Tag Archives: EIC Accelerator video

Balancing Content for the EIC Accelerators Step 1 Video, Deck and Proposal (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has recently introduced a novel Step 1 to the application process. This is presenting a new challenge to professional writers, consultancies and freelancers but it is also an interesting new way of displaying an innovation project (read: New Process).

With many startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) seeking guidance for this process due to the absence of useful templates by the European Innovation Council (EIC), it is useful to explore the balance between the content presented in the 3 required proposal documents – the deck (‘read deck‘), the pitch video and the written application (read: Pitch Deck Guideline).

Should You Repeat Yourself?

Since there is no strict structure for the read deck or the video, these can either match the content of the proposal text or aim to only show content that is not found anywhere else. Both approaches have a risk.

On the one hand, matching the content of the 3 documents with each other can have an opportunity cost since space is limited. Omitting all of the content found in the written parts of the proposal from the deck and video, on the other hand, can lead to confusion if these are reviewed first.

You can only make a first impression once and no applicant can predict which document the evaluator will pick up first. Will they read the abstract? Watch the video? Read the deck? The decision regarding the order that will be chosen is so personal that all speculation would be pure guesswork (read: A Broad Project Vision).

In the end, it is hard to predict what will be used to gain a first impression which means that every single document should be able to tell the whole story – in its own way and format. But, instead of simply repeating the same content in each media, there is another way of viewing this challenge.

Matching the Presentation to the Media

Instead of simply repeating yourself in each document, it is useful to consider how things are presented rather than what. As an example, each document must contain some type of beginning which can also be viewed as the problem, the introduction or the motivation. Without it, the entire project would make no sense. But does this mean that it will always sound the same independent of the media? Well, that depends on the imagination of the writer.

Quantified – The Written Proposal

Due to the nature of its content, the written proposal should be precise, quantified and in-depth enough to give a technical understanding of the innovation, team and overall market opportunity. From a content perspective, this will be the technical basis for the evaluation and will likely be studied with the most scrutiny (read: Proposal Narrative).

Numbers should be used wherever possible, narratives should be waterproof and the overall impression should be that the applicant is highly competent.

Visual – The Read Deck

The read deck is a highly visual way of presenting a narrative since it can heavily rely on graphics, charts and imagery. While it still requires quantifications and needs to be waterproof, it can bring everything together in a way plain text cannot.

This visual representation can be used to connect the different aspects of an application and to simplify it in a way that makes the investment opportunity seem more straightforward.

Vision – The Pitch Video

The pitch video has the unique opportunity to give a human touch to an application in a way the writing and pitch deck are unable to. It presents similar content to both other documents but it focuses rather on the mission, the motivation of the team and the behind-the-scenes.

Instead of requiring the focus on a simple market problem, it can paint a vision for the way the world will change because of the innovation rather than how the innovation will change because of the funding.

Balancing the Content

Professional writers understand that the amount of content for a single project always far exceeds any space limitation for a grant application. Distilling content into a small section of text is a challenge and it always leads to tough edits where great parts must be omitted. Having multiple media choices at hand that have overlapping content is, in this regard, a blessing in disguise.

If a narrative has multiple lanes that could be taken (i.e. Point 1 can lead to Point 2A or to 2B) or has different emphases (i.e. a cold view on EU policies can be exchanged with a warm view on the health of citizens) then using multiple media to express them is ideal.

In the same way in which the employees inside a company should be uniform in their culture but diverse in their skillsets, the different media of the EIC Accelerator Step 1 application should be uniform in their storyline but diverse in their content (read: Assessing a Project).

Overlaps cannot be avoided but the different opportunities in each media should be embraced to maximize the chances of success in Step 1.

Conclusion

In summary, the following balance can be pursued for the Step 1 EIC Accelerator application:

  • Written proposal: Focusing on a waterproof narrative with quantifications.
  • Read deck: Focusing on a visual presentation that brings complex parts together.
  • Pitch video: Focusing on the vision, motivation and team behind the project while giving a human touch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

The New EIC Accelerators Read Deck (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has recently introduced a new type of pitch deck for Step 1 of the evaluation process. This can be viewed as a ‘real-only deck‘ or a ‘read deck‘ since it will not be used for the Step 3 interviews (read: Interview Preparation) but simply acts as a reference for the evaluators.

This is an interesting experiment on the side of the European Commission (EC) since the read deck has no technical restrictions outside of the page limit. This means that this is, for the first time, a PDF document that can be uploaded with full creative freedom with regard to font sizes, formatting, margins, sections and all related aspects.

Depending on how this experiment will turn out, it could be short-lived since it needs only a few bold applicants who exploit the lack of restrictions and aim to upload a full 10-page business plan with small font sizes and slim margins. Technically, such an unconventional Step 1 pitch document would have to be evaluated by the reviewers since it does not violate the application requirements.

It can be expected that strict rules, similar to the ones for the previous full applications, will be enforced after 2021 to avoid such exploitations.

Nonetheless, this article explores some ways the read deck could be treated and how it can differ from the pitch reck. A detailed look at the types of slides to choose (read: Pitch Deck) and information on the pitch interviews (read: Pitch Success) can be found elsewhere.

General Information and Restrictions

  • Must be a PDF
  • 10-page limit
  • Below 10 MB
  • This read deck is not used for the Step 3 pitch interview (“read-only deck”)

Changes for the Pitch Interview Deck

Interestingly, the original pitch deck used in Step 3 has fewer limitations since it does not have a page limit. This is likely due to the nature of its use whereas all applicants know that they will be heavily judged for a ‘bad‘ pitch deck and it is their own responsibility to look good in front of the jury.

This changes with the read deck since the impression made on the evaluators will be without the 10 minute time constraints of the interview and entirely lack a verbal component or live feedback. In fact, the read deck, when compared to the pitch deck, has to stand entirely on its own and must hold up to close scrutiny which is not limited by time pressure.

Slides to Omit

Since 10 slides are valuable digital real estate, the title and ending slides should be omitted. There is no need to account for any social aspects such as introducing the speakers or thanking the audience for listening to the pitch since all this information is available to the evaluator already (read: A Broad Vision).

The same is true for extensive product presentations that can be flipped through like a dia show during the interview but take up too much space in a 10-page read deck. If the presentation of the product critically needs to be in the form of multiple angles or images then this should be reduced to a single slide and the remaining footage can be part of the pitch video. In fact, the video is an excellent choice for the presentation of the product in a comprehensive and visual way.

Changing the Text

Since speakers cannot leave certain aspects of the project to the Questions and Answers part of the EIC Accelerator pitch interviews, the text should be comprehensive. To stand on its own, the traditionally scarce text on a pitch deck should be elaborated for the read deck.

Instead of adding only bullet points and keywords, the read deck should have full sentences on each slide to explain the concepts without leaving any doubt in the reviewer’s mind. Since verbally expressing the traction of the company and their pilot customer is impossible in the Step 1 deck, it should be laid out in a written form.

This is likely the most important aspect of the new read deck since most pitch decks aim to avoid text as much as possible and present a clean and elegant design. The read deck, on the other hand, requires a merger of elegant simplicity and a fully fletched text.

Graphics and Photos

Graphics already used to be an important part of every pitch deck but, even though the read deck will contain more text, graphics also become even more important. While an introduction slide could lean heavily on the speaker’s voice and simply present a small chart as support, the read deck will require graphics to transmit a full concept with little to no support (read: Design Resources).

Illustrations cannot be too minimalistic in the read deck but have to be comprehensive enough to transmit a complex idea. This approach is supported by the fact that there is no time limit. The evaluator can stop at a single slide for 5 minutes or more and let a complicated chart sink in. They can also go back to the chart after they have watched the video and have read the entire application – or right before they give their final verdict on the proposal’s success or failure.

It is advisable to put great thought into this aspect and find a balance between easy-to-digest and enough-to-understand.

Summary

  • Restrictions: 10 slides as a PDF below 10MB
  • Slides to Omit: Remove title and ending slides to save space.
  • Changing the Text: Full sentences to explain all relevant concepts in detail.
  • Graphics: These can be more complex than in a traditional pitch deck since the evaluator can pause indefinitely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

Lessons from the EIC Accelerators Pitch Video Shooting (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has recently introduced pitch videos into the evaluation process which presents a new challenge for professional grant writers, freelancers and consultancies (read: New Application Process). While there are no official guidelines or templates for the process of shooting a pitch video, this article looks at some brief lessons learned from preparing such videos with clients in a remote fashion.

Information on how to structure a pitch video (read: Video Selection), how to script the video (read: Video Scripting) and how to remotely organize the shooting (read: Video Shooting) can be found elsewhere.

1. The Video Script is Everything

One of the restrictions of the EIC Accelerator pitch video is the length which is limited to only 3 minutes. This can be a surprisingly difficult challenge if the footage recorded by the Step 1 applicant, a Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) or startup, is very difficult to shorten without losing the storyline or making certain sections non-sensical.

Having a clear script that goes over all relevant sections of the project and is brief but succinct is important since it allows to cut out segments without impeding the overall story. Since it is advisable to always record more than the needed footage, cutting the length of content becomes an important task for the proposal writer.

If a great script has been prepared in advance, the video editor can always fall back on it and never needs to worry about the 3 minutes not telling a cohesive story. Not being able to include every single part of the project’s story is to be expected but the script should be holding up even if certain parts are omitted in the final cut (read: Story Lines).

2. Simple Tips for Pitch Recordings Go a Long Way

Applying SME’s and startups need sufficient guidance for the video recording. A video editor or videographer might take certain things for granted but these aspects could be entirely foreign to the management team of a technology company.

Every consultant or freelancer should present their clients not only with a pre-written script and instructions as to which members should partake in the shooting but also prepare guidelines for best practices. Information on ideal camera choice, settings (framerates, ISO, shutter speed, etc.), lighting and background setup can easily increase the video quality.

A limitation to this is the presentation of the CEO and the management team in general since preparing extra coaching for an exciting and enthusiastic video will likely be exceeding both the time and resources one should spend on the video. Still, giving some guidance as to how to transmit personality and excitement can be very helpful.

3. Small Editing Techniques are Key

Just cutting recorded footage together is one way of preparing the video but small additions such as stock footage, effects, titles and similar techniques can significantly increase the quality of the content.

Every applicant can assume that all the selected evaluators will watch the videos from start to finish at least once but this does not mean that boring videos will make the same impression as entertaining ones.

Having a professionally produced video is by no means a requirement but producing an entertaining video does not require professional production quality. Understanding what the listener wants to know as well as making sure that there is a start, a middle and an end while constantly keeping the viewer’s attention is key.

The thought after watching the video should be: “Wow, the project seems really interesting and the team seems great!“. A video that is bland and uninviting might make the first impression of the team less favourable since motivation, alongside competence, is an important criterion in the evaluation as well (read: Design Resources).

4. Adapting to the Client

Every client is different and has a different starting point when it comes to content creation. Some have extensive footage available and routinely do interviews or pitch their products in video format while others have been in stealth mode and have never recorded a single second of footage. This project diversity likewise extends to the video structuring and editing process since two projects can require different coverage durations for their unique segments.

The same is true for the technology itself since not all projects can be easily translated into video format. Showing how an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm looks in an appealing manner is nearly impossible while demonstrating a hardware production process or data visualisation tool lends itself far more readily to the video format.

Time and geographic constraints are other determining factors since many teams are operating remotely and there might be a lack of time or accessibility to collect all the needed footage. A laboratory might be empty and in sleep mode until the regional COVID-19 lockdown is completed while team members could be busy with core business activities.

