With the launch of Horizon Europe, the European Commission has unveiled some novelties for the funding of research and innovation projects, in particular its flagship programme for SMEs: the EIC Accelerator.
The EIC Accelerator in a nutshell
The EIC Accelerator is the European Innovation Council‘s (EIC) flagship programme for SMEs. It was launched in September 2019 by the European Commission as a pilot in the perspective of Horizon Europe and replaces the SME Instrument (phase 1 and phase 2) introduced under Horizon 2020.
Integrated into the 3rd pillar (“Innovative Europe“) of Horizon Europe, the EIC aims to boost Europe’s economic growth by bringing visionary ideas to market. To meet this objective, the EIC offers a range of complementary funding through the “EIC Pathfinder” (Novel ideas for radically new technologies), “EIC Transition Activities” (transformation of research results into innovation) and “EIC Accelerator” (deployment of innovation to market) programmes.
Like its predecessor, the EIC Accelerator is an funding instrument for SMEs and start-ups that develop breakthrough innovation projects with high growth potential. The projects must be high-risk and contribute to a radical transformation of the market. Winners receive funding and support in the form of mixed funding, which can amount to up to €2.5m in grants and €15m in equity investment.
The EIC Accelerator remains the largest and most competitive public funding programme in Europe with success rates of less than 3%. It provides funding for an average of 30 to 40 companies per call, via 3 to 4 calls for projects per year.
Under Horizon Europe, the EIC is expected to benefit from a total budget of around €10 billion over 7 years, with a large majority of the funds allocated to the EIC Accelerator programme.
The main novelties planned under Horizon Europe
In order to perfect the pilot funding scheme set up under Horizon 2020, the European Commission has proposed several changes and improvements, which should take effect from the launch of Horizon Europe which will take effect from 18th March 2021 :
Towards “bottom-up” and “top-down” calls for projects
While the EIC Accelerator will continue to fund the deployment of innovative products or services developed by SMEs in all sectors (EIC Accelerator Open), the EIC wishes to strengthen its support for priority topics for the future of Europe. Thus, calls for “EIC Accelerator Challenges” projects will also be published to fund breakthrough innovations, particularly in the fields of digital, health and the EU Green Deal.
Limiting the number of resubmissions and improving support for SMEs
In order to limit the number of project resubmissions – considered too high under H2020 – the EIC wishes to set up a 12-month latency period following the submission of 2 consecutive proposals to the EIC Accelerator. Coaching services will also be offered during the project selection process in order to help SMEs find the most appropriate funding and improve the follow-up of the submitted proposal.
A new 4-step project selection process
The main change will concern the simplification of the evaluation system, with the disappearance of scores by section but the introduction of a selection process with a “go/no go” approach, in 4 steps:
All of these new features will make the project selection process more fluid and improve the quality of both the submitted proposals and the evaluations. Some of these improvements are in line with the position paper of the European Association of Innovation Consultants (EAIC).
The first cut-off dates in 2021
The last EIC pilot call under Horizon 2020 closed in October 2020. However, the first EIC Accelerator call under this new configuration in Horizon Europe will open in the 1st half of 2021: the first deadline for the full application stage is planned for 9 June 2021 and the 2nd for 6 October. Both open calls and challenge-driven calls will take place simultaneously on these deadlines.
Would you like to deploy your innovation in Europe by participating to the EIC Accelerator? To increase your chances of success, Euronovia’s team of expert consultants is here to help! Do not hesitate to contact us.