Why it is So Difficult to Assess an EIC Accelerator Project (SME Instrument Phase 2)

Assessing a company for an EIC Accelerator blended financing application (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity financing) can be a challenge since it requires a comprehensive investigation of multiple variables (read: Assessing a Project). Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) would often like to receive such an assessment in a short amount of time but, even if the project generally fits the eligibility criteria, there are still considerations to be made by a professional writer or consultant that can reveal barriers to a successful EIC Accelerator application (read: Hiring a Consultant).

The following presents a shortlist of such barriers that, while being hard to assess and generally requiring days or weeks of pre-screening, are informative for prospective applicants who seek to prepare a successful application to the EIC Accelerator grant (read: Visual Representation):

Learning While Writing

It is often a reality for hired writers that the full scope of the project, its intricacies and the comprehensive understanding of its implications are only realised during the process of grant proposal writing following the official template. The extensive amount of work needed to prepare an application dwarfs any pre-assessments which makes it important to cover as many aspects of a project as possible before beginning the writing process.

Still, it cannot be avoided that new aspects are discovered throughout the weeks of writing and it is impossible to cover all bases beforehand since covering these bases would have a workload equal to the writing itself. Minimizing uncertainty is clearly possible (read: Assessing a Project) but it can never be fully eliminated.

Optimistic Founders

Founders, and especially CEO’s, are meant to be charismatic and optimistic when it comes to their business but, like most things in life, this can be a double-edged sword. Companies swill often highlight how “no one else is doing this”, its a “€500M opportunity” or “we have no real competitors” but such statements will always have to be taken with a grain of salt.

The patent that has been highlighted might actually just be pending or be in preparation. The market opportunity might be the industry size but not the actual revenue potential. The company might only employ one person while the remaining team members have other full-time jobs. The strong development partners that have been highlighted turn out to own all of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) which renders the company itself not innovative.

The assessment of a project strongly relies on the accuracy of the prospective applicant’s statements and a professional consultant is often unable to fully validate each given statement individually prior to beginning the writing process.

Different Perspectives

In the end, no one knows who will evaluate an EIC Accelerator application and the person in charge of doing so might not be an expert in the industry, might not understand what a good business model looks like, might not understand balance sheets or simply have no interest in a certain topic. These are uncertainties that are impossible to assess before submitting an application and it is important to understand that they will be a factor.

These risks can be mitigated through having a diverse team of VC’s, evaluators from the European Agency for SME’s (EASME), industry representatives and technical experts that are involved in the project’s assessment prior to starting the writing process.

Absent EU Targets and Policies

Not everything that is intuitively deemed good and worthy of EU financing is actually so since not all societal and economic goals of the EU are backed with an equal policy-force. The targets, directives and policies in the EU are a strong determiner of how interesting a project will be and it will require a lot of research to assess the impact of a new EIC Accelerator application which is not always possible ahead of beginning the writing process.

It would seem obvious that animal care, especially when it comes to livestock and food security, is an important topic for the EU but it turns out that policies and targets in this area are scarce. The same goes for elderly care whereas one would suspect that the growing age of the population and the increased need for high-quality care facilities is supported by strong policies but this is not the case.

A professional writer can often not perform a full analysis of a topic prior to writing an EIC Accelerator application which makes the absence of EU policies and targets a risk that can make a future application more difficult.

Involvement of the Management Team

Collaboration and feedback from the management is often a challenge due to a high workload and a generally low priority for grant preparations over the day-to-day business development. The communication between a consultant and a potential client prior to signing an agreement is usually not a good indicator of the client’s involvement afterwards which can make a collaboration a challenge.

If a management team does not give adequate feedback to help flesh out the application, it can easily become too shallow and lack the quantifiers, explanations or references needed to be a well-rounded proposal.

Different Skill Sets

A strong uncertainty for EIC Accelerator applications is the diverse skillset needed which comes in the form of written content, the in-person pitch and video production (read: Producing a Pitch Video). It is almost impossible to investigate all of these aspects thoroughly without week-long assessments and it will likely remain a strong uncertainty how the applicant will perform when it comes to pitching and creating a video.

The risks can be mitigated through requesting sample videos and pitch sessions but, under both time pressure and jury scrutiny, the performance of a company can vary greatly.

Summary

In summary, the following aspects make the assessment of EIC Accelerator projects difficult:

  • Learning While Writing: Many aspects of the project are only discovered after starting the writing process
  • Optimistic Founders: Founders have a tendency to be over-optimistic
  • Different Perspectives: Evaluators vary greatly in their skill sets which adds a layer of luck to each application
  • Absent EU Targets and Policies: A great EU impact might not be reflected by policies and directives in that area
  • Involvement of the Management Team: The management team might significantly reduce their involvement
  • Different Skill Sets: The applicant might not be able to perform sufficiently when it comes to pitching or video production

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: