European Innovation Council Accelerator arrives, the European Union’s most competitive business funding

Last April 9 was the official kick-off of the new European Innovation Council (EIC). Since 2018 we had been living in what we had called the EIC pilot. For those of you who are not familiar with the EIC, it is one of the main novelties of Horizon Europe, representing the most ambitious innovation initiative Europe has ever taken, with a budget of €10 billion for the period 2021-2027. This European Innovation Council comprises different funding options that I refer you to below, both by schemes and their position on the TRL and BRL scale. I owe this last image to Luis Guerra, National Contact Point of EIC in Spain, who together with his colleagues Esther Casado and Lucía Íñigo keep us informed of all the news regarding this accelerator scheme.


Support to research teams to research or develop an emerging breakthrough technology


Maturing a novel technology and developing a business case to bring it to market.


Funding and investments through the EIC Fund for individual start-ups and small companies to develop and scale up game changing innovations


All EIC supported projects and companies get access to coaching, mentoring, partnering and other EIC Business Acceleration Services


Specific support to enable innovation ecosystem actors to work together across Europe


Take the challenge and compete for an EIC Prize which rewards Europe’s leading innovators

To put into context this highly competitive program, which has undergone several modifications to become what it is today, I show you some relevant data about what has been the EIC pilot since its launch in 2018, which you can find on the official EIC Accelerator Data Hub website.




Million euros


Coordinated projects

In today’s post we are going to focus solely and exclusively on what refers to the EIC Accelerator or the EIC Accelerator calls, since the vast majority of those 10 billion euros that are available for the EIC during the period 2021-2027 will be awarded to this program. At the moment for 2021 we have estimated close to 1 billion euros between grant and equity components.

Program not only for SMEs, but also for individuals or legal entities that are going to incorporate or relocate a company to Europe or a Partner Country. Midcaps and investment-only investors may also participate.

The offer is maintained with the possibility of applying for a grant of between 0.5 and 2.5 million euros financed at 70% (TRL6- TRL8), and an investment component of up to 15 million euros (any TRL).

Application in 4 steps: short proposal, full proposal, evaluation of the full proposal and interview in Brussels.

4 different submission modalities: grant-only, grant-first, investment-only, blended.

2 types of calls: open y challenges.

2-3 annual cut-offs

Before going into a bit more detail on what this major change in the EIC structure means and the steps to follow to apply for funding, I leave you with the following definitions that you should know if you want to participate in this instrument:

  • Grant-only: you can demonstrate that you have sufficient financial means (e.g. revenue stream, existing investors, or shareholders) to finance the deployment and scale-up of your innovation. In such a case, you will have to detail in your proposal all the elements demonstrating that you possess or are in the process of obtaining the necessary resources and financial means to cover the activities in TRL 9 normally covered by the investment component.
  • Grant-first: your innovation is based on a scientific discovery or novel technology and still requires significant work to validate and demonstrate in relevant environments to adequately assess its commercial potential. Such innovations may include but are not limited to, those based on research results from the EIC Pathfinder and Transition, as well as the European Research Council.
  • Investment-only: you can only apply for an investment component from the EIC Fund.
  • Blended finance: mixed funding in which you apply for both grant and investment components.


  • Short proposal

    STEP 1

    Always open. 2 opportunities. 12 months penalty. Results in 4 weeks + feedback.

  • Full proposal

    STEP 2

    Platform + coaching on the first attempt.

  • Full proposal evaluation

    STEP 3

    2 cuts in 2021. 2 opportunities. 12 months penalty. Results in 5-6 weeks + feedback.

  • Interview in Brussels

    STEP 4

    1 or 2 lots per cut. Seal of Excellence or direct invitation to next interview. 8-9 weeks after the cut. Results in 2-3 weeks after interview.

As we can see, the European Commission has decided to establish a system of “filters” within the Accelerator, with the aim of avoiding what has been happening during Horizon 2020: that unsuccessful companies have submitted the same proposal (or almost) more than 10 times, with the consequent administrative and bureaucratic costs that this entails.

Explaining a little more some concepts of this new process, undoubtedly one of the main novelties are the penalties when resubmitting a proposal. As we have seen, if we fail to pass step 1 in two attempts, we will be sent “to the fridge” for 12 months before starting the process again. The same logic applies to the full proposal evaluation part. In the case of the interview, we can be “sent to the step 3 box” with the consequent penalty of 12 months, we can be awarded the Seal of Excellence and returned to step 3 without penalty, or we can be directly invited to the next round of interviews.

I also think it is good for us to understand what it means to be awarded the Seal of Excellence (SoE) at the interview stage. The Seal of Excellence is a quality label awarded to project proposals submitted to Horizon Europe to help these proposals find alternative funding. In the case of the Accelerator, work is being done at the national level so that those proposals that obtain this SoE can apply for national funding with a competitive advantage. There is still a long way to go before we know how this issue will be articulated, but it is always good to keep it in mind.


  • Short proposal: always open from April 9, 2021.
  • Full proposal: 2 cuts in 2021, June 14 and October 6.
  • Interviews: 8-9 weeks after each cut-off.
  • The evaluation criteria remain the same as before: excellence, impact and level of risk, implementation and need for EU support.
  • In the short proposal the key evaluation criteria will focus on the breakthrough nature of new market creation, scaling potential and human team. The evaluation will be carried out by 4 remote evaluators who will provide feedback in an Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) and a Go/No Go score.
  • The full proposal will include more dimensions related to commercialization strategy, risk level, intellectual property, technological feasibility and risk analysis, among others. The evaluation will be carried out by 3 remote evaluators who will give their feedback in an Evaluation Summary Report (ESR). If any evaluator gives a No Go on any of the criteria, the proposal will not go to an interview, facing a second resubmission or 12 months of “fridge”.
  • The interview is conducted a priori physically in Brussels with a 6-member jury composed of entrepreneurs, innovation experts and investors senior. Companies with a female CEO will be invited up to a quota of 40%. It is recommended to attend the interview in a team of 2-3 people.
  • New platform based on Artificial Intelligence (AI Platform) for sending applications.
  • Guided process without templates.
  • To date, only the complete form for the short proposal has been developed, where the equivalent of a small 5-page report must be filled in, a pitch deck of a maximum of 10 slides without a predefined format by the European Commission must be included, and a 3-minute video must be attached where the motivation of the team to apply for this funding is explained.
  • Self-guided process of questions through this new platform.
  • You will have to start the process through the Funding & Tenders Portal so that it redirects you to this new EIC artificial intelligence-based IT platform.
  • Two lines of funding open in 2021 with the same participation criteria and cut-off dates.
  • EIC Accelerator open for disruptive innovations in any technological field. 296 million euros in subvention and 296 million euros in investment.
  • EIC Accelerator challenges for disruptive innovations with impact in the areas of Strategic Digital and Health technologies and Green Deal innovations for the economic recovery. 248 million euros in grants and 248 million euros in investment for both challenges.
  • Two funding lines open in 2021 with the same participation criteria and cut-off dates.
  • 4-step application process.
  • No numerical scores, changed to “Go” or “No Go”.
  • New application based on artificial intelligence without templates.
  • Limits the number of resubmissions by including 12-month “fridge” periods between phases.
  • Extended support to participants through coaching services during the application process to increase the chances of funding.


In Spain we are fortunate to have a magnificent team of NCPs who, from CDTI, will be happy to answer all our questions:

  • Luis Guerra:; @LGuerra_CDTI
  • Esther Casado:; @eCasado_CDTI
  • Lucía Íñigo:; @LuciaInigo_CDTI

In addition, NCPs at the international level participate in a project called Acces2EIC, where you can find support and updated information on this funding scheme.


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