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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:

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

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

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

1.2 Discussing the Resources Available

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

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

1.3 Guidance for Best Practises

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

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

1.4 Creating the Script

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

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

1.5 Screen Test (optional)

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

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

1.6 The Real Recording

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

1.7 Editing and Exporting the Pitch Video

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

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

2. Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

How to Script an EIC Accelerator Pitch Video (SME Instrument) – Part 2

This article is a continuation of Part 1 and suggests a process for the creation of pitch videos as they are part of the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) in 2021 under Horizon Europe (2021-2027) (read: Proposed 2021 Process). The official template by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and European Commission (EC) does not give useful guidance for successful pitch videos which makes it important for consultancies and professional writers to develop internal guidelines for their preparation.

For startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME), it is useful to carefully consider what will be included in video pitch productions and estimate how an ideal workflow could look like. Examples of pitch videos can be found here (read: Pitch Video Concepts).

Step 3: Shooting Footage & Animations

The gathering of footage can take a variety of forms but it is a good idea to simply start with a pitch deck as the visual material and a camera for the recording of interviews with the management team as well as the shooting of hardware footage.

Interviews can be shot with 5 minutes of speaking time for each founding member whereas questions and concise answers should be prepared in advance so that they can easily be cut down to the desired length for the final video. Animations (i.e. in Adobe AfterEffects or Microsoft PowerPoint) can be created based on a meticulous script so that no excess work is put into video creation.

Filming hardware footage, laboratories, machinery or production facilities should be planned in advance so that extra effort can be placed on the quality (i.e. lighting, transitions, visuals) as opposed to the quantity of the shots (i.e. the more shots, the more work in post-production). The general rule is that even minor preparations will significantly reduce the production workload.

Step 4: Editing and Post-Production

Video editing is notoriously tedious and can take up a lot of time since all the collected footage has to be re-watched multiple times, colour graded, audio-adjusted, cut and fit with suitable transitions or effects. The editing of the footage can easily require more time than all previous steps combined if the first scripting, planning and footage collection have not been executed properly.

It is advisable to perform everything that can be done during the production stage (i.e. Step 1-3) and not rely too much on the editing. The script should be concise and to-the-point right from the start so that no excess footage is collected. The prospect applicant should only film meaningful content and not simply collect everything. The lighting, sharpness, saturation, contrast, white balance, movie settings (i.e. shutter speed, ISO, aperture, frames per second, resolution) and all other details should be adjusted in the equipment before the filming begins so that the effort in post-production is minimized.

Lastly, it has to be assured that the final rendering and export of the video does not exhibit any problems associated with different framerates, aspect ratios or resolutions so that animations, interviews and hardware footage can be combined seamlessly.

Summary

For the video production, planning is everything and the more attention is placed on each step, the less work will be required for the creation of the pitch video.

  • Step 1Splitting the Video into Acts: Plan the pitch video in a top-down approach by allocating the order and timing for each act
  • Step 2Scripting the Acts: Plan the content for each act so that the following production will be brief and simple
  • Step 3Shooting Footage & Animations: Create the content based on scripts and assure that equipment settings are optimized to minimize post-production efforts
  • Step 4Editing and Post-Production: Bring all the footage together, cut it to the appropriate length, add effects and export the pitch video

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 Script an EIC Accelerator Pitch Video (SME Instrument) – Part 1

In 2021, the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) requires the upload of a pitch video which can present new challenges to prospect applicants (read: Proposed 2021 Template). While startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) can find information on the creation of pitch videos elsewhere (read: How to Make a Pitch Video), the scripting of such videos might require additional planning. Professional writers and consultants have to address the inherent differences between a pitch deck, an in-person interview and a video pitch since their evaluations will differ greatly (read: EIC Accelerator Interview Preparations).

Since it is unlikely that the 2021 EIC Accelerator proposal template will include a detailed guideline as to how a competitive pitch video is created, the following article presents a framework for how such a process could look like. It takes the past evaluation methods by the European Innovation Council (EIC), European Agency for SME’s (EASME) and European Commission (EC) into account while aiming to present all essential content within the limited timeframe.

Scripting a Video Outline

The first step in the creation of a pitch video should be the scripting of its content. There are generally no correct or incorrect ways to achieve the desired outcome since a video allows, by the far, the greatest creative freedom of all proposal documents (i.e. compared to financial spreadsheets, pitch deck, written proposal – read: EIC Accelerator Documents). Still, a script should always include information on the innovation, the opportunity and the team behind the project even if the time is limited to only 3 minutes.

While the pitch deck was already difficult to structure due to a 10-minute time-restriction, a 3-minute presentation requires much more meticulous planning (read: Pitch Deck Creation). In addition, a video can be expected to be judged much more harshly than a pitch deck in the same way a person is judged more comprehensively in-person compared to a photograph. As a result, a rushed video production is much more detrimental to the evaluations’ success than a rushed pitch deck.

The effort of creating a pitch video clearly exceeds that of a simple pitch deck but the trade-off is that a video can compress much more information into the same amount of time while tools to enhance the professionalism, entertainment value and impact of the presented material are readily available.

Step 1: Splitting the Video into Acts

As a first step, the video should be structured according to its main segments so that the available time can be allocated and the individual scripts can be created in a top-down approach. This is a key difference to the pitch deck and the proposal template since a page-restriction will always be easier to structure than a time-restriction. While a pitch deck can be segmented by simply dedicating a main slide to the product presentation, a video might require varying time-frames depending on the type of technology and collected footage.

As an example, the acts for a 3-minute video can be structured as follows:

  • Problem [00:30]
  • Innovation [00:50]
  • Traction [00:30]
  • Company [00:40]
  • Opportunity [00:30]

or

  • Company [00:20]
  • Traction [00:30]
  • Innovation [01:00]
  • Opportunity [00:30]
  • Investments [00:20]
  • Planned developments [00:20]

These examples are optional and every company has to decide how their ideal pitch video should be structured. There can be significant overlaps between different acts but creating a simple outline as to how the video will be structured is a first step in preparing the subsequent shooting.

Step 2: Scripting the Acts

As outlined in the article on pitch video’s (read: Creating a Pitch Video), each act can use a variety of different techniques ranging from interviews over animations to hardware footage collection. These methods can be blended and adjusted to the needs of each act but they should be scripted prior to shooting them so that the editing work in post-production is reduced.

Scripting the individual acts is also useful in case some tasks such as the animation, voiceovers or filming are outsourced since this can significantly save time and costs. An outline should follow the general rules for a good project narrative (read: Visual Representation for the EIC Accelerator) and present a compelling storyline.

To explain a market problem, the applicant can begin with the largest issue (i.e. deaths, costs, low KPI’s) and explain how this issue is rooted in a lack of technology. The innovation should then be explained in a very simple manner by beginning with a general overview of what it does, followed by what its use case looks like.

Such scripts can be written out as a text first and improved until the final explanation or voice over is perfected. In general, the scripting should be prioritized and perfected by shooting test footage first and then iterating feedback cycles until the desired quality is achieved.

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:

Project Management and the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)

Project management is a central part of every Research and Development (R&D) project but it is especially important when considering the strict budgeting and tracking under the EIC Accelerator blended financing program (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing). Managing a specific project, a task and performance indicators are three core aspects of the overall process whereas the European Commission (EC) and the European Innovation Council (EIC) require constant updates on such aspects to assure the continuing progress of the beneficiarie’s development work (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

When hiring a professional writer or consultancy, project management is often simplified through coordination and support activities but startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) should be aware of the bureaucracy involved in a funding project by the European Union (EU). The following presents a shortlist of the tracking and organisational-aspects for such a grant project that is relevant for both the application (i.e. as part of the annotated EIC Accelerator template) and for successful grant beneficiaries who have received a positive evaluation (read: Finding EIC Accelerator Results).

The individual aspects of a development project can be classified into three tiers with project management at the top (i.e. top-down delegation), the task management at the center (i.e. development work) and the tracking of daily, weekly or monthly Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) at the bottom (i.e. individual metrics). This order only presents one out of many ways to structure project management but it can be useful for companies new to the strict tracking requirements in the EU or those who lack experience in executing long-term development projects.

Managing a Project

Project management traditionally requires the use of cornerstones such as initiation, planning, execution, controlling, monitoring and closing which assures that all essential tasks are performed with clear responsibilities. As a first step, the responsibilities should be distributed according to a hierarchy with one main project leader at the top who acts as the supervisor and a manager for each project segment. This will be important for the tracking since accountability is the most secure way of assuring that deadlines, budgets and targets are achieved in a timely manner.

Each segment (i.e. initiation) can likewise have a concrete description, budget, timeline, outcome and means of documentation so that the person in charge has a clear overview of their responsibilities throughout the project. In the pitch interview (read: The Pitch Interview), it can also be a question that the jurors will ask since the financials, implementation and development tasks are important considerations for the selection of beneficiaries (read: Pitch Preparation).

Managing a Task

Each project will have to be split into the specific tasks that require execution and the EC prefers the use of designated Workpackages (WP) (read: Work Packages). These are individual segments of the developments arranged by their area of focus and their expected timeline. As an example, a WP can be focusing on software development while another WP deals with hardware developments or marketing activities.

WP’s are only one way of structuring R&D work but the important thing to consider is that specific tasks, budgets and deadlines must be designated clearly and be actionable enough to allow execution. Such tasks can use the SMART-acronym as it clearly defines how goals should be specified and treated in order to maximize the success chances of the development work. S-M-A-R-T stands for:

  1. Specific: A task has to be specific so that the activities are clear for experts, engineers or software developers and can be executed. Instead of discussing general ways of achieving a goal (i.e. “to develop a production process”), it should give specific methods (i.e. “to implement X until Y is reached and integrate peripheral technologies such as Z”)
  2. Measurable: Quantification is key in defining development tasks since such markers will be used in both tracking and project execution. Unit numbers, quality markers and other measurable items should be listed.
  3. Assignable: Each task must not only have a person responsible but also be easily assignable so that delegation is possible. If a task is specific and quantified then it will be simple to select an employee who has the right skillset for its execution but a vague task would not be easily assignable.
  4. Realistic: Tasks have to be feasible since it is not only the responsibility of the company to execute and track the development work but also to achieve their goals in the end. it has to be assumed that no follow-up financing is available and that the project plan has to be executed as-is. As such, realism has to take the center stage so that tasks are ambitious but not impossible.
  5. Time: From the start, the timing, deadlines and delivery dates have to be clearly defined so that structure is given to the entire project.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

KPI’s are a part of each project but are a more company-centric metric rather than exclusively relating to R&D. KPI’s can focus on all aspects relevant to the business which can or cannot be part of the development tasks. As an example: Active users, revenues or obtained patents can be KPI’s while these metrics do not need to be part of EIC Accelerator WP’s.

The EIC Accelerator utilises milestones and KPI’s in its official annotated proposal template and these can be used to provide a commercial view on the WP themselves (i.e. connecting tasks with business metrics). A specific goal such as reaching a certain number of active users on a platform can be added as a KPI or milestone to a WP so that it is not only clear What and How but also Why tasks are performed.

KPI’s can be chosen according to the management team’s core vision for the company but they usually provide a shortlist of goals that have to be reached for the business to succeed (i.e. the number of suppliers, customers, revenues, server connections, datasets, hardware prototypes, etc.). These will then give the project management and each individual task a certain realism from a purely commercial and growth perspective. Updates on KPI’s can be provided on a monthly or weekly basis to the financing provider so that transparency is assured throughout the project.

Summary

  • Managing a Project: Creating a clear hierarchy of responsibilities in a top-down approach for the entire project
  • Managing a Task: Developing individual tasks for each development step while following the SMART principle
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPI): Adding realistic and commercial reasoning to the development tasks via milestones and KPI’s

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:

Designing Images for an EIC Accelerator Application (SME Instrument Phase 2) – Part 2

Part 1 of this article can be found under the provided link.

4. Image Guide for Selected Sections

Whatever type of EIC Accelerator (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2 – grant, equity and blended finance) project it is, in almost all cases, it is useful to create or re-create certain images. A professional writer or consultant should always be aware of the impact of graphics and design on the evaluation process which can be applied to both the proposal (i.e. following the application template) and the EIC Accelerator interview (i.e. the pitch deck).

The following is a shortlist of a few selected image principles under the Excellence section of an EIC Accelerator application:

4.1 Introduction

The introduction sets the stage for the entire application since it connects the innovation and business plan with the context of its European and global impact (read: Identifying a Broad Vision). As such, the images found in this section should be to-the-point and perfectly exemplify the environmental, political, social or commercial issue that is to be solved by the project.

