Tag Archives: EIC Accelerator template

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 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:

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: 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:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Last-Minute Restrictions of EIC Accelerator Step 1 Submissions

On May 5th 2021, it has been announced that all submissions for Step 1 of the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) application process are closed until June 22nd. This has come as a surprise to many since the call was supposed to be continuously open by design. In fact, it was created in order to have an ongoing application opportunity for applicants independent of the 4 annual application deadlines (or 2 in 2021).

Needless to say, there are a variety of reasons why this decision was made and a number of repercussions for applicants. Without going into further detail regarding the EIC’s insufficient announcements regarding this issue, the following presents a shortlist of updates and notes on this newest change:

  • The Step 1 submissions were suspended in order to allow the IT team to update the platform and add features to Step 1.
  • While Step 2 is not ready for use just yet, a preliminary (but still official) proposal template for the EIC Accelerator’s Step 2 has been published (see this link).
  • Step 2 of the application process will be published on May 17th and submissions will be possible starting June 9th.
  • Over 1,200 Step 1 application’s have been submitted since April.
  • Step 1 submissions that have not been submitted yet will be unable to apply to the June deadline (see here) but still have the opportunity to meet the last 2021 deadline in October.


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:

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

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

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

Changes & Glitches

Geographic Restrictions & Diversity

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

Non-Binary Gender

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

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

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

TRL Descriptions

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

AI Tool Diagnostics Results

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

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

Budget & Evaluation

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

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

Glitches and Errors

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

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

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


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

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

Insights from the EU Science & Innovation YouTube Leak (EIC Accelerator, SME Instrument) 

With the 2021’s EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) program being adopted shortly, many startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) are eagerly waiting for the call to open (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

Most consultancies and professional writers have likely already gathered significant information on the new template and process but the latest video leak from the EU Science & Innovation YouTube Channel (here, here and herethey were ‘public’, then ‘private’ and are now ‘unlisted’) gives great insight into the details (read: The 2021 Work Programme). The Questions and Answers session served as a training for National Contact Points (NCP) and presented hour-long meetings with a variety of key stakeholders including developers of the AI Tool and Stéphane Ouaki, the chair of the investment committee of the EIC Fund (read: An Inside Look into Equity Financing).

The following presents a shortlist of the insights given in the meetings as they relate to the EIC Accelerator. EIC Pathfinder and Transition sessions are also available but are not covered by this article.

Attention: Since this information was presented informally, some of these points might be inaccurate or are subject to change over the coming weeks. The information was given in mid-March 2021.

  • The Step 1 pitch video will be fully uploaded to the platform and not be submitted as a link.
  • No template for the pitch deck will be given but a guide for the video.
  • The pitch deck from Step 1 will not be used for the Step 3 interview.
  • The challenge/topic will be chosen in Step 2 and not in Step 1.
  • The AI Tool for Step 2 will be ready in mid-April 2021.
  • In the long-term, the EIC envisions consultants to become part of their platform (for a fee, of course). The platform also contains Venture Capitalist’s (VC) and loan agencies.
  • Involvement of NCP’s will be stronger with them receiving the application once submitted but this can be optional.
  • The Step 1 threshold will likely be at the same level as the previous score of 13 (30-40% success rates) under Horizon 2020 (read: Interpreting the ESR).
  • The remote (expert) evaluators have not been briefed yet since the Work Programme is not legally adopted.
  • New investment guidelines for the EIC Fund will be published at the end of March 2021.
  • The due diligence for equity investments aims at a 3-4 month duration.
  • The due diligence looks closely at the capital structure of companies and, if an exit seems complex or impossible, it will not invest.
  • The equity investments from the EIC fund were presented and showed a majority of funds moving towards MedTech (28%) as well as France as the main beneficiary for equity financing (31 beneficiaries – Israel as the second most-funded has 17).
  • General steps for the EIC Fund’s due diligence process were presented in 9 steps (letter, contact, compliance, recommendation, discussion, decision, term sheet, agreement, signature).


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:

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

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

Gender Equity Targets

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

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

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

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

EU Definitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-Binary Applicants

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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

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