Writing an EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) application can be difficult for startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) (read: Writing Internally). This can be due to a variety of factors such as a lack of grant writing experience, an absent business plan or simple time restrictions. Startups often lack the expertise exhibited by consultancies or professional grant writers but there are ways to quickly improve grant writing skills for those unaccustomed to it.
Since the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Commission (EC) do not provide useful guidance in this regard, the following list presents a guideline as to how companies can improve their grant writing ahead of a successful EIC Accelerator application.
Learning by Example
One of the fastest ways to improve grant-writing is to study examples of successful applications which can act as a template for the structure and design of such an application. Examples are usually very guarded since they are subject to secrecy and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) which prohibit their free circulation. Nonetheless, studying them remains the fastest way of improving grant writing and is usually superior to using the official proposal template (read: The Biggest Proposal Writing Mistakes).
A potential strategy for obtaining examples could be to directly contact beneficiaries (read: Finding EIC Accelerator Results) who might share their proposal after an NDA is signed or to work for consultancies as a freelancer in order to be taught by them and receive examples. The latter is, of course, quite the detour from the original plan and unfeasible in most cases but the former method can be quite useful if one of the beneficiaries happens to be a partner, collaborator or is acquainted with a member of the management team.
Studying Business Plans
The next best thing after an exemplary grant application is a high-level business plan which is easily accessible and can provide a great resource for grant writing. Business plan examples are usually offered for free from a variety of sources such as consultancies, business accelerators or investment companies while supporting guidelines are also a great way to rapidly improve grant writing.
What such business plans are often lacking is a focus on storytelling, a narrative that is aligned to the European Union’s (EU) politics as well as social and environmental analyses. These present an additional layer of expertise that business plans rarely include but that is relevant to European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators (read: EU Funding Buzzwords).
Storytelling, as it is often neglected in business writing, is an important skill to focus on in successful grant applications. It should not be confused with the type of storytelling found in novels or non-fiction books but has to be viewed as a continuous thread inside a story-line. It has to be consistent inside a narrative and is taking the reader from a starting point (i.e. the market problem) to the desired end-point (i.e. the innovative solution). Good resources for this are scientific articles since these routinely have to address political issues, policy targets or significant economic and societal problems that need to be solved.
Great resources for this are any chemistry, biology, biochemistry, pharmaceutical or physics journals since papers from these fields often have to appease grant providers with very elaborate and often far-fetched introductions (i.e. a new synthesis that will cure cancer). Due to the limited space in such publications, these articles are likewise excellent learning tools when it comes to a comprehensive narrative with an optimised word-economy (read: A Proposal Narrative & EIC Accelerator Story-Telling).
A business plan and a scientific paper, in combination, are often a great start for the preparation of a successful EIC Accelerator grant application but an important part that can easily be neglected is the use of illustrations (read: Design Resources for Grants & Creating Images). This becomes important not only due to the increase of visualisations and storytelling via appealing and clear graphics but is also essential due to the limited attention and time of the European Agency for SME’s (EASME) evaluators. These will have to go through multiple applications in short periods while images can greatly enhance their experience which, as a result, improves the evaluation outcome.
The practising of graphic design can be performed in parallel to the writing process and there are a variety of resources on sites such as YouTube or Udemy that provide simple tutorials for Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw (read: Software to Use).
Involvement of the Management Team
Lastly, one of the simplest ways to quickly improve grant writing is to gain support from the entire management team of the applying company. This might sound like an odd recommendation but, from experience, the more the CEO, CTO and CFO are involving themselves in a proposal, the better the outcome will be. This is essential as it is often the case that proposals are rushed, outsourced in the last minute or neglected which significantly impedes the success chances of a competitive grant such as the EIC Accelerator.
Whenever a company is able to succeed in the EIC Accelerator then it is usually enabled by grant writing experience (i.e. internally or via hiring a consultant), expertise in preparing business plans and very strong involvement of the entire management team to perfect each proposal section (read: Writing Grant Applications Internally).
In summary, the following aspects can greatly increase the success chances of written grant applications:
- Studying Business Plans – Business plans are the skeleton of any for-profit grant application and have to be practised in-depth.
- Learning Storytelling – Storytelling is important for grant writing due to the politics involved in the evaluation process as well as the focus on high-impact projects.
- Learning Illustration – Illustrations are a great tool to communicate ideas quickly and to compensate for the limited time and expertise exhibited by evaluators.
- Involvement of the Management Team – Involving the founders and leaders of a company in the grant writing is an absolute must if a project wants to have high success chances.
These tips are not only useful for European startups, professional writers, consultants and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) but are generally recommended when writing a business plan or investor documents.
Deadlines: Post-Horizon 2020, the EIC Accelerator accepts Step 1 submissions now while the deadlines for the full applications (Step 2) will be on June 16th 2021 and October 6th 2021 under Horizon Europe. The Step 1 applications must be submitted weeks in advance of Step 2. The next EIC Accelerator cut-off for Step 2 (full proposal) can be found here. After Brexit, UK companies can still apply to the EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe albeit with non-dilutive grant applications only - thereby excluding equity-financing.
Contact: You can reach out to us via this contact form to work with a professional consultant.
EU, UK & US Startups: Alternative financing options for EU, UK and US innovation startups are the EIC Pathfinder (combining Future and Emerging Technologies - FET Open & FET Proactive) with €4M per project, Thematic Priorities, European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), Innovate UK with £3M (for UK-companies only) as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants with $1M (for US-companies only).
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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:
- EIC Accelerator Interviews: Pitch Deck vs. Proposal Documents (SME Instrument)
- Choosing a Good Project for the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- The EIC Accelerator Budget: Grant vs. Blended Finance (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- EIC Accelerator – Introduction and Blended Finance (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- EIC-Accelerator Writing: Providing the Missing Link (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- The Biggest Mistakes When Applying to the EIC Accelerator (SME Instrument Phase 2)
- Identifying a Broad Vision for an EIC Accelerator Project (SME Instrument Phase 2)