H2020: EIC Accelerator – SME Instrument

The EIC Accelerator (previously SME Instrument) is part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot that supports top class innovators, entrepreneurs and small companies with funding opportunities and acceleration services. The main focus of the EIC Accelerator is on market-creating innovations that shape new markets and generate jobs, growth and higher standards of living.

 What is the H2020 EIC Accelerator?

The EIC Accelerator is one of the many funding opportunities under the Horizon 2020 funding program. H2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness. Horizon 2020 offers a large variety of funding opportunities for research and innovation activities through calls for proposals that are set out in the Horizon 2020 work programme.

Start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises that are based in one of the EU’s Member States or are established in a Horizon 2020 Associated Country can receive EU funding and support for breakthrough innovation projects with a market-creating potential as part of the Enhanced European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot.

Who can apply?

The EIC Accelerator is designed for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMES) with radically new ideas underpinned by a business plan for rolling out marketable innovation solutions and with ambitions to scale up. It targets for-profit SMEs only, including young companies and start-ups, from any sector – there are no set topics. From 5 June 2019 only single companies (as opposed to consortia) can apply for EIC Accelerator.

The EIC Accelerator Pilot supports close-to-market activities, with the aim to give a strong boost to breakthrough innovation with a market-creating potential. Highly innovative SMEs with a clear commercial ambition and a potential for high growth and internationalisation are the prime target.

Companies that apply must be established in an EU Member State or a Horizon 2020 associated country. Large corporates, research centers or scientists cannot apply directly but they can participate in projects as subcontractors or third parties and don’t need to be established in an EU Member State or associated country.

Can non-danish projects apply?

Yes. Any start-up and small and medium-sized enterprise that is based in one of the EU’s Member States or is established in a Horizon 2020 Associated Country can receive EU funding and support.

What type of support projects receive?

The EIC provides support to the full business innovation cycle. This means that it provides grant-only support (as in former SME Instrument) along with blended finance (grant in combination with equity investment). For early-stage research and innovation, projects can seek support from EIC Pathfinder pilot. Please note that SME Instrument phase 1 has been phased-out and this funding is no longer available.

How much funding can a project apply for?

The EIC Accelerator Pilot offers small and medium-sized businesses the following:

  • Business innovation grants for feasibility assessment purposes (optional phase I): EUR 50,000 (lump sum) per project (70% of total cost of the project) – this ends on 5 September 2019;
  • Business innovation grants for innovation development & demonstration purposes: an amount in the indicative range of EUR 500,000 and 2,5 million (70% of total cost of the project as a general rule);
  • Equity of up to €15 million per company (€100 million total budget for equity in 2019-2020 pilot phase)
  • Free-of-charge business coaching (optional) in order to support and enhance the firm’s innovation capacity and help align the project to strategic business needs;
  • Access to a wide range of other business acceleration services and facilitated access to risk finance, to facilitate the commercial exploitation of the innovation.

What are the evaluation criteria?

All proposals are evaluated based on three award criteria:

  • Excellence: your project has high innovation potential and is beyond the state of the art. It has a strong added-value, it is viable and better than existing solutions.
  • Impact: your innovation meets a pressing need on European and global markets, it will generate revenue and create jobs and has an international dimension.
  • Implementation: your work plan is efficient and coherent with a realistic time-frame. Your team has hte technical and commercial competence to deliver.

What is required in the Application and how can I apply?

Applicants will first have to submit a paper-based proposal of their project that will be evaluated remotely by four independent experts. A selected number of proposals will be invited to Brussels to pitch in front of a Jury.

To apply participants have to register and proposal on the Horizon 2020 Funding &Tenders Portal.

How does the application process work?

Applicants will first have to submit a paper-based proposal of their project that will be evaluated remotely by four independent experts. A selected number of proposals will be invited to Brussels to pitch in front of a Jury.

In EIC Accelerator proposals are evaluated in two steps. In Step 1, proposals are evaluated remotely by four independent expert-evaluators with different profiles.

The experts are carefully chosen to guarantee proposals are evaluated independently by experts with different profiles with expertise in for example technology a specific industry sector, business and finance. Proposals are ranked in descending order and the best scores get funded until available budget is exhausted. All applicants are informed about the outcome through the Participant Portal with a letter and an Evaluation Summary Report (ESR).

Companies that pass the initial selection stage, will be invited to pitch their innovation projects in front of a panel of jury experts, consisting of private investors, business angels and other players in the innovation ecosystem. This Step 2 complements the existing paper based assessment in order to take full account of the personal qualities and motivations of the applicant innovators. At this stage around 50% of the companies will get selected for funding.

The face-to-face interviews will be in English and last 30 minutes. More question time may be granted for proposals asking for blended finance. Companies selected for the interview will receive a pitch document in the invitation to participate to the second step – a template will be attached to the invitation letter.

The dates for the Jury interviews in 2019 are:

  • interview week for 1st cut-off date: 11-15 February 2019;
  • interview week for 2nd cut-off date: 13-17 May 2019;
  • interview week for 3rd cut-off date: 8-12 July 2019;
  • interview week for 4th cut-off date: 18-22 November 2019.

The dates for the interviews in 2020 are:

  • interview week for 1st cut-off date: 17-21 February 2020;
  • interview week for 2nd cut-off date: 11-20 May 2020;
  • interview week for 3rd cut-off date: 29-3 July 2020;
  • interview week for 4th cut-off date: 16-20 November 2020.

The Jury consists of around 15% business angels, 20% entrepreneurs, 20% venture capitalists, with other experts coming from larger corporates, innovation hubs and accelerators. The majority of the experts are women. The list of  experts is regularly updated as new experts join the Jury. Around 70 members evaluate proposals during each interview week.

The maximum delay to inform applicants will be 4 months from the date of the cut-off. The indicative date for the signing of grant agreements is maximum 6 months from the date of the corresponding cut-off.

For full details on the evaluation procedure read the guidelines for applicants on the Horizon 2020 Funding and Tenders Portal.

Can a project be resubmitted if the first EIC Accelerator application is unsuccessful?

Yes. It can be resubmitted.

What will come after H2020 in 2021?

The Commission is working on a proposal for the framework programme that will succeed Horizon 2020, called Horizon Europe. This will be done in the context of the EU’s proposal for the next 7-year EU budget, the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF).

The Commission’s proposal for Horizon Europe is an ambitious €100 billion research and innovation programme to succeed Horizon 2020. For more information please visit Horizon Europe.

Can 1st Mile help me with the application process?

Yes, 1st Mile has a long-dated expertise in submitting applications to the H2020 EIC call.

1st Mile doesn’t have strict criteria in selecting projects eligible for funding, i.e. size, number of employees, stage of development, turnover, number of previous attempts in getting the funding. Instead, 1st Mile individually assesses the project and its participants, always keeping in mind the ability of the company to deliver information/input for the application. The more the company is able to deliver the technical input required, the easier it will be for 1st Mile to get the required information for applying.

How much of my time does 1st Mile require to apply for a H2020 call?

When 1st Mile and the applying company start a collaboration, the applying company should consider, on average, 2 working weeks of commitment. This is the time needed to get all the requested input, prepare company CVs, gather partners, have meetings. 1stMile’s time commitment depends a lot on the company; the easier it is to gather the information, the least time is required to finish an application.

For more information on the H2020, you are also welcome to visit the EIC Accelerator page.