Tag Archives: EIC Accelerator resubmission

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

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

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

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

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

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

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

Evaluation Criteria for the Short Application (Step 1)

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

1. Excellence

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

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

2. Impact

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

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

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

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

Complaints and Rebuttals for Step 1 Rejectees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evaluation Criteria for the Full Application (Step 2)

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

1. Excellence

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

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

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

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

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

2. Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 3 Interview Criteria

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) are January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open), March 22nd 2023, June 7th 2023 and October 4th 2023 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.

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

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

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

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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: