Tag Archives: EIC Accelerator success

The New EIC Ecosystem, Fast-Track and Pilot Plug-In Schemes (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 8)

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

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

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

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

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

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

The EIC Ecosystem

In 2021, it was leaked that the EIC is aiming to create an ecosystem not only for DeepTech companies but also for investors, consultancies, coaches and other relevant stakeholders.

“The idea of the platform is to allow […] any applicant at a given moment where he needs […] support from someone […] access to an ecosystem platform […] where he will find different actors but also those private companies, consultants who want to partake into the exercise to be referenced in this in the system and to offer their service. Now, they will have to pay something, a fee to be referenced.”

Nicolas Sabatier (General Counsel & Adviser to the EIC/EISMAE) via AI Tool EIC Training for NCPs 11th12th March 2021, quoted at 1:52:09

While the vision of a subscription-based service might still be far in the future, its first iteration is on the way.

“From 2023, the EIC BAS services will be expanded through EIC Ecosystem Partners which can include, for example, investors, business angels, mentors and coaches, innovation agencies, business associations, clusters, accelerators, incubators, technology transfer offices, venture builders, etc. EIC BAS services provided by Ecosystem Partners includes access to existing incubation and acceleration programmes as well as services specifically designed in collaboration with EIC.”

Especially the search for co-investors is an exciting prospect for applicants since it can help them gain access to EIC Financing without being forced to find private lead investors by themselves.

“The EIC will also continue to directly manage a core set of business acceleration services which provide a clear added value, which include: A platform for EIC Accelerator companies in receipt of equity investment to find co-investors”

Fast Track and Pilot Plug-in Schemes

The EIC’s 2023 Work Programme continues to offer fast-track and plug-in schemes whereas a company funded under specific EU grant or equity financing projects can cross-migrate into the EIC Accelerator application process without having to start from scratch.

“Full proposals to the EIC Accelerator stemming from the Fast Track scheme will be assessed as set out in Section IV, and will be treated in exactly the same way as all other full proposals.“

“In 2023, the funding bodies and schemes which are eligible for the Fast Track for EIC Accelerator cut-off dates are:

  • The EIC Pathfinder and EIC Transition projects (including under EIC pilot);
  • The Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT);
  • The Eureka secretariat for SMEs supported under the Eurostars-2 Joint Programme and the Partnership on Innovative SMEs;
  • Companies supported by the WomenTech.EU programme.”

“Under the Plug-in scheme, applicants do not apply directly to the EIC Accelerator call (Section IV). Instead, a project review is carried out by the certified national or regional programme to assess the innovation or market deployment potential of an existing project supported by the programme, and to decide whether the project is suitable for support under the EIC Accelerator.”

Both mechanisms seem beneficial to applicants on the surface but they are, unfortunately, of limited use. Fast track and plug-in schemes only allow applicants to skip the first of the three evaluation steps (i.e. the Step 1 short application) but this is also the easiest step in the entire process.

If a company can skip Step 1 which consists of a pitch deck, a video and a written proposal then this also means that there is no video for the project that the Step 2 evaluators and the Step 3 jury can look at which can be a disadvantage (read: EIC Accelerator Pitch Video).

Of course, a company can decide to upload a Step 1 video retroactively even if they have been allowed to skip this step which is highly recommended.

“Applicants will then be invited to prepare a full proposal for the EIC Accelerator to one of the cut-off dates within the next 12 months following initial review. […] Full proposals to the EIC Accelerator stemming from the Plug-in scheme will be assessed as set out in Section IV (above) and will be treated exactly the same way as all other full proposals.”

Note: The term “full proposal” refers to the Step 2 application consisting of a detailed business plan.

What further questions the usefulness of the fast track and plug-in programs is the fact that the Step 2 application re-uses a substantial amount of the text from the Step 1 application. In fact, one can use 100% of the text written in Step 1 for the Step 2 application which means that, even if a company skips Step 1, they still have to fill all of these Step 2 sections from scratch.

Considering the limited effort required for the preparation of a Step 1 proposal, their high success rates and the fact that the text, video and pitch deck would need to be prepared for Step 2 anyways, the fast track and plug-in schemes are of little practical benefit. An exception would be a case where a company has significant time restrictions and must unlock the Step 2 EIC Accelerator template in the online platform as soon as possible to meet the next cut-off.

Outlook

A truly useful fast track or plug-in scheme would allow a direct application to the Step 3 interviews especially if the plug-in scheme has already performed additional due diligence on the project specifically for the EIC Accelerator. Step 2 is the most difficult step of the EIC Accelerator program but it is understandable that the EIC aims to retain the integrity of the full application process since it could otherwise compromise the quality of projects reaching the Step 3 interviews.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

The EIC’s 2023 Strategic Challenges and Topics (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 7)

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

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

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

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

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

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

The EIC Accelerator Open and Strategic Challenges

The 2023 Work Programme of the EIC is outlining the newest Strategic Challenges for the EIC Accelerator. These are renewed every year alongside the new Work Programme implementation and have separate allocated budgets. It is common that the EIC Accelerator Open and the EIC Accelerator Challenges have a comparable budget while the chances of success could be higher in the thematic challenges due to the strict topic limitations.

This is due to the smaller number of applicants compared to the EIC Accelerator Open which has no thematic restrictions but this might be irrelevant since the EIC has announced that the Strategic Challenges budget will be transferred to the EIC Accelerator Open if there are not enough applicants available. Of course, the applicants for the Strategic Challenges still retain first priority for their respective budgets.

“However, if there is insufficient applications selected for funding for a Challenge, the budget will be transferred to the other Challenges. In case there is insufficient applications selected for all the Challenges, the remaining budget will be transferred to the Accelerator Open.”

As given in the EIC’s draft Work Programme 2023, the seven new EIC Accelerator Challenges are:

Challenge 1: Novel biomarker-based assays to guide personalised cancer treatment

Specific objectives

“The overall goal of this Challenge is to support and accelerate the preclinical validation and/or clinical phase 1 work carried out by innovative SMEs (including start-ups, spinouts) and small midcaps to develop novel predictive, prognostic and companion diagnostic assays to guide cancer treatment. This Challenge has the following specific objectives:

  • develop novel companion diagnostic assays , including through liquid profiling; to identify who, among cancer patients, is more likely to benefit from a given treatment (guided treatment);develop novel predictive biomarker-based assays to identify who, among patients with potentially precancerous lesions, is more likely to develop cancer;
  • develop novel prognostic assays including through liquid profiling to identify who, among the cancer patients who underwent treatment, is more likely to recur;
  • develop novel companion diagnostic assays, including through liquid profiling to identify who, among the cancer patients receiving treatment, is more likely to develop side effects as a result of the treatment and
  • to develop novel monitoring biomarker-based assays to effectively monitor the clinical course of the disease.”

Expected outcomes and impacts

“As expected outcomes from this Challenge, clinicians will be able to:

  • Identify, who among cancer patients, is more likely to benefit from a given treatment (guided treatment)
  • Identify, who among patients with potentially precancerous lesions, is more likely to develop cancer
  • Identify, who among the cancer patients having underwent treatment, is more likely to recur
  • Identify who among the cancer patients receiving treatment, is more likely to develop side effects as a result of the treatment, affecting their quality of life and
  • More effectively monitor the clinical course of the disease”

Challenge 2: Aerosol and surface decontamination for pandemic management

Specific objectives

“The proposals should target the development and commercialisation of technological solutions facilitating social interaction in the context of pandemic emergencies, by means of one or more of the three following approaches:

  • Full systems for high-efficiency aerosol capture, pathogen deactivation and air circulation management in closed-environments (e.g., office space, in-flight, retail stores, etc.), including advanced air-filtering architectures and dynamic air circulation optimisation.
  • Next-generation face mask technologies with smart filtration materials to exceed N95 performance at low airflow resistance, with improved retention/rejection of sub-micron particles.
  • Rapid surface decontamination devices beyond state-of-the-art UV-C irradiation systems and biocidal agent dispersion.

Where advantageous, pathogen profiling sensors and sub-systems could be integrated with air renewal systems, face masks or surface decontamination devices to provide quasi- real-time information on pathogen presence for rapid decision making and/or autonomous optimisation of air circulation.

The proposals should provide preliminary evidence demonstrating that social distancing can be avoided or substantially reduced, under realistic pathogen infectivity assumptions, with the targeted technologies.”

Expected outcomes and impacts

“By reducing the need for social distancing in the event of infectious pandemics, this Challenge will empower society at large to sustain unaltered economic and social dynamics in the event of pandemic outbreaks.”

Challenge 3: Energy storage

Specific objectives

“This Challenge targets groundbreaking innovations in any field of technology that have a high potential to meet the following goals:

  • to store electric and/or thermal energy at low cost, high density, high charging/discharging efficiency and enhanced durability.
  • technological approaches (chemical, electrical, electrochemical, mechanical, thermal) for energy storage at different scales (centralized at large industrial facilities premises or distributed and at small scale level – mobile electronics), duration (short – millisecond to day, medium – days to month and long term – months to seasons) and uses (from stationary to mobile).
  • technologies that, without using critical raw materials or ensuring their full recycle/reuse, minimize their carbon footprint measured through a life-cycle analysis (including cost and social impact evaluation). The proposed technologies could also address the smart operation and control of storage assets, their integration with demand response strategies, predictive maintenance, load forecasting and decentralized renewable energy technologies.”

Expected outcomes and impacts

“The possibility to store electrical or thermal energy at low cost, high density, high charging/discharging efficiency and for different duration (from short to long) will:

  • enable a strong penetration of intermittent renewable energy resources by addressing the spatial and temporal mismatches between generation and demand,
  • set up decarbonized, interconnected, sector-coupled and flexible energy systems.
  • Increase Europe’s energy independence from unreliable suppliers”

Challenge 4: New European Bauhaus: Digitisation for sustainable and inclusive built environment

Specific Objectives

“The call aims to enable a paradigm by supporting deep tech ventures that can deliver disruptive new products and services for a digitised value chain with a focus on:

  • Computational design. ventures that develop and scale radical new products for mass-adoption of parametric, generative and algorithmic design, pushing the boundaries of physical simulation, digital twin;
  • Alternative materials. ventures active in the development, production, advanced application of alternative building materials, or building concepts, building elements, design+fabrication concepts (e/g stereotomy 2.0) based on advanced uses of alternative materials.
  • Digital fabrication. ventures developing and commercializing scalable 3Dprinting, robot assisted composites, factory and field robotics, automation products, digital molds, distributed building factories.”

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

“The overarching objective of this Challenge is to provide transformative digitally enabled solutions for the construction sector that can help it achieve climate neutrality while providing inclusive and high quality products.

The focus will be on achieving a reduction in embodied rather than operational carbon emissions. Socio-economic impacts include higher productivity, higher product quality, reduced material consumption and waste, improved construction logistic in the urban environment and increased economic impact without compromising on quality or safety.

This approach will also lead to higher quality jobs in a more progressive and appealing sector that can deliver a step-change in the overall quality of the social experience with the built environment.”

Challenge 5: Quantum computers hardware and real environment quantum sensors

Specific objectives

“The objective of this Challenge is to support ground-breaking innovations that have a high potential to develop:

  1. Next-generation fault-tolerant quantum computer(s) with:

    1. improved performance;
    2. significantly simplified QC integration with control electronics;
    3. scalable control systems (scalable to tens of thousands of qubits, needed for meaningful practical applications);
  2. Quantum sensors to function in real/harsh environment for various application areas, such as ecotoxicology, pharmaceuticals, biomedical, space, corrosion detection in power plants, gas/oil tanks, raw material detection, medical imaging, automotive and many more.”

Expected outcomes and impacts

“This Challenge is expected to support EU in taking a leading role in the development of cutting edge quantum computing and quantum sensors that can be used in real environment and deployed in various areas such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, materials science, defence, space, etc.

In mid and long term, this challenge is expected to expand the quantum capabilities of Europe, underpin its economic resilience and digital sovereignty. It should pave the way for Europe to be at the cutting edge of quantum capabilities by 2030 as envisioned by the 2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade.”

Specific conditions

“Applications to this EIC Accelerator Challenge may request an investment component of above EUR 15 million in duly justified cases.”

Challenge 6: Sustainable and resilient agriculture

Specific objectives

  1. “Design, development and evaluation of interdisciplinary solutions for regenerative agriculture and soil health in the areas of

    1. Fertilisation
    2. Crop protection
    3. Irrigation
    4. Tillage
    5. Soil and crop management
  2. Radical innovations in precision fermentation for the food sector, including but not limited to mycoproteins.

  3. Radical innovations in the area of natural solutions for carbon management and valorisation (carbon farmingcarbon stock in the soil, etc)

  4. Novel processes, materials, equipment, crops and microorganisms adapted to harsh environments, climate adaptation needs and resource scarcity.”

Expected outcomes and impacts

“This Challenge aims to improve the resilience and security of the European food supply chain, notably by maintaining and improving crop yield with environmentally friendly technologies, all while regenerating and increasing soil health. By aiming to valorise crop residues, this Challenge also aims to contribute to better carbon and nitrogen management practices, to mitigate climate change.

In doing so, the results arising from this challenge will foster the EU technological autonomy and leadership via focused support of innovations in the areas of sustainable and resilient agricultural production, food security, biodiversity and environmental protection. The challenge also aims to reduce the EU dependency from critical supply chains and strengthen the EU innovation ecosystem competitiveness in the strategic sectors of ecologic transition and clean, secure and cheap energy provision.”

Challenge 7: Customer driven, innovative space technologies and services

Specific objectives

“The overall goal of this challenge is to ensure Europe is able to service and protect its own Space infrastructure, avoiding the risk of losing its strategic autonomy over its own space assets, while enhancing the competitiveness of its space industry through encouraging the emergence of innovative, interoperable, scalable, and autonomous “customer-driven” innovative space technologies.

In terms of technological developments, the specific objectives of the call are:

  • To have the means to inspect spacecraft in orbit, to augment satellite capabilities and resilience;

  • To develop autonomous and in-space collision avoidance capabilities e.g., use of AL/ML for collision avoidance manoeuvres, space debris positioning data and develop in-space mobility propulsion capabilities;

  • To further mature self-assembly of spacecraft in orbit with different applications (e.g., in-orbit, cis-lunar exploration, Earth observation, space debris inspection, space situational awareness, etc.);

  • To collect and recycle space debris or recovering intact components from nonoperational satellites or cut dysfunctional satellites turning them into metal rods for potential fuel;

  • To refurbish upper stage of launchers and transform them into microgravity platforms;

  • To design and construct a R&I low Earth orbit unmanned modular platform assembled in orbit and to host in-orbit microgravity experiments or collect/reuse space debris;

  • To develop innovative technologies for Earth observation, navigation, satellite communications (SATCOM), space science, space situational awareness (SSA) and in-space logistics needing in-orbit demonstration and in-orbit validation (IOD/IOV).”

Expected outcomes and impacts

“This Challenge aims at developing:

  • an EU servicing and re-use/recycling capability for servicing EU space infrastructure, while contributing to the management and reduction of space debris;

  • timely and cost-effective Space Traffic Management services for on-time collision avoidance manoeuvres;

  • the re-use, refurbish or recycling of a spacecraft components or launchers upper stages scientific and technological solutions for in-orbit services and reuse/ refurbishing and recycling of old spacecraft (e.g. satellites, rockets upper stages, etc.);

  • Innovative propulsion solutions for in-space mobility of spacecraft”

Specific conditions

“Where relevant, companies supported under this Challenge will have access to in-orbit demonstration and testing facilities financed under Horizon Europe.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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:

Cancelling Funding and Changing Grant Requests (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 5)

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

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

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

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

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

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

Cancelling Approved EIC Accelerator Funding

Horizon 2020 has been plagued by a variety of high-profile fraud cases such as two companies which were beneficiaries of 56 projects funded under the EU’s FP7 and/or Horizon 2020 research programmes. It is only natural that the EIC has implemented clauses which enable them to cancel issued grants or to decline an investment in case certain inconsistencies are encountered during the due diligence.

“In such a case, the Commission may also request amendments or, in the cases of misrepresentation, submission of false information, non-submission of information, suspicion of fraud or any other ground listed in the EIC Accelerator contract, it may terminate your initial EIC contract covering the grant component. The EIC Accelerator contract may also be terminated if the non-investment is likely to affect the implementation of the action or puts into question the decision awarding the financial support.“

For applicants, this presents a certain risk since it is known that the European Investment bank (EIB) and the EIC are very slow when it comes to the issuance of equity investments (read: Inside the EIC Fund). If a company has requested blended finance and is asked to stay in the due diligence process for 12 months, then they might decline the EIC Fund investment but this could jeopardise their received grant financing according to the EIC.

The EIC should make an official and binding commitment that, if an applicant is well-financed from other sources (different from the EIC), they should be allowed to decline the EIC Fund investment while retaining the grant. This should be a company’s right if the due diligence by the EIB is too slow for the speed at which a company has to perform. Slow due diligence can even be detrimental to the company’s financial health if other investors could act faster.

Converting Funding Requests

The EIC’s 2023 Work Programme outlines the option for a conversion of funding modalities whereas the Step 3 EIC Jury can decide that the requested amount or funding type, which has passed Step 1 and Step 2 already, is inappropriate and can change it on-the-fly.

This likewise expands towards the EIC Accelerator Open and Strategic Challenges as well as the funding modes, namely grant-first, grant-only, equity-only and blended financing.

For the EIC Accelerator Open and Strategic Challenges, the Step 3 jury and the Step 2 evaluators can make changes to the proposal:

“If in the course of the interview the jury assesses that your proposal falls within the scope of one of the Accelerator Challenges which is open at the cutoff and meets the relevant criteria for the Challenge, then your proposal may be transferred to be funded under the relevant Challenge.”

“If your application at the full application stage is assessed to be outside the scope of the Accelerator Challenges to which is it is submitted, then it will be transferred to the Accelerator Open.”

To the detriment of the applicants, this can also include the substitution of a grant with a repayable loan.

“Should the jury find the level of risk to be lower than initially identified by the applicant, the jury may also recommend another combination of components, including substitution of the grant component by a reimbursable advance.”

The ability to convert funding requests is likely one of the reasons why the grant-first success rates exceeded other modalities since some blended financing (grant and equity) applicants were converted into grant-first applicants without the EIC officially acknowledging it or releasing this information (read: EIC Accelerator 2022 Results).

While the EIC Jury and Step 2 evaluators can make a counter-recommendation in Step 2 and 3, respectively (i.e. convert blended financing to grant-first or change the topic), this can also be done during the due diligence phase. To understand the impact of this approach, the EIC should release the statistical data of all anonymized beneficiaries with timelines and funding amounts which aids in managing the expectations of future applicants.

“Should the outcome of the due diligence conclude that the innovation or your company is not yet mature for equity investment, the EIC Fund may recommend to the Commission that you start with the grant component first, and that the investment component will be subject to reaching defined milestones that will be included in the contract for the grant component via an amendment.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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 Conditions for EIC Equity Investments (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 3)

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

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

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

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

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

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

Equity Financing under the EIC Accelerator

Equity financing is limited to a €15 million contribution by the EIC Fund but it is possible to request higher amounts in certain cases and especially those linked to the EIC Accelerator’s Strategic Challenges.

“The minimum investment component is EUR 0.5 million and the maximum is EUR 15 million. A more than EUR 15 million investment request is allowed in duly justified cases for: proposals in technologies that are strategic for the Union; where there is a global competition; and where the funding needs significantly exceed what is available in Europe.”

In the past, the EIC Fund had a variety of problems since applicants were not aware of how the equity financing would be implemented (read: An Inside Look into the EIC Fund). Successful EIC Accelerator blended finance applicants were under the assumption that the granted funding would be issued without additional conditions only to be asked to find their own lead investors. This became detrimental to some companies in this first batch because a lack of investor interest was why they applied to the EIC Accelerator in the first place and this is also what they explained in the application.

The EIC Accelerator required companies to justify why they cannot be funded elsewhere but then demanded they find funding elsewhere. Of course, the nuances are now clearer and the EIC has become more transparent which is of great benefit to applicants. The application template now clearly outlines the role the EIC aims to take and the conditions are well-described.

What is interesting is that the rule that the EIC Fund wants to invest with an external co-investor might change in the future, at least from the perspective of the applicant.

“The investment component of the EIC is designed to fill the funding gap for high risk innovations to a stage where they can be co-financed or financed under the InvestEU programme or by private investors alone. As the EIC accelerator is designed to bear the risk of potential breakthrough market creating innovations in order to attract alternate private investors in a second stage, the lack of such investors at the initial stage would not prevent the EIC investment to be agreed.”

While the definitions of the first and second stages are not clear (i.e. grant and equity, respectively), it can be interpreted as the EIC Fund investing in a company without any co-investors as a general rule. This could be in the form of a convertible note or loan as it was implemented previously or entail a direct equity investment.

Finding Co-Investors

The EIC has already outfitted their online platform with a list of investors and it is likely that the EIC wants to become a one-stop-shop for the full investment lifecycle. Especially past co-investors who have undergone due diligence alongside the EIC and European Investment Bank (EIB) can be collected and repurposed for future investments, thus generating a large network of compatible and strategic investors over time.

“You will also be offered the opportunity to share certain data and information with investors who have undergone a prior EIC due diligence process and who may wish to invest in your company or project and assist you in developing your idea into a business plan. You will also be asked to agree to share your relevant data with alternative funding bodies of your Member State or Associated Country.”

The language of developing your idea is interesting since the support of a strategic investor (i.e. those offering strategic support alongside financing) is very beneficial in early-stage projects stemming from Universities and other scientific institutions. If the EIC manages to build a network of strategic investors based on thematic areas (i.e. battery technology, ICT, medical devices, etc.) then this can greatly enhance the success of the funded projects and turn the EIC Accelerator into an actual business accelerator and not just in name.

The term idea is used very loosely by the EIC since TRL1 projects at the idea stage are not funded. It would be advisable if the EIC removes the term idea from the online platform as well since any company that is developing an idea from Step 1 into a business plan in Step 2 of the EIC Accelerator for the first time would likely not be successful.

The language should reflect that the project is far beyond the idea stage and has reached at least Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5 or 6 and Business Readiness Level (BRL) 5 or 6.

Aligned with the approach of building an index of strategic investors, the 2023 Work Programme draft likewise outlines that the EIC will actively search for co-investors for the applicant.

“During this stage, and in particular if you have not yet secured other investors, the EIC Fund or the Agency will also look for other investors. You will be asked for your consent before other investors are contacted or engaged in negotiations.”

Loans from the EIC Fund

While the equity investments made by the EIC Fund already use in-direct modalities such as convertible notes or loans, it is still lagging behind in realising loans as a standard investment mode. Loans are expected to be released in 2022 or 2023 although these are of the same amount as the grant funding and seem to replace it with a repayable loan while their issuance is at the discretion of the jury in the Step 3 interviews of the EIC Accelerator.

“Reimbursable advances may be introduced during the course of 2022/23 in which case the terms and conditions will be made available on the EIC website. Once introduced, they would be considered by the jury in cases where the innovation cycle (market deployment) is short. The amount would be limited to a maximum of EUR 2.5 million and will reimburse up to 70% of the eligible costs of innovation activities. The reimbursable advance will have to be paid back to the EU on an agreed schedule as an interest-free loan. In case you are not able to reimburse or do not want to reimburse, the reimbursable advance will be transformed into equity. In case of bankruptcy, the reimbursable advance will be considered as a grant and hence written off.”

This approach seems to be a way of converting grant requests into loans which allows the EIC to fund more projects that they would have otherwise rejected (i.e. not innovative and DeepTech enough but a good business model or strong financial health).

It also allows the EIC to openly fund projects with lower risk profiles which is beneficial for Public Relations (PR) since these companies are more likely to be successful and funded by the EIC at no real cost.

It can also be a way to have more female CEO’s funded under the EIC which has been a priority and challenge for many years as well as allowing more funding for UK companies who are currently limited to grant-only support (read: UK Participation & Female Entrepreneur).

On the other hand, it is unfortunate that grant applicants now face the risk of receiving a loan after spending months in the application process and reaching the less than 10% of companies that make it to the Step 3 interviews. It would be reasonable if such counter offers are only formed in case the initial application has been officially rejected in Step 3 instead of the jury forcing a company to accept a loan in the interview prior to making a decision.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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 Grant-First Projects get Equity Investments (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 2)

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

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

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

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

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

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

Financing Modes

The introduction of new funding modularities such as grant-first, grant-only, equity-only and blended financing has created confusion and added a variety of conditions that need to be considered (read: 2021 EIC Accelerator Work Programme). These especially relate to the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) and timelines expected from the applicants (read: Technology Readiness Levels). The success rates have historically differed among these options based on data published by the EIC (read: 2022 Results) although these statistics are incomplete due to the ability of the Jury to change the funding request during the Step 3 interviews (read: Changing Grant Requests).

Grant-First Financing

An interesting development of the EIC Accelerator is the introduction of the grant-first application. As opposed to grant-only applications which foresee applicants to reach TRL9 at the end of the project (read: Funding TRL’s), grant-first is designed for very risky projects which need to define and reach important milestones before follow-up equity financing can be issued. The outcome of the grant-first project is expected to be TRL8 and should be accompanied by a milestone which can be assessed and allows the applicant to become eligible for equity investments by the EIC Fund.

In theory, the EIC Accelerator should only fund high-risk projects since the risk level is part of the evaluation criteria. In fact, the 2023 Work Programme writes:

“Financial support is provided through three main funding schemes: the ‘EIC Pathfinder’ for advanced research on breakthrough / game-changing technologies; ‘EIC Transition’ for transforming research results into innovation opportunities; and the ‘EIC Accelerator’ for individual companies to develop and scale up breakthrough innovations with high risk and high impact.”

This is its mission since low-risk and high-return projects are financed by private markets and banks. In reality, the Step 3 EIC Jury will often prefer lower-risk and high-impact projects of companies that are already interesting to private markets so it is common that a company financed by the EIC would have raised private capital anyways as well as cases such as a recently funded software company that has raised €30+ million in the past and then received grant-only support by the EIC in 2022.

It is difficult to imagine that such a company was unable to leverage financing below €2.5M from private markets after raising over €30M in the past.

It could be argued that grant-first support is the original vision of the EIC Accelerator since these projects are the riskiest and most groundbreaking projects that require a safety net in the form of milestones to assess the progress on-the-fly before further funding is committed.

“Grant First: Your innovation is based on a scientific discovery or novel technology and still requires significant work to validate and demonstrate in relevant environments in order to properly assess its commercial potential.”

If the commercial potential for high-risk grant-first projects is uncertain but, on the other hand, it is clear for other projects (i.e. equity-only, grant-only, blended) then the latter should be medium-risk at best by way of comparison since all projects must have functioning technologies already (i.e. TRL5/6:  validated/demonstrated in the relevant environment).

Path to Equity Financing

For grant-first projects, the new 2023 EIC Work Programme now outlines how a company can access the equity component which allows it to reach TRL9. What is interesting is that no re-application via the 3-step EIC Accelerator application process using the online template is required (i.e. at least it is not explicitly mentioned). Instead, a formal assessment is performed which is followed by due diligence conducted by the European Investment Bank (EIB).

“Grant First: Grant-first companies are eligible for a follow on equity component subject to a milestone assessment attesting that the innovation activities are well under way and that the innovation has the potential for deployment or the interest shown by potential strategic/lead investor(s) in co-investing with the EIC into the company, as a sign of maturity of the innovation and of deployment perspective.

If the milestone assessment for a Grant First proposal is positive, you will be:

  • required to demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means (e.g. revenue flow, existing investors or shareholders) to finance or any remaining innovation activities and the deployment and scaling up of your innovation; or
  • invited to enter due diligence and negotiations to receive an EIC equity investment, including to complement any other third party investments if insufficient. Allocation of the equity investment is conditional to the due diligence assessment.

In your proposal for grant-first support, you will have to include a milestone at mid-term or at the latest 6 months before the end of the project, for the EIC to assess and decide whether to proceed or not with the negotiation and the award of an investment component.”

Considering this process, it is reasonable for all new applicants applying for blended finance or grant-first to directly include the respective milestones in the applications albeit this can also be done after the Step 3 interview has been passed successfully.

Limitations of Grant-First Projects

What is interesting to note is that, while equity financing can be used for all activities from TRL5 to TRL9, grant-first applicants are limited to only the grant component which technically limits the maximum budget that can be requested to reach TRL8 to €2.5M (including loans if they become available in the future).

For a blended finance project, financing TRL5 to TRL8 can be supplemented with equity investments which makes the maximum budget to reach TRL8 significantly larger. Considering that grant-first applications are only for the highest-risk projects, this means that the EIC will prioritize the allocation of its budget to medium and low-risk projects that receive blended financing without additional milestones.

A company with high-risk developments for artificial organs or new cancer treatments at TRL5 will be difficult to finance under the EIC because of the substantial funding requirements at low TRL’s, the need for long and expensive clinical trials as well as the limitation of grant-first applications to only obtain a grant to finance the activities.

Even in a less capital-intensive field, a project that requires €10M to reach TRL8 could not be funded without loans from other sources since grant-first applications have a maximum budget limit of €2.5M. There are still cases where an applicant can ask for larger funding amounts but this is only available in rare cases and is unlikely to be significantly higher.

There are mentions of loans provided by the EIC but these will only be available in the future since it is still vaguely described in the Work Programme. In fact, the rule that grant funding can only cover 70% of the costs is still in place so a grant-first applicant also needs sufficient co-financing or a loan by default.

“To provide for the co-financing of TRL5 to 8 activities, the EIC may introduce the option for grant-first applicants to request in their full proposal an investment component to co-finance the 30% of the costs for their TRL5 to 8 activities not covered by the grant component. If and when this option becomes available, the application form will be modified accordingly.”

Grant Budget Amounts

The 2023 EIC Work Programme also outlines the conditions for the request of higher grant amounts and longer durations:

“The grant component should normally be less than EUR 2.5 million but may be for a higher amount in exceptional and well justified cases. The innovation activities to be supported should normally be completed within 24 months but may be longer in well justified cases. “

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


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

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

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

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

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

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 Eligible Applicants (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 1)

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

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

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

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

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

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

EIC Accelerator Applicants

While the EIC Accelerator does fund software products and services, it has retained its focus on funding groundbreaking DeepTech innovations based on scientific breakthroughs and discoveries.

“EIC Accelerator focuses on innovations building on scientific discovery or technological breakthroughs (‘deep tech’) and where significant funding is needed over a long timeframe before returns can be generated (‘patient capital’)”

Non-Associated Third Countries

Next to investors and natural persons associated with an SME in an eligible country or those who are meaning to establish an SME, there are now also new eligibility criteria for other entities and natural persons from non-associated countries. It has long been possible to apply as an investor, a natural person or a parent company as long as the beneficiary, a company registered in a Horizon Europe-associated country, is established prior to signing the grant agreement contract (i.e. after the Step 3 interview was successful).

This allowed persons and entities from countries associated with Horizon Europe to pass through all three steps prior to committing to the creation of a new legal entity. This is, of course, desirable since the success rates of passing through all three Steps of the EIC Accelerator can easily drop below 5% (read: EIC Accelerator 2022 Results).

In the newest Work Programme, the EIC is expanding the rules to allow entities or persons from non-associated third countries (glossary) to apply to the EIC Accelerator if they relocate their headquarters or establish an SME in a country associated with Horizon Europe.

“One or more natural persons (including individual entrepreneurs) or legal entities, which are: From a non-associated third country intending to establish an SME (including start-ups) or to relocate an existing SME to a Member State or an Associated Country. Your company must prove its effective establishment in a Member State or an Associated Country at the time of submission of the full proposal. The Commission may set specific conditions and milestones in the contract to ensure that the interest of the Union is met.”

In contrast to the way natural persons and investors are able to proceed with the full application process up to the final step, non-associated third countries must create a legal entity prior to applying with a Step 2 full application. In the sight of the low success rates of this step, it is not advisable to relocate a business headquarters or create a legal entity prior to gaining any official approval from the European Commission (EC) and the EIC.

Globalization of the EIC Accelerator

Third countries should not take this risk unless there is another strong reason to relocate their headquarters even if the EIC funding is not granted.

It could be seen as beneficial to apply to Step 1 of the EIC Accelerator as a way of assessing the quality of a project and determining the odds of future success but it is still not recommended since the correlation of scores between all three Steps can be small while Step 3 can entirely shift the evaluation criteria (read: EIC Accelerator Interview). The final decision makers will only assess the project in Step 3 and not be involved in Step 1 or Step 2 so any assessment in Step 1 has limited predictive power.

But it is understandable why the EIC is adding this restriction. One of the major goals of the new submission system developed by the EIC and implemented in 2021  is to reduce the number of applicants and to simplify the application and evaluation process (read: The 2021 EIC Accelerator). If the EIC were to open up the full process including Step 2 (full business plan) and Step 3 (face-to-face or online interview) to major American and Asian markets then they would be overwhelmed with tens of thousands of global applicants who try their luck.

In fact, this new rule and the opening up of Step 1 might already overwhelm the Step 1 evaluations since, technically, any company from third countries not associated with Horizon Europe can apply which should lead to a rise in Step 1 applications.

Combined with the effort of the EIC to gain global notoriety through the participation in international conferences (i.e. European Pavilion at CES Las Vegas) as well as the lack of communication on the actual success rates of the program for each Step (read: June 2021 EIC Accelerator Results), it is only a matter of time until the number of Step 1 applications will skyrocket.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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 2022 Results and the Vanevo GmbH Success Case

The EIC Accelerator funding (grant and equity, with blended financing option) by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) has recently closed its latest financing cut-off with a total budget of €396.7 million (read: Diverse Grant Strategy).

The 75 winners are startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) from 21 countries who requested grant and blended financing support back in June 2022 and, after passing all evaluation steps, they have finally been rewarded (read: Interview Preparation Process).

The EIC program awards up to €2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity financing per project (€17.5 million total) which provides a lucrative option for startups that are currently building innovative projects, especially those in the DeepTech space.

With the official proposal template having grown in size due to the latest change in the application framework, many companies rely on external consultants, professional writers or freelancers to help them prepare a successful application but it is very feasible to perform such a grant proposal in-house (read: Consultancies for the EIC Accelerator).

EIC Accelerator Results June 2022

The EIC has announced the latest cut-off results online (PDF, Web, Twitter) and the following statistics can be extracted.

Success Rates

986 Step 2 applications were received in the June 15th cut-off with 74% applying for the EIC Open as opposed to the Strategic Challenges. 638 companies (65%) requested blended financing while 158 (16%) requested grant-only and 190 (19%) grant-first.

When regarding the success rates from Step 2, this yields the following percentages for each application type:

  • Grant-first: 24 of 190 applicants succeeded with a 12.6% success rate.
  • Grant-only: 8 of 158 succeeded with a 5.1% success rate
  • Blended financing: 43 of 638 succeeded with a 6.7% success rate
  • Overall: 75 of 986 gives an average success rate of 7.6%

It is important to note that the Step 1 success rates of 50-80% have to be included in the assessment which will lower success rates slightly. It is also interesting to consider that 7 out of the 8 grant-only winners are from the UK who only had the grant-only option. This can be a sign that the EIC wants to avoid handing out pure grants without the chance of following up with the EIC Fund’s equity at a later stage (grant-first) or right away (blended).

Grant vs. Equity

Grant-first: 24 Companies (or 32%) are receiving grant-first contributions which is the model where a company is looking to cover innovation activities up to TRL8 with the EIC contribution. These companies can choose to apply for the EIC Fund’s equity at a later date to reach TRL9 (read: Inside Look into the EIC Fund).

Blended financing: 43 Companies (or 57%) are receiving blended financing which includes both the grant and the EIC Fund’s equity contribution and the expected end of the project is TRL9 (read: Technology Readiness Levels).

Grant-only: 8 Companies (or 11%) have decided to apply for grant-only support with the goal of reaching TRL9. Since this is the only available funding option for UK companies, it is unsurprising that 7 out of the 8 grant-only winners are from the UK.

In total, 43% of all funded companies receive a pure grant while 57% are receiving a mix of grant and equity financing while there are no companies who will receive equity-only support.

Geography

From a geographical perspective, the winners are located in:

  • 13 in France,
  • 8 in Germany,
  • 7 in the United Kingdom,
  • 6 in the Netherlands,
  • 5 in Sweden,
  • 4 in Austria,
  • 4 in Ireland,
  • 4 in Israel,
  • 3 in Belgium,
  • 3 in Finland,
  • 3 in Norway,
  • 3 in Spain,
  • 2 in Denmark,
  • 2 in Italy,
  • 2 in Portugal,
  • 1 in Czechia,
  • 1 in Estonia,
  • 1 in Greece,
  • 1 in Iceland,
  • 1 in Romania,
  • 1 in Slovenia.

Only 21 countries are represented among the winners which means that countries such as Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Latvia or Cyprus as well as all other third countries have had no approved projects during this cut-off.

Budget

Considering the EIC’s statement that 88% of applicants receive grant and equity financing and that there are no equity-only projects during this cut-off, the 32 companies receiving grant-only or -first support are sharing 12% of the total €396.7M budget yielding an average grant of €1.49M.

Vanevo: Successful Grant Application

Vanevo is setting a new standard for RedOx flow batteries through their platform technology approach. By reinventing and simplifying the manufacturing process of the battery stack and delivering a uniquely versatile and scalable business model, they are able to accelerate the mass adoption of RedOx flow technologies in critical sectors that require long-term energy storage.

Supported by Segler Consulting, Vanevo was awarded the EIC Accelerator grant in October 2022 which will allow them to reach commercial readiness and realise their vision of low-cost, sustainable and low-emission energy storage.


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

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

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

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

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

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 Interview Preparation Process: Interviewee Considerations (Part 4)

In this fourth part of the EIC Accelerator interview guideline, the focus is shifted to specific training tools targeted at improving how questions are answered. Startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) can use these tools to better prepare for their own pitch event, investor conversations and, of course, interviews by the European Innovation Council (EIC) or European Commission (EC).

Introduction

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) is a highly selective funding program and, even though the chances of receiving funding in Step 3 can be as high as 50%, it should not be left to luck if one will be successful or not since up to €17.5M are at stake.

Note: If the previous steps are included, the overall success rate is 5% or below.

The ideal scenario is to have a consultant, professional writer or pitch coach take the lead in the preparation process since identifying weak spots and fixing them with improved answers or arguments can be difficult for a company.

The following training tools are presenting a way of preparing for interviews but they are by no means the only way and not using them will not lead to a guaranteed rejection. Examples for each segment of the training tools and recommendations on how to practise them will be given in a future article. This article will only provide a general description of such training tools.

What To Practise (Improving Answers)

No Flaws

One important rule for the EIC Accelerator Questions and Answers (Q&A) session is to not display critical flaws. This has been elaborated in earlier parts of the guide and it is relating to every time the interviewees are caught off-guard, have no answer or are unable to refute a negative point (i.e. you are not innovative).

While the jury will be perfectly polite and respectful, there might be one or two jury members that have already decided that the project is insufficient and are finding fault in everything they hear. As a result, they might swing the opinion of the other jury members which will, inevitably, lead to a rejection.

Address the Concern

This is one of the greatest tools for an EIC Accelerator pitch interview. It is too easy to neglect the concern behind a question and just answer it on a surface level which can lead to a dissatisfied questioner or, in the worst case, unwanted follow-up questions. The idea of this tool is to ask yourself: “What concern does the jury member have to ask this question?” And to then address that as opposed to the question being asked. One could say that you are exchanging the posed question with what you deem to be the real question.

Pitfall Answers

Answers can be worse than questions because, instead of addressing the original concern, they can create many additional concerns.

Why? Because an answer can unwillingly reveal ignorance, weaknesses or present an attack vector for critical jury members. It is impossible to prepare for every single question since, while some will be foreseeable, the majority will be unpredictable. This is especially true for follow-up questions since, while the starting question can be obvious, the two or three follow-ups afterwards can be entirely unpredictable since they can have little to no relationship with the original question.

This can be viewed as a chaotic system where prediction is possible in the early stages but becomes increasingly difficult and eventually impossible the further the system progresses. An example of this is the Double Pendulum which can be predicted in its earliest swings but rapidly becomes too chaotic to make any accurate predictions.

To avoid pitfall answers, the strategy should be to (1) control the topics of the conversation as much as possible and (2) avoid giving any answers that can render the jury members less confident in the team or project.

Zoom Out

While someone like Elizabeth Holmes (former CEO of the disgraced blood-testing BioTech company Theranos) is a poor role model for entrepreneurs due to her history of deception and ongoing fraud trial, she was able to demonstrate that you can raise $1.4B in financing without providing any real answers, technology or even allowing due diligence.

Being the technical lead of a BioTech company as a college drop-out was clearly a warning sign but she would have likely excelled in marketing or investor-relations positions since she accomplished what most companies cannot. There are many excellent companies that are applying for €2M under the EIC and are rejected while Holmes raised 700-times that amount without as much as a proof of concept.

Even though the source of this insight literally has blood on its hands, there are lessons to be learned. The way she emotionally directed conversations exceeds the scope of this guide (i.e. slowed speech, staring to trigger a change of topic, very long answers without specifics) but the simple tactic she often used was this: Zooming out.

When asked a specific question on how the technology worked, she would elaborate on her vision. When asked about her customers, she would expand on what she wants to bring to the world. She would always zoom out and take a birds-eye or distant view.

While this approach should not be used by any entrepreneur as a default response (i.e. Pfizer and other consultancies caught her very early on during their due diligence), there is one part that builds trust with investors that many DeepTech companies lack. It is the confidence and the great vision.

This should be used sparingly but it can be essential if the jury feels like the team lacks the ambition to implement a project or see it through until the end. It can also be a great last resort in case the interviewee is stuck and has to answer a difficult question on something not entirely relevant to the project or catches the team off-guard.

Controlling the Follow-Up

A simple but effective habit in answering questions is to carefully consider what a follow-up question could be. If someone responds to my question on the financials and mentions low-profit margins then I will follow up on it. If someone, instead of the profit margins, mentions the year-by-year growth potential of the company then I would be inclined to follow up on that.

The point of controlling the follow-up question is to only mention things that you want to be asked about. The question will, by design, ask for information on a certain topic but the interviewee can decide which angle to take. This especially goes for the ending of the sentence. If one says “We do A and B but we currently mostly focus on C because C is very important” then it is more likely to get a follow-up question on C rather than A and B.

Being Self-Centered

Every company should have a balanced view of their competitors, industry trends or market threats but it can be a significant flaw to overly focus on them. Especially when it comes to startup’s in highly technical fields, there is often a sense of respect for other companies who are innovating in similar areas or for new technology trends that are unrelated to the applicant’s business.

No matter what the reason would be, if a company only has 35 minutes to convince an EIC jury to make a funding decision then the interviewees should refrain from overly focusing on other things. In fact, if a CEO were to praise their competitors and mention that they are “developing amazing technologies” and starts to describe them then this will likely be a poor use of the available time.

Every question has an underlying concern and it will never be “Is your competitor good at what they do?” but more likely be “Can you overcome competitive threats?”. While both questions have their topic in common, they will have very different answers. Whatever the question might be, the interviewee should lead it back to why the project is great.

Are you asked about the market? End with why you are perfectly positioned to enter or create it. Asked about competitors? Mention who they are and then elaborate on why you are better. Asked about your co-investors for the EIC Fund? Mention who they are and then highlight how further de-risking through the EIC is needed before they will invest.

Always bring the conversation back to what is beneficial to you.

The Confused Question

Every once in a while, a jury member will not be an expert on a certain technology but still ask a highly technical question. If this happens, there is a possibility that they have already misunderstood certain aspects of said technology but ask a follow-up question regardless. The interviewee has to always ask themselves: “Does their question reveal their ignorance on a certain subject?” If the answer is yes, then one must take a step back and first explain the concept again but in the simplest terms possible.

This part is critical since highly technical founders with not only a high level of expertise in a scientific field but also exclusive knowledge regarding the innovation will often be too far ahead to understand the viewpoint of someone entirely new to the field. Just answering the question and highlighting the benefits of the technology might not be enough which is why a simplified explanation is in order.

Practise “Dumb” Questions

The EIC jury members are intelligent and highly competent professionals with a great deal of experience. Still, one should prepare for questions that a startup might not view as relevant or simply disregards as unimportant. This can be a question on the safety of using AI if the application is simplistic or the gender balance among the engineering team. There can be many questions that can catch the interviewees off-guard so it is beneficial to practise them.

Prepare Standard Answers

There are many questions that will certainly be asked (i.e. business model, traction, non-bankability, risk, …). While it is not possible to know all questions in advance, one should script out the answers to questions that have a high likelihood of being posed. The same is true for all questions that have been revealed as critical during the practice sessions.

Demeanour of the Answering Person

Depending on the personality of the interviewees, there can be issues that should be addressed in advance. These can be dismissive body language, disengagement from the conversation (i.e. turning away, sighing) or a generally combative nature when faced with criticism.

While the pitch preparation will not be comprehensive enough to change such long-standing habits, it is beneficial to avoid negative body language during the interview.

Short Answers to Pre-Empt Interruptions

A general rule for the EIC Accelerator Q&A is:

There will be more questions than answers.

Often, answers are too elaborate or aim to explain too many things before getting to the point. This will prompt the questioners to keep interrupting and ask follow-up questions because, while the pitch time limit of 10 minutes can be stressful for the interviewees, the Q&A time limit of 35 minutes can be stressful for the jury.

The interviewees are only focusing on presenting their project but the jury members have the difficult job of making a significant funding decision within only 45 minutes. If answers are too long and never get to the actual question then this might frustrate the jury members – something that should be avoided. If you are asked a specific question then answer it briefly first and only then elaborate.

If you are interrupted while you elaborate then you have at least given a short but precise answer in the beginning already. If the brief answer were to be missing and you are interrupted by a follow-up then this would mean that the question was not answered at all.

The Process

Have fun. While being nervous (or excited) is normal in a stressful situation, one should always remember to have some enjoyment for the process. One must have the attitude: “I am happy to explain what we do to an interested audience.” While the jury will heavily assess the technology and suitability of the project for the EIC, it will also be screening the team and its motivation. Both aspects can make or break a funding decision which is why developing some natural enthusiasm is essential.

Previous Articles


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

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

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

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

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

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 Interview Preparation Process: The Importance of the Q&A (Part 2)

This article is the second part of the interview preparation guide for the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity). It provides a perspective on how an applicant, Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) or startup could prepare for the EIC Accelerator pitch interview but it is not a pre-requisite to succeed in front of the jury.

While there is no official guidance or template on the preparation process for the EIC pitch, most professional grant writers or consultancies have developed their own processes to prepare their clients for a successful Step 3. This series of articles provides an example for such a process.

Introduction

Introduced in 2018, the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) have created a Jury-system for the evaluation of successful written applications which acts as the final step before the grant approval. This illustrates the desire of the European Union (EU) to fund real companies that not only have interesting projects but also have the desire, confidence and motivation necessary to implement said project. In addition, it allows the EIC to supplement their remote evaluator’s pool with experts in the investment field.

Since most startups have rich experience in talking to investors, giving presentations during pitch events or hosting workshops and seminars themselves, it often comes as a surprise that they need to practise for the EIC Accelerator pitch at all. But consultants understand that this is absolutely necessary since the EIC pitch week differs from a normal Venture Capital (VC) or investor interaction in the following ways.

No Specialised Knowledge

The Jury members might not be experts regarding the technology or might not know the industry dynamics. The EIC Jury is a well-balanced collection of business experts including consultants, angel investors, educators (i.e. business schools), VC partners and entrepreneurs but, while the EIC aims to segment the Jury into thematic groups to facilitate the interview process, one must assume that half or more of the audience neither has previous knowledge about the technology or the market that is being targeted. This also extends to the European Investment Bank (EIB) members which are allowed to sit in and ask questions.

Not Investing Themselves

A second consideration to make is that, while the Jury might contain investors, they are not investing their own money. Usually, startups will be in contact with people who are able to make investment decisions and who are directly benefitting or suffering from a good or a bad funding outcome. This is not the case with the EIC Jury since these generally do not invest in the startups they interview and, if the investment turned out to be poor (i.e. bankruptcy, fraud, failure) then the Jury will face no negative repercussions since the EIC is responsible for the funding approval.

This creates an interesting dynamic where the Jury members have no skin in the game but select companies based on the profile outlined by the EIC (i.e. DeepTech, unicorns, non-bankability, high-risk). This does not mean that their assessments will be lesser than in the private market or that they will not be as stringent as they would be if their own financing or career was at stake but it is worth considering since Jury members might pose different questions compared to conventional investors.

Ambiguous Evaluation Criteria

While many investors have a certain focus (i.e. industry, technology, geography), they all have one primary goal in common: To make a return on their investment within a given time frame while minimizing their risk. But the EIC is turning that on its head with ambiguous criteria that most normal investors would not consider prioritizing: Non-bankability and high-risk.

The EIC aims to close the gap between companies that are too risky to finance and those that have been sufficiently de-risked to warrant substantial Series A investments. As a result, it seeks out companies that are:

  • Non-bankable: A company that can’t leverage financing from other public or private sources (i.e. national grants, bank loans, VC’s, angel investors, etc.)
  • High-risk: A project that is too risky and deters investors.

Why these criteria could be viewed as being ambiguous:

  1. Many of the companies that are funded under the EIC have raised substantial financing above €1M prior to receiving the EIC grant. As such, there is no reason why they could not raise similar financing amounts again even if one-time public grants were a major financing source.
  2. Most companies have access to other grants since there are many options available and a majority of companies apply for more than one grant at a time.
  3. The project must be feasible and the risks must be well-mitigated or it will be rejected by the EIC. The remote evaluators heavily screen for feasibility and a product-market-fit (i.e. traction and willingness-to-pay) which excludes many high-risk projects by default.

Note: The three points above can be argued but it is likely that most EIC Accelerator beneficiaries would have raised financing from other sources if they were rejected by the EIC since they are excellent business cases.

Why These Criteria Still Benefit the EIC

High-Risk Projects

The EIC likely understands that it’s nonsensical to select projects with an unreasonable level of risk (i.e. projects with almost no chance of success) but it does not want to attract easy-to-finance projects, specifically. It uses the term high-risk to inform applicants that they should not be afraid to apply even if they have been rejected by many investors or grants prior because of their risk profile.

This way, the EIC creates a space where highly ambitious and cutting-edge projects gather because they are riskier than others when viewed from an investors perspective. Of course, there will also be applicants who are too high risk and lack the expertise, a product-market-fit or the competence to execute the project but these are filtered in Steps 1 and 2 of the EIC Accelerator evaluation.

Non-Bankability

The EIC wants to be an exclusive financing instrument because it has the goal of turning science into innovation as EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said during her Keynote in 2021:

The so-called European innovation paradox that Europe is a world leader in science and research but that other regions lead on innovation so the EIC will build on the amazing research base in Europe to support disruptive DeepTech and market creation startups. This will be a priority role for the EIC.

Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

In addition, the EIC aims to de-risk such highly technical projects sufficiently to warrant private industry investments which would have been elusive otherwise. This renders the EIC a catalyst for the European DeepTech ecosystem:

We will crowd in private investment. Private investment in European DeepTech. The 10 billion budget of the European Innovation Council aims to crowd in at least €50 billion from the private sector.

Mark Ferguson, Chair of the EIC Advisory Board

This means that the EIC does not aim to be the first choice for all startups in the European ecosystem but seeks to attract a small group of excellent, DeepTech companies that do not have access to capital. The criteria of non-bankability is a way of selecting for this goal.

In reality, the EIC can never know how easy or difficult it is for a company to raise substantial investments since this highly depends on connections, the geography and the ingenuity of the management team. While it can ask for it in a grant proposal template, it is difficult to investigate statements such as “We are unable to raise private financing from VC’s or local grants due to the following rejections…”. In practice, non-bankability often means:

We will invest unless someone else invests before us.

If a company raises €20M right before the Step 3 interview then it will likely be rejected because the EIC would rather spend their budget on companies that have not reached this point yet. If the company describes the difficulty in raising financing to get the EIC funding (i.e. it is non-bankable) and raises €20M only 6 months after the grant has been approved then this will be a great success case for the EIC to announce. Even if the grant did not affect the €20M funding round (i.e. this is extremely difficult to verify).

Introducing the criteria of non-bankability is thus a great way for the EIC to assure that the financing is allocated where it is able to further the goals outlined by Commissioner Gabriel and EIC Chair Ferguson.

Rejecting Over Funding

The EIC Accelerator process is highly selective and, with approval rates of 67% in Step 1 and 16% in Step 2, it can be said that all applicants successfully reaching Step 3 are excellent. With such an in-depth evaluation process that includes video pitches, pitch decks, support documents and, most importantly, a business plan with a length that is greater than most other grant proposals, it would be almost impossible for bad projects to reach the final stage.

As a result, the EIC Jury is faced with the difficult task: Finding the projects with the highest potential among a pool of excellent businesses. And, while this is a reductive perspective, one can view the task of the Jury in a simplified manner: Reject 50% of the applicants.

The EU and the EIC set the budget ahead of time and, even though it should be statistically possible to see 10% or 90% selection rates In the interviews, it is not a realistic outcome.  The Jury will have to meet a quota that, even if it can deviate slightly, should match the set budget. As a result, many great projects will be rejected.

An applicant would be well advised to have the following attitude to the pitch interviews:

Under no circumstances can I give the jury a reason to reject us.

Even if the EIC would disagree with this statement, it is still a useful approach for the applicant since, although the project and business are great, they will fail if the presenters are not aware of all the factors that can be perceived as negative by the jury.

Limited Time & Forced Decisions

No investor wants to make a short-notice funding decision. With very few exceptions (i.e. Masayoshi Son’s gut investment in Jack Ma’s Alibaba), investors will take their time, perform due diligence over many weeks or months and will have multiple in-person conversations with the company.

The EIC is different in this regard since a Jury has to make a decision based on a 45-minute interview without having performed any due diligence up to this point. Since the remote evaluation has been completed ahead of time, it can be viewed as partial due diligence but the selected evaluators are likely neither experts in due diligence proceedings nor do they have access to the applicants for the request of additional data or feedback. And while the jury members have access to the application documents, there is no guarantee that they have studied them.

Still, the EIC has multiple due diligence mechanisms:

Step 1

Step 1 will identify the general suitability of a project for the EIC Accelerator. With funding rates of 67% in 2021, it is not very selective but aims to only peak the evaluator’s interest. Projects can be approved even though 50% of the evaluators reject them which renders Step 1 a very low threshold.

Note: Choosing a minimum of 3 out of 4 GO’s by the evaluators (i.e. 75% consensus) or switching to a 2/3 threshold (i.e. 66%) might be a better choice but the EIC has not published scoring correlations between all three steps. If no project with 2/4 GO’s has succeeded in Step 2 or Step 3, then it might be a good sign to raise the bar of Step 1 and save the applicants months of work.

Step 2

Step 2 is much more in-depth and is a great way of looking at the project from multiple angles but it suffers from the evaluator’s pool which might not provide the level of due diligence found in a VC firm. Still, it is a very useful way of filtering for the EIC-set criteria.

Step 3

There is a high chance that neither the Jury members nor the EIB representatives have read the Step 1 and Step 2 applications in full. This means that they strongly rely on the pitch event and will have to make a funding decision based on a 45-minute pitch alone. While some might have read substantial parts of the application, the due diligence done by the Jury members ahead of the pitch will likely be a fraction of what a VC firm would perform before making a funding decision.

Post-Approval

The EIC will perform detailed technical, commercial and financial due diligence for the equity component of the grant but this is after the public financing announcement. It is very unlikely that a company would be rejected after the EIC has already announced their identity on its website and social media accounts unless there is a strong reason to do so. Still, it is a formal due diligence process with a great level of depth.

