The European innovation funding landscape holds opportunities to realise innovative ideas, but often also causes confusion and sparks question marks. It is a complex and ever-changing landscape, making it difficult to navigate. Débora Ferreira, Partner and Director of Enterprise Services at Innovayt as well as experienced innovation funding consultant, gives some clarity by answering frequently asked questions received from clients about innovation funding in general and specific European funding programmes, namely, EIC Accelerator and EUROSTARS.
Q: How do I, as CEO of an innovative SME, find the best grants for my company?
A: Finding the best grants could be a difficult task. At Innovayt we can help you gain an overview, guide you towards the most suitable funding instruments, and make sure that you arrive at a viable effective funding strategy. To define a strategy, we will assess all key parameters impacting your choice of funding instrument, including the nature of the project idea; the activities to be funded; the current status of the company; and, the anticipated project impact. We will not only analyse your formal eligibility and compatibility with funding instruments (such as the EIC Accelerator or EUROSTARS), but rather assess your real chances of success based on our experience and on elements like programme success rates, funded portfolios, programme practice and other informal inputs, which are key to drawing conclusions on the real match and probability of success.
Q: How much do I need to be involved in the application writing process if I decide to contract your services for the preparation of a grant proposal?
A: The client’s involvement depends on selected consultancy model. In the full proposal model, Innovayt has the full responsibility of drafting the application. Tasks include overall process coordination; drafting the different sections as well as adjusting text to project idea; drafting budget; and, most importantly, thoroughly preparing an application that represents the strategic interests of the client while ensuring highest possible chances of success. Yet, even in this full model, we will always need input from your team to ensure a highly competitive application.
In the other available consultancy model, the assistance model, the client holds the overall responsibility for drafting and handing in the application while Innovayt assist according to agreed framework. In other words, the degree of assistance is set by the client and could range from review and quality control to taking control of the entire application process.
Q: What are some examples of European funding programmes and instruments?
A: One example is the EIC Accelerator (EICA), issued by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and part of the EU Horizon Europe programme, supporting high-risk but high-potential SMEs and innovators in the entire process from demonstration to market launch and break-even. Another example is the EUROSTARS programme, organised by EUREKA, supporting innovative SMEs in implementing commercially driven R&D projects in international consortia.
Q: How much funding can I receive from the EIC Accelerator?
A: The EIC Accelerator funding is based on a combination of a grant and an equity (or other non-grant) investment from the EIC for the applying SME. The combined investment aims to bridge the gap from pre-commercial to market and scale-up. The grant component (maximum 2.5M EUR) is intended to cover innovation activities (TRL6-8), at a 70% subsidy rate, while the equity investment component (between 0.5 and 15M EUR) will primarily finance market deployment and scale-up.
Q: What are the different steps of the EIC Accelerator application process and respective timeline?
A: The application process begins with the submission of a short Step 1 application (5-page form; slide deck; plus, a short video pitch) that can be submitted at any time and will be evaluated within 4 weeks. If successful, the company is invited to prepare a Step 2 application, i.e., a full written proposal to be submitted for one of the following dedicated Step 2 cut-offs. The full application will be evaluated by a panel of independent experts and, in the case of a positive evaluation, the company is then invited for a face-to-face interview, after which the SME may obtain a positive decision on the EIC investment. Face-to-face interviews are organised approximately 8 or 9 weeks after the selected Step 2 cut-off date. The result of the interview is known within 2 or 3 weeks.
Q: Similar to other funding programmes, like the EIC Accelerator, can I apply for a EUROSTARS grant as a single entity?
A: No, the EUROSTARS funding programme is only open for collaborative projects. In a EUROSTARS project, a minimum of 2 partners from different EUREKA member states should work together to develop a new technology or a new product.
Q: How much time does it take to write a EUROSTARS grant proposal?
A: It takes us up to 2 months to prepare a competitive EUROSTARS proposal, from initial validation of project idea until the final submission of the application. In a first step, the client’s project idea is validated according to explicit and implicit requirements of the EUROSTARS funding programme. In a second step, the focus is on drafting a competitive application, as well as on recruiting project partners for the client if needed. In a third and final step, subject to a positive funding decision, we may also offer support for the implementation of the project.