Tag Archives: EIC Accelerator submission

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:

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

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

Gender Equity Targets

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

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

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

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

EU Definitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-Binary Applicants

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. General Changes

1.1 Open Calls vs. Strategic Challenges

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

1.2 Scoring & Ranking System

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

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

1.3 UK Participation

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

2. The Application Documents

2.1 Step 1: The Short Application

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

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

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

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

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

2.2 Step 2: The Full Application

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

2.3 Step 3: The Remote or In-Person Interview

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

3. The Application Process

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

3.1 AI Tool

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

3.2 Freezing Periods

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

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

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

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

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

4. The Evaluation Process

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

4.1 Step 1

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

4.2 Step 2

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

4.3 Step 3

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

5. Strategic Challenges (Topics)

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

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

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

5.1 The Green Deal Strategic Challenge (1)

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

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

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

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

5.2 The Digital Technology Strategic Challenge (2a)

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

5.3 The Healthcare Strategic Challenge (2b)

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

6. Ambitions to Control the Outcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Technical Changes

7.1 Coaching

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

7.2 Seal of Excellence (SOE)

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

7.3 Applicants

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

7.4 Equity

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

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

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

7.5 The Pitch Video

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

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

7.6 Timelines & Feedback

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

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

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

7.7 Reimbursement Advances

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

7.8 Budget

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

7.9 Inclusion of Small-Mid Caps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

Why it’s Important to Have a Diverse Grant Strategy (EIC Accelerator, SME Instrument) – Part 1

Public grants are a popular avenue for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups since they often provide a simple application process to receive substantial financial support. One of the distinct benefits of grant funding is its often strong policy-focus while commercial and financial factors of the business tend to be faced with less scrutiny compared to a private investor’s due diligence.

Since substantial grants tend to be available for non-profits, for-profits, early-stage companies or research institutes alike, many view them as a valuable part of their financing strategy. With a variety of consultancies and professional writers offering grant writing services and template support, it is often a given that any company will pursue this area at least once in its lifetime (read: Outsourcing an Application).

The EIC Accelerator

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) follows a single-beneficiary process, provides up to €17.5M in grant and equity financing, allows the use of an online submission process and has a strong support system through the European Innovation Council (EIC) and consultancies which makes it ideal for innovation startups (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction). If the highly selective eligibility criteria are met, any company can apply and potentially prepare a successful grant application (read: Assessing a Project).

Still, companies should not solely rely on a single grant application as their exclusive fundraising source but treat it as part of a larger financing strategy. This article presents a list of considerations that need to be made when targeting a grant and the role it can play for a company.

Competitive Evaluation Process

Many governments frown at the term free money (i.e. view the US government’s grant page) but a non-refundable grant given out to private entities or citizens in exchange for writing a document is as close to free money as possible. Of course, what the government would like its applicants to understand is that, while the money seems free, it is by no means easy nor is it for everyone.

Every grant has a success chance which is simply the number of successful beneficiaries divided by the number of applicants that apply per deadline. Some grants are less competitive while some are extremely competitive and all applicants should be aware of their realistic chances (read: Impact Report). It is therefore prudent to not rely on a single grant application for the simple reason that the grant might not be secured.

Uncertain Timeline

The more popular a grant program is, the longer the evaluation process takes and the more likely it is that a multi-stage process will be instantiated to increase the funding barriers. This means that not only will evaluations be delayed but there will also be different evaluation processes to go through as is the case with the former SME Instrument (today: EIC Accelerator) which grew in complexity over the past 4 years (read: Stages of the EIC Accelerator).

Creating an excact financial plan that includes a future grant is impossible since the timing will likely be off even if the grant is secured on the very first submission. Government bodies are extremely slow when it comes to bureaucratic processes which is why the EIC Accelerator’s equity investments have been delayed for over a year even after they were granted (read: Equity Controversy).

Any grant that has a success rate of under 50% should be an optional part of a companies financial strategy which is why grant applications should be pursued as part of a larger roadmap including private funding sources.

Reusing Materials

The effort placed into preparing a grant application should not be wasted by only using it for a single financing option. Once the documents have been created, they can be restructured and used as business plans for investors, marketing materials, content for social media and for any other pitching opportunity that presents itself.