Summary

The following key lessons apply to the EIC Accelerator pitch video shooting for Step 1 of the evaluation process:

  • Scripting: Having a solid script prepared will make sure that the final video has a distinct storyline.
  • Guidance: Most applicants will need help with the pitch recording and this should be provided by the consultant or writer.
  • Editing: This will be valuable in order to give the footage a semi or fully professional look and grab the viewers attention.
  • Adapting: Every startup or SME has different footage available and different capabilities which means that guidelines must be adapted if needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. General Changes

1.1 Open Calls vs. Strategic Challenges

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

1.2 Scoring & Ranking System

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

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

1.3 UK Participation

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

2. The Application Documents

2.1 Step 1: The Short Application

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

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

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

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

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

2.2 Step 2: The Full Application

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

2.3 Step 3: The Remote or In-Person Interview

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

3. The Application Process

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

3.1 AI Tool

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

3.2 Freezing Periods

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

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

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

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

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

4. The Evaluation Process

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

4.1 Step 1

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

4.2 Step 2

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

4.3 Step 3

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

5. Strategic Challenges (Topics)

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

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

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

5.1 The Green Deal Strategic Challenge (1)

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

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

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

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

5.2 The Digital Technology Strategic Challenge (2a)

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

5.3 The Healthcare Strategic Challenge (2b)

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

6. Ambitions to Control the Outcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Technical Changes

7.1 Coaching

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

7.2 Seal of Excellence (SOE)

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

7.3 Applicants

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

7.4 Equity

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

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

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

7.5 The Pitch Video

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

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

7.6 Timelines & Feedback

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

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

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

7.7 Reimbursement Advances

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

7.8 Budget

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

7.9 Inclusion of Small-Mid Caps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

Investigating EIC Accelerator Success Rates for Each Stage (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is undergoing a transformation in 2021 (read: Proposed Evaluation). The former 2-step process (application and pitch interview) which has been active for almost 4 years is gaining a third step (video pitch and mini-application) which can have a variety of effects on its funding thresholds (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

The Horizon 2020 Process

In the past, it was clear that Step 1 (long application) was the most difficult stage to pass through with success rates being well below 10% and with many weeks having to be invested in the preparation of the respective documents. On the other hand, Step 2 (pitch interview) was comparatively easy with success rates of approximately 50% and much shorter preparation times.

For startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME), it was clear that the likelihood of receiving the grant financing improved the further one was in the process since the success rates were increasing for each step. To facilitate the application, many applicants relied on professional writers and consultancies to support them in working with the official proposal template.

In the old evaluation process, the funnel for the selection of EIC Accelerator applicants can be visualised as follows:

Note: 100 Applicants (Y-axis) are chosen as a base and 5 EIC Accelerator winners are selected for the sake of simplicity. The length of Step 1 (X-axis) is twice the length of Step 2 to reflect the amount of effort needed to prepare the documents.

In contrast, the newly introduced third step could change that dynamic since the three steps under Horizon Europe (2021-2027) could have entirely different thresholds. Depending on how these are distributed, it can render the EIC Accelerator an excessive time investment or can make the grant more appealing to startups.

Evaluation Thresholds under Horizon Europe

Based on the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) and the European Innovation Council’s (EIC) decision as to how proposals are scored and ranked as well as how their thresholds are determined, the success chances per step can vary greatly. Unfortunately, there is currently no definite way of predicting if the new Step 1 (the mini-application) will have a high or low success chance compared to Step 2 (the long application).

In the same vein, the interview and pitch evaluations could shift from the past model since performing them remotely presents an opportunity to execute more pitch evaluations at scale to screen companies. This could likewise lower the interview success rates significantly and change the dynamics of the application process (read: Pitch Interview Preparation).

From a participants perspective, the EIC should prioritize matching the effort an SME has to invest in an application with their success chances. This means that having a low-effort application with a high success rate followed by a high-effort application with low success rates would be frustrating for applicants since they will have wasted a lot of time and resources.

The central question is how much effort a rejected applicant had to place into an application and if this effort was proportional to their success chances. If the first two steps have success rates of 90% while the last step has a 5% success chance then the amount of time wasted is enormous. If the first step has a 5% success rate while the remaining steps select 90% of applicants each then this would be time well invested.

Visualising Scenarios

To visualise the difference scenarios, a pyramid-type funnel is used for the selection thresholds of each step. To simplify the representation of such scenarios, the following considerations apply:

  • A 3 Step evaluation is used to select 5 successful beneficiaries from 100 starting applicants. This yields a 5% success rate for the grant.
  • The selection thresholds are chosen as 50% or 20% to account for low- and medium-success stages. 50% * 50% * 20% = 5%
  • Since the effort per evaluation step will vary greatly, the long application in Step 2 is at least twice as difficult as either Step 1 or Step 3. For all 3 Steps, the following effort-relationship is represented on the X-axis: [1-2-1]

The result is the following overview whereas the Y-axis is proportional to the number of applicants and the X-axis corresponds to the effort that is placed into an application. The area of the pyramid represents the number of applicants (Y-axis) weighted by the effort (X-axis) they apply. The more “bulky” a pyramid is, the more time the rejected applicants will waste due to the chosen thresholds.

Analysing the Scenarios

In these three scenarios, it is evident that scenario 3 would be the best for applicants since the first and most selective step will require a low amount of effort. In the same vein, the second scenario is the worst outcome for applicants since they would invest a significant amount of effort into their applications while the chances drop towards the last step.

From the evaluator’s perspective, there is always a trade-off for the simplification of the application documents since an application that is too simple might be unsuitable for a grant selection while an application that is overly complex will waste both the applicant’s and the evaluator’s time.

Nonetheless, the EIC should aim to prioritize scenario 3 since this will greatly reduce the entry barrier for startups whereas they will know, with little effort, if the EIC Accelerator is suitable for them or not.

Unfortunately, the 2021 process will likely follow scenario 1 since it will be a simple extension of the 2020 process with only the addition of another step. This scenario would match the previous process since the 50% rates for Step 1 and 20% for Step 2 yield the combined 10% for the old Step 1.

In addition, the EIC and European Commission (EC) have decided to reintroduce thematic topics which are separate funding arms within the EIC Accelerator and will have different budgets, evaluator pools and levels of competitiveness. This will further increase the overall complexity of the evaluation process and can impact the effort-to-success ratio of each Step’s selection.

Future Predictions

The assumptions for the graphics presented above are limited and are only acting as a way of conceptualising challenges that applicants might face under the future EIC Accelerator.

Another interesting direction the EIC could move towards is the removal of the full application (Step 2) whereas all applicants could directly join a remote evaluation after passing the mini-application in Step 1. This is especially feasible for equity-applicants since the due diligence that follows the successful selection can replace the in-depth financial documentation of Step 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

The Reliance of EU Startups on Consultancies for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is an innovation funding program that provides up to €17.5M to startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME). It is very attractive for eligible companies since it allows single-applicants to directly apply online and participate in the program with little to no help from third parties (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

Since the evaluation is performed by the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) and European Innovation Council (EIC), it appears to be the ideal framework for the European Commission (EC) to directly help excellent companies in the region.

Or so it seems.

Insufficient Documentation & Transparency

Unfortunately, many applicants who investigate the EIC Accelerator process and proposal template find that the official documentation is not entirely helpful. Instead of presenting what a good business case should be, the European Union (EU) focuses on communicating its goals for policies, gender equality, finding startup unicorns and describing innovation from a political perspective.

As a result, prospective applicants turn to professional writers and consultants since they are concerned that “they do not know what the EU wants to hear” (read: Hiring a Writer). They recognize early in the process that the EIC Accelerator is a policy-driven element, spearheaded by politicians as the primary decision-makers while entrepreneurs take an advisory role.

Becoming Entrepreneur-Friendly

The EIC is making progress in becoming more entrepreneur-friendly by aiming to be Venture Capital (VC)-like and presenting itself as a true start-up ecosystem in the EU via equity investments, pitch-oriented evaluations and expert entrepreneurs for critical evaluation steps. Unfortunately, while the EIC aims to simplify the application process, the direction the EIC Accelerator is moving towards is becoming less and less applicant-friendly.

This is not only evident in the recent equity-affair whereas granted applicants from 2019 have only received part of their equity financing in 2021 (read: Interview with EIC Fund Member) but also in the addition of more and more evaluation steps (read: Proposed 2021 Process).

Making the Application Process More Difficult

In 2018, in-person pitch interviews were introduced as an additional layer to the formerly 1-step evaluation procedure and 2021 will see the EIC Accelerator become a 3-step process which will, for the first time, include video submissions (read: Pitch Video Types). This not only increases the workload for all applicants but also requires a broad skill set which is not commonly found in DeepTech startups (i.e. design, video production, storytelling, marketing).

