornerstones such as initiation, planning, execution, controlling, monitoring and closing which assures that all essential tasks are performed with clear responsibilities. As a first step, the responsibilities should be distributed according to a hierarchy with one main project leader at the top who acts as the supervisor and a manager for each project segment. This will be important for the tracking since accountability is the most secure way of assuring that deadlines, budgets and targets are achieved in a timely manner.

Each segment (i.e. initiation) can likewise have a concrete description, budget, timeline, outcome and means of documentation so that the person in charge has a clear overview of their responsibilities throughout the project. In the pitch interview (read: The Pitch Interview), it can also be a question that the jurors will ask since the financials, implementation and development tasks are important considerations for the selection of beneficiaries (read: Pitch Preparation).

Managing a Task

Each project will have to be split into the specific tasks that require execution and the EC prefers the use of designated Workpackages (WP) (read: Work Packages). These are individual segments of the developments arranged by their area of focus and their expected timeline. As an example, a WP can be focusing on software development while another WP deals with hardware developments or marketing activities.

WP’s are only one way of structuring R&D work but the important thing to consider is that specific tasks, budgets and deadlines must be designated clearly and be actionable enough to allow execution. Such tasks can use the SMART-acronym as it clearly defines how goals should be specified and treated in order to maximize the success chances of the development work. S-M-A-R-T stands for:

  1. Specific: A task has to be specific so that the activities are clear for experts, engineers or software developers and can be executed. Instead of discussing general ways of achieving a goal (i.e. “to develop a production process”), it should give specific methods (i.e. “to implement X until Y is reached and integrate peripheral technologies such as Z”)
  2. Measurable: Quantification is key in defining development tasks since such markers will be used in both tracking and project execution. Unit numbers, quality markers and other measurable items should be listed.
  3. Assignable: Each task must not only have a person responsible but also be easily assignable so that delegation is possible. If a task is specific and quantified then it will be simple to select an employee who has the right skillset for its execution but a vague task would not be easily assignable.
  4. Realistic: Tasks have to be feasible since it is not only the responsibility of the company to execute and track the development work but also to achieve their goals in the end. it has to be assumed that no follow-up financing is available and that the project plan has to be executed as-is. As such, realism has to take the center stage so that tasks are ambitious but not impossible.
  5. Time: From the start, the timing, deadlines and delivery dates have to be clearly defined so that structure is given to the entire project.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

KPI’s are a part of each project but are a more company-centric metric rather than exclusively relating to R&D. KPI’s can focus on all aspects relevant to the business which can or cannot be part of the development tasks. As an example: Active users, revenues or obtained patents can be KPI’s while these metrics do not need to be part of EIC Accelerator WP’s.

The EIC Accelerator utilises milestones and KPI’s in its official annotated proposal template and these can be used to provide a commercial view on the WP themselves (i.e. connecting tasks with business metrics). A specific goal such as reaching a certain number of active users on a platform can be added as a KPI or milestone to a WP so that it is not only clear What and How but also Why tasks are performed.

KPI’s can be chosen according to the management team’s core vision for the company but they usually provide a shortlist of goals that have to be reached for the business to succeed (i.e. the number of suppliers, customers, revenues, server connections, datasets, hardware prototypes, etc.). These will then give the project management and each individual task a certain realism from a purely commercial and growth perspective. Updates on KPI’s can be provided on a monthly or weekly basis to the financing provider so that transparency is assured throughout the project.

Summary

  • Managing a Project: Creating a clear hierarchy of responsibilities in a top-down approach for the entire project
  • Managing a Task: Developing individual tasks for each development step while following the SMART principle
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPI): Adding realistic and commercial reasoning to the development tasks via milestones and KPI’s

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:

Why it is So Difficult to Assess an EIC Accelerator Project (SME Instrument Phase 2)

Assessing a company for an EIC Accelerator blended financing application (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) can be a challenge since it requires a comprehensive investigation of multiple variables (read: Assessing a Project). Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) would often like to receive such an assessment in a short amount of time but, even if the project generally fits the eligibility criteria, there are still considerations to be made by a professional writer or consultant that can reveal barriers to a successful EIC Accelerator application (read: Hiring a Consultant).

