On the EIC Accelerator’s 2021 Success Rates (SME Instrument)

The EIC Accelerator blended financing (formerly SME Instrument Phase 2, grant and equity) has reinvented itself in 2021 with a new submission process, a larger budget and new success thresholds (read: AI Tool Review). The latter is significant since they directly define how much time companies will need to spend on an application and how much time would have been wasted in case of a rejection (read: Companies That Should Not Apply).

With the success rates having approximated 5% for many years and them having seen a steep decline in 2020 from 2.7% in January to <1% in October, it is likely that these success rates are now moving towards an all-time high.

A previously published article investigated the potential success rates and predicted workloads of the individual stages, namely Step 1 (short application), Step 2 (full application) and Step 3 (face-to-face interview). The analysis looked at the best outcomes for applicants since the analysis directly correlated the success rates with the workload imposed on applicants and concluded that the most selective barriers should be in the beginning rather than in the end to avoid months worth of wasted effort.

The 2021 Success rates

With many startups and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) having applied to the 2021’s EIC Accelerator either by themselves or via consultants and professional writers, it is now possible to draw conclusions on the overall distribution of the success rates (read: Re-Inventing the EIC Accelerator).

Since Step 1 is continually open for submissions, the approval rates are constantly changing but as of May 15th 2021, 67% of companies have passed with 755 out of 1,114. This number is expected to remain relatively constant over the coming months since it is also the threshold the European Innovation Council (EIC) had targeted.

Step 2 results have only recently been published and they might not be representative for the coming cut-off’s since (i) the preparation time for applicants was less than 30 days, (ii) it was the very first call with a new application process and (iii) the feedback of the Step 3 interview juries might influence future Step 2 evaluations. Nonetheless, in June, 130 out of 801 applicants were selected for Step 3 which means that 16% of companies were successful in this stage.

Note: Out of the 130 interview invitations for the EIC Accelerator’s Step 3, 24 Swiss startups were deemed ineligible due to the recent decision of the Swiss authorities in relation to Horizon Europe (2021-2027). This would yield a 13% success rate in this Stage considering that only 106 companies will participate in the interviews in mid-September.

Combining the success rates of Step 1 and Step 2 yields a total success rate of 11% leading up to Step 3, and, considering that the success rates of the interview stage (Step 3) have historically been between approximately 50% in 2018/2019, it can be assumed that the overall success rate will regain a 5% total for the EIC Accelerator.

Note: While interview success rates were approximately 50% in 2018/2019, they have oscillated between 30% and 50% in Q4 2019 and throughout 2020. Due to the high budgets and the dropout of 24 Swiss applicants (18% of all invitees) after the Step 2 evaluations, Step 3 success rates could potentially reach 70%, yielding a 7%+ funding rate.

Conclusion

It remains to be seen how the actual success rates will unfold in Step 3 and how future changes in the submission forms, the official proposal template and in the evaluations (esp. with jury feedback) will affect these thresholds.

The budget of €1B for only 2 cut-offs in 2021 is likewise extremely high which means that this 2021 gold rush might be short-lived. One thing is for certain: The EIC Accelerator has never been as accessible as it is today with many great projects having higher chances to receive funding.

What remains to be seen is if the EIC stands by their commitment and does not rank proposals against each other but retains its individualised GO & NO-GO methodology. If this is the case then the EIC accelerator could stay as accessible as it is now for the entirety of Horizon Europe (2021-2027) since no amount of applicants or competition would impede an individual projects chances of success.

Even though this does seem like the ideal scenario, it remains to be seen if this is feasible. If the GO’s in Step 2 or 3 exceed the budgets then there are only three options: (1) Reject GO applicants based on discriminating factors (i.e. industry, costs, gender), (2) create a waiting list for approved proposals either in Step 2 or 3 (i.e. before the interview or after the interview) or (3) change the back-end evaluation prior to publishing the results to reject otherwise funded applicants retroactively (i.e. making the jury evaluation stricter).

One last thing to mention is that some government agencies are forced to completely spend their annual budgets since it is directly related to their allocated budget in the following year so the October 2021 cut-off of the EIC Accelerator might see a surprising number of funded companies if the June cut-off does not spend its available €500M.


The articles found on Rasph.com reflect the opinions of Rasph or its respective authors and in no way reflect opinions held by the European Commission (EC) or the European Innovation Council (EIC). The provided information aims to share perspectives that are valuable and can potentially inform applicants regarding grant funding schemes such as the EIC Accelerator, EIC Pathfinder, EIC Transition or related programs such as Innovate UK in the United Kingdom or the Small Business Innovation and Research grant (SBIR) in the United States.

The articles can also be a useful resource for other consultancies in the grant space as well as professional grant writers who are hired as freelancers or are part of a Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME). The EIC Accelerator is part of Horizon Europe (2021-2027) which has recently replaced Horizon 2020. Previously, the EIC Accelerator was named SME Instrument Phase 2 whereas Phase 1 was discontinued in 2019. It should also be noted that the current Steps of the EIC Accelerator application do not correspond to the Phases that were available in 2019 but only act as additional evaluation thresholds for the project's assessment.


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