The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has finally completed its first iteration in 2021 despite the delayed launch of Horizon Europe (2021-2027) and only two deadlines in this first year. With the application process having changed dramatically after Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) ended, many professional writers and consultants had to adapt their approach to grant preparations (read: Re-Inventing the EIC Accelerator). With a longer proposal document, new templates, pitch videos, read-only pitch decks and more supporting information being requested, it was an interesting experiment for both the applicants and the European Innovation Council (EIC).
Many Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and startups have applied to the EIC’s grant and, as has always been the case, only a fraction has been successful. The following article describes one of these success cases as well as the overall statistics of the June 2021 EIC Accelerator call.
The June 2021 EIC Accelerator Call
With the application process having changed dramatically, it comes as no surprise that there were many differences compared to the 2020 cut-offs. One of these differences is that the final statistics for the June deadline are not as clear as they were in 2020 since the new 3-Step process has an obscured number of total applicants.
This is due to the fact that there is no Step 1 deadline and it is unknown how many of the approved Step 1 projects actually applied to Step 2 in June since a significant number might have delayed the application to October 2021. The information communicated by the EIC is also limited with makes a detailed look at the overall statistics difficult.
On May 17th, 67% or 755 out of 1,114 applicants had passed the threshold and received a GO for Step 1. With the Step 2 deadline having been on June 16th, this number continued to increase since at least 1,523 total Step 1 applications had been submitted at this point in time (but not all were evaluated yet). It is unlikely that all Step 1 successes decided to apply to the June deadline since, due to the limited time, many might have postponed the application to October 2021. If the success rate of selected applications has remained the same and 801 applicants eventually applied to Step 2 then an approximate 1,196 applicants have applied to Step 1 with the intention to apply to Step 2 in June 2021, yielding 801 approved projects and a 67% success rate for Step 1.
Note: To calculate a success rate for June 2021, one has to filter the number of applicants who applied to Step 1 and aimed for the June 2021 cut-off. It must also be considered that many rejected companies might not have applied to Step 2 even if they were selected. Since there is no publically available data on this, the numbers given here are estimated.
With the deadline having been on June 16th 2021 (it was delayed by 7 days from its original date), the number of applicants amounted to 801. It was later announced that 130 applicants were selected for the interviews, thereby yielding a 16% success rate for this Step.
The EIC Accelerator pitch week occurred via remove video calls with the EIC Jury and was conducted in mid-September 2021. Out of the 130 candidates, 65 were able to convince the Jury and succeed in gaining the EIC Accelerator funding. This yielded a 50% success rate for this Step although 24 Swiss applicants were excluded from the process due to the political developments between the EU and the Swiss government.
Step 1-3 Total
With success rates of 67%, 16% and 50% for the respective Steps, the overall success rate for the June 2021 EIC Accelerator was an approximate 5.4% with 65 out of an estimated 1,196 applicants having been successful.
The original budget in the official EIC Accelerator Work Programme (read: The 2021 EIC Accelerator Work Programme) was set at €500M+ but, due to the lack of excellent cases, it was reduced in retrospect (i.e. only €360M+ were allocated to successful candidates). This is a very interesting development since the 2020 applications tended to have far more suitable candidates while budgets were generally too low.
In fact, all 2020 projects with a score of over 13 out of 15 were technically eligible to receive funding, pending the Jury assessment, and the total budgets requested by said projects were, as an example, €1.8B in January 2020 or €2.7B in May 2020. If a Jury assessment were to be applied and only 50% of selected companies were approved, it would still yield budgets that far exceed the 2021 numbers.
It is clear that the EIC Accelerator has become more selective. But it has also become less selective in some ways.
It is more selective since it had an excess budget but deemed most companies to be unsuitable to receive this funding. It has become less selective since success rates have exceeded 5% while 2020 saw rates between 1% and 3%.
A reasonable conclusion to make is that the new barrier for the EIC Accelerator is not the chasing of decimal points (i.e. a 2020 score of 13.7 could be invited to the interviews while 13.6 is not) but the effort applied to preparing the proposal documents for each step. Since many companies have no interest in spending such an extreme effort for almost a year, the pool of serious applicants will be minimized. If this is a good process will remain to be seen but, clearly, the European Innovation Council is not afraid to innovate.
Note: As this was the first cut-off of the new EIC Accelerator, the success rates and budget allocation might differ greatly for the October deadline and those in 2022.
The EIC has managed to gain a 20% ratio for female entrepreneurs amongst all beneficiaries (i.e. female CEO’s) due to its strict gender equity goals.
Top 3 Countries
Clear winners during this 2021 Call in June were France (18% of the successful beneficiaries), Germany (17%) and the Netherlands (12%).
Type of Funding
92% of successful applicants received both grant and equity financing (blended finance) according to the EIC’s Twitter account but this data does not seem to fit the beneficiaries list. The more accurate and official list of all beneficiaries shows the following statistic:
- 31/65 blended (48%)
- 5/65 grant-only (8%)
- 24/65 grant-first (37%)
- 5/65 equity-only (8%)
Note: The given statistics of 92% of applicants receiving grant and equity financing would fit if either the 8% grant-only or the 8% equity-only was excluded from the total. Although, this does not seem to yield an accurate statement and is likely an error.
EIC Accelerator Success: STABL Energy GmbH
One of the 11 funded German projects is STABL Energy GmbH which has been among the 5% of selected applicants. During the 6 month process after Step 1 opened in April 2021, they were able to successfully pass all three Steps of the EIC Accelerator evaluation and succeed in securing blended financing under the EIC.
STABL is developing innovative power electronics for Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) and, with their modular approach, they are able to deliver unprecedented benefits to the industry such as higher energy efficiency, software control, unique data services and lifecycle extensions through second-life use cases.
Why STABL was the perfect fit for the EIC Accelerator
STABL is enabling a sustainable, versatile and future-proof energy storage ecosystem that serves all relevant industries such as utilities, renewables and electric transport. As such, it was able to be part of the Green Deal Strategic Challenge and was an ideal fit for the subsegment of Battery and Energy Storage which was amongst the preferred project types (read: EIC Accelerator Work Programme).
In addition, STABL is a startup with high-level partnerships, traction and an excellent management team. The EIC aims to fund ambitious companies such as STABL that have a strong vision and the capability to realise them as well as the ability to change the European technological landscape for the better.
Note: Segler Consulting has supported STABL Energy GmbH for the entire application process.
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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) under Horizon Europe are:
- Step 1 (short proposal)
- open now
- Step 2 (business plan)
- 1st cut-off: (early 2024)
- 2nd cut-off: -
- 3rd cut-off: -
- 4th cut-off: -
- Step 3 (interview)
- 1st cut-off: -
- 2nd cut-off: -
- 3rd cut-off: -
- 4th cut-off: January 29th to February 9th 2024 (extended again)
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).
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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: