The EIC Accelerator in Horizon Europe: Major changes in 2021

The European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator call for projects (previously known as the SME instrument) targets innovations that build on scientific discovery or technological breakthroughs, so called ‘deep tech’. The funding will be used to scale up faster, for example rolling out marketable innovation solutions and to cover the timeframe before returns can be generated. Although this article will focus on the EIC Accelerator programme, it is good to know that the next EIC work programme will provide financial support through three main instruments covering the innovation pathway, namely:

Additionally, all EIC beneficiaries will have access to a range of Business Acceleration Services including leading expertise, corporates, investors and ecosystem actors. Keep an eye out for some of our upcoming newsletters where we’ll discuss the other EIC programmes.

Please notice that all information in this article is subject to changes, as the draft programmes are confidential and we can only exclude what has been recommended by the European working group of innovation Consultants (EWGIC) and has been published online.

Personal advice? Contact us!
Or call us directly: 088 495 20 00

What are the major changes compared to 2020?

  1. A two-stage application process
    1. First-stage (short) applications can be submitted any time.
    2. Second-stage (full) proposals will have two cut-off dates in 2021
  2. Resubmissions are limited
  3. Both bottom-up and top-down calls for projects

1) A two-stage application process

Within Horizon 2020, a pilot programme of the EIC accelerator was initiated and has almost fallen victim to its own success. Due to the enormous number of applications that even increased per deadline, the success rate has dropped from 4% in October 2019 to less than 1% for October 2020. Therefore, it is not surprisingly that the EIC Task Force has proposed a new application approach for 2021-2027 in order to limit the number of resubmissions, by incorporating an additional screening step in the application process and a cooling down period for unsuccessful candidates.

Stage 1: the short application can be submitted at any time and will be evaluated by experts within 4-6 weeks. It should contain:

  • A 5-page form to summarise the innovation, the potential market and the team;
  • A pitch deck of up to 10 slides;
  • A video pitch of up to 3 minutes in which the core team motivates their application.

Stage 2: only if your short application is successful then you will be invited to submit a full application for remote evaluation to one of the cut-off dates within the next 12 months. You will be required to prepare your full application on a special EIC AI-based IT platform. The application consists of a full business plan and detailed information regarding the company’s finances and structure. Within 5-6 weeks you will be informed about whether you will be invited to the Face to face interviews with an EIC Jury to be held approximately 8-9 weeks after the cut-off date. At the interview, you will be assessed by a panel of maximum 6 jury members. You will be informed about the final result of the selection process within 2-3 weeks.

2) Resubmissions are limited to increase the success rates

Most likely, the EIC will initiate the following measures in order to limit the resubmission of applications to the EIC Accelerator:

  • Stage 1:
    • If your short application is rejected, you may submit only once (taken into account that if improvements have been made). If rejected twice, you may not resubmit for 12 months. Thereafter, you may only submit a new or significantly improved proposal.
  • Stage 2:
    • If your full proposal is rejected once by negative evaluation of only 1 out of 3 experts, you may resubmit directly to one of the following two cut-offs. Rejected twice or by more than 1 expert, then you may only submit a new or significantly improved first-stage (!) proposal after a 12-months cool-off period.
    • If rejected after the Face to face interviews with a potential Go of the jury, you will get one change to make the specific target improvements before one of the next two Face to face interviews. If rejected a second time or first time without a potential Go, you may only submit a new or significantly improved first-stage (!) proposal after a 12-months cool-off period.


3) Bottom-up and top-down calls for projects

The three instruments of the EIC (Pathfinder, Transition, and Accelerator) will have open calls for which the majority of budget is reserved and calls that target strategic priorities. The latter calls will have a challenge driven approach to address specific technological and innovation breakthroughs taking into account for example the EU priorities for transitioning to a green, digital and healthy society.

Who can apply?

The EIC accelerator will be open for single start-ups, spin-outs, SMEs and even individuals intending to launch their start-up or SME with the ambition to scale up. Just make sure that your innovation is at least at Technological Readiness Level (TRL) 5 to 6, in other words, have been tested and validated in a laboratory or another relevant environment. In exceptional cases even small mid-caps with less than 500 employees can apply.

What to apply for?

As was the case under Horizon 2020, also in the new programme it is expected that applicants can apply for “blended finance” up to € 2.5 million as a grant component for the development and validation of their technology up to TRL 8. Additionally, some applicants can request an investment component up to € 15 million for scaling up and any other activities such as market entrance.

Most likely, there will be additional restrictions regarding the grant only and/or equity component.

The first cut-off dates in 2021

The first EIC Accelerator call under Horizon Europe will most likely open in the first quarter of 2021, with two cut-off dates (deadlines) for the full application stage in 2021, currently expected on June 9th and October 6th. In contrast, first-stage (short) applications can be submitted any time.

Want to know more?

To find out more about the new changes, please subscribe to our newsletter or do not hesitate to contact us . We will keep you informed or will be happy to provide more details. Moreover, to increase your chances of success, our team of experts is ready to evaluate your case and support you during this champions league application process.

Personal advice? Contact us!
Or call us directly: 088 495 20 00

EIC Accelerator
Related grant EIC Accelerator
The European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator programme targets innovations that build on scient...Read more


Contact us for more information on the EIC programme or our services!

More information?

Contact us!



Would you like to learn more about the EIC Accelerator? Please don’t hesitate to contact us.