The following presents a shortlist of such barriers that, while being hard to assess and generally requiring days or weeks of pre-screening, are informative for prospective applicants who seek to prepare a successful application to the EIC Accelerator grant (read: Visual Representation):

Learning While Writing

It is often a reality for hired writers that the full scope of the project, its intricacies and the comprehensive understanding of its implications are only realised during the process of grant proposal writing following the official template. The extensive amount of work needed to prepare an application dwarfs any pre-assessments which makes it important to cover as many aspects of a project as possible before beginning the writing process.

Still, it cannot be avoided that new aspects are discovered throughout the weeks of writing and it is impossible to cover all bases beforehand since covering these bases would have a workload equal to the writing itself. Minimizing uncertainty is clearly possible (read: Assessing a Project) but it can never be fully eliminated.

Optimistic Founders

Founders, and especially CEO’s, are meant to be charismatic and optimistic when it comes to their business but, like most things in life, this can be a double-edged sword. Companies swill often highlight how “no one else is doing this”, its a “€500M opportunity” or “we have no real competitors” but such statements will always have to be taken with a grain of salt.

The patent that has been highlighted might actually just be pending or be in preparation. The market opportunity might be the industry size but not the actual revenue potential. The company might only employ one person while the remaining team members have other full-time jobs. The strong development partners that have been highlighted turn out to own all of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) which renders the company itself not innovative.

The assessment of a project strongly relies on the accuracy of the prospective applicant’s statements and a professional consultant is often unable to fully validate each given statement individually prior to beginning the writing process.

Different Perspectives

In the end, no one knows who will evaluate an EIC Accelerator application and the person in charge of doing so might not be an expert in the industry, might not understand what a good business model looks like, might not understand balance sheets or simply have no interest in a certain topic. These are uncertainties that are impossible to assess before submitting an application and it is important to understand that they will be a factor.

These risks can be mitigated through having a diverse team of VC’s, evaluators from the European Agency for SME’s (EASME), industry representatives and technical experts that are involved in the project’s assessment prior to starting the writing process.

Absent EU Targets and Policies

Not everything that is intuitively deemed good and worthy of EU financing is actually so since not all societal and economic goals of the EU are backed with an equal policy-force. The targets, directives and policies in the EU are a strong determiner of how interesting a project will be and it will require a lot of research to assess the impact of a new EIC Accelerator application which is not always possible ahead of beginning the writing process.

It would seem obvious that animal care, especially when it comes to livestock and food security, is an important topic for the EU but it turns out that policies and targets in this area are scarce. The same goes for elderly care whereas one would suspect that the growing age of the population and the increased need for high-quality care facilities is supported by strong policies but this is not the case.

A professional writer can often not perform a full analysis of a topic prior to writing an EIC Accelerator application which makes the absence of EU policies and targets a risk that can make a future application more difficult.

Involvement of the Management Team

Collaboration and feedback from the management is often a challenge due to a high workload and a generally low priority for grant preparations over the day-to-day business development. The communication between a consultant and a potential client prior to signing an agreement is usually not a good indicator of the client’s involvement afterwards which can make a collaboration a challenge.

If a management team does not give adequate feedback to help flesh out the application, it can easily become too shallow and lack the quantifiers, explanations or references needed to be a well-rounded proposal.

Different Skill Sets

A strong uncertainty for EIC Accelerator applications is the diverse skillset needed which comes in the form of written content, the in-person pitch and video production (read: Producing a Pitch Video). It is almost impossible to investigate all of these aspects thoroughly without week-long assessments and it will likely remain a strong uncertainty how the applicant will perform when it comes to pitching and creating a video.

The risks can be mitigated through requesting sample videos and pitch sessions but, under both time pressure and jury scrutiny, the performance of a company can vary greatly.

Summary

In summary, the following aspects make the assessment of EIC Accelerator projects difficult:

  • Learning While Writing: Many aspects of the project are only discovered after starting the writing process
  • Optimistic Founders: Founders have a tendency to be over-optimistic
  • Different Perspectives: Evaluators vary greatly in their skill sets which adds a layer of luck to each application
  • Absent EU Targets and Policies: A great EU impact might not be reflected by policies and directives in that area
  • Involvement of the Management Team: The management team might significantly reduce their involvement
  • Different Skill Sets: The applicant might not be able to perform sufficiently when it comes to pitching or video production

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 EIC Can Incentivise Shorter and Clearer Applications for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2) – Part 3

Information for readers: The following is a description of a proposed evaluation process but it does not, in any way, reflect the current way EIC Accelerator applications are evaluated. For this, please read this article.

