The EIC Accelerator programme helps high-risk, innovative SMEs and start-ups willing to develop and commercialise new products, business models, and services. These developments could potentially drive economic growth and influence new markets or disrupt existing European or global markets.
This article aims to provide insight into the application process for funding.
What is the EIC Accelerator programme?
What types of support are available?
How much funding support is available?
The application process consists of the following steps:
Eligible applicants will meet one of the three conditions below:
For UK applicants: Applicants from the United Kingdom can apply to the Accelerator, but can only request and receive funding in the form of a grant (i.e., "grant only" funding).
Applicants can apply for EIC Accelerator funding at any time using the EIC online portal. The short proposal is open on an ongoing basis throughout the year and there is no submission deadline for the short proposal.
You will need to submit a video pitch up to 3 minutes long, a slide deck up to 10 pages long and respond to a short set of questions about your innovation and your team as part of a 5-page form. At this stage, financial information is not required.
The questions are presented in Annex 1 and Annex 2.
In the first two stages of the selection process, proposals are evaluated by remote experts. Later on, the projects are assessed by the EIC jury members.
The short proposal will be evaluated by four remote experts who will issue “GO” or “NO GO” votes for each of the following measures:
Feedback is normally provided within 4 weeks, on a first-come, first-served basis. Only 3 out of the 4 remote evaluators* must provide a “GO” vote for you to move to the next step.
If your short proposal is successful, you will be invited to prepare a full proposal within 12 months from the date you receive the evaluation results of your short proposal.
*As of January 2024, the Work Programme states that if at least three evaluators give a GO decision to the proposal, then your short proposal will be successful.
If your short proposal is successful then you will be entitled to receive coaching support to prepare a full proposal which can be submitted to one of the cut-off dates within the next 12 months from the date of the response to your short proposal. You may decide which cut-off to apply to. The cut-off dates for the 2024 Open and Challenge-driven calls are:
You will need to choose which of the following calls you will apply for:
The bulk of this step involves the preparation of a detailed business plan. The full proposal will consist of a detailed business plan, key milestones and complete information on your company’s finances.
The business plan will typically consist of three main parts: Ideation, Development and Go2Market. It includes detailed information about the technology, the go-to-market strategy, the competition, company finances, etc.
(Full details can be found in the EIC Work Programme 2023).
Applicants must also submit the following:
The application will be evaluated by three remote experts who will issue “GO” or “NO GO” votes for each of the following measures:
Detailed feedback from the experts is normally provided within 5 weeks from the cut-off date. For a successful proposal, ALL THREE* experts must provide a “GO” vote. You will not receive an invitation to the interview if one or more experts provide a “NO GO” vote.
*As of January 2024, the Work Programme states if two of the three evaluators give a GO decision to the full proposal, then a consensus meeting occurs to decide the outcome of your full proposal.
During Step 3, applicants will present their application to the EIC Jury at an in-person or remote interview.
Applicants will need to present the pitch deck that they submitted as part of the full proposal. The presentation will last no longer than 10 minutes. Furthermore, applicants will undergo a Q&A session for up to a maximum of 35 minutes long. Hence, the duration of the interview will not exceed 45 minutes. Applicants will not be asked pre-set questions.
Details about the interview:
After the interview and the departure of the applicant’s representatives, the jury votes. The final decision is a consensus. Jury members collectively prepare the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) for the proposal which includes:
EIC jury members will have prior access to your short and full proposal and the evaluation results. Jury members will also have access to analyses (for example on financial metrics) generated by the EIC artificial intelligence-based IT platform. The jury may focus the interview on any element of your proposal based on the remote evaluation result and its own assessment.
You will be informed of the result of the interviews approximately 2-3 weeks after the interview. Jury members will decide based on your interview and their overall assessment whether your proposal should be funded (“GO”) or not (“NO GO”).
If your proposal is recommended for funding, you will be invited to negotiate and then sign an initial contract that will initially provide for the grant component, which will include a first pre-financing payment on the grant component. In parallel, if you requested an investment component, the EIC Fund will start the negotiation process to structure the investment agreement.
All proposals that receive a “NO GO” at the interview and have given consent, will be awarded the Seal of Excellence. This will help the applicant to seek funding from other sources.
After the interview stage, successful applicants will be invited to negotiate. You will be invited to sign an initial contract that will provide for the grant component and, if applicable, for an indicative amount investment component. You will then receive, a first pre-financing payment on the grant component.
In parallel, if your proposal included an investment component, the EIC Fund will start the negotiation process to structure the potential investment agreement (compliance checks, 58 due diligence, syndication of potential co-investors, tranches of investment and related objectives and milestones, etc.).
The EIC Fund investment process consists of 9 steps. Steps 1-3 involve standard communications between the award recipient and the EIC Fund as well as due diligence and compliance checks. In steps 4-6, the European Investment Bank (EIB) prepares the investment recommendation for the investment committee and Board of Directors to review. Finally, in steps 7-9, the company receives a term sheet and the investment agreement is signed.
Read more: The process of signing a deal with the EIC Fund
During this stage, and in particular if you have not yet secured other investors, the EIC Fund or the Agency will also look for other investors. You will be asked for your consent before other investors are contacted or engaged in negotiations.
At the end of this process, which should usually take between two to six months, an investment component will be agreed. The initial contract will have to be amended to integrate this agreement, and any relevant corresponding changes (e.g. in definitions of milestones). The decision to invest as well as the amount and the terms of the investment component will be made by the EIC Fund in compliance with the EIC Fund Investment Guidelines.
Should the outcome of the due diligence conclude that the innovation or your company is not yet mature for equity investment, the EIC Fund may recommend to the Commission that you start with the grant component first, and that the investment component will be subject to reaching defined milestones that will be included in the contract for the grant component via an amendment
As mentioned above, the remote experts will evaluate short proposals and full proposals.
For each specific call a "pool" of expert evaluators is appointed. They are selected based upon their experience and knowledge in project management, technology and innovation, investment and finance and entrepreneurship and business. A balance in terms of geographical diversity, gender, private and public sectors is ensured. A yearly rotation rule guarantees that at least 25% of remote experts included in a 'pool' are renewed every year.
Likewise, full proposals will be presented to the EIC Jury during a face-to-face interview.
They [Jury members] have a solid experience in different areas as entrepreneurs who have started and scaledup innovative enterprises at European or global level, investors (banks, venture capitalists, business angels, crowd-funders, etc.) and experts involved in the innovation ecosystem (business schools, universities, innovation hubs, accelerators, etc.).
A list of the current Jury members can be found here.
Both types of experts must act objectively, and ensure that their decisions are not affected by ANY form of shared interest, whether it be political, social etc. Any expert with a shared interest will be excluded from the evaluation process.
Furthermore, independent observers may be present at the interview stage to assess the evaluation process. They will not have any influence on the outcome of the evaluation.
At Winnovart, it is part of our mission to bridge the gap between stakeholders of the grants-funding market-space across Europe. We believe in the potential of grants to create ecosystems that drive innovation, and growth and reduce disparities between the regions of Europe. Our aim is to support innovative SMEs, private investors and funding agencies to become part of this ecosystem and make the most of it.
Our presence in Western, Eastern and Northern Europe enables us to create international business cases for our clients, in the context of attractive funding programmes as well as beyond it, by opening up international development opportunities.