Tag Archives: EIC Accelerator results

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) 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:

Glitches on the EIC Accelerator’s AI Platform and Changes to the Work Programme (SME Instrument)

In 2021, the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has been re-launched into its most sophisticated iteration yet. With a new AI Tool, a semi-automated evaluation process and a clear focus on disruptive projects, it has now opened its doors for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups in the European Union (EU) and associated countries (read: New Process).

Right after the launch of this new platform, many applicants as well as professional writers, freelancers and consultants have noticed that there were still quite a few errors and glitches that showed up. This article presents a shortlist of noticeable areas that were affected by such glitches and also discusses some of the changes to the 2021 Work Programme which differ from the unpublished draft version discussed earlier (read: The Work Programme).

Changes & Glitches

Geographic Restrictions & Diversity

The draft version of the EIC Accelerator Work Programme discussed the requirement for geographic diversity which meant that all applicants applying to the grant would need to be invited to the Step 3 interviews in proportion to the number of received applications (read: Interview Preparation & How To Succeed). This would have been an extreme measure since it could have incentivised countries to prepare many low-quality applications to boost their chances in Step 3 of the process. Luckily, this rule was removed.

Non-Binary Gender

The latest template for the EIC Accelerator’s AI Platform and the draft for Horizon Europe proposals indicated non-binary as an option for the gender selection of the applicant’s CEO (read: The EIC Youtube Leak). This, of course, was an example of the European Union being too progressive for its own good (read: Gender Identification vs. Gender Equality).

The EU’s strong gender equity agenda enforces the funding of 35% female CEO’s under the EIC Accelerator which presents 7-times the number at which female CEO’s would naturally be funded in the program. If a non-binary CEO who was born as a woman was treated like a man with respect to this agenda or, even worse, a transgender person identifying as a woman was treated like a man – the EU would have a political disaster on their hands.

Eventually, the European Innovation Council (EIC) has decided that this political double bind between gender identification and gender equality was too much to handle and reverted back to giving only a single third gender option: Unspecified – which is treated as male and lacks the benefits of choosing female.

TRL Descriptions

The Technology Readies Levels (TRL) and Market Readiness Levels (MRL) have been changed even after the opening of the call on April 9th whereas on Friday, it still stated that TRL6 required 100 customers, while on Monday, it reverted back to only requiring pilot studies and a prototype. This is significant since the change happened after the call was already open which means that many applicants could have applied under false premises (read: TRL Levels Explained).

AI Tool Diagnostics Results

Another change over the weekend after April 9th was that the Diagnostics evaluation feedback by the AI Tools changed drastically. The technical breakthrough scorings were quite easy to ‘max out‘ to the top of the A-chart while breakthrough scientific scores were much harder to increase. On Monday, the scoring difficulty was reversed even though no changes were made to the proposal text.

On Monday, an A in technical scores can have turned into a B while the scientific scores saw the opposite change happen. Once again, there are a number of applicants who might have applied under false premises since the call was already accepting submissions.

Budget & Evaluation

The Work Programme has seen some minor adjustments in the budgeting and evaluation process but these were not dramatic and will not significantly impact the success chances of applicants.

One relevant part of these changes is the automatic coverage of the 30% co-financing of the grant by the equity financing if blended financing is selected. This means that, if an applicant wants to request €5M in equity from the EIC Fund then this will be in addition to the 30% of the grant contribution (read: EIC Fund Behind the Scenes). Applicants also have to estimate the co-financing of their Series A or similar round and identify the outside contributors.

Glitches and Errors

Since the AI Platform for the EIC Accelerator is new, it is expected that bugs and errors will be encountered frequently. Still, there was a discrepancy in the performance between different accounts whereas one account had a smooth opening and saving of the proposal while others were exhibiting long loading times, errors and shutdowns.

One of the most severe glitches observed was the replacement of the Abstract of the proposal by the Solution section which ended up appearing twice in the final proposal. This was an automatic replacement that happened in some accounts over the weekend after April 9th.