This article is a continuation of Part 2 (see also: Part 4 & Part 1). It describes a proposed evaluation process for the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) and investigates the potential mechanisms that can be used by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC). The way an official proposal template is structured and its general restrictions clearly define the workload of both successful applicants and evaluators which makes a re-structuring the most powerful tool available to change the overall submission experience for all stakeholders from the written application, over the pitch video to the final interview (read: Assessing an Innovation).

Feedback Cycles and Proposal Examples

If the EIC wants to develop direct relationships with the applying SME’s and develop equality amongst applicants then the communication towards such applicants has to be precise and transparent. The EIC has not published examples of how a successful application should look like and is not providing useful feedback to applicants. As a result, applicants are relying on hiring third parties such as consultancies or professional grant writers who have the experience and insight to know what evaluators are looking for.

Without useful feedback by a human evaluator who has taken the time to write a single paragraph for the rejected applicants and without an actual successful proposal example, the EIC will remain a black-box for SME’s and start-ups. The existing manuals for Horizon 2020 are obscure and do not discuss quality writing, business plans and illustrations. Instead, the currently existing manuals give little to no useful guidance to applicants since they focus on discussing environmental-goals and gender equality rather than what a business plan should look like.

A solution to this could be dynamic feedback whereas an evaluator can send a message to the applicants who have the opportunity to respond to a question or critical assessment within a limited time-frame. If this response is reasonable, an evaluator is able to make a more informed decision while data on feedback about evaluators can be gathered internally to identify evaluators that are potentially unqualified or ideally qualified for such applications (i.e. improved match-making).

How an Evaluation Process Could Look Like

Scenario

  • Start: 6,000 applications
  • Funding available: 100 applications

Round 1 (Remote Evaluation)

Upload

  • Applicants provide a one-page executive summary with a 300-word restriction (i.e. graphics with bullet points). This reduces the writing burden significantly, simplifies the evaluation and also reduces the need for SME’s to learn EU-specific terminology which is not market-relevant (i.e. impact, excellence, TRL, etc.).
  • Inside the submission forms, the applicants’ fill out the information on the costs, financial projections, team growth, addressed EU policies (i.e. targets can be linked), gender, GDPR, etc. which can be quickly scanned by evaluators.
  • Applicants also upload a 10 min pitch video with full creative freedom (i.e. slide pitch with voiceover or a fully produced video – read: Preparing a Pitch Video)

Evaluation procedure of Round 1

Instead of evaluating each proposal individually, there are topic-based knock-out rounds whereas 3 keyword-matched candidates are compared with each other and the superior project receives the YES while the other two receive a NO grading. This is done by ranking all 3 projects whereas the winner of the three is determined by assessments from multiple evaluators. If there is a draw, two projects can both receive the YES grading or no project can be selected if it was found that they are all ineligible. An additional evaluator can be added in case results are unusual (i.e. a project is ranked first and last by different evaluators)

This process has the benefit of being very fast to conduct while the applications are quick to prepare (i.e. 3 applications can be assessed in under 2 hours). Since determining universal scores through subjective assessments by randomly selected evaluators is impossible anyways, a knock-out process is just as fair and is similar to the VC-like setting in the interview-stage. All applications receive a 300 word-feedback (100 words from each evaluator) which is presented to the applicants in their formal results.

This round also has the benefit of screening the projects for their impact on EU-relevant targets first while the business plan will only be assessed once the EU has determined that this is the type of project it cares about.

Result: 33% or 2,000 applications are selected.

Round 1b (Optional)

This round is internal and does not require any additional work from the applicants. In round 2, the 2,000 selected applicants are matched-up with each other again and are selected by new evaluators in the same manner whereas the result will be another elimination of two-thirds of the applicants. This is an optional round in case the number of applicants is exceptionally high (i.e. when starting with 6,000 applicants) but it can be omitted if the applications are between 1,000 and 3,000.

All applicants receive additional feedback which is added to the previous feedback (if Round 1 is passed) and made available via the evaluation summary report (ESR). All feedback is cumulative which means that the applicants will always receive more information on improvements the further they progressed through the evaluation.

Result: 11% or 667 applications are selected and are awarded the Seal of Excellence.

This article continues in Part 4 (see also: Part 1 & 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: