The EIC Accelerator Pilot: recent developments and initial findings
Last year the European Innovation Council (EIC) launched the EIC Accelerator Pilot for supporting high-risk innovations by SMEs. As the successor of the SME instrument phase 2 grant, the Accelerator Pilot now includes the option of blended finance: a combination of grant and equity.
The Accelerator Pilot in a nutshell
The indicative range of grant funding from the Accelerator programme is between € 500,000 to € 2.5 million (or more), co-financing up to 70% of the eligible costs. Additional funding between € 2.5 – € 15 million will be made available through equity. Innovations should already be at a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 or above at the start of the project. Eligible activities include product and/or service development, trials, prototyping, validation, demonstration and testing in real-world conditions, and market replication.
The first call for applications for the Accelerator Pilot (cut-off date 9 October 2019) saw a high demand for the new option for blended finance. Of the 1852 applications, 500 companies requested for equity in addition to the grant, with a total requested support of 5.2 billion euro. A little over 10% of the applicants were invited to the pitch round, with 75 winners (36 grant-only and 39 blended finance). The top sectors for successful applications were Health, ICT and Engineering / Technology. Overall, it can be concluded that the EIC Accelerator, just like its predecessor SME phase 2, is a highly competitive grant with a statistic success rate of only 4%. To make it to the interview round following the first-round remote evaluation, proposals needed to score at least 13.65 out of 15 points (note: this threshold score varies in each round).
Next cut-off dates
The EIC Accelerator is a continuously open call with regular cut-offs. The next cut-off dates for 2020 are:
- 18 March 2020
- 19 May 2020
- 07 October 2020
New focus areas!
In light of The European Green Deal (achieving a climate neutral economy by 2050), the EIC expects to issue a one-off Accelerator call with an increased budget specifically for ‘green deal’ start-ups and SMEs. The applicants submitting for the 19 May 2020 cut-off would need to demonstrate how their innovation contributes to the goals of The European Green Deal. The plans for this amended Accelerator call are currently finalised and are expected to be released by the end of March.
Another new focus area specially interesting for companies with female CEOs (or similar positions) is also expected to be released by the end of March. As the EIC announced to include measures to ensure that 25% of all finalists in the EIC Accelerator Pilot are women-led companies. This would entail that if less than 25% of the companies selected for the final-stage interviews are led by women, additional interviews will be scheduled2.
Hezelburcht: extensive support
Hezelburcht has a high level of knowledge of European grant programs and has supported various international organizations and consortia with their application for European grants. We have extensive experience with the predecessor of the EIC Accelerator program, the SME instrument phase 2 If you have any questions or would like to receive more information about the EIC Accelerator Pilot, please do not hesitate to contact us!
 Numbers provided by Dutch National Contact Point Horizon 2020 SME