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:

Freelancers: The Other Side of the Consulting Industry (EIC Accelerator, SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is a competitive funding program supported by a variety of consultancies and professional writers in the EU. Due to the high EU budgets and demand from Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups, there are diverse business models that have emerged in the industry (read: The EIC Accelerator Industry).

Inside this sector, one of the often-overlooked factors is the use of freelance writers by large consultancies. These are contracted for the writing of proposals, the editing of re-submissions in case a proposal was rejected and also for the pitch preparation (read: Structuring a Pitch Deck). It is common for a consultancy that is focusing on grant writing to have a network of such on-demand freelancers at their disposal and this talent pool often greatly exceeds the numbers of in-house writers.

The Need for Freelancers

Most prospect EIC Accelerator or Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) applicants are not aware of how writing is commonly outsourced and generally expect to be working with a single consultancy once a contract is signed but this is not always the case. The decision as to which writer (i.e. internal or external) will take on an application largely depends on the capacities of the respective consultancy but also on budgetary factors.

From an economic perspective, most full-time employees of a consultancy are better utilized in the management and editing of proposals rather than in the writing itself. This is due to the fee’s that are normally paid to freelancers which can be much lower compared to those of a full-time employee. This system is a very useful way for consultancies to increase their own capacities but also for having a diverse pool of expertise at their disposal.

Why Freelancers are Working On-Demand

Such a set-up is typically a win-win scenario for both the freelancers and the consultancies since the former have a need to find work while the latter requires additional capacities from highly qualified experts. SME’s that wish to apply to the EIC Accelerator with the help of a consultancy likewise benefit from a broad pool of expertise while no excellent project has to be rejected due to a lack of capacities.

There are distinct reasons as to why this industry can operate in such a way and they are largely originating from the freelancers themselves who happily work in a remote capacity as on-demand talent. The following presents a shortlist of why this is the status quo and what could trigger a future change in this sector.

1. Freedom

One of the biggest reasons as to why freelancers choose to work as independent contractors is their general desire for more freedom in their working relationships. This can be due to a variety of factors such as a preference for working alone, the ambition to build up diverse revenue streams or also the inability to comply with office-work requirements such as relocating to a certain region, language-barriers or related obstacles.

Another often overlooked factor of freelancing is also the ability to decline projects and to select clients carefully. This is especially important in a highly competitive sector such as innovation grant writing since many startups who are determined to apply for the grant lack the prerequisites to be successful. The general eligibility requirements by the European Commission (EC) and European innovation Council (EIC) can give companies false hope in judging their own success chances if only the EIC Accelerator template is used as a basis.

While a full-time employee has to do the work they are told and lacks the freedom to make independent decisions, a freelancer can always decline projects and allocate their time according to their own needs.

2. Work Focus

A consultancy has to do a variety of tasks outside of providing their actual service and these additional areas come in the form of marketing, legal obligations, project management and administration. Freelancers often lack the time and resources to fulfil all of these additional requirements since providing a service such as professional grant writing is already a full-time occupation. Adding client contacts, project assessments and contractual processes to the list of tasks is often overloading an individual writer.

3. Visibility

Most freelancers have no visibility in the industry, lack the opportunity to meet clients, are inexperienced in finalising contracts, do not operate based on customer-first principles and are unfamiliar with the client assessment process (read: Assessing a Project). As a result, they are usually pigeonholed as writers who lack the skillset to expand beyond this occupation.

It is also often the case that writers rely strongly on editorial support from senior consultants when preparing a project since not every writer has the expertise to develop strategies for complex projects or has a learning-oriented approach to their work which would allow them to growth over time.

4. Dynamic Industry

Innovation grants and especially the EIC Accelerator are constantly evolving with changing proposal templates, evaluation processes via the European Agency for SME’s (EASME), submission requirements and even the eligibility thresholds for startups themselves (read: Proposed 2021 Process). In a dynamic industry like this, placing time and effort into administrative and operational tasks such as information gathering and communication with other experts is a must but often exceeds the capabilities of freelancers.

With uncertain future conditions, fluctuating demands and no guarantees with respect to the continuation of a grant program, most writers are preferring to collaborate with a consultancy and have a simplified work-load as well as a higher level of security even if this is to the detriment of their professional growth.

How The Industry Could Change

The current state of the EIC Accelerator grant writing industry is well-balanced and in no need for a change but there are some ways that could improve the standing of writers and also enable more transparency for startups and SME’s. The first step in such a scenario would be to bring the self-employed writers themselves out from the background and enable them to gain more visibility which can lead to them developing direct client relationships without the reliance on large consultancies.

This approach would allow writers who are exceptional at their craft to focus on writing while they can build closer customer relationships and be more dedicated to each individual project rather than writing many grant applications per deadline (read: EIC Accelerator Cut-Offs).

For this purpose, every freelancer should develop the skills of going beyond what is required since each project and client can present unique circumstances that have to be addressed. Instead of only performing the minimum amount of effort, a writer should be dedicated to the common goal they share with their client which includes working on improving the proposal’s evaluation rather than only meeting contractual terms.

Are you a freelancer? Feel free to sign up here: Freelancer Database.

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:

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

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

8. Country Restrictions

Which countries can apply?

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

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

9. Submission Process

How is the submission process for the grant applicants?

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

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

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

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

10. Local Support Networks

What local support is available for companies?

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

11. Available Consultancies

Are there many consultancies specialising in the filed?

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

How to Select an EU Grant Financing Program such as the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) – Part 1

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

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

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

1. Budget

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

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

2. Covered Costs

What percentage of the project’s costs are covered?

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

3. Competitiveness

How many applicants will apply to a single call?

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

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

This article continues in Part 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

Which Companies Should Not Apply to the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) – Part 2

This article is a continuation of Part 1 and presents an exploration of criteria that could lead to the immediate dismissals of projects applying to the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Commission (EC).

Non-Innovations

Many professional writers and grant consultants are highly creative when it comes to packaging an innovation in such a way that it sparkles and shines more than it should. Many startups or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) should assess, prior to their EIC Accelerator application, if they are a me-too business or truly a first mover.

Sometimes, a new product or service is only innovative in a certain environment (i.e. a region or industry) but the base technology is not new and only appears unique due to its specific application. Without a clear innovation, the barriers to entry for competitors are likely too low to warrant EIC Accelerator financing and an application would possibly be dismissed.

Small Profits

While it is clear that the EIC Accelerator does not finance non-profits, it is less clear that low-profits will also be unsuitable for financing. The EIC boasts about the growth observed for EIC Accelerator (or SME Instrument) beneficiaries (read: Impact Report 2020) but it does not clearly state what revenue-scale is expected from companies. Nowhere does it say “We want your maximum revenues next year to be €100,000 p.a. and your minimum revenues within 5 years of market entry to be at €50M.”

As a result, many companies applying to the EIC Accelerator think that they could have a chance but do not actually have the market impact or commercial scalability that the EU is looking for. Such an expected scale is hinted at under the rules for equity financing (i.e. an ROI within a certain time frame) but is not clearly quantified (read: Equity Financing). If the European Union would explicitly warn companies upon submission that the entered financials do not have the impact they are looking for, applicants would have much more realistic expectations of their success chances (i.e. when using submission forms for financials as proposed here).

Using the EIC for Material Expenses

The EIC is looking for startups that are at a certain Technology Readiness level (TRL) since an immature technology will likely be non-bankable and be in need of special financing from the EC (read: Understanding TRL’s). Companies that have already brought their technology to a high TRL but only need financing to scale up their production (i.e. purchasing materials, marketing, leases, etc.) will not be covered by the EIC Accelerator. If, however, these expenses are in addition to actual technology developments then these can be covered by the EIC as long as they are properly justified.

Foreign Ownership and Financing

The EU, as diverse and inclusive as it is, is very guarded when it comes to foreign ownership of grant applicants since they, understandably, want to make sure that government funds are spent inside the government’s territory. Having foreign entities (i.e. companies, individuals) take ownership in a startup that is seeking EU funding is not a problem per se but it should be assessed on a case by case basis if the SME is independent or controlled.

A startup owned to 49% by Chinese investors might not make the application to the EIC Accelerator ineligible but can raise many eyebrows from the evaluators and the jury in the pitch interview. The same goes for management teams that are all from a non-EU ethnicity and clearly give the look of being foreign even though the company, on paper, is based in an EU country and 100% owned by EU residents (i.e. if 9 out of 10 employees are from Pakistan).

Highlighting the inclusivity and diversity of a company works well in isolated cases but it should be assured that it is balanced and does not backfire in case that foreign control is suspected.

