EIC accelerator: understanding, application, eligibility

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A flagship call for projects under Horizon Europe's Pillar III, with over 1000 applications from innovative European SMEs in the last round, the EIC Accelerator remains an attractive proposition, despite a reduced number of winners. Here's an overview of this financing solution.

What is the EIC Accelerator program?

TheEIC Accelerator is a funding program designed to support companies with innovative and disruptive products, services or business models.

Business support: Start-ups, SMEs and mid-caps

This financing tool specifically targets SMEs. Start-ups also have a chance, as do mid-caps (although the latter are only eligible for the equity part, not the grant part).

Role, missions, objectives

This program offers a unique financing opportunity of up to 2.5 million euros in grants and up to 15 million euros in investments. In addition to financial support, the program provides personalized assistance to the winners to help them grow and develop.

The EIC Accelerator aims to support and accelerate the commercialization of projects proposing disruptive, high-risk, high-potential innovations.

Its mission is to identify, develop and scale revolutionary technologies and transformative innovations.

Link with the Horizon Europe program

The European innovation council (EIC) was launched in 2021 with Horizon Europe, after a 3-year pilot phase within Horizon 2020.

It is technically highly concentrated, with numerous calls for projects. The EIC Accelerator, a major component of Pillar III, offers great freedom of subject, with breakthrough innovation at the heart of the call for projects. Disruptive innovation here refers to the concept as described by Schumpeter, i.e. innovations capable of revolutionizing a market.

Challenge or Open-Call?

The EIC Accelerator offers two application channels: Challenges andOpen-Call.

Challenges are targeted calls for projects on predefined themes. Each year, the EIC proposes between 5 and 7 Challenges, ranging from artificial intelligence to quantum technology. Each Challenge has a specific budget to encourage the development of innovative technologies in the field concerned.

Open-Call is open to all proposals, in any technological field. It's particularly well suited to projects that don't fit into the Challenges theme. The Open-Call budget is generally larger than the Challenges budget.

In short, Open-Call offers greater freedom, which partly explains its success. On the other hand, applying for an EIC Accelerator Challenge offers the security of a reserved budget for a targeted theme. Nevertheless, given the low success rate of the EIC Accelerator in general, applying for a Challenge remains... a challenge, and high standards and excellence are your best allies!

Results and successes of the EIC Accelerator program

Let's be clear: the chances of success are slim (a few dozen projects funded out of around a thousand applications). However, success at the EIC Accelerator means not only substantial funding, but also access to experts (business acceleration services) to help accelerate project development and time-to-market. Even if funding is refused, some projects are awarded a "Seal of Excellence", a quality label given by the EIC. This label will facilitate discussions with potential partners.

Financing options

The EIC Accelerator offers grant funding of up to €2.5M to move from TRL5 (or higher) to TRL8, and equity funding of up to €15M (to reach TRL9). Although it is theoretically possible to apply only for the "grant" part, the reality shows that the majority of funded projects apply for all the funding levers offered by the EIC Accelerator: grant + equity.

Application process and eligibility

Step 1: the short proposal

The process starts with a short proposal (5 pages, a 10-slide deck and a 3-minute video presentation). The date of submission is free, but you should allow a theoretical period of 4 weeks after submission before a response. Experience and prudence tell our experts that 6 to 7 weeks is not uncommon! Once again, anticipation is key. This short proposal is evaluated by 4 experts, at least 3 of whom must give a "go" to move on to the next phase.

Step 2: The full proposal

Then the full proposal process begins, with templates posted on the European Commission website. The deadline for submission is 12 months after validation of the short proposal. This is essential for the EIC Accelerator Challenges. These challenges are published in the EIC Accelerator Work Programme and change every year. If you wait too long, you'll miss out on a sanctuary budget, which means you'll have to position yourself against wider competition. The evaluation process involves 3 new experts, who must validate the project by consensus to reach the final selection stage. Approximate processing time is 6 weeks.

Stage 3: Speaking

A positive response to the full proposal is accompanied by an invitation to an oral presentation, usually 3 to 5 weeks after notification. This involves convincing a new panel of 5 to 6 experts (technical, business, etc.) in a very short time: 10-minute presentation, 35-minute Q&A. We offer coaching for this phase, and mobilize our ecosystem (senior consultants, former evaluators, colleagues, institutions, etc.) to prepare for this key stage.

Deadlines and timetable for applications

The EIC Accelerator proposes two deadlines: Q1 and Q3 (in 2024, March 13 and October 03). The rest of the application is structured around these dates.

2024: what's new to look forward to?

If you are familiar with previous versions of the EIC Accelerator, we recommend that you read pages 9 to 14 of the 2024 work program.

Dynergie, your EIC Accelerator partner

Dynergie mobilizes qualified experts for the EIC Accelerator. They are qualified not only by their training and experience in the field, but also by the BPI's recognition of their expertise. This enables project owners to share the cost of support with BPI, making an application to the EIC Accelerator more financially accessible.

Maxime Dooms

Senior consultant in funding innovation - Public aids and subsidies, Europe, Environment, CleanTech - PhD Environmental chemistry - Lyon

Maxime has expertise in a wide range of funding mechanisms: Horizon Europe, ERC, EIC, Fonds Innovation, BPI (France 2030, iLab, iNov, iDemo, targeted calls: mobility, energy, nuclear, etc.). Our expert provides day-to-day support in setting up collaborative and individual projects, in Europe and France, with a global approach to funding innovation (synergies with the CIR, financing strategy, etc.). Finally, Maxime brings all his expertise, support and the application of the most relevant processes to our teams, empowering them in the implementation of projects towards excellence.

Need help?

Our innovation experts are here to help you.

What accounts for such a high selection rate at the EIC Accelerator?

We're talking here about a call for projects that offers unique features: freedom of subject, provided that disruptive innovation is present, funding in the millions of euros, funding up to TRL9 with a portion in equity... It's hardly surprising that this attracts the attention of innovative start-ups and SMEs.

Is it worth applying to the EIC Accelerator?

Yes, the work involved in preparing for the EIC Accelerator is very demanding, requiring you to formalize, clarify and improve your project, your business model and the way you present it. Just as there are only two podium finishes for the 4x100m at the Olympic Games (men's and women's), there are only a few dozen projects funded by the EIC Accelerator. The prospect of success remains a powerful driving force, and it would be wrong to say that those who stand at the foot of the podium emerge from the experience unchanged.