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EIC ACCELERATOR: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

1. Procedural Questions

1.1      Who can apply to the EIC Accelerator?

Any for-profit SME registered in the EU or associated countries is eligible to apply. Companies must demonstrate “non-bankability” and contribute positively to the EU objectives (e.g. healthcare, green energy, climate action).

Please contact us if you are not sure or want to ask more about the criteria.

1.2.      What Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is required?

The scope of the EIC Accelerator is from TRL 5/6 to TRL 9+. The grant will cover up to TRL 8, and equity will cover TRL 9 and onwards. You can apply at any TRL within that range. Note that all applications must present a workplan up to and including TRL 9+, even if you do not require equity.

1.3.      What are the differences between Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe, SME Instrument, and EIC Accelerator?

Horizon 2020 has now finished and has been replaced by Horizon Europe.

The SME Instrument was a funding program running until June 2019, when it was replaced with the EIC Accelerator. The program is similar, but the application process changed significantly in 2021.

1.4.      Should I apply for grant only, grant first, or blended finance?

The EIC Accelerator is divided into two parts:

a)      Grant

  • Covers activities from TRL 5/6 to TRL 8
  • Non-refundable
  • Up to €2.5M
  • Must be used within two years

b)      Equity

  • Covers activities from TRL 8 to TRL 9
  • Provided in exchange for equity in the company (typically 10-25%)
  • Up to €15M
  • If you only require financing up to TRL 8, you should apply for grant only.
  • If your innovation still requires significant work to validate and demonstrate in the relevant environment, you should apply for grant first.
  • If you are ready to go to market in two years but still require financing, you should apply for blended finance (grant + equity).
  • If you are already at TRL 8 and need financing to commercialise, you can apply for equity only, but you must be able to prove “non-bankability”.

1.5.      Should I write my own application, or should I hire a consultant?

This can be a difficult question to answer, and there is a lot to consider. Companies should consider whether they can dedicate the time and talent to writing a lengthy proposal, whether they have the skills required, and whether they can afford a consultancy. They should consider the internal opportunity cost (can they afford to dedicate a team to spend 1-2 months preparing the application). They should also consider reaching out to a consultancy to assess the quality of their project and whether it is likely to be funded (these meetings are usually free of charge).

1.6.      How long does it take to receive the funding?

Grants can be paid within three months of submission, but this should not be relied on. Equity can take up to one year to be paid.

1.7.      Can two companies apply together?

No. The EIC Accelerator has been a single-applicant finance program for some time.

1.8.      Can I resubmit a rejected proposal?

Yes, but the rules for resubmission changed in 2021. The rules are now:

Stage 1 application: One resubmission with significant improvements. If you are rejected a second time, you must wait 12 months.

Stage 2 Application: One resubmission within the following two deadlines. If it is rejected a second time, you must submit a new Stage 1 application after waiting 12 months.

Stage 3 Interview: There are two possibilities if you are rejected:

  • Allowed a second chance to interview
  • Allowed to resubmit a Stage 2 application

If you are rejected a second time you must wait 12 months and submit a new Stage 1 application.

1.9.      What is the success rate of the EIC Accelerator?

The application process has changed dramatically in 2021, and we are still waiting to see new statistics, but previously the success rate was typically 4%.

1.10.  What is the application procedure?

Stage 1 – Diagnostic and Short Application

Stage 1 applications can be submitted at any time and are evaluated on a rolling basis. Feedback is provided in 2-4 weeks.

The Stage 1 proposal includes basic information about the company and preliminary questions about the technology, the value proposition, the market and competition, the team, and the risks.

Companies must also submit a ten-page pitch deck and a three-minute video.

The application will be evaluated by four experts who issue “GO” or “NO GO” votes. Applications require at least two “GOs” to proceed to Stage 2.

Stage 2 – Full Application

There are up to four Stage 2 deadlines per year. Typically, the platform will open for submission a few weeks before the deadline. The results are provided within 4-6 weeks.

The Stage 2 proposal is typically 30+ pages of plain text divided into three parts: Ideation, Development, and Go2Market. It includes detailed information about the technology, the competition, the market, and the team. It also includes a detailed budget, go to market strategy, financial plan, and much more.

Companies must also submit the following: a) data management plan, b) freedom to operate analysis, c) financial projections, d) pitch deck to be used at interview, e) letters of support (optional), f) ten-page annex (optional).

The application will be evaluated by three experts and requires three “GO” votes to proceed to Stage 3.

Stage 3 – Interview

During Stage 3, you will present your application to the EIC at an interview. They will ask questions about the commercialisation strategy, team, technological feasibility, pay-offs for the company, and impact.

1.11.  How important are the pitch deck and video?

It is impossible to know which document the evaluators read first. Therefore, it is essential to make sure all three documents are excellent.

1.12.  What feedback can we expect for the short and long applications?

Companies receive detailed feedback for both applications, which includes many comments from the evaluators. It is essential to use the feedback from the Stage 1 application to prepare the Stage 2 application and to use all of the feedback when resubmitting.

1.13.  How much time is needed to prepare an application?

Some analysis estimate that 300 hours of work are needed to prepare a full EIC Application. However, this is greatly dependant on the pre-existing documentation.

1.13.  Is it possible to apply as a natural person?

Yes, you can apply for EIC Accelerator either as:

  • A single company classified as a SME and established within a Member State or an Associated Country.
  • A single company classified as a ‘Small mid-cap’ (up to 500 employees) established in a Member State or an Associated Country, but your application can only be for rapid scale up purposes (e.g. Technology Readiness Level 9) and only for the investment component;
  • One or more natural persons (including individual entrepreneurs) or legal entities, which are either:
  1.     from a Member State or an Associated Country (for Associated Countries other than EEA, this possibility will be subject to the related association agreements) intending to establish an SME or small mid-cap (as defined above) in a Member State or Associated Country by the time of signing the Accelerator contract or, in the case blended finance is awarded, at the latest when agreeing on its investment component;
  2. intending to invest in an SME or small mid-cap in a Member State or an Associated Country and who may submit a proposal on behalf of that SME or small mid-cap, provided that a prior agreement exist with the company. The contract will be signed with the beneficiary company only.
  3. from a non-associated third country intending to establish an SME (including start-ups) or to relocate an existing SME to a Member State or an Associated Country, by the time of submitting a full application. Your company must prove its effective establishment in a Member State or an Associated Country. The Commission may set specific conditions and milestones in the contract to ensure that the interest of the Union is met.

1.14. Is it possible to apply from non-EU countries?

See point 3 above. It is possible to apply to the Step 1 as a natural person from a non-EU and non-associated country. However, you will have to establish an entity in an associated country before submitted the full application (Step 2).

2. Proposal-Specific Questions

2.1.  What does the EIC Accelerator full application look like?

The bulk of the full application is a funding proposal submitted through the EIC platform. It is divided into three sections (Ideation, Development, and Go2Market) with numerous subsections. Each subsection has a set of questions that you can answer directly on the platform (plain text only). Most questions are limited to 1,000 characters, with some longer answers (5,000 or 10,000 characters).

You will also have to fill out your work packages on the platform. Your work packages will be divided into tasks with individual budgets and deliverables. The work packages are then mapped to other parts of the proposal, such as the value proposition and the team.

The platform will also ask you to upload a financial annexe with five years of financial projections, a pitch deck which you will use if you get to interview, a freedom to operate (FTO) analysis, a data management plan (DMP), and optionally letters of interest or support from partners and investors. You can also upload a ten-page annexe which may include graphics if you choose.

2.2.  What types of questions will be in each section of the full application? (Ideation, Development, Go2Market)

Ideation

The ideation section covers the problem, your solution, and your value proposition. You will answer questions about the value chain and your stakeholders in this section.

Development

The development section covers your technological achievements to date and the next steps to prepare your technology for the market. It also includes a detailed description of the use cases and features of your product. The development section is where you will upload your work plan, your work packages, and information about your team and key partners.

Go2Market

The Go2Market section is the largest of the three. It covers the current state and size of the market, including a comprehensive competition analysis and a SWOT analysis. It also covers the business aspects of your product, including risks, IP, regulations, and scaling. Here you also have to answer questions about your corporate strategy, business model canvas, and finances. The Go2Market section also gives you an opportunity to explain how your product can have broader impacts on Europe and the World.

2.3.  How important are the three sections of the full application? (Ideation, Development, Go2Market)

Each section is equally important. However, the Go2Market section is the longest and, for many businesses, the most challenging to complete. Evaluators will pay particularly close attention to your commercialisation strategy and your market analysis, and they will consider them in combination with the risks.

If you are uncertain about your Go2Market section, please get in touch, and we can try to help!

2.4.  How much detail should be included in the work packages and the budget?

Evaluators will study the work packages in detail, and your project manager will monitor them closely during your project (if you are funded). It is essential to include details of milestones and deliverables so the EIC can keep track of your project. The budget should contain specifics for every expense. For example, in personnel costs, which of your team will work on each task, and how are they suited to that job? In equipment costs, why are you choosing that manufacturer, and what are the alternatives?

2.5.  Do I need to hire a patent attorney to carry out the Freedom to Operate analysis (FTO)?

If you do not have an FTO, you can upload a two-page document explaining why and providing as much information as possible on the issue. However, it is highly recommended to upload an FTO, and some evaluators will not seriously consider applications without one.

Some companies have the know-how to complete a patent search themselves. While the evaluators may accept an unofficial patent search, hiring a patent attorney to complete a thorough FTO is generally better.

In cases where the FTO is not relevant (e.g. software), you can upload a simple statement.