This clearly is a contradictory approach by the EU since adding steps to the process will increase the reliance of grant applicants on consultants and professional writers instead of reducing it (read: The Grant Writing Industry).

Understandably, the EIC is in a double bind. It wants to attract excellent companies and help them to apply without hiring external help but, by attracting an excess of applicants, it has to increase the evaluation barriers since the budget is limited. This, in combination with a less transparent evaluation process (read: Applying Early to the EIC Accelerator), leaves innovative companies no choice but to rely on external partners more than ever before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

The EIC Accelerator Grant Consulting Industry (SME Instrument)

In order to apply to the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing), many startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) are looking for expert consultancies or professional writers to facilitate the ever more complex evaluation process (read: Proposed 2021 Application Process). Navigating the grant writing industry and finding a great partner to hire can be difficult but this article is aiming to shed light on the intricacies of how exactly this sector operates (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

Consultancies & the EU

The European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Agency for SME’s (EASME) seek to facilitate the evaluation process for innovative companies and enable them to apply autonomously but, if more and more evaluation steps with cryptic proposal templates are being added, applicants have no choice but to seek consultancy support (read: Relying on Consultancies).

The EIC Accelerator grant writing industry is characterized by a high demand from startups and, with some exceptions, increasingly selective consultancy firms. As a result, an important task that is placed on consultancies and writers is the assessment of the innovation project ahead of a potential collaboration since the requirements for written, video and in-person evaluations are becoming more and more demanding (read: Assessing a Project & Writing Internally).

Consultancy Business Models

Within this framework, there are a variety of models that consultancies follow ranging from the indiscriminative “we take everyone” to the selective “we wouldn’t even take half of the beneficiaries” approach. The reason for this discrepancy is that consultancies, like all business, have to think of their bottom line. Inevitably, this means that each company has to consider how their fee-structure can remain profitable over time and how they can maximize funded projects while compensating for projects that do not end up receiving a grant.

The general approaches are to either charge high retainer fees and low success-fees or to charge low retainer fees and very high success-fees. Variations of this approach are also found in offering extensive project-assessments via multi-day workshops, additional consulting for market scaling or through the addition of project management services for funded projects.

Regardless of what the model is, applicants will always carry the risk of investing their time and attention into a project irrespective of how the service is paid for. In the end, opportunity costs are a hidden factor in work-intensive grant applications even if the writing is outsourced to expert consultants. With the newly introduced freezing periods, this opportunity cost is increased further and startups or SME’s are better advised to judge the expertise and dedication of a consultancy rather than its business model.

Scaling vs. Quality

Scaling a consultancy business within a competitive grant like the EIC Accelerator or the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program can be difficult since expertise can easily be diluted while talented experts on grant writing can be hard to find (read: Hiring a Consultant). Due to the high degree of fluctuation between the numbers of applicants per deadline, the capacities of consultancies at scale could also start to exceed the demand of excellent projects which means that they might onboard clients out of necessity rather than out of confidence.

The way most consulting companies mitigate such risks is by diversifying its revenue streams and by employing only a core team of full-time experts with clearly defined responsibilities while most of the writing is outsourced to a pool of freelancers. This can be, of course, a double-edged sword as well since having the freedom to decline clients can also lead to the possibility of onboarding more clients since scaling a consultancy over freelancers is a lucrative business model albeit to the detriment of success rates.

Still, such business models have found their own validity in the industry since there are plenty of startups who, after having been told that a grant application would be too high risk, are still determined to move on regardless.

Good vs. Bad

This assessment does not mean that large consultancies are inferior to small consultancies or vice versa. On the contrary, it sheds light on the fact that the size or business model of the consultancy is less important than its modus operandi and its internal incentive-structure. The traits exhibited by excellent consultancies are selectiveness, transparency and dedication but these are entirely independent of the business model and scale. They are only evident in direct communication with the consultants themselves.

