Tag Archives: SME Instrument Phase 1

EIC Accelerator Success Rates and Feasibility Studies (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) is a competitive program targeted at innovative Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups. Under the name SME Instrument, it was active for many years and provided a financial support system over two phases – Phase 1 and Phase 2. The former consisted of a small grant of €50,000 while the latter is identical to the EIC Accelerator today (read: EIC Accelerator Introduction).

With the last Phase 1 deadline having been in September 2019, startups today do not have the option to first apply for this seed-grant which was a great opportunity to nourish early-stage startups and allow them to fully assess a project through a feasibility study. Such a study was not only useful to analyse the validity of an innovation or business model but also acted as a springboard to prepare the information-dense Phase 2 (EIC Accelerator) proposal since it requires extensive market studies, customer descriptions and a full business plan that includes the workpackages for the grant support (read: EIC Accelerator Workpackages).

This was a very useful setup and its effects were evident in the statistics collected on the Phase 1 & Phase 2 applicant success cases throughout 2018 (read: Impact Report). In the statistical report, it was found that the chances of receiving the SME instrument Phase 2 funding were 4.1% if no Phase 1 was secured beforehand while the chances rose to 6.8% with a completed Phase 1 project. This means that just having received and completed a Phase 1 project significantly increased the success chances of grant applicants (i.e. a 65% increase).

This increase, of course, can be due to a variety of reasons and the following article presents a shortlist of effects a Phase 1 project could have on a successful Phase 2 evaluation as well as strategies to emulate this advantage for the EIC Accelerator.

Description of the Pilot Results

The most obvious reason as to why the Phase 2 application is improved after a completed Phase 1 is that such projects likely have a comprehensive description of their respective pilot studies. Since the Phase 1 report includes content on the project’s feasibility, the corresponding sections of the proposal template can be filled with suitable content. This includes the documentation on the technical feasibility, test results and the descriptions of use-cases in the relevant environment.

When writing a Phase 2 application like the EIC Accelerator, it can often happen that pilot tests are neglected or not described with great detail. To remedy this, the obsolete Phase 1 feasibility studies have incentivised applicants to elaborate on them in-depth which is likely a contributing factor for the increased success rates.

Financial and Commercial Feasibility

The Phase 1 study directly requests validations of the feasibility from a commercial and financial point of view which can easily be overlooked when writing a business plan. Key factors in this validation process are the customer demand, willingness-to-pay, expected margins and a general analysis of the opportunity which can dramatically enhance the quality of an application.

Having a separate section describing such a detailed feasibility assessment is beneficial and can be neglected if the EIC Accelerator template does not directly ask for it. Even if no Phase 1 project has been funded prior, professional writers and consultants can still benefit from adding the respective section to an application.

Budget Allocation

Workpackages are a critical part of every EIC Accelerator application but they can be tricky since companies do not usually define their development work in such a distinct manner (read: Work packages). As a result, it is easy to rush the workpackage creation and its budgeting as a mere afterthought but this can make the respective implementation less believable or too vague. The Phase 1 feasibility study did remedy this since it requested information on the project’s future, required developments and budgets which could be directly used to inform the EIC Accelerator application.

Proposal Quality

In General, the narrative of the proposal is critical and the vision should be in full alignment with the expected impact, the innovation and the project itself (read: Assessing a Project). If a company has spent 5-6 months in preparing a report for Phase 1, they have likely further refined and aligned key cornerstones of an application (read: A Proposal Narrative). This can enhance every single proposal section since the Freedom to Operate (FTO), the timing, the introduction, the hiring needs, the Key Performance Indicators (KPI), the broader impact, etc. are all highly relevant but are often only briefly addressed.

The quality of a proposal is enhanced in relation to the amount of attention that is placed on its details. This is perfectly supported by a Phase 1 feasibility study which aids in just that – giving the applicant time and a structure to fill in the blanks.

Evaluators’ Bias

Lastly, there is always a bias from the evaluator’s position since seeing that a project has successfully completed Phase 1 will make Phase 2 more appealing to them. From their perspective, the applicant has already succeeded in a highly competitive application process, has completed the stringent documentation responsibilities and has delivered a final report. This element of ‘social proof’ has an effect on the reader and, in and of itself, is expected to increase the evaluation score (read: Buzzwords for the EIC Accelerator).

How to Use this Information

First of all, the absence of a Phase 1 option under the EIC Accelerator program should not be a reason to neglect the points listed above (read: Biggest EIC Accelerator Mistakes). A feasibility study or pilot project can be conducted independently, can come from other funding sources or be performed directly with customers. Taking the time to describe the past milestones, the results of extensive R&D and presenting technical as well as commercial and financial information to validate the project should be prioritized when planning an application.

Some documentation on the now obsolete Phase 1 process can be found in the official template for the feasibility study (here) and the Grant Agreement Contract (GAC).

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:

Work Packages for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)

Work packages are an integral part of EIC Accelerator applications (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2) and are the key to specifying and quantifying the exact use of the grant or blended financing requested (i.e. a combination of grant and equity). Professional writers and grant consultants are well aware of their importance and, as an integral part of the official EIC Accelerator proposal template, they have to be addressed with great care.

What is a Work Package?

A work package is a concrete set of tasks and development plans revolving around a specific deliverable. The EIC Accelerator recommends the use of five work packages in total which should encompass the full project scope and include all developments such as technical, financial and commercial tasks.

The individual work packages should be quantified according to their budget (i.e. separating grant and equity contributions), their timeline (i.e. giving the start and end of tasks and sub-tasks) as well as their respective project managers (i.e. task leaders, contributors, subcontractors).

Furthermore, work packages should be as credible and thought-out as possible since they will become the blueprint of the entire EIC Accelerator project if it is approved and successfully funded by the European Commission (EC). As such, work packages have to be clear, quantified, trackable and specific which allows the future project officers to assess the ongoing project, its adherence to the planned budget and also identify potentially emerging problems.

Why is a Work Package Necessary?

A large development project is separated into multiple work packages to make budgeting, tracking and accountability easier for the responsible party, namely the European Innovation Council (EIC). Without work packages, the EC would not know what the budget of the project is actually used for and the applicant would have an excessive amount of freedom over a large sum of government funds.

The work packages also help the proposal evaluators to assess the Implementation criteria and the overall credibility of the project (read: The Evaluation Summary Report). Since Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) are a key quantifier for the European Union (EU) in identifying the progress of an innovation from idea to market, the work package also helps in validating the overall development timeline and identify a project with short time-to-markets (read: How TRL’s are Funded).

Does a Company Need to Create Work Packages?

Work packages should already be an integral part of any innovation startups internal operations in one way or another since Research and Development (R&D) projects generally require a high degree of planning and careful budgeting. In addition, business plans and investors often require information on the use of funds which is why such information is likely already existing internally.

There are cases where a startup or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) is looking for funding but does not have any quantified work packages yet which is a warning sign that the EIC Accelerator might not be a suitable financing avenue. If development plans are non-existent then this either means that the project is not innovative enough (i.e. no significant R&D) or that it is too early stage to be considered close-to-market.

A third option and also a very common case is a semi-complete work plan whereas a general vision has been developed internally but it lacks specific tasks, quantification and a clear timeline. This is often the case with startups who have an adaptable technology that can be applied in a variety of places and where the required funding source determines the path to take.

Such a preliminary plan can easily be edited and improved to match the EIC Accelerator scope and should not exclude an innovative company from submitting a proposal to the next deadline. If a previous application has been submitted but rejected with a low Implementation result, the work packages are a priority to review and edit before a re-submission is performed.

Specific and Quantified

While less relevant for the pitch interview, the proposal will need to specifically describe all of the expected tasks and cost factors (read: Pitch deck vs. Proposal). The rule is to quantify and specify as much as possible so that the progress can be tracked on a monthly and even weekly basis. Milestones, the budgeting and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) should correspond to the work package deliverables and the timeline should connect all respective items so that the evaluator is impressed by a comprehensive plan.