Summary

  • Being Well-Financed: Does the applicant already have sufficient financing?
  • Transforming the EU: Is the innovation presenting a transformative impact for the EU and its citizens?
  • Opposing Values: Is the project aligned with the EU’s long-term goals?
  • Non-Innovations: Is the company an innovator or a me-too?
  • Small Profits: Does the company have exponential financial growth expectations?
  • Using the EIC for Material Expenses: Is the funding required for technological developments or only scaling?
  • Foreign Ownership and Financing: Is the company independent and EU-controlled?

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

How the EIC Can Incentivise Shorter and Clearer Applications for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2) – Part 4

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

This article is a continuation of Part 3 which is preceded by Part 1 and Part 2. It describes a proposed evaluation process for the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) and investigates the potential mechanisms that can be used by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC). The way an official proposal template is structured and its general restrictions clearly define the workload of both successful applicants and evaluators which makes a re-structuring the most powerful tool available to change the overall submission experience for all stakeholders from the written application, over the pitch video to the final interview (read: Pitch Deck vs. Proposal).

Round 2 (Commercial & Financial Assessment)

Applicants are informed of their proposal evaluation and receive their first feedback. The applicants that have passed all 2 steps of the internal evaluation (i.e. 1-1b) are invited to provide a business plan focusing on their work packages, financials, team, metrics, go-to-market strategy, partner description, value-chain and revenue expectations. At this point, the EU policies, the product explanation, the past accomplishments, the environmental impact and similar parts do not need to be addressed further and the proposal will be fully dedicated to commercial aspects.

This round, again, follows a knock-out approach whereas the best out of 3 business plans will be able to move to the final assessment round. One major difference form the normal EIC Accelerator remote evaluations is that the pool of evaluators consists of angel investors, VC’s and successful entrepreneurs. This group of evaluators must have been specifically vetted and verified before allowing their participation since their assessment of a realistic business plan must be sound and held to the same level of quality as in the following pitch interview.

Since the feedback cumulates, each applicant now has a very useful resource to further improve their project (i.e. up to 3 sets of feedback from the evaluation rounds 1, 1b and 2).

Result: 3.7% or 222 of applicants are selected.

Round 3 (Pitch Interview)

Just like the EIC Accelerator in 2018-2020, a pitch interview either in-person or via a video call is held to further select the applicants and to identify the companies who will receive the financing.

Result: 100 applicants or 1.7% are selected by the jurors for the respective funding.

Benefits & Problems of this Approach

As with all bulk evaluation processes, the proposed methodology likewise has flaws that can lead to problems or unfair situations but these issues are expected to be on the same level as any other previously implemented procedure.

Pro

  • Applicants can successfully apply alone even with no in-house grant writers or experience
  • The effort of preparing the application rises with the chance for success (not vice versa)
  • Evaluators can quickly compare applications rather than grading each one individually
  • Internal knock-out rounds can be repeated in case of high application volumes
  • Business plans are only evaluated by commercials experts while random evaluators can be used for the bulk pre-screening in Round 1 to assure EU policy-alignment
  • Excellent feedback is provided to all applicants for each of the evaluation steps in a cumulative manner

Con

  • Unfair matchups could lead to excellent projects being knocked-out in early rounds (Mitigation: Allowing multiple YES or all NO gradings)
  • Re-submissions might be viewed less favourably by evaluators and could always be knocked-out (Mitigation: Do not disclose to evaluators if a project is re-submitted and do not choose the same evaluators)
  • The first level of screening in Round 1 could incentivise projects with poor business models to pass through which reduced the quality of projects overall (Mitigation: Abbreviated commercial aspects should be part of the executive summary and the submission forms)

Conclusion

The described evaluation process for the EIC Accelerator is a proposed method for the quick screening of large numbers of applications and presents tools (i.e. elimination rounds, different evaluator-pools, short applications) to allow a direct project comparison instead of relying on complicated scoring systems. It also fixes the issue of potentially having non-commercial experts evaluate financial metrics and business plans which can be funnelled to a specialised pool of evaluators.

The most important aspect of this system is that the difficulty of the applicant’s effort increases gradually (i.e. step 1 is easy while step 2 and step 3 are difficult) without the risk of having to put extensive work into an application without even meeting the minimum success criteria. Depending on how well the EIC vets the respective experts in Step 2, the quality of the interview attendees is expected to be higher and immediate dismissals of participants could easily be avoided.

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

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

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

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

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

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by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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