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Applying for EIC Accelerator funding: How to succeed

The EIC Accelerator is one of the most prestigious and attractive, but also one of the most competitive, funding instruments of Horizon Europe for individual start-ups and small companies developing and scaling up game-changing innovations. Three former Fit 4 Start participants who have received funding shared their best advice about do’s and don’ts at the Fit 4 Start Alumni event held on 25 May 2023.

Applying for EIC Accelerator funding is challenging: the application process (from the initial submission to the signature of the grant agreement, in case of success) takes on average a year, and the success rate is usually 2-5%. So is it worth the effort? “Definitely – as long as you meet the selection criteria, of course,” confirms Inna Perepelytsya, Senior Advisor Start up Acceleration at Luxinnovation, who moderated the discussion at the Fit 4 Start Alumni event. “The funding is really attractive: you can get up to €2.5 million in grant, and it is also possible to apply for equity investment of up to €15 million. On top of this, selected companies receive coaching, mentoring and access to investors and corporates, as well as a European recognition of their potential and excellence.”

Bridging the phase of uncertainty

For Cédric Spaas, CEO of Arspectra that specialises in augmented reality solutions for healthcare specialists, the EIC grant helps the company take a big step forward. “A medtech company encounters specific challenges: once you have developed your technology, you still need to validate it clinically and pass all regulatory requirements. This clinical validation can be very expensive, and although investors might believe in your product, they are hesitant to invest if the success and time to market is difficult to estimate. For highly innovative technologies in particular, the regulatory process can be even tougher. The EIC Accelerator funding is excellent as it helps us bridge this first phase of uncertainty and generate evidence of clinical success.”

The EIC Accelerator funding is excellent as it helps us bridge this first phase of uncertainty and generate evidence of clinical success.
Cédric Spaas

Another previous Fit 4 Start participant, innovative ophthalmology solutions developer AkknaTek, sees similar advantages. “The EIC Accelerator grant will help us complete our development process and conduct the clinical validation of our product in a multicentre clinical setting, demonstrating the long-term clinical benefits,” says CEO Edgar Janunts. “Once we have been able to integrate the technology in a clinical routine, it will attract additional private investment.”

Speeding up the process

For Circu Li-ion, which has developed an innovative technology for dismantling used batteries and recovering up to 90% of battery cells for a useful second life application, the EIC grant has already brought significant change. “The funding radically accelerates our development and enables us to continuously hire top talent. We are expanding our data and artificial intelligence (AI) team that works on processing and deriving value from the huge amount of battery data that our work generates,” says co-founder and CTO Xavier Kohll. “For me, this has been an eye opener regarding the efforts that you need to put into finding, selecting and hiring good people.”

The funding radically accelerates our development and enables us to continuously hire top talent.
Xavier Kohll

While the funding often enables quick growth of the team, Mr Janunts advises other applicants to have a long-term view of their development. “I have seen other companies that have struggled to maintain their staff once the grant money runs out. You need to avoid changing in a way that will put stress on the company once the funding is gone.”

Succeeding with the EIC Accelerator application process

EIC Accelerator applications can be submitted at any time. If the initial application (step 1) fulfils the basic funding criteria, the company will be invited to submit a full application (step 2) by one of the periodic cut-off dates (on average 4 times per year). “Full applications are assessed by experts, and selected companies are invited for face-to-face interviews which is the final step 3 of the selection process,” explains Ms Perepelytsya.

Whether or not the application writing should be outsourced to consultants is a matter of choice. “I would personally not outsource the proposal writing, but rather invest the time and effort necessary to do the work myself and then check with experts whether the proposal fits all criteria,” says Mr Janunts.

Don’t give up

Francisco Melo, Advisor – European R&D and Innovation Support, LuxinnovationLuxembourg companies that want to apply to the EIC Accelerator can get help from Luxinnovation. “We are there to support applicants during the whole process,” says Francisco Melo, Advisor – European R&D and Innovation Support at Luxinnovation and Luxembourg’s national contact point for the EIC Accelerator. “We can explain how to apply, give recommendations about how to fill in the form and prepare related presentations and videos and provide feedback on the applications. We can also support them in finding the right experts in the EIC database who can coach them with specific aspects of their applications.”

We are there to support applicants during the whole process.
Francisco Melo

The best advice from the EIC Accelerator winners to those whose applications are rejected is: do not give up. “Just reapply, but take it very seriously and surround yourself with the right, good experts,” says Mr Spaas. “We failed several times, but in the end, it was certainly worth it.”

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