EWGIC released its position paper on EIC Accelerator under Horizon Europe in view of the ongoing Horizon Europe negotiations.

Created in 2014 under the “SME instrument” name, the EIC Accelerator has become the largest and most competitive public funding scheme for deeptech startups in Europe. 

With success rates falling rapidly below 1% (over 5,000 submissions expected in October 2020 vs funding available for 30-40 companies), the EIC Accelerator has fallen victim to its popularity. Today, success in this programme requires a very high-quality application, and a fair amount of luck (represented by the subjective opinion of third-party evaluators). 

To address these issues, the EIC Task Force has suggested to implement a radically new evaluation process with a pre-screening stage (short application), a regular written stage (full application) and an interview stage. The scoring scale (out of 15) is replaced with a simple “go / no go” approach. 

Most importantly, only two submissions would be allowed at each stage before a 24-month cooling off period. Overall, these changes are likely to be favourable to the best applicants as they will reduce the application “noise” (sub-par applications that will not go through the pre-screening) and reduce the number of resubmissions overall. 

The EC will thus provide higher quality evaluations of a smaller set of full stage applications, and therefore reducing the “luck factor” of the evaluation process. However, the approach will also put a higher responsibility on a smaller number of evaluators which, as a result, must be carefully selected and trained in the context of 3 main challenges: ·         
Challenge 1: reducing oversubscription ·         
Challenge 2: supporting a fair evaluation with clear evaluation criteria ·         
Challenge 3: recruiting skilled and trained evaluators.

With its members having supported over 1000 successful applicants in the programme, EWGIC is proposing 15 possible improvement areas that should result in a fair and transparent evaluation process (read them here). Will the new EIC Accelerator reduce the impact of luck vs skills in the selection of the European deeptech champions? 

EWGIC believes the suggested changes are supporting a more transparent and fair evaluation, but only when combined with clear and consistent evaluation criteria, as well as a thorough overhaul of the expert pool recruitment and training processes.

Access the short version of the position paper here.
Access the full version of the position paper here.

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