The EIC Accelerator was initially launched as the EIC Accelerator Pilot. Now it is being continued under improved framework conditions, thus opening up new opportunities for innovation funding to applicants.
In the 8th Research Framework Programme (FP) Horizon 2020, the EU provided funding totalling around 80 billion euros. The SME instrument supported highly innovative SMEs in the implementation of their innovation projects from the idea to the market launch with up to 2.5 million euros. The Horizon 2020 framework programme ended after seven years at the end of 2020.
The new 9th Research Framework Programme Horizon Europe (Horizon Europe) thus started in 2021 has a financial framework of €100 billion until 2027.
In preparation for the new Horizon Europe framework programme, the European Innovation Council (EIC) was established. It brings together the most important EU funding instruments under its leadership. The European Commission thus intends to bring innovations to market more quickly and to promote growth and employment in the EU in the long term. The EIC coordinates the funding programmes EIC Pathfinder, EIC Accelerator, Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) and the EIC Horizon Prizes.
Already during the Horizon 2020 framework programme, the EIC is starting in a pilot phase as an Enhanced European Innovation Council Pilot (EIC Pilot).
The EIC Accelerator is intended as a funding instrument for small and medium-sized enterprises that meet the SME criteria. Start-ups and young companies as well as natural persons are also eligible to apply. For an SME to be eligible, it must be established in an EU Member State, or in a Horizon 2020 associated country. In the EIC Accelerator, only individual companies that apply for a project as a company are funded.
A prerequisite for funding in the EIC Accelerator is a high-risk idea with high market potential and a high degree of innovation. Therefore, it should be a disruptive innovation that involves a complete restructuring or disruption of existing, traditional business models, products, technologies or services. Both technical and non-technical innovations, such as social innovations or innovations in the service sector, are supported.
For example, the programme can promote the following activities:
Other types of activities that bring innovations to investment readiness and maturity for market launch are also eligible.
In order to be able to submit a project application, a technical project must be at technology readiness level 6 (TLR 6). For this, TRL 5 must be largely completed. This means that the research must be (largely) completed and the technology must function in a relevant environment. A functioning demonstrator should therefore exist shortly or already exist. In other words, a development close to the market from “demonstration under operational conditions” onwards is promoted.
However, the TRL term is very technical and not applicable to all topics in the EIC Accelerator. Depending on the topic, corresponding levels of maturity must be reached at the time of application.
The funding programme is generally open to all sectors and topics, but in the current funding period it is focusing on three additional topics:
Applicants in the EIC Accelerator can thus either refer to the open call or set a thematic focus.
SMEs that receive Accelerator funding can claim so-called Business AccelerationServices. This funding supports measures to facilitate market entry. Eligible measures can be:
As a rule, the project duration in the EIC Accelerator should be 12 to 24 months. Nevertheless, in exceptional and well-founded individual cases, the duration can be applied for longer.
Funding in the EIC Accelerator is offered in two possible options.
The grant-based funding can amount to between 0.5 and 2.5 million euros and be a maximum of 70 percent of the total project costs. Here, the programme finances activities from TRL 6-8 .
In addition to grant funding, the EIC Accelerator offers the possibility of obtaining equity capital. The amount of equity capital requested depends on the activities and financial needs of the applicant company. Amounts of 0.5 – 5 million euros are possible, in individual cases this can be up to 15 million euros (see FAQ of the EU Commission). From TRL 8 onwards, mixed financing must be used.
The application process begins with a project outline including a pitch deck and a 3-minute pitch video (short application). This is followed by an initial evaluation by the four reviewers. To advance to the next round, applicants need at least two “GO’s” from the experts. In the event of rejection, a new outline can be submitted for the next funding period. If this is rejected for the second time, applicants have to wait another 12 months before they can try again.
After the project outline, the full application including pitch deck is submitted. Three experts then assess the EIC application and if it is unanimously approved, the applicants can prepare for round three, the pitch interview. In case of rejection, the full application can be resubmitted for the next round. Here, too, the rule applies: after two rejections, there is a 12-month rest period before a new full proposal or even a new project outline must be submitted.
The pitch interviews take place after the full application either in Brussels or remotely. Applicants for the EIC Accelerator have to prove themselves in front of the expert jury within 40 minutes by convincing in a 10-minute pitch and presenting their company and innovation in the 30-minute Q&A session. The most convincing ones receive the funding – and access to the Business Acceleraion Services. In case of rejection, there are several options:
Full proposals can be submitted until the respective cut-off date for the EIC Accelerator:
18 March 2021
Portal for the drafts opens
16 June 2021
First deadline for full proposals
6 October 2021
Second deadline for full proposals
Do you need help with the application process? As consultants for SME funding, we have been successful for more than 20 years and accompany you from the application to project management to the settlement with the funding body.
An initial consultation with us is always free of charge, as we place a high value on the success of our advice.