Such a graphic can summarize a whole page of text and express it in simple terms through numbers and charts in order to quickly get a point across. It ideally follows a narrative flow where one fact leads to another and culminates in the main lynchpin of the problem (or business opportunity).

4.2 Technology

It can sometimes be useful to introduce a certain type of technology or principle before the innovation of the respective startup or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) is detailed. If this is the case, a compact schematic graph or mindmap-like concept chart can be introduced to explain how the technology works in a general sense (i.e. explaining electric microgrids, a chemical process, an IT architecture, etc.) since it will enhance the evaluators understanding of the following product description.

If there is no need to introduce a basic technology principle ahead of the product description, the same principle can also be applied to further illustrate the missing link (read: Providing the Missing Link) and describe what exactly a solution would need to exhibit in order to fill the need as well as its general effect on the problem. Such a graphic helps the evaluators to visualise the overall strategy of fixing the problem and shows how it will be solved.

4.3 Solution

The Solution section (i.e. the product presentation) should be very visual and, according to the chosen subsegments, help the reviewers properly understand what each product feature or constituent looks like and how it operates.

As such, the types of images used in this section can be very broad and can range from concept charts over simple product photos to screenshots of reports, production machinery, the User Interface (UI) or back-end analytics.

Generally speaking, it can make sense to begin this section with a concept graphic to fully explain the way the innovation is applied or operates and then to segway into images that represent the software side of the product, followed by the hardware components (if applicable) or any other type of sub-classification.

4.4 Innovativeness

The Innovativeness section revolves around technological and commercial differentiators from the competition which lends itself to adding comparison tables, axis graphics, overlapping-circles graphs or similar variations.

Tables are often the most essential type of graphic in such a section since they allow the clear communication of unique value propositions while showcasing a complete list of the shortcomings of competitors.

In addition, it can make sense to introduce other types of figures into this section which are more technically oriented rather than targeting specific competing differentiators. This might be useful to introduce principles that are true across all competing technologies and are a fact based on the technology-type itself but only represent a small aspect of the overall innovation.

As an example, this can be the comparison of a chemical process with technological alternatives (ie. visualised through a column diagram), a technical principle that bypasses common problems or a variation of an established technical design. Since such comparisons are unique to each EIC Accelerator project, these should be customized for each specific case.

4.5 Timing and Technology Readiness Levels (TRL)

Using timelines and scheme’s to accentuate the past and future developments of a project is always a useful approach to simplifying the evaluation process and improve the proposals score. The timing can be illustrated through a comparison of past and future whereas the current point in time can be highlighted as a unique opportunity to invest now.

The TRL stages have to be addressed in the text since they are an integral part of the official EIC Accelerator template and are also looked for during the evaluation (read: How the EIC Accelerator Funds TRL’s). TRL’s can be presented in a variety of ways by either segmenting the past (ie. TRL1-6) from the future developments (i.e. TRL6-9) or by summarizing the entire project timeline into a full-width spread.

This simple graphical choice can significantly help the evaluators to assess the proposals development stage and benefit the grading of the respective criteria (read: Using the Evaluation Summary Report).

5. Illustration Software to Use

There are no established best practices for the software choices in grant proposal writing since the outcome is all that matters and there are many great choices for software available (read: Software Choices for the Annexes and Microsoft Word vs. Adobe InDesign).

The two general choices for the preparation of dedicated proposal images are vector graphic software products (i.e. Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw) and slide software (i.e. Powerpoint or Google Slides) since they use an artboard-type work environment with responsive elements for drag-and-drop use.

  • Slide software has the benefit of being very easy to use and allowing the selection of many presets for shapes and forms that can be used immediately (i.e. arrows, lines, boxes) as well as great design choices (i.e. fills, shadows, inner glow, transparency, opacity).
  • Vector graphics, while requiring slightly higher skill levels, has the benefit of providing extensive features to not only design but also customize every image perfectly.

If one is able to use both software choices equally well then the result of vector graphic software will always be higher in quality, more customized and be much faster to create. Vector graphics software also lends itself to working with customized pictograms (read: EIC Accelerator Proposal Design Resources) and other imported vector graphics that can be used without tedious conversions.

6. Page Design

Lastly, the general formatting of the application and the overall page design is an important means to increase the EIC Accelerator proposals appeal. Using a cover page, consistent colours, easy-to-read spacing/fonts, a table of contents and visually separated headers and sub-headers are a simple but useful last step in creating a competitive application.

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:

Developing a Commercial Strategy for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)

One of the core sections of an EIC Accelerator application (SME Instrument Phase 2), taken from the official grant proposal template, is the commercial strategy. Such a strategy might seem very straight forward in many cases but, in order to fully advertise the impact and scalability of a project, great care should be placed into describing its key assumptions and stakeholders.

A professional writer or consultant should assure that the commercial roadmap of the company is not solely based on completing the product developments and then to simply describe what geographical market segments will be entered but to expand on the measures taken towards scaling inside these markets.

A commercial strategy should describe a network of partners which have been carefully selected and who are imperative to reaching the target customers. As such, these partners should be well-explained inside the grant application and their main roles, as relating to the commercialisation, should be outlined clearly.

Trusting in a Startup

If a new startup or Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) is entering the market, many customers might be sceptical at first. This can especially be a factor for a B2B product because most established companies have seen many new market participants come and go over the years and are not particularly interested in making any commitments towards a company that could be out of business soon.

As a result, trust is a core factor to consider when bringing a new product to the market and the best way to build it is either through social proof (i.e. validation by trusted third parties) or an impressive track record (i.e. validation through product success). Both tend to go hand-in-hand since an impressive track record usually stems from the existence of many happy customers who, in themselves, act as third-party validations.

Social proof, on the other hand, could mean that external partners who already have a significant amount of trust are willing to invest time and money into the company which, in turn, signifies trust to other interested customers. This part is essential when building a commercial strategy since it can make the difference between slow progress and exponential growth of the product’s deployment.

As a simple metaphor, there are plenty of amazing books that have never been read by more than a few hundred people while there are entirely average reads that have risen to the top and became bestsellers. A great product is of little value if its gathering dust on the shelf which is why the commercialisation has to receive as much attention as product development.

Building a Trusted Network

The ways to increase the trust customers have in the company is to consider which commercial partners hold the highest level of authority for the respective target market. A certain hardware accessory might seem less appealing if offered through a retailer as part of a larger portfolio but would be valued considerably higher if an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) has taken a liking to the technology and decided to implement it directly into new products.

A new company should ask itself: Which commercial channel will build the highest level of trust with customers? Taking, as an example, a new autonomous driving technology for commercial vehicles, we can envision a hierarchy of suitable commercial strategies:

First Level: OEM

The highest level of trust would lie with OEM since they understand the customer (i.e. vehicle end-users) better than anyone and are already selling vehicles at scale. If Mercedes decides to implement a certain technology, every consumer will assume that the product is of the highest quality. The trust is already established which means that the only questions a consumer will pose are related to the product features and the pricing.

Second Level: Service

Secondary partners could be intermediaries and stakeholders who are an essential part of the value chain but are considered optional. These could be mechanics, regulators, certifiers or car renting businesses who, likewise, have a high level of consumer trust and who’s opinions hold weight.

As an example from a different industry, we can imagine a customer who is operating large pipeline networks and who wants to introduce new security measures to reduce the occurrence of damages or accidents. If a consultancy or mechanic who has been hired to find an appropriate solution was to recommend a new technology as the ideal option for this case then, once again, the attention will be placed on features and pricing but not on the technology itself since trust is already established.

Third Level: Retail / Distribution

Using distributors and retailers in this scenario is still a highly valuable commercial strategy but it might significantly impede the scalability or speed of the market entry if the chosen partners do not have the trust or incentive to recommend the product. It is useful to consider what could lead to exponential growth rather than a gradual increase in sales and which strategic partners could lead to the highest envisioned market impact.

Summary

While there are a lot of factors and nuances that flow into a great commercial strategy, leveraging the trust of partner networks is a useful approach in crafting customer relationships. It can also be a good way of thinking out-of-the-box and diversifying an existing strategy with additional partners and sales channels since, in the end, it is hard to predict which avenue will see the highest growth rate and end up being the most profitable channel:

  • First Level: Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) who directly include technology into their existing portfolio and distribute to end-users
  • Second Level: Service providers who are frequently used and can add technology to their portfolio and recommend/apply it to end-users
  • Third Level: Retailers and distributors with access to large customer bases

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: