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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:

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

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

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

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

1. Restrictions

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

2. How to Prepare for the Pitch

2.1 Learn from Past Pitches

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

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

2.2 Practise

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

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

2.3 Open Pitch Sessions

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

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

This article continues in Part 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

How to Create Pitch Videos for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)

The European Commission (EC) and the European Innovation Council (EIC) are planning major changes to the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) application process whereas the introduction of video pitches is expected (read: EIC 2021). These can present a new challenge for prospect EIC Accelerator beneficiaries since video production, marketing and content creation are not always part of small DeepTech startups or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) who are heavily focusing on research and development (R&D) work.

Additionally, consultants and professional writers alike now have an additional layer of skills that are required of them. These extend to the areas of video production, editing and the planning of filming scenarios. This article presents a short guide on the types of videos that could be prepared for an EIC Accelerator video pitch but restrictions regarding the content might be imposed by the European Union (EU) and the EIC in 2021.

1. Explainer-Type Videos

Explainer-type videos are very popular and easy to produce since they require no on-screen presence and can be entirely prepared on a computer. Such a video tells a story with animations and a voice-over which can take the viewer on a journey that provides all the information needed to understand a certain project.

The essential steps in creating an explainer video are the clear planning of the videos outline, the writing of a script and the decision-making for the desired look. Producing such a video in-house can be a challenge for most startups but there are free tools available that can aid in such a preparation.

1.1 Tools needed for in-house production

1.2 Outsourcing

Both the animation and the voice-overs can easily be outsourced via sites such as Upwork and Freelancer while the writing of the script should be done by the management team of the startup to assure clear communication and high quality.

2. Interview-Type Videos

A very easy to produce, informative and useful type of video is a simple interview which can be ideal for founders that are not used to being filmed and have a low budget but are good communicators. The team can simply prepare questions in advance that cover the innovation, team and business model while recording a large quantity of footage that can later be edited into a perfectly concise explanation of the project.

For such videos, choosing a great location (i.e. a bright and large office space) and assuring that the set has a pleasant look (i.e. lighting, backdrop, symmetry and background) will be very easy to do and significantly increase the quality of the video production. For the final editing, it is useful to remove all of the interview-questions and only focus on the explanations so that the final result is a clean and clear presentation of the project.

2.1 Tools needed for in-house production

2.2 Outsourcing

Outsourcing can be pricy if a video production team is hired and needs to be on-site to perform their work. If the management team is confident in their communication and filming skills, they can prepare all of the footage themselves and only outsource the video editing and animations (i.e. for titles, intros and transitions) which can be done remotely and is much less costly.

3. Hardware Footage

Depending on the type of technology, it can be advisable to film footage of the production processes, factories and hardware to illustrate the function of the innovation. This is an essential part of a video if the product is very hardware-heavy and if the main Technology Readiness Level (TRL) milestones have strongly focused on hardware parts. Read: How the EIC Accelerator Funds Technology Readiness Levels

Similar to interviews, such videos can easily be produced by companies themselves since they only require a video camera and some editing skills. Since sound is usually not needed, a microphone would only be required when voiceovers are prepared.

3.1 Tools needed for in-house production

  • DSLR or Smartphone
  • Adobe Premiere Pro

3.2 Outsourcing

Just like an interview-type video, hardware filming can be outsourced to a professional production team or partially outsourced to save costs if only editing support is needed.

4. Pitch Voice-Over

This is likely one of the easiest ways to prepare a pitch video and is expected to be the default for most companies due to its simplicity. A management team can use their existing pitch deck to record a call-like pitch session where the presented visual material is focusing exclusively on the pitch deck while the management team is only displayed with a webcam.

This approach requires no specialised skills and a video could even be recorded directly in Zoom, Skype or similar video-call software. A pitch deck can be prepared through programs such as Adobe InDesign or Microsoft PowerPoint and be used as-is.

4.1 Tools needed for in-house production

  • Microphone
  • Microsoft PowerPoint or Adobe InDesign (read: Adobe InDesign)
  • Webcam
  • Adobe Premiere Pro or Video Call Software

4.2 Outsourcing

Outsourcing of such a video production is not advised since any financial investments would be better spent on animations, voice-overs or the editing of footage.

5. Third-Party Footage

Lastly, for the lucky companies that have already been featured extensively in news, TV, media or online outlets, the respective footage can be used to edit a short profile of the project and management team. The publically available material can be downloaded and re-edited in Premiere Pro to quickly prepare a professional video.

5.1 Tools needed for in-house production

  • Adobe Premiere Pro

5.2 Outsourcing

Outsourcing can be performed for the editing process whereas the footage can be sent to a freelancer and they will create a video based on pre-defined specifications (i.e. what footage to include and how to structure it).

6. Summary

The following general video-types can be produced by startups to create a short video on their project and business:

  • Explainer-Type: Animations that guide the viewer through the story and details of the project
  • Interview-Type: Interviews with the founders to give a general overview.
  • Hardware Footage: Hands-on visuals of the product, the manufacturing and related physical aspects of the technology
  • Pitch Deck Recording: A simple recording of an online pitch without expensive production
  • Existing Footage: An edited version of existing media footage already available to the respective company

A mix of different options is highly advisable whereas a mix of the interviews, hardware footage and/or animations can create a professional-looking and easy to digest introduction for a disruptive innovation and company.

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:

Where can EIC Accelerator Results be found? (SME Instrument Phase 2)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is an interesting opportunity for startups or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) to gain government funding for innovation activities. When working with a consultancy or professional grant writer, the process is simplified significantly but, when applying on their own, many startups are not entirely clear where results and awards are published.

The European Commission (EC), the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) have a variety of outlets where the names of awarded companies are published or how funded SME’s are notified. The core sources for such information are:

1. Email form the Funding and Tenders Portal

The best way to identify if your startup or SME has received the EIC Accelerator grant funding is to await the results sent through the Funding and Tenders Portal. If an account has been created and the submission has been completed, feedback by the European Union (EU) will proceed via a dedicated email to inform the applicant of the invitation to the EIC Accelerator interview week (i.e. in Brussels or via an online video call).

The email includes instructions regarding the upload of a pitch video (i.e. the pitch deck cannot be reviewed but supplemented with a short video), the registration of the speakers as well as the general timing of the pitch week.

2. Notification Area on the Funding and Tenders Portal

In case no email has been received, the EIC Accelerator applicants should check the Funding and Tenders Portal (F&TP) periodically where notifications are highlighted as badge counts. If the EC has important updates or news to communicate with the applicant, they will be found there.

There are a variety of notification zones inside the portal where messages can be exchanged, namely the main notification area on the F&TP, the document upload and communication area under “My Organizations” as well as the messaging section under the “Follow Up” section for an approved grant project.

In general, it is very difficult to miss any communication by the EC if emails are checked regularly and the F&TP is visited. If in doubt, the EIC’s twitter account can be visited to gain information on the timing of future communications (read: Finding EIC Accelerator News).

3. List of Beneficiaries on the EIC Accelerator Call Page

Another excellent source to identify the results of the EIC Accelerator is the regularly updated list of beneficiaries which gives the company name, website, acronym, project title and type of funding received (grant or blended financing with equity). The list can be found here and contains all EIC Accelerator-funded companies (incl. the SME Instrument Phase 2 beneficiaries).

Going back to January 2018 and spanning all of 2019 and 2020, the list further details the country of origin and city of residence for the applying entities. The document download page of the EIC Accelerator also includes occasional flash updates which give additional information on the calls total budget, funding success rate and the number of applicants (i.e. this example).

4. The CORDIS Database

Projects that have been selected for funding and have signed the Grant Agreement Contracts (GAC) will be published on the Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) database. Here, the timing (i.e. project start and end), budget (i.e. grant and/or equity), name of the coordinator and the participating entities are listed.

In addition, the CORDIS page of an EIC Accelerator project will also contain the beneficiaries address, program information and the abstract of the project with detailed project reporting updates (read: The EIC Accelerator Abstract).

5. Publication on Social Media & Reports

Lastly, some information on EIC-funded companies can be found on social media sites such as Twitter (i.e. @EUEIC), Facebook (i.e. EIC), YouTube (i.e. European Commission or EU Science & Innovation) and Linkedin. When searching for the hashtag #EICAccelerator, companies often provide information on attempted or successful grant applications for past and current deadlines.

The EC likewise publishes regular reports on the performance of the EIC Accelerator (or SME Instrument) such as the recent The Deep Tech Europe Report: key numbers from the EIC performance and the previously published Innovation Kitchen: EIC Accelerator pilot in numbers.

These reports contain valuable statistics and key figures on the EIC Accelerator’s performance, information on the types of projects funded and the overall changes in budget, proposal template, gender contributions and industries.

Conclusion

Results regarding the successful applications for the EIC Accelerator can be found via:

  1. Email form the Funding and Tenders Portal
  2. Notification Area on the Funding and Tenders Portal
  3. List of Beneficiaries on the EIC Accelerator Call Page
  4. The CORDIS Database
  5. Publication on Social Media & Reports

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:

Assessing an EIC Accelerator Applicant for Innovation, Traction and the Team (SME Instrument) – Part 1

When developing a project for an EIC Accelerator grant or equity application (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2), it is often useful for professional writers and consultants to look at certain key areas in order to obtain a fast overview of the project’s quality.

There are many sub-criteria to be analyzed that help in gaining a thorough understanding of a project but, for a rapid screening, a few core areas are sufficient to focus on. While consultants could break such an assessment down in a variety of ways based on professional preferences, the following presents a useful method to qualify prospect EIC Accelerator grant applicants in order to estimate their success chances:

  1. Innovation – this article
  2. Traction – read: Part 2
  3. Team – read: Part 3

1. Innovation

The term innovation, in and of itself, is supposed to give an answer to the question “Is the product or service unique and new?”. The innovative nature of the project is a key aspect of the EIC Accelerator which, since it is managed by the European Innovation Council (EIC), has placed “Innovation” at the core of its mission statement.

The EIC does not merely fund great businesses or supports European companies just based on their location but is explicitly targeting market disrupting and market-creating companies with the goal of supporting future European unicorns, i.e. companies valued at €1 billion+.

In order to fully assess such a project, looking at the innovation has to always come first and precede the assessment of any other segment. As an example, useful subsegments to further elaborate on the innovative nature of a project can be:

1.1 The Origin of the Innovation

From experience, most innovative companies are directly coming from two main subsegments which are:

A – The technical side (i.e. a university spin-off, technical experience, etc.) which means that they are close to cutting-edge Research & Development which makes them uniquely positioned to exploit the opportunity or

B – The industry-side through close relationships to stakeholders and industry players who are directly suffering from the customer pain point and are openly seeking a solution.

These two subsegments are not perfectly separated but often exhibit a strong overlap. In general, all types of innovations will at least fall into one of these two sub-categories. The origin of the innovation will very often give the professional writer or consultant an idea of its quality and, if analyzed thoroughly, can make an EIC Accelerator grant award much more likely.

1.2 Relationships Between the Innovation and the Customer Pain Points

Understanding that not every innovation is actually worth any kind of revenue is an important first step in investigating an EIC Accelerator project. A product or service can be highly innovative but it might not be easier to use or lower in costs compared to market alternatives which begs the question, “Why would a customer want this innovation?”.

There are plenty of examples of things that are different but not needed and can be described as an unwanted innovation. In order to avoid this, the assessment of a startup or Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) should include the relationship between the customer pain points, the Unique Selling Points (USP) of the innovation and the key technological features of the product or service.

This relationship will immediately tell the consultant or professional writer if an innovation is suitable for the EIC Accelerator grant financing or not since the official EIC template heavily screens for innovative and profitable projects.

1.3 The Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Status of the Innovation

Just like the innovative nature of a project, the IPR status can be a useful way to identify its core aspects but, in the same fashion, IPR does not equate innovation from an investors perspective. Patents can be very broad and can be filed for minuscule inventive steps that might not properly protect the market introduction of a certain product.

Just because something has been patented does not mean that the innovation assessment will be high by default. The IPR should only be the tip of the iceberg after the proposal has already explained how the innovation directly addresses the customer needs and is substantially better than any other market alternatives.

IPR should also not be viewed as the ultimate innovation proof since some innovations are better protected through secrecy because a patent, in and of itself, could already give the competition too much information and jeopardize the startup’s success.

1.4 The Barrier for Competitors to Copy the Innovation

Lastly, one key part of assessing if an innovation is suitable for substantial investments under the EIC Accelerator is its protection from a technological side. Having an innovation that is easy to copy will always reduce the success chances of the resulting evaluation process since the core barriers for all potential me-too competitors has to be addressed convincingly.

When a company like Facebook launched a successful social network, many other companies were aiming to replicate this success and, in order to persevere, the original company must have had clear barriers in place to protect its position on the top.

Such barriers can be in the form of know-how, proprietary methods, IPR, a head start or commercial factors such as industry relationships, customer interest, exclusivity agreements, etc.

Summary

Assessing the innovation of a prospect EIC Accelerator applicant is key for professional writers and grant consultants in preparing a competitive proposal and increasing its success chances significantly. The main criteria to assess a project’s innovation and to ensure a positive evaluation are:

  • The origin of the innovation (technical- & industry-side)
  • Solving a customer pain point
  • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
  • Barriers to entry

Part 2 (Traction) and Part 3 (Team) of this article can be found under the provided links.

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:

Should a Company Hire a Professional Consultant or Write an EIC Accelerator Grant Application Internally? (SME Instrument Phase 2)

The EIC Accelerator Grant financing (SME Instrument Phase 2) is an interesting opportunity for both early-stage startups and established Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) that aim to further develop an innovative product. Many prospect applicants ask themselves if they should write an application on their own or if they should hire a professional consultant or grant writer who could prepare a successful application for them.

Answering this question can be difficult since it does depend on the individual companies skill set as well as past success in securing financing in highly competitive evaluation processes. Since consultants are often not the best people to ask if they should be hired or not, here is a basic list of things to consider for companies to make an informed decision regarding grant writing services:

Project Quality

The first question to be answered is with respect to the quality of the project. While a broad spectrum of industries and projects are eligible for an application, the success chances can vary greatly based on certain criteria such as innovativeness, commercial traction, European impact and the quality of the team (read: Identifying a Broad Vision).

This quality aspect is often difficult to assess for companies (i.e. “My company is the best!”) so it is recommended to reach out to a variety of consultancies and get a free assessment regarding the project quality, especially in terms of its innovative character. This can be a useful first step in planning the EIC Accelerator application process.

The Skill of Writing Proposals

From experience, most companies have very little expertise in writing, editing and perfecting competitive grant proposals but such a skill is absolutely essential in being successful. Even the most unique and excellent unicorn-company cannot succeed in securing the EIC Accelerator grant without great proposal writing. Some companies are naturally well-positioned to apply on their own and reach high evaluation scores but this is quite rare.

If a company has the skills needed for such an application then they usually have a strong track record of obtaining research grants with extensive experience in writing business plans, crafting commercial strategies and having had exhaustive feedback from investors and related stakeholders. This part is difficult to self-assess since most companies believe that they have such expertise but very few are actually correct since the template of the EIC Accelerator is highly simplified and does not properly reflect what an application should contain (read: The Biggest Mistakes When Applying to the EIC Accelerator).

Time & Focus

The time and focus needed to prepare an application and to perform potential re-submissions, research the evaluation process and master the subsequent hurdles that lead up to participating in the evaluation interview (i.e. pitch event) and signing the grant agreement contract all need to be calculated into the decision of hiring a grant consultant. Most companies lack the freedom to focus on such tasks and diverting their attention away from their core business or research can be detrimental in many cases.

As a result, hiring a writer is a great option since it removes all of the time-consuming efforts and reduces the workload to the simple gathering of data and the provision of feedback on certain aspects of the project (read: The Financing Timeline for the EIC Accelerator).

Financial Considerations

Some early-stage SME’s or startups are not in a position to pay the fees that are charged by consultancies which can make financial factors a possible barrier in seeking grant writing support. What needs to be considered is the budget a company has available for the writing process and what the opportunity-cost would be if internal team members spend 30 to 60 days in preparing an application as well as the time spent on re-submissions and editions which can span over a year in total. Since this time could be used for product development activities, businesses should carefully assess the internal costs related to preparing an application.

External consultancies that are offering grant writing services can vary greatly in their business models and fee structures which is why it is recommended to identify a number of different options and to discuss the pricing with each of them before making a decision. This way, the ideal budget for a startup can be assessed and an informed decision can be made (read: Pre-Requisites for an EIC Accelerator Application).

Summary

The major components to be assessed when considering to hire a professional writer or consultant for the EIC Accelerator are:

  • Project Quality: Is the project suitable for the EIC Accelerator?
  • Internal Skill Level: Does the team have the skill level necessary to apply?
  • Time & Focus: Can the company divert their focus from their core business activities?
  • Finances: Is the company able to afford a consultancy or cannot afford to prepare it internally?

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 Biggest Mistakes When Applying to the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)

Every once in a while, a company is reaching out to us with a rejected EIC Accelerator grant (SME Instrument Phase 2) application which they have prepared themselves but were unsuccessful with. Very rarely, such self-prepared applications are professionally written and reach a high score (i.e. above 13 out of 15) whereas, in most cases, these applications are well below scores of 12 and even below 10 in some cases.

Some common themes can be noticed when reviewing such applications and this article presents a list of the most common reasons why self-prepared applications have low scores. Usually, a lack of product innovation, an unexperienced team or the company itself are not the biggest reason for the low rating but the quality of the grant writing.

Of course, the innovative nature of the applying Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) or startup is important as well but the eligibility requirements from the European Commission (EC) and European Innovation Council (EIC) are relatively broad and inclusive enough as to not discount most projects.

Reason #1: Viewing the template as a questionnaire

The official EIC Accelerator grant application template (see Deviations from the Template) should be followed only as a general guideline and be used to develop and structure an application that is comprehensive and unique to the applying company. It should not be viewed as a questionnaire which is simply answered with a few general text snippets in the hopes that the reader will read between the lines.

None of the text found in the original template, outside of the headlines, should appear in the written application (i.e. none of the posed questions should be placed inside the proposal). The same goes for footnotes, guidelines, tips, abbreviations and rules which can be entirely omitted from the final proposal. All of the content found in the template acts as a guide for the applicant and does not need to be reproduced for the evaluator.

In addition, the official EU template is (intentionally) scarcely formatted and lacks guidelines on figures, tables and photos which is why it should by no means be viewed as a style guide or guide book for an EIC Accelerator application.

Reason #2: Addressing sections too shallowly

Imagine having a conversation with someone who only answers with “yes” or “no”. Every person would immediately lose interest in this interaction since a conversation is supposed to flow with each spoken sentence leading to a multitude of other sentences. In the same way, the European Commissions’s evaluation and review experts expect applicants to elaborate on each point which is why the writer should focus on telling a complete and impressive story.

In the end, the EU is looking for high-risk and high-reward unicorns which makes excitement and passion, in written form, a must for every application.

If the template asks for the timing of the innovation, why not elaborate as to why the current point in time is perfect to invest? Why is the market timing perfect? Why not describe the timing of the customer needs or competitive differentiators?

The key to avoiding this mistake is to be comprehensive but not too wordy. To add useful and valuable content that directly addresses the posed question but also addresses the criteria found in the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) which presents the grant proposal rating (see Using the Evaluation Summary Report).

Reason #3: Not viewing the proposal as a story

The proposal must be a very well written business plan but also tell an exciting story. As such, there might be a variety of sections that seem unrelated (i.e. the intellectual property and the key performance indicators) but they should all be connected in some way so that the proposal makes sense and is consistent (see Identifying a Broad Vision for an EIC Accelerator Project).

It is also necessary to have a wholesome approach to proposal writing in order to fill in the gaps between sections (i.e. transitions) so that each section naturally flows into the next one. The proposal template might omit certain aspects or only ask for them vaguely instead of directly requesting them, i.e. a comprehensive introduction which could give context to the innovation, information on the companies financial health or other items commonly found in a business plan.

The final grant proposal should stand on its own (i.e. not rely on the template to make sense) and answer all the questions of an investor or Venture Capitalist (VC) while also being an interesting read. A great story has a beginning, a middle and an end which should be considered for the entire application (i.e. the problem, the solution and the roadmap) so that it builds trust with the reader and does not appear too shallow.

Reason #4: Omitting important sections that were not in the template

The EIC Accelerator grant proposal template does not account for the vast individuality between projects and applying companies. Describing the commercial strategy for a Business-to-Business (B2B) versus a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) project will require a different set of assumptions while a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription model will be different from one-off hardware sales.

The EU cannot account for each case individually which is why the template is very general. The grant writer has to account for this and understand that the template is vague by design so that each applicant proactively elaborates on the respective sections according to their specific case.

The level of detail put into an application and the degree to which sections are described will also immediately tell the evaluator how well a certain project is thought through which, in turn, will dramatically affect the proposal score.

Reason #5: Not taking enough time for the writing

Every applicant should at least leave 50 days to prepare a great application and under no circumstances rush the process. In very rare cases, a company can prepare a competitive and professional application in only a few weeks but this is usually reserved for a case in which extensive business plans have already been written beforehand (incl. prepared financial projections, development plans and budgeting).

One of the most common reasons why companies receive very low scores is that the application was prepared in a rush (i.e. in under a week) without properly reading the Work Programme and template as well as treating the application as a low-effort lottery ticket and not as a well-crafted financing proposal.

Reason #6: Not understanding the evaluation criteria

The evaluators will grade the proposal based on a certain checklist of criteria and not only rate them based on their overall impression (i.e. the ESR criteria – see here). All of these individual points (i.e. criteria) will need to become an integral part of the written application even if some are entirely absent from the template itself.

It is useful to first read the evaluation criteria and then to read the EIC Accelerator template since both documents are an important part of a successful grant application. This attention to detail alone will already place the applicant ahead of the competition since most companies are not aware of the difference between the template and the evaluation scoring.

It is common, especially for first-time applicants, to not understand how proposals are graded and to mistakenly view the official template as the only guiding document.

Reason #7: Not being persistent enough

It could be that the proposal, while having been rejected, is not a lost cause by default but only needs more time. Maybe the initial score was above 13 (out of the maximum 15) and the application simply needs a few useful additions in order to reach the threshold for the interview invitation (i.e. EIC Accelerator pitch week in Brussels).

If so, there is currently no limitation as to how many times an application can be submitted which allows each applicant to edit and improve the proposal for a re-submission with improved results.

The success rates for the highly competitive EIC Accelerator can oscillate between 1% and 7%, depending on the specific deadline and occasional pandemic, while the scores for unchanged resubmissions can vary as well, depending on the randomly chosen reviewers.

From experience, it usually takes multiple attempts in order to receive the grant financing which is why no company should give up too early.

Reason #8: No effort is made for the annexes

While Document 1 is unquestionably the most important part of the EIC Accelerator application, attention should also be placed on the annexes, namely the pitch deck, the financial documentation and the general annexes (see Software Choices for the Annexes). While these might receive less attention during the evaluation process, they will greatly influence the overall impression of the application and, in addition, the pitch deck cannot be changed once step 1 is achieved.

Making the annexes look professional and well-designed takes little effort compared to writing Document 1 and it should not be neglected in order to maximize the applications success chances.

Summary

The biggest reasons as to why self-prepared applications receive low scores are:

  1. Viewing the template as a questionnaire: The template is only a guide and should not appear in the proposal
  2. Addressing sections too shallowly: Every section must show a high level  of  depth
  3. Not viewing the proposal as a story: Good writing over cryptic brevity
  4. Omitting important sections that were not in the template: Customizing the proposal to the unique project
  5. Not taking enough time for the writing: Attention to detail takes time – at least 50 days
  6. Not understanding the evaluation criteria: Reading what the scoring will be based on – the ESR (see here)
  7. Not being persistent enough: Re-submissions are key
  8. No effort is made for the annexes: Making every proposal document as perfect as possible (see here)

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:

Finding Updates and News for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)

The European Commission has a variety of channels where updates and news are published. For the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2), there is not a single, centralized source of information but a variety of fragmented channels which should be scanned periodically in order to remain up-to-date on recent developments.

This is essential in preparing a successful grant (or blended finance) application since proposal template updates are usually unannounced and implementing them can be critical for success.

It is also important to always remain in the loop regarding the European Innovation Councils (EIC) newest strategies since they can make the difference between an immediate rejection (i.e. non-environmental applications during the Green Deal cut-off) and receiving a fair proposal evaluation.

Startups, as well as Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME), should be particularly careful to do not miss any details since, for example, the United Kingdom (UK) is now only allowed to apply for grant financing under the EIC Accelerator but not for equity (i.e. blended finance) for the deadline on October 7th 2020 due to Brexit. After Horizon 2020, the UK’s future is likewise uncertain as it relates to Horizon Europe in 2021-2027.

In the past, changes have also been made to the number of applicants whereas consortia were allowed pre-2019 but the current EIC Accelerator is exclusively a single-applicant program.

The following is a short collection of the most important websites and pages which are used to publicise relevant EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2) updates. These are not only important for consultants and professional writers but also for applicants who are currently resubmitting a proposal and want to verify if templates or guidelines have changed since the last submission.

Note: The list is focussing on updates rather than informative material so manuals and general guidelines are excluded.

1. Twitter

The EIC twitter account (@EUeic) is one of the most useful resources for receiving the newest EIC Accelerator updates. Information regarding interview invitations, delays and other general changes is often published on Twitter first. It is always worth studying the account’s timeline and replies when considering to apply for the grant financing since essential updates will likely be found there (i.e. EIC Accelerator Interviewees from March Deadline Unable to Apply for May Cut-Off)

2. EIC Accelerator Call Page

The official call page for the EIC Accelerator is likewise rich in content, ranging from the current application deadlines, over documentation on the grant status to an update feed which often details the number of submissions received and sometimes includes flash reports which contain statistics on the actual call budget, above-threshold proposals and other relevant information.

The collection of documents also contains, amongst other things, a complete list of the financed companies and brief information on their respective projects. Updates are infrequent and inconsistent but valuable in most cases.

3. Google

One of the most important aspects of staying up to date with the EIC Accelerator is the official documentation for the Work Programme and the Proposal Template. Both documents are usually quietly uploaded by the EU and replace the old documents automatically which means that a writer or consultant has to periodically check if the files have changed.

The easiest way to do this is, for example, to search for EIC Accelerator template PDF on Google and to check the PDF for its current version which is given at the beginning of the document (i.e. the last update as indicated in the history table). The details of the performed changes are usually conveniently listed as well which makes studying the new template easier (i.e. view EIC Accelerator: New Proposal Template from March 20th).

The same is true for the Work Programme which is just as important as the proposal template and can be searched and investigated in the same way.

4. European Innovation Council (EIC) Newsletter

The EIC has recently created a newsletter which is designed to keep all interested parties up to date. While it might grow in the future, so far, the content has been infrequent and less informative than other outlets due to simple re-posting of existing content.

5. Newsroom: EASME and SME Instrument News

The search pages on the EU’s Newsroom can be very useful in filtering for relevant information related to topics of interest. The Executive Agency for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (EASME) and European Innovation Council (EIC) are great choices to search for since they often publish EIC Accelerator- related content. Other options are keywords such as Innovation or other similar terms.

6. Related Websites or Institutions

Alternative resources for EIC Accelerator-related content are informative websites by consultancies specialised on the grant or initiatives such as Access4SMEs and Access2EIC. Social media can also be a useful way to identify quality information sources (i.e. #eicaccelerator on Twitter) and can be beneficial for both prospect- and awarded-companies.

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

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

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

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

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

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by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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