Horizon Europe, the successor to Horizon 2020, is set to run from 2021-2027, with a 30% budget increase. Despite the complexities of Brexit, UK companies and researchers can still access Horizon Europe and EU research funding; the UK is joining as an associated member country. Historically ~100 UK based EIC Accelerator projects have secured funding, receiving a combined €177 million (the fourth highest total in Europe after Spain, France and Germany).
Horizon Europe primarily targets large, pan European collaborations, with a mix of partners from both industry and academia. As large collaborations are usually preferred, there are a limited number of opportunities for single SME applicants. The good news is that having been trialled in Horizon 2020 and deemed a success, the EIC Accelerator (previously known as the SME Instrument) has returned with a €592.5 million budget to fund Open projects. In addition to receiving financial support, grant holders also receive business acceleration support and will receive tailored coaching and mentoring.
The Accelerator supports high-risk, high-potential SMEs to develop and commercialise new innovative products, services and business models. It funds new scientific discoveries or technological breakthroughs, known as ‘deep tech’, where significant investment is needed over a long timeframe before returns can be generated. Open to single start-ups, spinouts, and SMEs, with an innovation that is at least at TRL 5 to 6 (tested and validated in a laboratory/relevant environment), the competition allows companies to develop/validate their technology up to TRL 8 (system complete and qualified).
One of the Accelerator’s key objectives is to improve gender balance and promote women in innovation. When sifting applications for interview, companies will be selected on the basis of excellence (i.e. a high scoring application), however the target is for 40% of companies reaching the interview stage to have female CEOs. Continuing with the gender balance theme, the support services available to grant holders includes specific provision for female founders; these actions are being taken to promote/support women across the innovation ecosystem.
The predecessor pilot programme (delivered under Horizon 2020) was criticised for having an onerous and complex application process. In response to this, the following changes have been made:
- First-stage (short) applications can be submitted any time
- Second-stage (full) proposals to be made by a specified cut-off date
If your first stage application is successful, you’ll be invited to prepare a full application which can be submitted to one of the cut-off dates within the next 12 months (currently 09 June 2021 and 06 October 2021).
Are you considering making an application? We have a proven track record of supporting innovative SMEs to secure grant funding. Our specialist team can advise you on whether your application is in scope (if it isn’t, we’ll help to identify a more suitable funding source) and support you throughout the application process.