The EIC Accelerator starts as an EIC Accelerator Pilot within the framework of the EIC Pilot. The programme has a total budget of more than 1.3 billion euros for the period 2019 to 2020.
In the current 8th Research Framework Programme (FRP) Horizon 2020, the EU is providing funding totalling around 80 billion euros. The SME instrument, or SME instrument, supported highly innovative SMEs in the implementation of their innovation projects from the idea to market launch with up to 2.5 million euros. The Horizon 2020 Framework Programme ends after seven years, starting in 2014 and ending at the end of 2020.
The new 9th Research Framework Programme Horizon Europe will start in 2021 and will have a budget of 100 billion euros by 2027.
The European Innovation Council (EIC) was established in preparation for the new Horizon Europe framework programme. It brings together the most important EU funding instruments under this 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 EIC Horizon Prizes.
During the current Horizon 2020 framework programme, the EIC is already starting in a pilot phase as an extended EIC Accelerator Pilot (Enhanced European Innovation Council Pilot – EIC Pilot). From 2019 to 2020, the EIC will have around 2 billion euros at its disposal.
The EIC Accelerator is intended as a funding instrument exclusively for small and medium-sized enterprises that meet the SME criteria. For an SME to be eligible, it must be located in an EU Member State or in a Horizon 2020 associated country. The funding programme is open to all sectors and topics. The EIC Accelerator only supports individual SMEs (including start-ups and young companies) that submit a project application as a company.
The prerequisite for funding in the EIC Accelerator is a high-risk idea with high market potential and a high degree of innovation. It should therefore be a disruptive innovation that involves a complete restructuring or dismantling 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.
The programme may support the following activities:
Other types of activities are also eligible, which bring innovations to the willingness to invest and maturity for market launch.
In order 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 functional demonstrator should soon exist or already exist. In other words, a market-oriented development from “demonstration under operating conditions” will be promoted.
The TRL term is very technical and not applicable to all topics in the EIC Accelerator. Depending on the subject area, appropriate levels of maturity must be reached when the application is submitted.
SMEs that receive Accelerator Grants can claim so-called Business Acceleration Services. This support supports measures to facilitate market entry. Eligible measures can be:
The project duration in the EIC Accelerator should normally be 12 to 24 months. Nevertheless, in exceptional cases and well-founded individual cases, the duration can be extended.
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 can amount to a maximum of 70% of the total project costs. The programme finances activities from TRL 6-8.
EIC Accelerator offers as a novelty, in addition to the grant financing, the possibility to receive equity capital. The amount of equity capital applied for depends on the activities and financial needs of the applicant company. Amounts from 0.5 – 5 million euros are possible, in individual cases this can also include up to 15 million euros (see FAQ of the EU Commission). Starting with TRL 8, mixed financing is required.
Applications under the EIC Accelerator must be submitted online. After the deadline, project proposals will be reviewed by reviewers. The peer review will take place in two stages and will take approximately one month. Finally, the promising applicants will be invited to Brussels for an interview after a positive evaluation in order to present the project to an expert panel. When the application is submitted, a presentation template, a so-called “pitch deck”, is submitted on the basis of which the pitch interview is prepared. The most convincing SMEs in the interview in Brussels will be selected for funding.
Applications can be submitted up to the cut-off date for the EIC Accelerator. As a rule, there are four cut-off dates per year.