When talking to startups and SMEs, there is a lot of jargon that is used by startups and investors to define the “startup stage”. Therefore, it is normal that startups try to understand EIC (European Innovation Council) programmes by referring to these stages.
Investors have historically used key milestones to judge the startup/company stage: seed round, A-round, etc. These stages are usually triggered by investment rounds and commercialisation events such as MVP-ready, product-market fit , first sales or break-even.
With the EIC, however, the jargon is different when assessing the startup stage. The EIC, as well as all Horizon Europe programmes, use Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) to assess the level of technology development. Depending on your industry, the use of this scale might pose important challenges.
The stage is not that important; Think more about your “need”
The stage, as it is commonly defined by startups and investors, is not that relevant when applying for EIC funding. Your “need” is a much more effective criteria. Imagine the three following cases:
- A biotech company with 10 employees that has already raised 5 million eur from different sources but in need of +10 million eur to reach the market.
- A University spin-off with no employees and no revenue that aims to commercially exploit the result of a recent R&D project.
- A 20-year old industrial SME with over 50 employees that aims to disrupt its market by bringing a disruptive IoT solution for which it needs funding.
The reality is that all these are good cases for the EIC Accelerator! Assess you need and your plans and take a look at the questions done by the EIC:
- Do you have a high-impact innovative product, service or business model that could create new markets or disrupt existing ones in Europe and even worldwide? Take into account that you must either create a new market or disrupt an existing one. These are bold objectives. If you don’t create a market as such you should be aiming to appropriate of a significant share.
- Are you a start-up or a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) with the ambition and commitment to scale up? Be honest, can you scale up? You must provide an attractive ROI for the EIC investment/grant.
- Are you looking for substantial funding but the risks involved are too high for private investors alone to invest? Don’t apply to EIC funding without having proof of the non-bankability of your project.
As a conclusion, SMEs can successfully apply to the EIC Accelerator regardless of their stage as long as they comply with these criteria. Think about your need and your plans. If your business exploits a breakthrough technology and aims to scale up, then the EIC Accelerator is definitely a good option for you company.