For all applicants who have applied early to the EIC Accelerator, it is worth looking back at their submitted application and double checking if their Abstract was affected. If it was, it is advisable to contact support@accelerator.eismea.eu as soon as possible to correct this error so that the evaluation will not suffer from this mistake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. General Changes

1.1 Open Calls vs. Strategic Challenges

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

1.2 Scoring & Ranking System

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

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

1.3 UK Participation

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

2. The Application Documents

2.1 Step 1: The Short Application

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

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

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

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

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

2.2 Step 2: The Full Application

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

2.3 Step 3: The Remote or In-Person Interview

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

3. The Application Process

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

3.1 AI Tool

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

3.2 Freezing Periods

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

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

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

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

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

4. The Evaluation Process

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

4.1 Step 1

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

4.2 Step 2

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

4.3 Step 3

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

5. Strategic Challenges (Topics)

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

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

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

5.1 The Green Deal Strategic Challenge (1)

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

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

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

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

5.2 The Digital Technology Strategic Challenge (2a)

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

5.3 The Healthcare Strategic Challenge (2b)

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

6. Ambitions to Control the Outcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Technical Changes

7.1 Coaching

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

7.2 Seal of Excellence (SOE)

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

7.3 Applicants

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

7.4 Equity

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

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

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

7.5 The Pitch Video

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

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

7.6 Timelines & Feedback

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

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

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

7.7 Reimbursement Advances

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

7.8 Budget

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

7.9 Inclusion of Small-Mid Caps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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:

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

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

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

1.2 Discussing the Resources Available

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

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

1.3 Guidance for Best Practises

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

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

1.4 Creating the Script

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

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

1.5 Screen Test (optional)

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

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

1.6 The Real Recording

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

1.7 Editing and Exporting the Pitch Video

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

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

2. Summary

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

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

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

Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) 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 Could Be Beneficial to Apply Early to the 2021 EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) will be reinstated in 2021 under Horizon Europe (2021-2027) with an updated evaluation process (read: Proposed 2021 Process). This will likely present new challenges to the evaluation procedure as lead by European Agency for SME’s (EASME) and the European Innovation Council (EIC) but it can also present improved opportunities for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME).

Consultants and professional writers should be aware that such a new process can artificially tilt the success chances of grant applications since a continuously open call (i.e. Step 1) can lead to a bottleneck in Step 2 which makes the timing of the application essential. The following presents a list of considerations and assumptions that can impact the evaluation process:

  • Open deadline: Since Step 1 will be continuously open, each applicant that applies early and receives a YES will have a guaranteed spot for the Step 2 evaluation
  • YES or NO grading only: Since there is no numeric scoring, it is likely that proposals will not be ranked which means that every YES will have to be invited to Step 2 (i.e. no retrospective rejection due to rankings)
  • Limited spots for Step 2: If the EIC and EASME realize in April or May 2021 (i.e. the next deadline for Step 2 is in June 2021 – see Cut-Off) that there are too many YES gradings for Step 1 already, this might significantly impact the success chances of late Step 1 applicants.

The above reasoning is highly speculative but it is likely that the new evaluation process will undergo an equilibration phase during which the thresholds need to be adjusted in some way. In the past, a score of 13 acted as the official funding threshold while the unofficial threshold (i.e. 13.5 to 14.1) was determined through rankings enabled by the scoring system. Without such a scoring system to determine the rankings, the EIC has no way of limiting the numbers of applications other than to increase the strictness of the YES/NO evaluations dynamically which can lead to unfair results.

Assuming that the EASME will not, in secret, employ an internal ranking system with scores (i.e. without communicating this to applicants) then the same logic would apply to Step 2. A single evaluation round of the full step 2 proposals could lead to an excess of applications for step 3 and, since there is no ranking, the Step 2 evaluation process must be repeated but more strictly. What strictly would mean in this case is not clear but it seems like a less transparent method of evaluating proposals compared to the 2020 process.

Conclusion

It is impossible to estimate the impact of the 2021 EIC Accelerator grant application process but this uncertainty could be mitigated through clear communication from the EASME and the EIC as to how certain thresholds are set and enforced (i.e. by providing real-time updates on YES and NO counts and thresholds). This extends to clear communication if evaluation steps are repeated internally in case applications exceed the capacities for subsequent evaluation steps. This is especially useful if an applicant can choose less competitive EIC Accelerator topics or if the timing of the application is not fixed (i.e. postponing an application to avoid the freezing period).

In summary, it could be beneficial for applicants to apply to Step 1 of the EIC Accelerator in 2021 as soon as possible since an early YES will guarantee a spot to the Step 2 evaluation while this might be significantly more difficult the later one applies.

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:

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 to Prepare for an EIC Accelerator Pitch Interview (SME Instrument Phase 2) – Part 1

The pitch interviews for the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) have been introduced quite recently but they are expected to remain a pillar of the evaluation process moving forward (read: Pitch vs. Proposal). With the jury consisting of mostly Venture Capitalists (VC) and angel investors, the focus of the interview is very commercialisation-oriented meaning that each applicant must understand their go-to-market strategy in and out (read: Why Companies Fail).

The European Commission (EC) and European Innovation Council (EIC) do not give clear guidance on pitch preparation in their documentation or the official template which makes smart in-house practise a must. The following presents a shortlist of the steps to take before the interview and how a successful EIC Accelerator pitch interview could be facilitated. It is important to assess each pitch individually and that things that are omitted on this list might be relevant in specified cases (i.e. bringing a hardware prototype, preparing a video, etc.).

When working with a professional writer or consultant, it is ideal to use the opportunity to extensively practise the pitch with them in the days and weeks leading up to the interview. In the end, “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training” (Archilochus, 680-645 BC). Since you already know the specific restrictions of the interview, you can now use this knowledge to perfectly prepare your impact ahead of time and make use of all the resources at your disposal.

1. Restrictions

  • Limited time: 10 min pitch & 30 min of questioning
  • Limited attention: Jury has to go through multiple interviews per day
  • Limited knowledge: The Jury does not need to know the project or proposal
  • Limited responsibility: The Jury will not invest their own money but only need to help the EU reject excess projects

2. How to Prepare for the Pitch

2.1 Learn from Past Pitches

One of the easiest ways of gaining insight into past pitch sessions is to look through the list of recently funded beneficiaries and contact the companies to inquire about their experience (read: EIC Accelerator Results). This can be very useful since the prospective pitch participant can pre-select companies based on their region or industry to gain very customized information and increase their own success chances. Many companies will happily provide a list of questions and tips to help their fellow startups or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) out.

Another great method is to contact professional writers or consultancies specialised on the EIC Accelerator or VC-like pitch events. If a writer has not been hired prior, it can still be useful to have a few practise calls with consultants in order to assure that all the speakers have all the support they need. Common questions, reasons for rejections or issues can be prepared for so that the applicant is not caught off-guard during the pitch (read: Reasons for Rejections).

2.2 Practise

It seems very obvious to advise companies to practise their pitch thoroughly but it is still skipped too often. The reason for that is that practising the pitch itself is just one part of the preparations and it can fall to the sidelines if too many other things are prioritized. Reading the pitch, researching topics, creating handouts, discussing the pitch and all related activities are not actual pitch practise – they should only be supplementary.

Practising the pitch means to simulate a real-life scenario (i.e. having a live audience or a remote-call audience), to have a stopwatch ready and to present the pitch from start to finish including the 30 min of questioning from critical but unaffiliated listeners. Practising means to actually go through the pitch and gain feedback on the speaker’s performance.

2.3 Open Pitch Sessions

Over a 2 week period, a company’s management team can meet every second or third day and have one full practice call whereas they can use the remaining days to prepare supporting documents, research relevant topics and improve their scripts. This will also allow them to exchange the audience for every call and gain fresh and difficult questions for each run which will present a perfect preparation for a real-life scenario.

If a company is affiliated with VC’s, accelerators, startup networks or industry mentors then there will likely be seasoned experts available who would be interested in supporting a promising startup – this could even lead to new investment opportunities in the future. The same goes for companies that already have a substantial audience on social media sites such as Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook whereas the pitch, if not under confidentiality, can be presented to a live audience with an open questioning in the end.

This article continues in Part 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

What to Expect in an EIC Accelerator Interview (SME Instrument Phase 2)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) is a great way for non-bankable and disruptive startups to obtain government funding but the 3-stage application process is highly competitive. With the final stage of the evaluation being the in-person interview in front of a jury, many Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) are looking for resources to support their preparation (read: Practising the Pitch).

In the first part, the following article explores the types of questions a presenting team might have to face while the second and third parts provide a brief discussion of why companies generally fail and what insufficiencies could be responsible. Since such information is not part of the official proposal template and many companies do apply without the help of professional consultants, this article can act as a shortlist of points to consider.

1. Area’s of Questioning

Past data from 2018 to 2020 has given insight into the type of questioning EIC Accelerator applicants are presented with during the pitch interview. Just like a VC-type pitch scenario, the commercial aspects and go-to-market strategies of the projects are key and remain the core focus of the entire session. The main areas of questioning are (read: Pitch vs. Proposal):

1.1 Commercialisation Strategy

The commercial strategy will take center stage since an innovation is worthless without a way of reaching customers and generating revenues. It is important that this strategy is water-proof and that it is validated through strong partners, relevant metrics and through other means of providing proof such as distribution, retail or service level agreements.

The general message should be that the market can be reached rapidly and efficiently whereas competitive threats and barriers are taken into account and mitigated sufficiently. The presenting team should have a clear vision of the customer journey, time-to-contract, distribution networks, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and short-term as well as mid-term market drivers.

1.2 Team and Company

In the end, every Venture Capitalist (VC) knows that a commercial plan or technology roadmap is only as good as the team behind it. A pitch should cover the experience and expertise of the founding team members and the management team who carry the most responsibility inside the company.

Address the questions as to why you are uniquely positioned to meet the market need and to perform the technological developments. Highlight the other team members, their background and their track record to further solidify your authority.

1.3 Technological Feasibility

There is a reason as to why the customer pain point has not been met by competitors and an applicant needs to have a clear explanation of the difficulty and feasibility of the proposed project. If it sounds too easy then it will be difficult to warrant a high-risk assessment but if it seems impossible or much more expensive then the requested grant or equity financing then it will appear too difficult.

Be prepared to justify both perspectives in a balanced way and provide a realistic and actionable roadmap to exploit the business opportunity.

1.4 Projected Results

The commercial impact of the successful project completion will be the biggest selling point for VC’s and undergo intensive scrutiny. The two major aspects of the impact will be in the areas of financials (i.e. expected revenues, customers, assets) and the transformative impact in the EU (i.e. societal, energy, health benefits).

Do not only have a post-project analysis at your disposal but also identify the KPI’s that are relevant now and during the project duration (i.e. the revenues next year, etc.). In the same way, be prepared for questions that look 10+ years into the future in respect to exits, valuation, branding and related metrics.

1.5 Market-Creating Potential

Due to the strong competitiveness of the EIC Accelerator, the market-creating, disrupting and transforming potential will be an important assessment criterion in the pitch interview. It should be highlighted why and how this is achieved, the opportunities of this approach as well as the threats and how these are mitigated.

2. Post-Pitch Discussion

After the pitch interview is completed and the applicant has left, the jury will have to discuss the funding candidates and determine which ones will be offered a Grant Agreement Contract (GAC) and which ones will be rejected. The discussions will focus on the 3 key criteria by the European Commission (EC), namely Implementation, Impact and Excellence:

2.1 Implementation

The Team

  • Does the team have the capability and motivation to implement the innovation proposal and bring it to the market?

Leveraging of Investments

  • Is the company faced with the impossibility to leverage sufficient investments from the market due to the level of financial risks or existing market failure?
  • In addition, particularly for blended finance request, is the company deemed non-bankable by the market in view of the activities to be developed?

2.2 Impact

Commercial Strategy

  • Are the business model and commercialization strategy well thought through?
  • How sound are financial planning and projections?

Scale-up Potential & Financial Needs

  • Does the innovation have the potential to scale up the applicant company?
  • Have the financial needs to ensure the company’s success been adequately quantified?

2.3 Excellence

Innovation Feasibility

  • Does the innovation, through its degree of novelty or disruptiveness, have the potential to create a new market or significant impact in existing ones?
  • Is the timing right for this innovation (i.e. feasibility, market readiness)?

3. Why Companies Fail

The previous lists clearly indicate what type of scrutiny companies will have to face during the pitch interview and what types of questions they should expect. Follow-up questions to these core areas can still be unforeseen in many cases since each project is unique and can present individual challenges for both the presenters and jurors.

Still, difficult follow-up questions should be expected in the areas of technical issues, project implementation, market access, company growth, financial structure, investments, commitment and team motivation.

If a company fails then past data suggest that the following areas have not been addressed or only covered insufficiently (in order of significance):

  • Impact
    • Commercial strategy
    • Business model
  • Excellence
    • Market-creating potential
    • Financial planning & projections
  • Implementation
    • Team capability
    • Team motivation
    • Right timing

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: