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how to get funding for your startup cresco by vestbee
23 June 2022·6 min read

Jure Tomc

Director, Cresco Innovation

How To Successfully Get Grant Funding For Your Startup?

The EIC Accelerator supports companies (principally startups and SMEs) to scale up high-impact innovations with the potential to create new markets or disrupt existing ones by providing grant funding opportunities.

Which startups and SMEs does the EIC Accelerator support?

The EIC Accelerator supports startups and small to medium-size enterprises developing high-risk or high-impact innovations with the potential to either create new markets or transform existing ones whilst contributing to societal innovation. In order to be qualified, you need to build your solution on scientific discoveries, radical thinking or a technological breakthrough. You will also need to be at TRL 5 (this means your technology is validated in the relevant environment) or above. This grant opportunity can support your business if you require significant funding or if there is a long timeframe before returns can be generated. 

How much can your company apply for?

You can apply for up to a €2.5M grant (which is 70% funded) and the project will last between 12 – 24 months. You could also apply for up to €15M equity investment funding. 

What are the grant application criteria?

You can apply if you meet one of the following eligibility conditions:

  • You are a single startup or SME established in an EU Member State or Horizon Europe (HE) Associated Country
  • You are a ‘small mid-cap’ (up to 499 employees) established in an EU Member State or HE Associated Country.
  • You need funding for rapid scale up and your activities are at TRL 9 (e.g.: commercialisation and market deployment).
  • You can only apply for the investment component.
  • You are a natural person or willing to set up an SME


PS. Applicants from the UK can apply, but can only receive “grant only” funding. 

There are two types of calls. To apply for the Open Calls, your solution can be in any field of technology. This can include innovations that cut across different scientific, technological, sectoral and application fields, or represent novel combinations. To apply for the Challenge Driven Calls, your solution will have to meet the specific criteria of that competition. Usually, EU priorities are taken into consideration for these calls (such as transitioning to a green, digital and healthy society). For 2022, the strategic priorities are technologies for open strategic autonomy and technologies relating to ‘Fit for 55’. 

Types of funding available 

There are three different types of funding available: Blended Finance, Grant First, or Grant Only. Each of these slightly differs in the types of activities it can cover, the types of funding components applicable and the innovation funding criteria. See the below table for a breakdown of these. 


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Impact of your innovation

A key section in the grant application focuses on the impact of your innovation. You will need to outline your solution’s technological, social, and economic impact.

For this section, you should keep in mind the direct effects of your deliverables, your impact on the market, any ethical issues, and how your solution may align with EU priorities and the UN Sustainable Goals. 

How to get granted?

To score highly in an EIC Accelerator, there are some components that you will definitely need to embrace within your application. This includes having a clear innovation with corresponding IP (if possible). You will also need to show that there is a large technical and commercial risk to the project, along with a strong market pull, and demonstrate that your solution has good commercial potential and is at the appropriate stage of development (TRL levels). 

A business model, a work plan, financial projections, a state-of-the-art review, and a competitor analysis are also key elements to put an emphasis on while filling out a grant application.

What does the Application Process look like?

There are three stages and two attempts per step. 

Stage 1:  Short Proposal

This initial stage involves an online application where you will outline aspects such as your innovation, the potential market and the project team. There is also a 10-slide pitch deck and a 3-minute video required. This can be submitted at any time (with no strict deadline date), and you will receive your results within 4 weeks of submission. 

Stage 2: Full Proposal (following success at Stage 1)

If you are successful at Stage 1, you will then move on to Stage 2 of the application process. This involves a 20-page proposal with annexes and detailed financial forecasts, and you will be offered coaching by the EC. There are three evaluation criteria: Excellence, Impact, Risk & Implementation. The deadlines for the Stage 2 are published by the EIC every year here. You will receive your results within 5 to 6 weeks after submission. 

Stage 3: Interview Process

The interview is approximately 1 hour in total including a 10-minute pitch, a 30-minute Q&A and 25 minutes of deliberation. You will receive your results within 5 to 6 weeks. 

Tips and Tricks

After having worked on many EIC Accelerators, here at Cresco Innovation, we have picked up some tips and tricks to help you get a high score on your application. For example, we have found that the first page is absolutely key, as it helps to outline the proposal in a nutshell (applications that have strong first pages tend to have strong scores throughout the application). A detailed business plan along with a balanced team and graphical illustrations can further strengthen your application. Obtaining letters of intent can add value to your argument for market pull while being honest about competitors and competing technologies also plays a crucial role. We have found that it is also best to avoid large sub-contracting costs in your project. 

Why use Cresco?

Our experts can work with you to develop your innovative idea/solution into a grant application. As a team, we have raised EUR 40 million of grant funding in three years. In 2019 alone we secured funding of 17M EUR for European SMEs. So far in 2022, we have already secured over 7 million EUR of grant funding for clients. 

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Cresco Values

There is a wide range of benefits from cooperating with Cresco team while working on your EIC Accelerator application. We would be more than happy to share with you our breadth of knowledge and experience in developing project work plans, business models, analysing competitors and financial projections. We can hold mock interviews and Q&A sessions to ensure you are confident and well-prepared as well as save time in your internal team, and importantly increase your chances of grant success!

Related Posts:

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Startup Fundraising: How To Craft Startup One-Pager For Investors? (by Olga Chechłacz, Editor, Vestbee)

How To Spot Best VC Fund For Your Startup? (by Daniel Tomov, Founding Partner, Eleven Ventures)

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