The EIC Accelerator: new changes in Horizon Europe starting 2021


The EIC Accelerator funding scheme targets deep tech startups with radically new ideas underpinned by a business plan for rolling out marketable innovation solutions and with ambitions to scale up.

It offers up to €17,5 million in financing, blending grants and equity-based investments. Running as a pilot programme within Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), the EIC has become one of the most successful funding schemes worldwide.

It will continue to run for the forthcoming Horizon Europe (2021-2027), with the EU pledging over €10 billion. While the EIC Accelerator was conceived as a highly selective program with only the very best proposals getting funded, it has somewhat fallen victim to its own success.

As the number of applicants continues to increase per deadline, the success rate has seen a continuous drop over the course of the program, going from 4% in October 2019 to less than 1% expected in October 2020 (4200 applications vs 30 funded).

Two main issues have emerged, the problem of oversubscription, stemming from the fact that candidates can re-apply as many times as desired, combined with a lottery effect, which is linked to a trade off in the evaluation process (quantity and speed over quality). In order to tackle these issues, the EIC Task Force has proposed a new approach for 2021-2027, by incorporating a new step in the application process which will act as a filtering mechanism, together with a cooling down period for unsuccessful candidates which will limit the number of resubmissions.

1. Pre-screening stage: short application
The pre-application can be submitted at any time and it is evaluated on a rolling basis. It consists of:

  • A 5-page form with questions regarding the innovation, the potential market and the team;
  • A pitch deck of up to 10 slides;
  • A video pitch of up to 3 minutes;

Short applications are evaluated as soon as they are submitted and the results are provided within 4 weeks. If unsuccessful, companies can resubmit one consecutive time, however, significant improvements are expected to be made to the application. If unsuccessful for the second time, candidates will not be able to submit again for 24 months from the date of the second submission.

2. Full application
If the answer is favourable, the candidates are invited to prepare a full application and submit to one of the cut-off dates within the next 12 months. The application consists of:

  • A full business plan
  • Detailed information regarding the company’s finances and structure.

Feedback is provided within 5-6 weeks after submission. If the application does not meet the criteria, candidates will be allowed to resubmit a revised full application to one of the 2 following cut-offs. If unsuccessful a second time, a 24-month cooling off period is required.

3. Interview stage
If successful, candidates are invited to a face to face interview approximately 8-9 weeks after the cut-off date, as the final step in the selection process.

By reducing the number of applications and resubmissions, the European Commission looks at mitigating the “luck factor” in the evaluation process, ensuring a higher quality pool of candidates to be selected.

The European working group of innovation Consultants (EWGIC) which we are part of, released a position paper on the EIC Accelerator proposing 15 possible improvement areas in view of the ongoing Horizon Europe negotiations.

The changes highlighted above have yet to be formally announced, and are subject to additional modifications, possibly on the basis of stakeholder recommendations.

To find out more about the new changes, feel free to reach out or send us your pitch deck, we will be happy to provide more details and evaluate your case.

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