2.6.  How do I prepare a competition analysis if my product is completely unique with no competition?

No product is 100% competition-free. It may be that the competition is so far behind in technology that you will easily outcompete them, but you must still include an analysis. The competition analysis should also cover other companies working in the sector, even if they do not have a solution perfectly suited to the problem you are solving.

3. Project execution

3.1. What will be the workload for reporting?

Reporting has been greatly simplified for EIC Accelerator projects. The technical reports are defined in the Work Packages that you submit within your application. Apart from those, there are two major financial reports to hand in: the interim report after year 1 and the final report after project end. A financial audit is carried out at the end of the project as well.

3.1. Will we be able to protect our IP (Intellectual Property)?

Absolutely, and it is highly recommended. The grant/equity holder is not forced to disclose any IP asset and confidentiality is ensured along the whole process.

4. Success criteria & miscellaneous

4.1. What is the most important success criteria?

There is no simple answer. These are the criteria officially defined by the
EIC. Successful applicants must:

·      Develop high risk/high impact innovations;

·      Have the potential to create new markets, disrupt existing ones and contribute to societal innovation;

·      Build on scientific discovery, radical thinking or technological breakthroughs (‘deep tech’);

·      Require significant funding over a long timeframe before returns can be generated (‘patient capital’).

4.2. How do I prepare for the interview?

Preparing for the interview is key. The EIC arranges a limited number of interviews which translates to a usual success rate of 30-50% for the companies that are invited. Therefore, the EIC interview is a unique opportunity to receive a significant funding injection. The typical duration of the interview is 40 minutes including 10 minutes (maximum) of presentation supported by the pitch pdf document submitted with your full proposal and 30 minutes of questions and answers to clarify aspects of the proposal. There are no pre-defined questions and we have observed that the type and breadth of questions may vary considerable. While some interview verse mostly about the technology, others are focused on the business-side of the project. Typically, both commercial and technology-related questions are posed to the candidates. A maximum of 3 representatives are allowed. We recommend all applicants to divide the presentation and the answers among at least 2 key members of  the  company. Although not a formal requirement, it is understood that the CEO and other key roles must be present.  

4.3. Can software projects be funded?

Absolutely. The EIC does not define which type of technologies (eg. software or hardware) the innovations must implement. Software is a fundamental component of many innovation projects and software startups can be perfect candidates for the EIC Accelerator as long as they comply with the official requirements and success criteria.

4.4. Can clinical studies be funded?

Clinical studies are a typical part of health-focused EIC Accelerator projects and are usually considered to be TRL-6 activities. Pre-clinical studies are required in order to justify the right TRL for a medtech innovation.

4.5. How to finance larger innovation projects?

In some sectors, innovation activites -until market entry- may require longer timeframes and greater funding resources than those provided by the EIC Accelerator (2 years; 2.5M€). Medtech or cleantech innovations are typical examples. In these cases, a subset of activities can be founded by the EIC Grant (2.5 M€) while the EIC Equity investment and other funding sources can be used to complement the EIC Grant.

You can obtain further information through our free EIC Accelerator crash course (free videos).

5. Changes for 2024

5.1. Can startups apply for “grant first” form of support?

There is no longer the “grant first” form of support, but beneficiaries of “blended finance” may start with grant only funding with the investment component provided at a later stage.

5.2. Can juries change the form of support?

The jury will not be able to change the form of support (e.g., between grant only, blended finance and equity only) or change the amount of equity requested, although they may make recommendations on the amount of equity finance which will be considered by the EIC Fund. Applicants are reminded that the amounts awarded by the Commission are subject to negotiation, including due diligence.

5.3. How many GOs are required to pass the short evaluation?

The criteria to pass the short application stage require 3 out of 4 GOs from the expert evaluators. If the short proposal is successful, then the applicant will be invited to prepare a full proposal.

5.4. What happens if the short evaluation is unsuccessful?

If at least 2 out of the 4 evaluators give a NO GO, then your proposal is considered unsuccessful. You may resubmit your proposal, according to applicant submission limits. You will be expected to make improvements to your proposal.

5.5. How many GOs are required to pass the full application/evaluation?

If all three evaluators give a GO for all the evaluation elements, then your full proposal will be successful and you will be invited to an interview with an EIC jury.

5.6. What happens if a startup receives a “No Go” at the jury interview phase?

In case of a “No Go” at the jury interview phase, applicants will immediately receive a rejection letter and where eligible be awarded the Seal of Excellence. Exceptionally, EIC juries may recommend that your proposal does not receive a Seal of Excellence if they find weaknesses in your proposal which were not identified by the expert evaluators at the remote evaluation stage. In such cases, you will receive feedback to justify this recommendation.

5.7. When are the deadlines for 2024?

There are only two cut-off dates for 2024, which are due on March 13 and October 3.

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

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