Prospect EIC Accelerator applicants should be aware of the types of work packages to include and not confuse feasibility assessment tasks (i.e. FTO, market analysis, etc.) with development tasks (i.e. value chain, technical tasks, certifications, etc.) since only the latter are eligible for the EIC Accelerator. The feasibility of the project (i.e. the former SME Instrument Phase 1) should have already been assessed and described inside the proposal which is why the Implementation should focus on the practical project execution.

Summary

  • What is a Work Package? A concrete set of development tasks with specific, quantified and traceable outcomes.
  • Why is a Work Package Necessary? It helps investors to keep the grant beneficiary accountable and track the budget.
  • Does a Company Need to Create Work Packages? They should already be existent internally but often have to be refined.
  • Specific and Quantified: Work packages should be quantified as much as possible and be consistent with other proposal sections.

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:

Update: Proposal Template for the EIC Accelerator Green Deal Deadline (SME Instrument May 2020)

There has been an update on April 3rd (here) for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) template which now gives applicants the opportunity to receive inquiries from potential investors, provided a Seal of Excellence (score of 13/15) has been received. In Annex 3 of the proposal, every applicant now has the option to give consent for the publication of their contact details by the EC to interested third parties.

Success Statistics

The EIC Accelerator is highly competitive and while 30-40% of applicants reach the threshold for funding, only 3-5% of companies end up receiving financial support (a detailed analysis of the EIC Accelerator success rate for the 2018 to 2020 period will follow shortly). This option of allowing potential investors to reach out to startups will likely be very beneficial to most applicants.

This change might also be a sign for a greater ambition by the EC to create a more flourishing and VC-oriented funding network across Europe. Seal-of-excellence holders were already able to attend online pitch events and meet investors (link) but the option was rather hidden and likely used too infrequently. The recently introduced equity-finance option (blended finance) is a similar step of transitioning towards private funding as it connects startups with private industry and allows non-EU parties to provide financing instead of the EU.

In the long term, expanding the governments grant financing budget with private funding might be the only way to truly deal with the increased interest in the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument) since the number of applications keeps rising which, in turn, reduces success rates.

Call Page

Another change to the May’s EIC Accelerator submission (Green Deal) is the separation of the call page which is important to know and essential in order to pick the correct button for the submission. The new page can now be found here. If the regular EIC Accelerator page were to be used during the submission process then the proposal would register for the October deadline rather then the one in May.

Lastly, the EIC has announced (via twitter) that the interviews for the March 2020 deadline will be held remotely via video calls. This is due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic and will likely be the new norm for all of 2020. In addition, these interviews have been postponed by a week which might have a ripple effect for the Green Deal deadline on May 19th which could potentially be postponed as well to May 26th.

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:

EIC Accelerator: New Proposal Template from March 20th (2020)

The new proposal template for the EIC Accelerators Green Deal deadline on May 19th has recently been released and this article summarises the major changes.

    • New Form Fields: The first change is found in the application forms under “Call Specific Questions” where it is now required to provide the gender of the CEO. This is in accordance with the new rule to have a 25% quota for female CEO’s which must be met by the EIC Accelerator. In addition, Green Deal goals must be selected via checkboxes to identify if the project is addressing any of the existing targets. Both of these changes will very likely remain part of all future EIC Accelerator deadlines.
    • New Impact Criterion: In the “Impact” section of the application template,  a new criterion named “Green Deal (May 2020 cut-off only)”  has been added which asks companies to detail the impact on the EU’s new Green Deal. This impact must be quantified and proven by providing suitable explanations and references.
    • The Equity Table is Now Mandatory: The third change can be found in the “Financing Needs” section and the “Equity Table” specifically. Since requesting equity-financing is optional, filling out the equity table has so far been optional as well. It used to state “Equity (if blended finance requested)” in the September 2019 version and now says “Equity (All applicants should fill in this section)” in the March 2020 template.

It is always useful to see if any changes have been made to the template even if an application is already completed or being re-submitted to subsequent deadlines. Each updated template contains a list of changes in the beginning which will make it easier to implement the new requirements.

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:

Using the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) to Improve Grant Proposal Writing (EIC Accelerator)

Every great grant application starts with a great project. It must be able to check all the necessary boxes from the innovation, the team, the commercialisation strategy over to the market impact but it is very common to forget how most of these factors are not directly evaluated by the reviewers.

 

Each of the four reviewers has to grade the proposal according to a variety of pre-defined micro-criteria. The four individual gradings of these criteria will be averaged (while removing the highest and lowest scores) and the final score will be calculated based on how the proposal performed in these distinct sections.

 

It is also very important to realise that the evaluation of the project is based on the proposal and not the project itself. The difference between a low score and a high score is often a week of extra writing work but entirely independent of how the project has changed during that same time. 

The official proposal template does not comment on the evaluation criteria so every writer must follow these criteria alongside the proposal template as to not miss critical information or angles which need to be addressed.

 

This following PDF document lists all of the evaluation criteria as they are presented in the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) which is obtained after proposal submission:

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!


by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

The EIC Accelerator: Grant vs. Blended Financing (Equity)

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the equity financing option of the EU’s start-up grant (SME Instrument, EIC Accelerator). The EIC Accelerator offers the application for either a pure grant or blended finance (a mix between a grant and equity-based financing). 

While the application and reviewing process for both options is the same, the financing for the grant (€2.5m) and for the equity contribution (€15m) originate from different sources so the criteria for a successful proposal are also slightly different. 

While the grant is requested as is, the equity financing is based on an “offer” whereas the proposal details the overall equity contribution requested and presents an offer regarding the company shares which are provided in exchange. As such, the equity contribution requires more information compared to a simple grant application and the major points to consider are: 

    • Amount of Ownership Offered: The guidelines suggest to offer a minority ownership of at least 10% and up to 25%.
    • Exit Strategy: There is a specific section in the proposal which asks you to describe your exit strategy or your plans for the company once it has been scaled. The EU is looking at 7-10 year time frames regarding the ROI with a maximum of 15 years. Exit strategies can be buyouts, IPO’s, liquidations, etc.
    • Company Valuation over Time: You are asked to describe the progression of your company valuation using past data and your future projections, including the reasoning behind them.
    • No revenues and non-bankable: The equity contribution is directed at high-risk companies with limited or no turnover and negative EBITDA’s. This usually excludes profitable companies which are only seeking scaling support and rather targets research-heavy projects. It also defines high-risk businesses as having no interest from the market or investors just yet.
    • TRL9 activities: The equity financing is exclusively targeted towards Technology Readiness Level 9 (TRL9) activities which relate to market deployment as opposed to technical developments. This, in turn, means that if a grant is requested for activities related to product deployment and marketing then this will either be ineligible or will be transferred to equity financing.

 

There are some other minor things to consider when applying for equity financing but the points above cover the most important parts. 

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!

 

The European Green Deal – A Dedicated Cut-Off for the EIC Accelerator

Here is some information on the new “Green Deal” deadline for the EIC Accelerator – the EU’s innovation startup funding (up to €17.5m per project). One of the four cut-off dates in 2020 has been dedicated to innovations which are focusing on anything that can have a positive and quantifiable impact on targets outlined in the Green Deal (communication of December 2019). 

This can be a significant opportunity for all startups that qualify (see conditions below) since the allocated budget will be almost double the regular budget for a Phase 2 cut-off. The usual budget per deadline in 2019 and 2020 has consistently been €160m while the “Green Deal” deadline has a €300m budget for a single deadline on May 19th. Provided the thresholds are met, there will likely be twice as many companies who will receive funding under the EIC Accelerator

Here are the conditions for the applicants. All companies must address at least one of the following targets: 

  • Mitigating climate change
  • Clean, affordable and secure energy
  • Clean industry (circular economy, recycling, waste prevention)
  • Building and renovating with high resource efficiency
  • Sustainable smart mobility
  • Food system (fair, healthy, environmentally friendly)
  • Preserving and restoring biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Zero pollution and toxic-free environments

 

This “expected impact” must be quantified and addressed in the application in relation to the targets outlined in the Green Deal. Any innovation which goes against these targets or focuses on increasing the efficiency and use of fossil fuels is ineligible. 

An additional change for the May deadline is the focus on women-led companies. At least 25% of selected startups must have women as their CEO or similar leadership positions (founders, directors, presidents etc.). If this threshold is not met then the EU has the option to invite additional companies to the second evaluation step even though they did not meet the initial threshold to be invited. 

Due to the current travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the step 2 interviews might be conducted via video conference calls instead of in-person interviews, be cancelled or be delayed to give every participant an equal opportunity. 

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!

 

The Difference Between Innovation and Features (EIC Accelerator)

Here are some tips regarding applications for the EU’s start-up grant (up to €2,500,000 via grant + €15,000,000 through equity financing). 

The central component for the grant application is the innovative nature of the project, meaning that it not only addresses customer needs and has a significant market impact but is based on a unique technology or approach. This is key since it can be easy to confuse ‘innovation’ with a ‘collection of features’ and try to convince through narratives such as: 

  • “We do what competitors do but better”
  • “We have a wholesome approach that combines multiple existing features”

 

A unique technology (patented or not) must be difficult to copy and cannot be a simple extension of other existing products. The proposal must present a clear narrative by introducing a major problem in the introduction which then ties into your product or service through its unique value proposition. Afterwards, it addresses your strategy to overcome market barriers and describes how your customers needs relate to your innovation. The overall narrative should communicate: 

  • “We are the only company who can address the problem and meet customer needs”

Changes in the EIC Accelerator during 2019

Since 2019 has come to an end, here is a summary of the main changes that have occurred regarding the EUs startup grant – the EIC Accelerator: 

1. Equity Finance: The most significant change was the discontinuation of Phase 1 (€50,000 grant financing) and the introduction of the new blended financing option for Phase 2 (now up to €17,500,000 with grant and equity). 

2. Phase 2 Template: The template for the Phase 2 application has been reworked and includes new additions such as detailed financial information, listed KPIs, explicit need for EU support and the addition of specific summaries to the proposal introduction instead of the previously introduced executive summary. 

3. Pitch Deck: The pitch deck for the required presentations and interviews will now need to be uploaded with the application and cannot be modified later on. 

These and other minor changes will need to be considered when submitting (or re-submitting) your next proposal.

SME Instrument Grant Writing Tips (EIC Accelerator)

I frequently get asked about the application process for the SME Instrument Funding by the EU, so here is a brief overview for every startup that wants to apply:

Proposal writing is the most important part but I am covering this in another post

Choosing an Acronym and Tagline: Each proposal has a short Acronym that is used as a project identifier and a tagline which gives a quick overview of the project. The Acronym does not actually need to have any meaning at all and you can be creative. Here is an example of a fictional health project (“ACRONYM – Tagline”):

  • PATIENT NETWORK – Smart & Secure Software for Hospitals to Automate Essential Patient Data Processing and Create a Unified Patient Network in the EU 

     

Abstract: Next to the Acronym and Tagline, you will also need to provide an abstract which is 2000 characters long and should give a brief summary of the project. If funded, the Abstract, Acronym and Tagline will be published by the EU. Make sure that every sentence is packed with information and that all information given here counts. Follow the general way scientific work is presented:
Problem > Market Pain Point & Competitors > Your Solution > Your Current State > Your Commercial & Market Impact > EU Benefits 

Keywords: When you create the draft for the submission, you will be asked to select up to 3 keywords with respective sub-keywords from a drop-down list. You can then also add some manual keywords to better describe your project. These keywords will determine the background of our 4 evaluators.

Excluding Evaluators: The EU is regularly publishing a list of all evaluators for the SME Instrument and if you suspect a conflict of interest, you can exclude specific reviewers.

There are many more small things to consider such as legal/financial data and the overall company registration but the points above cover most of the writing parts for the proposal submission.