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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last-Minute Restrictions of EIC Accelerator Step 1 Submissions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

1. The Video Script is Everything

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

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

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

2. Simple Tips for Pitch Recordings Go a Long Way

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

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

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

3. Small Editing Techniques are Key

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

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

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

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

4. Adapting to the Client

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

Changes & Glitches

Geographic Restrictions & Diversity

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

Non-Binary Gender

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

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

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

TRL Descriptions

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

AI Tool Diagnostics Results

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

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

Budget & Evaluation

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

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

Glitches and Errors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. General Changes

1.1 Open Calls vs. Strategic Challenges

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

1.2 Scoring & Ranking System

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

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

1.3 UK Participation

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

2. The Application Documents

2.1 Step 1: The Short Application

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

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

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

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

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

2.2 Step 2: The Full Application

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

2.3 Step 3: The Remote or In-Person Interview

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

3. The Application Process

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

3.1 AI Tool

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

3.2 Freezing Periods

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

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

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

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

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

4. The Evaluation Process

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

4.1 Step 1

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

4.2 Step 2

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

4.3 Step 3

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

5. Strategic Challenges (Topics)

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

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

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

5.1 The Green Deal Strategic Challenge (1)

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

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

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

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

5.2 The Digital Technology Strategic Challenge (2a)

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

5.3 The Healthcare Strategic Challenge (2b)

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

6. Ambitions to Control the Outcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Technical Changes

7.1 Coaching

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

7.2 Seal of Excellence (SOE)

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

7.3 Applicants

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

7.4 Equity

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

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

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

7.5 The Pitch Video

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

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

7.6 Timelines & Feedback

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

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

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

7.7 Reimbursement Advances

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

7.8 Budget

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

7.9 Inclusion of Small-Mid Caps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

Implications of the Pitch Video

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

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

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

1. Remote Video Production Workflow

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

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

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

1.1 Planning the Process

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

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

This article continues in Part 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

Helpful Resources for an EIC Accelerator Pitch Video (SME Instrument)

In 2021, the EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) will include a video pitch as a new proposal document which is expected to place an additional burden on applying startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME). While tips on choosing an appropriate video type (read: Types of Pitch Videos) and the scripting process (read: Scripting a Pitch Video) can be found elsewhere, this article will focus on the resources that can be used for the actual editing process.

While the European Innovation Council (EIC) will likely not provide sufficient material as part of the official proposal template or guidelines, professional writers and consultancies should have access to a variety of resources needed for video production such as video clips, background music, images and software. These will likely become indispensable since a hired consultant must be able to efficiently coordinate all aspects of the production (read: Remote Video Production Workflow).

1. Resources for Stock Music

Royalty-free music or music under the Creative Commons license is readily available for creators but their exact licencing conditions can vary greatly. Such variations come in the form of attributions, commercial use, regional restrictions or the type of project it is used for. Since the EIC Accelerator proposal is confidential and should only be viewed by the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators and pitch interview jurors, there should generally be no problem in using copyrighted music but it could be a problem if the video finds its way online.

Since the company name will be directly linked to the video content, it would be best to only use non-copyrighted music or to pay for the use of a certain license. The advantage of this approach is also that the video can be shared more freely on social media or with a variety of investors who have shown interest in the project.

  • Pixabay is a great resource for free music under the Creative Commons licence whereas commercial use is allowed and no attribution of the composer is required.
  • SoundCloud and YouTube contain a variety of channels that do advertise royalty-free music but these are sometimes part of a complex licensing structure and are not entirely free. Still, its worth having a look since they contain a large number of different tracks.
  • The FreeMusicArchive contains a multitude of different songs but care should be placed on their exact licencing conditions.
  • CreativeCommons.Org has created a shortlist of sources for music under a creative commons license.
  • Websites such as AudioJungle, ShutterStock or AdobeStock are premium services which offer high-quality music at a low price as a subscription or one-off purchase.

2. Resources for Stock Video

  • PixaBay tops the list once again with its video archive where attribution and cost-free video clips can be found. Many of the items are of high-quality and will likely meet most short-video production needs.
  • Pexels is similar to PixaBay and offers attribution-free stock videos for free.
  • Videezy likewise offers free video footage but also includes premium content that can be purchased for a small price.
  • AdobeStock and ShutterStock, once again, offer subscription or one-off purchases of stock footage with high quality. Since such libraries are highly curated, one can expect to find more customized footage on these platforms but most free alternatives are also presenting a competitive portfolio.

3. Resources for Stock Images

  • Unsplash and PixaBay are great resources not only for pitch videos but also for grant proposal writing (read: Design Templates for Grant Writing). They offer cost- and attribution-free photos and designs for commercial use. From experience, Unsplash usually offers better content for certain keywords and the images tend to be higher in quality.
  • Pexels offers a Freemium model for stock images wheres some can be used for free while others are behind a paywall but the costs are still very low.
  • iStockPhoto, ShutterStock and AdobeStock offer high-quality and curated photo libraries for commercial use with a variety of pricing plans.

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:

Tips to Quickly Improve Grant Writing (EIC Accelerator, SME Instrument)

Writing an EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) application can be difficult for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) (read: Writing Internally). This can be due to a variety of factors such as a lack of grant writing experience, an absent business plan or simple time restrictions. Startups often lack the expertise exhibited by consultancies or professional grant writers but there are ways to quickly improve grant writing skills for those unaccustomed to it.

Since the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Commission (EC) do not provide useful guidance in this regard, the following list presents a guideline as to how companies can improve their grant writing ahead of a successful EIC Accelerator application.

Learning by Example

One of the fastest ways to improve grant-writing is to study examples of successful applications which can act as a template for the structure and design of such an application. Examples are usually very guarded since they are subject to secrecy and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) which prohibit their free circulation. Nonetheless, studying them remains the fastest way of improving grant writing and is usually superior to using the official proposal template (read: The Biggest Proposal Writing Mistakes).

A potential strategy for obtaining examples could be to directly contact beneficiaries (read: Finding EIC Accelerator Results) who might share their proposal after an NDA is signed or to work for consultancies as a freelancer in order to be taught by them and receive examples. The latter is, of course, quite the detour from the original plan and unfeasible in most cases but the former method can be quite useful if one of the beneficiaries happens to be a partner, collaborator or is acquainted with a member of the management team.

Outside of these methods, examples are also provided by some consultancies (i.e. find them here on Segler Consulting) who provide proposal examples to prospect EIC Accelerator grant beneficiaries.

Studying Business Plans

The next best thing after an exemplary grant application is a high-level business plan which is easily accessible and can provide a great resource for grant writing. Business plan examples are usually offered for free from a variety of sources such as consultancies, business accelerators or investment companies while supporting guidelines are also a great way to rapidly improve grant writing.

What such business plans are often lacking is a focus on storytelling, a narrative that is aligned to the European Union’s (EU) politics as well as social and environmental analyses. These present an additional layer of expertise that business plans rarely include but that is relevant to European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators (read: EU Funding Buzzwords).

Learning Storytelling

Storytelling, as it is often neglected in business writing, is an important skill to focus on in successful grant applications. It should not be confused with the type of storytelling found in novels or non-fiction books but has to be viewed as a continuous thread inside a story-line. It has to be consistent inside a narrative and is taking the reader from a starting point (i.e. the market problem) to the desired end-point (i.e. the innovative solution). Good resources for this are scientific articles since these routinely have to address political issues, policy targets or significant economic and societal problems that need to be solved.

Great resources for this are any chemistry, biology, biochemistry, pharmaceutical or physics journals since papers from these fields often have to appease grant providers with very elaborate and often far-fetched introductions (i.e. a new synthesis that will cure cancer). Due to the limited space in such publications, these articles are likewise excellent learning tools when it comes to a comprehensive narrative with an optimised word-economy (read: A Proposal Narrative & EIC Accelerator Story-Telling).

Learning Illustration

A business plan and a scientific paper, in combination, are often a great start for the preparation of a successful EIC Accelerator grant application but an important part that can easily be neglected is the use of illustrations (read: Design Resources for Grants & Creating Images). This becomes important not only due to the increase of visualisations and storytelling via appealing and clear graphics but is also essential due to the limited attention and time of the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators. These will have to go through multiple applications in short periods while images can greatly enhance their experience which, as a result, improves the evaluation outcome.

The practising of graphic design can be performed in parallel to the writing process and there are a variety of resources on sites such as YouTube or Udemy that provide simple tutorials for Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw (read: Software to Use).

Involvement of the Management Team

Lastly, one of the simplest ways to quickly improve grant writing is to gain support from the entire management team of the applying company. This might sound like an odd recommendation but, from experience, the more the CEO, CTO and CFO are involving themselves in a proposal, the better the outcome will be. This is essential as it is often the case that proposals are rushed, outsourced in the last minute or neglected which significantly impedes the success chances of a competitive grant such as the EIC Accelerator.

Summary

Whenever a company is able to succeed in the EIC Accelerator then it is usually enabled by grant writing experience (i.e. internally or via hiring a consultant), expertise in preparing business plans and very strong involvement of the entire management team to perfect each proposal section (read: Writing Grant Applications Internally).

In summary, the following aspects can greatly increase the success chances of written grant applications:

  • Studying Business Plans – Business plans are the skeleton of any for-profit grant application and have to be practised in-depth.
  • Learning Storytelling – Storytelling is important for grant writing due to the politics involved in the evaluation process as well as the focus on high-impact projects.
  • Learning Illustration – Illustrations are a great tool to communicate ideas quickly and to compensate for the limited time and expertise exhibited by evaluators.
  • Involvement of the Management Team – Involving the founders and leaders of a company in the grant writing is an absolute must if a project wants to have high success chances.

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.

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by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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