Every prospective grant applicant should know who exactly will write the proposal, who else will be involved (i.e. editor, pitch-expert, designer, videographer) and if the team will be changed throughout the duration of the contract. This, in addition to requesting an in-depth project assessment beforehand, can prevent a negative experience for the startup or SME since a consultancy that cannot be transparent in this regard or lacks certainty will likely place less focus on each respective client (read: Assessing an Innovation).

Conclusion

In summary, each prospect EIC Accelerator grant applicant should pose the following questions to a consultancy prior to beginning a collaboration:

  • How does our company compare to the businesses that typically receive EIC Accelerator funding (i.e. industry, team, innovation)?
  • Who will be writing the proposal and will the writer be exchanged throughout the process?
  • Who will be our fixed contact point at the consultancy for the duration of the project?
  • Has our project been sufficiently vetted prior to beginning a collaboration?
  • Does the writer understand the intricacies of our innovation project and business model?

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

1.2 Discussing the Resources Available

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

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

1.3 Guidance for Best Practises

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

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

1.4 Creating the Script

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

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

1.5 Screen Test (optional)

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

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

1.6 The Real Recording

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

1.7 Editing and Exporting the Pitch Video

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

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

2. Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

How a Consultant can Produce an EIC Accelerator Pitch Video Remotely (SME Instrument) – Part 1

In 2021, the new EIC Accelerator blended financing program (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2 – grant and equity financing) will include a more sophisticated 3-step evaluation process which includes a pitch video (read: Proposed 2021 EIC Accelerator Process). This will likely place an additional burden on Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and professional writers or consultancies since video production is rarely part of their established skill set (read: Pitch Video).

While the pitch video is an interesting addition to the evaluation process, it is also a new challenge for early-stage startups who often lack the funds for video production or DeepTech companies who are less focused on marketing compared to a digital innovator. Additionally, producing a video can take a lot of time and, as opposed to written content or a pitch deck for the interviews, it must be created in person which places a significant burden on both startups and consultancies.

Implications of the Pitch Video

Just by introducing the pitch video, the European Innovation Council (EIC) has directly increased the reliance of startups on consultancies which, in many cases, have to perform an in-person video production (read: Relying on Consultants). Unfortunately, adding another layer of expertise to the evaluation process only widens the gap between an excellent project and a funded project since consultancy support becomes increasingly indispensable for applicants.

The greatest challenge for new applicants will come in the form of planning the video creation since, while editing a proposal over multiple re-submissions is common, re-editing a video is resource-intensive if it includes additional video production. As a result, the video should be perfect right from the start which means that the narrative of the project and proposal have to be perfected in the beginning so that the correct footage can be collected in a single day and does not need to be re-recorded continuously. More than anything, planning the video production will become a major burden for applicants.

Even if a company is working with an expert video production team, understanding what a resulting pitch video must contain and synchronizing its message with the written application and pitch deck will be a challenge. Often, companies are in a position of having limited funds, limited grant writing experience and have a lack of video footage or production skills. In such a situation, creating a framework to simplify the process of a remote and lean video production should be a must for the EIC and European Commission (EC).

1. Remote Video Production Workflow

Since the official proposal template and documentation are likely unable to provide suitable guidance for applicants, this article will present a proposed workflow for the creation of a pitch video in a remote fashion. Preparing a video remotely will remain the most efficient way for both consultancies and applicants but there are a variety of barriers to this workflow. The following is a shortlist of concerns from clients:

  • There is no video footage available
  • The company has no camera or related equipment
  • The team lacks video production skills or suitable contractors
  • The team is unable to script a video
  • All employees are working remotely and are not in the same city or country
  • The team is unfamiliar with editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro

These points can be a challenge but are still surmountable through meticulous planning and guidance from a consultancy, writer or freelancer.

1.1 Planning the Process

The normal work-flow when collaborating with a consultancy or writer is to start with a prolonged Kick-Off Meeting (KOM) to discuss the project with the founders of the company and the writing-team. This precedes every other task and has the purpose of bringing everyone on the same page while defining the project and its scope.

Adjusting this process to include video scripting can simply be done by taking the time to define the core messages that need to be communicated for a particular project (read: How to Script a Pitch Video). These should be customized to every startup since the ingenious aspects of a technology or business model will likely vary greatly from company to company.

This article continues in Part 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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