Conclusion

This article presents a perspective on the EIC Accelerator pitch and does not represent the opinion of the EIC or the EC. An applicant should be aware of the conditions the jury interviews will be conducted under and should pitch their project as if it was assessed for the first time. They should also consider the following notes on the EIC jury:

  1. They are likely unfamiliar with the project’s details
  2. They are potentially not experts in the technology or industry
  3. They are not investing their own money or face negative repercussions for a misselection
  4. They make a funding decision based on only 45 minutes of pitching and questioning although they have access to all previous documents if they chose to review them post-interview
  5. They must prioritize criteria set out by the EC and EIC (i.e. high-risk, DeepTech and non-bankability)
  6. The due diligence performed pre-interview was limited

Other Articles


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

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

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

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

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

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 Interview Preparation Process: Scripting the Pitch (Part 1)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has introduced mandatory, in-person interviews in 2018 which marked the first multi-step installation of this financing instrument. For the first time, it was necessary to present and justify the innovation project in front of a jury that consisted of different experts such as coaches, consultants, angel investors, VC partners and others.

With success rates for the EIC Accelerator having historically been well below 5%, the interviews tended to be the last but also the least selective step of the evaluation process. These exhibited success rates ranging between 25-50% (i.e. 50% in June 2021) and, if a startup or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) was invited, it was likely that they would obtain the grant financing.

Approaches to Pitch Practise

Often, startups that apply to the EIC Accelerator assume that their past experience from event pitches or conversations with Venture Capitalists (VC) or other investors is sufficient to be prepared for the EIC jury. While it is true that this is a great asset to fall back on and presents an invaluable experience, it is often not enough to increase the success chances of a project above the average since this experience is shared among most founders.

Note: A company can succeed in the EIC Accelerator interviews without any practice or preparation but this approach is risky and not recommended.

What to Expect in a Pitch Interview

Previous articles on the pitch interviews can be found here:

In a nutshell, the pitch interview, online or in-person, will consist of a 10-minute pitch by the presenting team (i.e. usually 3 senior and balanced team members) followed by a max. 35-minute-long Questions and Answers (Q&A) session. The topics, considerations and descriptions of such a session are described in the articles above.

To sufficiently prepare for this event, the presenting team has to focus on two distinctly different segments:

  • The pitch: A 10-minute pitch that should be entertaining and use understandable language, simple sentences and easy-to-digest slides while telling an enticing story as opposed to overly complex content.
  • The Q&A: A 35-minute questioning round that can range from pleasant and supportive to unpleasant and critical, depending on the luck and response the presenting team receives.

How to Prepare for the Pitch

The pitch deck that is submitted in Step 2 of the evaluation process will be used for the EIC Accelerator interview week in Step 3. Unfortunately, this pitch deck cannot be changed later on and it is even forbidden to update numbers or names if they are incorrect. The pitch deck has to be used exactly as it was submitted even if the delay between submission and the actual pitch date can amount to three months or more.

This places an additional limitation on the team since, quite often, a detailed script has not been prepared on the day of submission and, during the script-writing process, one might feel that it is necessary to adjust parts of the pitch deck. Since this is not possible, the team and the consultant or professional writer have to work around the pitch deck and deliver a spoken pitch that works well, is clear and explains all aspects of the technology even if the slides do not perfectly match the communicated content.

The general structure of pitch decks has been discussed in the articles linked above but the following presents a more comprehensive list of the slides that can be used:

Note: Not all items need to be part of a pitch deck but they should all be covered by the spoken script to assure a well-rounded pitch.

  1. Problem
  2. Solution
    • Products
  3. Innovation
    • Patents
  4. Customers and customer value
    • Case study
  5. Competitor comparison
  6. Business model
    • Revenue streams
    • Commercial strategy
    • Traction
  7. Market
    • Timing
    • Growth rate
  8. Current state
    • Prototype
    • Past financing
  9. Development tasks
  10. Financial projections
  11. Funding needs
    • Risk
    • Non-bankability
  12. Team
    • Partners
  13. Vision
  14. Why invest in us

There are different approaches to preparing such a pitch deck but two simple strategies for slides can be:

  1. Prepare slides with complex content (i.e. a complicated graphic, concept or text) and spend at least 1 minute per slide.
  2. Prepare short slides that the presenter shows for 10 to 30 seconds and use them for fluent, fast-paced story-telling.

Since the number of slides in the pitch deck document is unlimited, it is advisable to use this opportunity and create a highly visual pitch deck aimed at leading the audience through a story. Based on the two segments above, it can be a good approach to have 75% of slides fall into the second category while the minority of slides are in the first one. This way, the interviewees have enough opportunities to explain the core and complex technical aspects while the shorter slides can be utilised to tell an engaging and entertaining story.

Even though many presenters focus on the 1-minute-per-slide rule, in reality, a 10-minute pitch deck can easily be 20-slides in length if the following durations are chosen:

  • 5 x 60-second slides
  • 5 x 30-second slides
  • 5 x 20-second slides
  • 5 x 10-second slides
  • Total: 20 slides and 600 seconds = 10 minutes

Note: These durations are suggestions and each presenter has to adjust the length to their own personal style. It is also designed for a pitch that is followed by a long Q&A session which allows presenters to show content briefly since the audience can follow up afterwards.

How to Construct Slides

Pitch decks are often a matter of Corporate Identity (i.e. design, content), choices based on the particular technology or market as well as personal taste but the following presents a general suggestion on the types of slides that can be used without delving into their detailed design.

One eye-catching sentence

A single sentence can be displayed on a slide to focus the audience on a core concept of the technology, a problem in the market or anything that the team thinks is important. Such a slide can easily be presented in 10 seconds. An example could be:

“10,000 citizens die every day and there is still no treatment for condition X.”

Very often, audience members are not listening to every word the presenter says but they try to make sense of what they see on the current slide. As a result, showing one large sentence can be a sure way of gaining the jury’s attention and transmitting a key message.

One image or graphic

It can be useful to add multiple short slides with single images or graphics if they illustrate the problem, the benefits of the solution or any other related segments such as the market or traction. The presenter can even speak a single sentence over multiple slides while showing simple graphics to support each point they make. An example can be:

“The problem in the current medical industry is Describe A (skip to the slide with a simple chart or image), Describe B (skip) and Describe C (skip)”.

If this is well-paced and sufficiently understandable then it can be an engaging way of presenting many aspects of a business model, technology or market dynamic.

A complex concept

There is no way of avoiding complicated slides in a DeepTech pitch event since being highly technical is what allowed the project to reach this point in the first place. Any graphic that is shown should be simplified as much as possible but only up to a point where it does not omit key aspects or renders the innovation too simplistic.

It should not contain text that is impossible for the audience member to read (i.e. too much or too small) and it should also not require them to be experts in the field to understand it. To avoid losing the audience after one technical slide, it can be useful to utilise multiple slides and explain the concepts through a story. An example can be to lead into the slides by saying:

“So, how do we accomplish this?”

after the solution has been introduced since this will pick up the audience members that were lost during the technical slide. The graphic can show the magic of what the company does, potentially even directly compared to how it is conventionally performed. Examples can be:

  • Conventional vs. quantum computing
  • Biologically extracting compounds from animals vs. genetic modifications of E. Coli via synthetic biology
  • Manual labour vs. Artificial Intelligence-based automation

A detailed look

There are slides that are difficult to simplify but are not overly complex in nature. There can also be cases where it is advisable to not skip too rapidly because the audience members are especially interested in them. Examples for this can be a market analysis, the business model (i.e. partners, traction, commitments), the competing technologies or the financials. Resting longer on such slides can be essential in gaining the viewer’s confidence and can also be timed in such a way that they are balanced with the fast-paced slides.

Generally speaking, it is advisable to prepare a word-for-word script and practise it until one can deliver a well-paced and natural version of it even if the final result will deviate. One can likewise focus on delivering one key message that needs to be transmitted on each slide.

The only restriction that must be honoured is the length of the pitch: Under no circumstances should it exceed 10 minutes since this will be strictly enforced by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC).

Continuation


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

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

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

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

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

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by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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