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

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

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

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

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

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

1. General Changes

1.1 Open Calls vs. Strategic Challenges

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

1.2 Scoring & Ranking System

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

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

1.3 UK Participation

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

2. The Application Documents

2.1 Step 1: The Short Application

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

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

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

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

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

2.2 Step 2: The Full Application

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

2.3 Step 3: The Remote or In-Person Interview

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

3. The Application Process

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

3.1 AI Tool

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

3.2 Freezing Periods

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

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

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

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

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

4. The Evaluation Process

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

4.1 Step 1

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

4.2 Step 2

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

4.3 Step 3

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

5. Strategic Challenges (Topics)

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

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

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

5.1 The Green Deal Strategic Challenge (1)

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

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

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

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

5.2 The Digital Technology Strategic Challenge (2a)

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

5.3 The Healthcare Strategic Challenge (2b)

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

6. Ambitions to Control the Outcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Technical Changes

7.1 Coaching

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

7.2 Seal of Excellence (SOE)

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

7.3 Applicants

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

7.4 Equity

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

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

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

7.5 The Pitch Video

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

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

7.6 Timelines & Feedback

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

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

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

7.7 Reimbursement Advances

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

7.8 Budget

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

7.9 Inclusion of Small-Mid Caps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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:

Key Takeaways from the EIC Accelerator Deep Tech Report (SME Instrument Phase 2)

The European Innovation Council (EIC) has published The Deep Tech Europe Report: key numbers from the EIC performance (PDF) which summarizes key impact figures and statistics with respect to the EIC Accelerators performance. The EIC Accelerator blended financing program (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) has been active since 2019 and relevant statistics on the equity investments are expected to guide the programmes reshaping throughout Horizon Europe (2021-2027).

The analysis found in this document is not only useful for prospect Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but also for professional writers and consultants who seek to improve their knowledge on the EIC Accelerator and the EU’s future ambitions in general. The detailed information given discusses topics that are valuable and are not generally part of the official work programme or the annotated proposal template such as the selected industries, business models, size of companies and their financing history.

The following is a summary of key takeaways and perspectives on the EIC Accelerator Deep Tech Report:

EIC Budget: Horizon Europe vs. Horizon 2020

The EIC pilot budget will increase from €3bn under Horizon 2020 (2018-2020 – 3 year period) to €10bn for Horizon Europe (2021-2027 – 7 year period). This means that the budget will increase from an average of €1bn a year to €1.42bn per year (a 42% increase).

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

Funded projects were matched by private post-project investments with €3.3 (2015) to €2.9 (2016) for each €1 invested by the EIC in 2015 and 2016.

Female Participation

15% of the beneficiaries for blended finance calls (since June 2019) have had female CEO’s. During the Green Deal deadline in May 2020, this number rose to 34% through the dedicated efforts by the European Commission (EC) to increase the share of women funded by the EIC Accelerator (i.e. gender must now be selected on the Funding and Tenders (F&T) platform – read: Official Proposal Template Updates). Without the Green Deal cut-off, the rate of female CEO’s would have been at only 8% of all beneficiaries.

Valuation

5% of the former startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) in the EIC’s portfolio are currently valued above €100m.

Applications and Success Rates

With 9,700 applications in a single year, success rates have dropped to 2-3% on average whereas success rates of 1% and potentially lower have likewise been observed due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the strongly advertised Green Deal call (read: The Green Deal) and the generally increased appeal of the grant to startups.

Out of all applications, 2,537 companies have received the Seal of Excellence (SOE) which means that these SME’s have received a score above 13 (read: The EIC Accelerator Score).

Evaluators and Jury Members

2,400 evaluation experts (i.e. for the written application in step 1) and 100 jury members (i.e. for the pitch week interview in step 2 – read: Pitch Deck) have been imperative to selecting the successful applications and assuring high-quality EIC Accelerator awards (read: EIC Accelerator Financing Timeline). The gender of the jury members has been well-balanced with the aim of having fairer results and gender equality whereas 51% of members were male and 49% were female.

While the step 1 evaluators are of varying backgrounds, the jury members have a strong investor-oriented background with 27% being innovation and industry specialists, 24% being venture capitalists, 22% being serial entrepreneurs and 19% being business angels.

Geographic Analysis

The top EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2) companies by country have been Spain (930), Italy (701), the United Kingdom (UK – 459), Germany (377) and France (343) whereas associated countries such as Tunisia (0), Anguilla (2), Greenland (1), Armenia (1) and Gibraltar (0) were less represented.

Size of the SME’s

Judging by the numbers of employees, there has been a strong trend towards micro (1-9 employees) and small businesses (10-49) which are making up 97% of all applicants at equal shares whereas medium-sized businesses (50-249) only made up 3%. This is underlined by the share of medium-sized companies dropping gradually from 12% in 2014 to 3% in 2020.

Age of SME’s

When separating the funded EIC Accelerator companies into their founding dates, a trend towards preferring young SME’s has been observed whereas the share of over 10-year-old companies has dropped from 32% in 2014 to only 9% in 2020. In the same time frame, the youngest startups with an age below 5 years have grown from 47% to 63%. This underlines the interest of the European Union (EU) to encourage breakthrough innovation and reach short time-to-markets.

Selected Industries

From an industry perspective, the top-funded EIC Accelerator projects were representative of the Health (1,262), Energy (922), IT software (735), Transportation (424) and Food industries (396).

Target Customers

From a business model perspective, 77% of companies followed a Business-to-Business (B2B) approach while only 23% were targeting end-users through Business-to-Consumer (B2C) products.

Blended Financing (Grant with Equity Option)

For all awarded blended financing applicants in 2019 and 2020 (4 total cut-offs and 140 winners), the overall budget was €278m in grant financing and €583m in equity with €6.5m being the average financing amount.

EIC Accelerator Follow-Up Investments

EIC Accelerator-awarded companies have attracted a total of €5.3bn in follow-up funding through private investments or similar channels (i.e. equity, debt, Mergers & Acquisitions, Initial Public Offerings – IPO’s).

Equity investments made up a total of €4bn (74%) of the financing in subsequent Series A, growth equity or similar funding founds. Most of the investments were stemming from European sources (69%) whereas 22% were raised from the United States and 4% from Chinese investors.

Successful Exits of EIC Accelerator Companies

Initial Public Offerings (IPO) and acquisitions were the most common exits for EIC Accelerator-awarded companies with 17 and 43 in total, respectively, since 2015. Valuations of the top 10 companies were ranging from €200m to €700m with the annual growth being as high as 40%.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

1. Email form the Funding and Tenders Portal

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

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

2. Notification Area on the Funding and Tenders Portal

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

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

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

3. List of Beneficiaries on the EIC Accelerator Call Page

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

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

4. The CORDIS Database

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

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

5. Publication on Social Media & Reports

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

Visual Representation of an EIC Accelerator Proposal Narrative (SME Instrument Phase 2) – Part 2

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

The following article as a continuation of the visual guide (i.e. Part 2) for the preparation of an EIC Accelerator blended financing proposal (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) which can be used by startups or Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) as well as professional writers or consultants.

The EIC Accelerator is a highly competitive grant program offered by the European Commission (EC) and the European Innovation Council (EIC) for all eligible companies based in the European Union (EU) and associated countries (read: Pre-Requisites for an Application).

Narrative (top half)

Information on what is meant by The Narrative can be found elsewhere (read: Providing the Missing Link) but, in summary, it describes the way the technological innovation is contextualized outside of the business model or differentiating features. The Narrative expands the storytelling to encompass and connect each proposal section so that it makes sense as a whole.

This approach of thinking about a proposal has the advantage of assuring that all sub-sections are working well together and are connected enough to create an urgent need for EIC support in the evaluator’s eyes. It seamlessly integrates a business plan with a European and global impact while heavily considering the added benefits for the funding provider, namely the EC, and why the problem should concern them (i.e. the missing link).

1. Politics

It can be useful to begin explaining the context of the innovation through a European dimension (i.e. from an EU perspective) which can help set the stage of where the new and disruptive technology fits in. The EU is regularly publishing updates on policies, statistics (i.e. Eurostat), regulations and adjacent resources such as Key Enabling Technologies (KET), the Green Deal and all other industry-specific targets set by the EC.

Every innovation can be connected to at least one of these resources which can help strengthen the application and score high in the proposals Impact section. Generally speaking, identifying policies, targets, statistics, communications or other EU-focused goals is an often neglected part of low scoring applications (read: Common EIC Accelerator Mistakes)

2. Impact

The next step in the narrative is to connect the policies, targets and related topics to negative repercussions in the EU. This further illustrates the point as to why innovation is needed and highlights the gravity of the problem in the status quo. Such problems can be in the form of costs (i.e. excessive but preventable health-care expenditures), deaths (i.e. the number of car accidents caused by human error), environmental impacts (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions) and issues with the resource availability (i.e. overfishing, lack of mining capacities, etc.).

These are designed to create the impression that, without a change in the current stage, problems will get worse over time and jeopardize the economic and social positioning of the European Union or related countries.

3. State-of-the-Art

This section, following the EU dimension and the Impact, highlights how the current problem-solving approaches do not work and why they are limited. After reading the first two sections, the reader will think “Surely, companies are working on a solution already.” but this section will explain that this is not the case.

The problem is currently unsolved and will likely remain unsolved due to a lack of technological ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking. Here, it is useful to only briefly explain the downsides of the current products or services (esp. their approach to the problem) since they will be detailed in-depth in later parts (i.e. see the annotated proposal template). This sections only acts as a segway to further enhance the impact of the introduction.

4. Barrier

At this point, the reader will understand that the problem is important (1. Politics), is impactful (2. Impact) and is unsolved (3. State-of-the-art) but it is not clear just yet as to why that is. This section, Barrier, is designed to explain just that.

Why is it so difficult to solve the problem and why has no company been able to accomplish this? A grant writer should be able to give an answer to that question and outline the significance of technological barriers.

This can be done in the form of citing scientific reviews, describing case studies which highlight the problem or introducing concepts which have been challenging to the industry. The main takeaway of this section is to make it seem impossible to find a solution so that, when the solution is finally introduced, it will seem much more impactful.

5. Missing Link

The final part of the EIC Accelerator proposals introduction is the missing link which is the point that all previous sections culminate into and what is the major issue in the industry and in Europe.

The EU wants to turn “A” into “C” but “B” is missing. There is no solution to creating “B” in the current state and the barriers of doing so are prohibitively high. As such, the problem must be expected to persist indefinitely unless a new and innovative solution was developed.

The missing link should then be highlighted and quantified according to its worth to remind the reader of to the costs of not finding a solution or the savings of doing so.

This concludes the narrative and introduction part of the proposal and such a structure can be directly used as a template for a written application. The same reasoning is also applicable to the pitch deck (i.e. the EIC Accelerator interviews) albeit in a much more compact form so that the jury is able to understand the gravity of the problem.

Continuation

Part 3 of this article can be found under the provided link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Updates: Join this Newsletter!



by Stephan Segler, PhD
Professional Grant Consultant at Segler Consulting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Twitter

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

2. EIC Accelerator Call Page

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

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

3. Google

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

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

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

4. European Innovation Council (EIC) Newsletter

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

5. Newsroom: EASME and SME Instrument News

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

6. Related Websites or Institutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:

Presenting Customer Interest for a Successful EIC Accelerator Application (SME Instrument Phase 2)

Next to outlining the innovative nature of a project, being able to demonstrate customer interest (i.e. traction) is a key factor for the success of an EIC Accelerator application. Like most other recommendations, this criteria is not an official requirement to be eligible for the financing but the evaluation checklist specifically asks if the applicant’s customers have demonstrated willingness-to-pay which makes it essential to address this point. It is possible to receive funding without demonstrating any traction but only if other evaluation criteria were to excel and compensate for the lacking criteria but this is an unlikely scenario.

Traction does not necessarily mean revenues since material contributions, access to facilities or simple support letters can be just as valid depending on the industry. The central narrative should communicate that the innovation is not only better than the competing products but is also highly sought after. This also extends to a well-positioned value-chain with suppliers and logistics being in place to present a well-supported and thought-out project. If the following questions are answered with yes then the innovation is in a good commercial position:

  • Are you already in contact with customers and have these expressed interest?
  • Do you have active users or have received promising feedback?
  • Can you obtain proof of interest, i.e. letters of support/intent, revenues or user statistics?
  • Do you have a clear value chain, i.e. hardware suppliers, certification authorities or servers?

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:

What Types of Companies Have Received Funding?

In 2018, the EC has published an annual report which contained some helpful statistics. It actually answers quite a few questions that I frequently receive from companies, so here are the bullet points:

 

  • Of all funded companies, 84% (Phase 2) and 95% (Phase 1) applied as single entities
  • Most funded companies require coaching to better understand the market and business strategy
  • While Phase 1 is optional, Phase 2 is twice as likely to receive funding if Phase 1 is completed first
  • Most funded companies have under 3 employees
  • 76% of funded companies have a B2B revenue model

The Success Rate For Receiving Government Funding

This version considers the SME Instrument 2016-2017. Once the 2018 topics are released, it will be updated.

A list of all beneficiaries for the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument can be found here (both Phase 1 & 2).

To find out what topics are generally eligible for funding, please read What Types of Industries Receive Funding?.

Topics and Budget

To understand the success rates of the H2020 SME Instrument, a major factor is the budget. There are 13 topics available and they all have different budgets :

Nr (2016/17)
Name (2015)Budget (m€)
 01 ICT 37 – 2014/15: Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme 45
 02 NMP 25 – 2014/2015: Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies, advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs 23.8
 03 and 05 BIOTEC 5 – 2014/2015: SME boosting biotechnology-based industrial processes driving competitiveness and sustainability2.4
 04 SME-SPACE-1-2014/20158.75
 06 PHC 12 – 2014/2015: Clinical validation of biomarkers and/or diagnostic medical devices45
 07 SFS-8-2014/2015: Resource-efficient eco-innovative food production and processing 17
 08 BG-12-2014/2015Supporting SMEs effort for the developmentdeployment and market replication of innovative solution for blue growth 5
 09 SIE 1 – 2014/2015: Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system 37.26
 10 IT-1-2014/2015. Small business innovation research for Transport 38.96
 11 SC5-20-2014/2015: Boosting the potential of small businesses for eco-innovation and a sustainable supply of raw materials 19
 12 INSO-10-2015 : SME business model innovation 11

*Note: We are only considering the 2015 topics because they are the only ones with available statistics. The topics have almost entirely been continued in 2016/17 with some minor differences. The “Nr (2016/17)” indicates the topic numbers for the current topics discussed in What Types of Industries Receive Funding?.

The Number of Applicants

The number of applicants usually varies in between cut-off’s but one can make general assumptions by taking the November cut-off statistics from 2015. 175 Phase 1 proposals were funded out of 2057 which gives a success rate of 8.5%. This number will vary considerably from topic to topic depending on the budget and number of applicants. The following table shows the success rate for the individual topics:

Nr (2016/17)
ApplicantsFundedSuccess Rate (Funded/Applicants)
01 549 18 3%
02 198 18 9%
03 and 05 38 1 3%
04 38 4 11%
06 218 2411%
07 119 25 21%
08 27 1 4%
09 206 27 13%
10 158 19 12%
11 209 20 10%
12 227 12 5%

If we consider all topics we find that the success rate (funded/applicants) ranges between 0 and 21% with a mean success rate of 9%. Following these statistics, it is best to choose a less “crowded” topic which has a relatively high budget. Before we get into recommendations, we should take a closer look at the previous statistics.

The Funding Threshold

Keep in mind that in the analysis above, we were considering all applications including the ones that did not make the general funding threshold (for information on the proposal score, please read My Proposal has a High Score But Was Rejected, What Now?). A better indicator as to how successful an application will be is to consider the number of proposals that have made the threshold.

Nr (2016/17)ThresholdFundedSuccess Rate (Funded/Threshold)
01 64 1828%
0248 1838%
03 and 05 3 133%
04 6 4 67%
06 35 2469%
07 29 25 86%
08 2 1 50%
09 27 27 100%
10 31 19 61%
11 37 20 54%
12 28 12 43%

If we consider only the high-quality proposals than the numbers change significantly. We now have success rates from 28 to 100% depending on the topic. From these statistics we can make a toplist of topics that are the most promising for future applications.

Nr (2016/17)
Name (2016/17)Success Rate (Funded/Threshold)
09Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system 100%
07Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, agri-food and bio-based sectors86%
06Accelerating market introduction of ICT solutions for Health, Well-Being and Ageing Well 69%
04Engaging SMEs in space research and development 67%
10Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility 61%
11Boosting the potential of small businesses in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials 54%
08Supporting SMEs efforts for the development - deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth 50%
12New business models for inclusive, innovative and reflective societies 43%
02Accelerating the uptake of nanotechnologies advanced materials or advanced manufacturing and processing technologies by SMEs 38%
03 and 05Dedicated support to biotechnology SMEs closing the gap from lab to market

Supporting innovative SMEs in the healthcare biotechnology sector
33%
01ICT - Open Disruptive Innovation Scheme 28%

*Note: The current SME topic “SMEInst-13-2016-2017: Engaging SMEs in security research and development” was excluded from the statistical analysis because it was not part of the previous program.

Since the budget size and the success rate does not correlate sufficiently, it is best to use the 2015 data as a general guide for choosing the topic. Still, it is important to realize that the Topic 01 (Open Disruptive Innovation) is still a worthwhile topic for application even though it is the most difficult to get funding.

Summary

  • 0 – 21% of all applications get funded averaging at a 9% success rate
  • With a high-quality proposal, the success rate rises to 28 – 100% and averages at 70%
  • The top 3 topics for applications are
    • 09 (Low-Carbon and Efficient Energy),
    • 07 (Agri-Culture, Food and Bio-Based Sectors) and
    • 06 (Health, Well-Being and Ageing Well)
  • Still, all projects that fit a topic can get funded!  How to increase chances for a project is described in How To Improve Your Chances of Getting Funded