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).
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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)