The New EIC Ecosystem, Fast-Track and Pilot Plug-In Schemes (2023 EIC Accelerator Work Programme Part 8)

The EIC Accelerator funding (grant and equity, with blended financing option) awards up to €2.5 million in grant and €15 million in equity financing per project (€17.5 million total). It is a popular funding instrument specializing in DeepTech startups and small mid-caps which aim to finalize their product developments, enter the market and scale globally.

The EIC’s 2023 Work programme

While the European Innovation Council (EIC) has remained silent regarding the 2023 Work programme that is yet to be released, ScienceBusiness has published the second draft of the highly anticipated document dated July 2022. This article series is exploring some changes and interesting aspects of the EIC Accelerator that are relevant for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) and for professional writers, freelancers or consultants.

ScienceBusiness has likewise published the entire library of Horizon Europe documents by the European Commission (EC) that are mostly in draft form and can be found here.

All the information and conclusions provided in this article are subject to change and the opinion of the author. The following statement by the EIC is part of the 2023 EIC Work Programme draft that this article is based on:

“This document represents a working draft of the EIC work programme for the purpose of feedback and comments from members of the Horizon Europe Programme Committee for the EIC and European Innovation Ecosystems. This draft has not been adopted or endorsed by the European Commission. Any views expressed are the views of the Commission services and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the Commission. The information transmitted is intended only for the Member State or entity to which it is addressed for discussions and may contain confidential and/or privileged material.”

The EIC Ecosystem

In 2021, it was leaked that the EIC is aiming to create an ecosystem not only for DeepTech companies but also for investors, consultancies, coaches and other relevant stakeholders.

“The idea of the platform is to allow […] any applicant at a given moment where he needs […] support from someone […] access to an ecosystem platform […] where he will find different actors but also those private companies, consultants who want to partake into the exercise to be referenced in this in the system and to offer their service. Now, they will have to pay something, a fee to be referenced.”

Nicolas Sabatier (General Counsel & Adviser to the EIC/EISMAE) via AI Tool EIC Training for NCPs 11th12th March 2021, quoted at 1:52:09

While the vision of a subscription-based service might still be far in the future, its first iteration is on the way.

“From 2023, the EIC BAS services will be expanded through EIC Ecosystem Partners which can include, for example, investors, business angels, mentors and coaches, innovation agencies, business associations, clusters, accelerators, incubators, technology transfer offices, venture builders, etc. EIC BAS services provided by Ecosystem Partners includes access to existing incubation and acceleration programmes as well as services specifically designed in collaboration with EIC.”

Especially the search for co-investors is an exciting prospect for applicants since it can help them gain access to EIC Financing without being forced to find private lead investors by themselves.

“The EIC will also continue to directly manage a core set of business acceleration services which provide a clear added value, which include: A platform for EIC Accelerator companies in receipt of equity investment to find co-investors”

Fast Track and Pilot Plug-in Schemes

The EIC’s 2023 Work Programme continues to offer fast-track and plug-in schemes whereas a company funded under specific EU grant or equity financing projects can cross-migrate into the EIC Accelerator application process without having to start from scratch.

“Full proposals to the EIC Accelerator stemming from the Fast Track scheme will be assessed as set out in Section IV, and will be treated in exactly the same way as all other full proposals.“

“In 2023, the funding bodies and schemes which are eligible for the Fast Track for EIC Accelerator cut-off dates are:

  • The EIC Pathfinder and EIC Transition projects (including under EIC pilot);
  • The Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT);
  • The Eureka secretariat for SMEs supported under the Eurostars-2 Joint Programme and the Partnership on Innovative SMEs;
  • Companies supported by the WomenTech.EU programme.”

“Under the Plug-in scheme, applicants do not apply directly to the EIC Accelerator call (Section IV). Instead, a project review is carried out by the certified national or regional programme to assess the innovation or market deployment potential of an existing project supported by the programme, and to decide whether the project is suitable for support under the EIC Accelerator.”

Both mechanisms seem beneficial to applicants on the surface but they are, unfortunately, of limited use. Fast track and plug-in schemes only allow applicants to skip the first of the three evaluation steps (i.e. the Step 1 short application) but this is also the easiest step in the entire process.

If a company can skip Step 1 which consists of a pitch deck, a video and a written proposal then this also means that there is no video for the project that the Step 2 evaluators and the Step 3 jury can look at which can be a disadvantage (read: EIC Accelerator Pitch Video).

Of course, a company can decide to upload a Step 1 video retroactively even if they have been allowed to skip this step which is highly recommended.

“Applicants will then be invited to prepare a full proposal for the EIC Accelerator to one of the cut-off dates within the next 12 months following initial review. […] Full proposals to the EIC Accelerator stemming from the Plug-in scheme will be assessed as set out in Section IV (above) and will be treated exactly the same way as all other full proposals.”

Note: The term “full proposal” refers to the Step 2 application consisting of a detailed business plan.

What further questions the usefulness of the fast track and plug-in programs is the fact that the Step 2 application re-uses a substantial amount of the text from the Step 1 application. In fact, one can use 100% of the text written in Step 1 for the Step 2 application which means that, even if a company skips Step 1, they still have to fill all of these Step 2 sections from scratch.

Considering the limited effort required for the preparation of a Step 1 proposal, their high success rates and the fact that the text, video and pitch deck would need to be prepared for Step 2 anyways, the fast track and plug-in schemes are of little practical benefit. An exception would be a case where a company has significant time restrictions and must unlock the Step 2 EIC Accelerator template in the online platform as soon as possible to meet the next cut-off.

Outlook

A truly useful fast track or plug-in scheme would allow a direct application to the Step 3 interviews especially if the plug-in scheme has already performed additional due diligence on the project specifically for the EIC Accelerator. Step 2 is the most difficult step of the EIC Accelerator program but it is understandable that the EIC aims to retain the integrity of the full application process since it could otherwise compromise the quality of projects reaching the Step 3 interviews.

This article is part of a series whereas the remaining articles can be found here, once published:


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) are January 11th 2023 (only EIC Accelerator Open), March 22nd 2023, June 7th 2023 and October 4th 2023 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: