Writing an EIC Accelerator Application: Microsoft Word vs. Adobe InDesign (SME Instrument Writing)

The EIC Accelerator application consists of the following major parts:

  • Document 1 (Main proposal as PDF – 30 pages1 ≤ 10MB)
  • Document 2 (Annexes as PDF – unlimited pages ≤ 10MB)
  • Document 3 (Financial documents as PDF & XLS/ODS ≤ 10MB)
  • Document 4 (Pitch deck as PDF – unlimited pages ≤ 10MB)
  • Abstract (2,000 characters)
  • Submission forms (Filled out in the web browser)
  • Optional Documents: Ethics & Other

Writing (Document 1 & 2)

Since the majority of documents will need to be delivered in a PDF format, there is a great degree of freedom in choosing a text editing software. The industry standard for EIC Accelerator proposal writing is Microsoft Office and, in particular, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. I have used Word for a long time because it allows for convenient sharing and co-editing of documents but, in the end, I have moved away from it in 2017 due to frustrating formatting glitches, a lack of control over the design and PDF export issues (i.e. file size, image quality, etc.).

While having more control over the proposal’s design is very important, it is especially the formatting issues which can become a major hindrance during the writing process because of page limitations (i.e. 30 pages for Document 1), size limitations (i.e. maximizing the content while staying below 10MB) and the frequent changes made to an ongoing draft. Considering that re-submissions and continuous improvements are a must to successfully receive the EIC Accelerator financing, reducing frustration while increasing control is key.

Word will have objects jump multiple pages at random, has unwanted but persistent page-breaks and has glitches where a line break that is removed on page 1 will not translate to page 10. Adobe InDesign is, in my opinion, superior in every aspect needed for proposal writing but it might not be an option for people who seek to collaborate on the writing process or rely heavily on commenting and tracked-changes functions (i.e. these features also exist in InDesign but are less pronounced).

InDesign is perfect for individual writers who make all editions on their own without allowing others to make any changes to the master document (i.e having a single responsible person is recommended anyways to assure the ongoing quality of a draft). While the use of Word might be simpler in the short term, the final outcome with InDesign will always be superior in terms of image quality, design, file size and PDF export.

Overall, InDesign follows an artboard-type layout (i.e. similar to PowerPoint) where a text box must be placed on the page prior to being able to write. This might sound very unappealing at first but once a template has been created for the 30-page Document 1 with correct margins and text threads (i.e. the text boxes are connected throughout the document to allow Word-like typing), the extra features for fonts, formatting, embedding etc. are far outweighing any inconveniences.

For Document 2, where you will need to embed PDF files in bulk (i.e. CV’s or support letters) which can easily reach 60 to 100 pages, InDesign if far superior to Word. InDesign places an emphasis on design and formatting and, while there is a learning curve, if you are already familiar with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop then InDesign will be very easy to pick up.

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:

1. The page limit is 33 pages when the cover page and summaries are included. I.e. Section 1 can begin on page 4 and extend to page 33.