By: Dr. Moshiel Biton, Addionics CEO
Winning the H2020 EU grant has been a significant milestone to achieve as a company. Since the announcement, I have received a number of phone calls and emails, asking how best to win the grant. After several of these exchanges I decided it would be a good idea to compile this information so that I can share my advice more widely.
With close to €80B in funding, Horizon2020 is the largest European Research and Innovation Programme. It aims to find game-changing technological developments, which otherwise would have difficulty in getting funds because of their early stage of development and/or commercialisation and the high risk to private investors.
Based on my experience, I am happy to share a number of recommendations:
Get your team onboard. As some say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, and this project was no exception to that. We made sure to communicate the importance of the project to the whole team and made sure to have ‘all hands on deck’. Having said that, we did nominate one team member, Nir, our VP R&D, to lead the project and he did an incredible job in dealing with all the required analyses, reports and documents.
Outsource an accredited company to help prepare and manage your application. Applying for the grant is a huge bureaucratic procedure and is highly time consuming. While these services are not cheap (to say the least) and require dedicating a not-so-insignificant budget, their expertise is valuable. Each company offers different contracts and you should negotiate your terms wisely. We are working with Alien Technology Transfer which specialise in the Horizon 2020 grant scheme. Building a strong and close working-relationship with Alien has been critical for the success of the project. Another tip, make sure you have only one project manager on their end working on this.
Choose your EU coach carefully (in case you apply to phase 1 first). Only if you apply first to phase 1 (highly recommended; more about this at the end), and once the funds for phase 1 are approved, you are given a list of people from which to choose your EU coach. His main role is to ensure and support the achievement of the deliverables. We recommend selecting a coach who has extensive relevant industry experience. For example, our coach after phase 1, Henning, has been working over 20 years in the Automotive industry and for 3 years as an EU coach. His insight and feedback about our presentation and other materials were extremely helpful, so much so that we will continue working with him through after Phase 2. Henning has become a true friend of ours and on every visit to Tel Aviv we make it a point to hang out. Having a coach who is truly passionate about your industry or product, makes all the difference - so choose smartly!
Engage your advisors. Our advisors walked hand-in-hand with us and we made sure not only to ask for their advice but to listen and implement it as well. Their help was invaluable and they provided much needed insight throughout the process. Ask them to write you a recommendation letter which supports your application.
Collect Letters of Intention (LOIs). Speak to the corporates, experts and professionals who you’ve worked with and are relevant players, and ask them to write a LOI. They should shortly outline your work history and give their opinion about your technology and its potential. This doesn’t entail any commitment on their side and is of great value to you. Often, investors or companies who believe in your technology but are not yet ready for a full collaboration will also be pleased to help push you forward. We were pleased to know that many were willing to give us their blessing, voicing their vote of confidence in our technology from within the industry.
Practice answering questions from investors. Before applying, try to receive as much feedback from investors and VCs as possible, even and especially if you’ve received a negative reply from them. This is critical because throughout the process for the grant, it was often industry experts and several investors who interviewed us.
Being considered ‘higher risk’ is helpful. We had to prove that not only do we have a disruptive product, but also that our technology (hardware) is one which is not easy to raise money for as SW-based companies. I believe that during and even after the COVID-19 crisis this will be applicable to most companies as nowadays most startup investments are considered risky. Keep in mind that competition now will also be tougher...
Prove your commitment to the cause. We made sure to have all three founders fly over for the assessment committee day in Brussels even though we could have ‘spared the time and money’ and only have me attend. This sent a clear message regarding how seriously invested we all were in this project.
Practice makes perfect; tips for Brussels. All three founders of our company traveled to Brussels. I recommend having only one speaker for the 10min pitch, preferably the CEO, but having all founders participate in the Q&A session. Regarding the pitch: try and prepare it so that it’s less than 10min and memorise it in short bullet-points so that it’s crystal clear to you. Make sure to practice many, many, many ‘dry runs’ before ‘getting on stage’. Practice in front of friends with different expertise, they will each give you their own unique (and hopefully honest) opinion. I was lucky to pitch in front of dear friends and experts including Aviv Frenkel, Inon Bracha, Michal Vakrat and Tal Cohen. You can also record yourself and listen, which I personally found helpful. With regards to the Q&A session: during the interview you and your founders will be asked many challenging questions. Ideally, you wouldn’t want to be answering any question for the first time in front of the judges. Schedule Q&A practices amongst you beforehand.
Speak to past winners! I made sure to pick up the phone and speak to friends that have received the grant in the past, nothing beats first-hand experience. I would like to thank Omer Zelka, and Hugo Macedo, who were generous in both their time and advice they were willing to share with me.
Last but not least - keep applying and don’t give up. Phase 1 is a ‘concept and feasibility assessment’ and phase 2 is an ‘innovation project’. You don’t necessarily need to receive the phase 1 grant in order to submit your phase 2 application (they can be mutually exclusive, see FAQs here). Investing in writing a good application for phase 1, even if rejected, is not ‘wasted’ as you will be using a substantial amount of that material for writing your phase 2 application. Also, if your application is rejected don’t give up; you can apply multiple times and at any time, there are 4 cut-off dates per year.
Wishing much success on your journey!
Moshiel, Addionics CEO
From left to right: CEO Dr. Moshiel Biton, VP R&D Nir Halup, CSO Dr. Farid Tariq and CTO Dr. Vladimir Yufit