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European Innovation Council

Handbook on EIC Business Coaching

If this coaching will be your first ever assignment for the Commission, please make sure that your registration in the Funding & Tenders portal is fully completed.

Please make sure that your legal entity form and bank account form are validated, before you declare yourself available for a coaching assignment.

The mission of the European Innovation Council

The European Innovation Council (‘EIC’) aims at identifying and supporting breakthrough technologies and innovations with the potential to scale up internationally and become market leading. It supports all stages of innovation from R&D to validation and demonstration of breakthrough technologies and innovations to meet real world needs, to the development and scaling up of start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Financial support is provided through three main instruments: the ‘Pathfinder’ for advanced research on breakthrough technologies; ‘Transition’ for transforming research results into innovation opportunities; and the ‘Accelerator’ for individual companies to develop and scale up breakthrough innovations with high risk and high impact.

All EIC funded projects and companies, as well as applicants invited to submit a full application and Seal of Excellence companies, have access to Business Acceleration Services providing coaching, access to expertise, corporates, investors and ecosystem actors.

The objectives of EIC coaching

For the EIC, the coaching service is a means to increase the chances of successful accomplishment of the innovation projects. As ninety-five percent of innovation failure comes from poor strategy and leadership, business coaching aims at empowering the coachees to develop and successfully implement high growth strategies and leadership. 

The EIC coaching service will empower the coachee to establish a compelling strategy, face hurdles preventing its development and create a growth plan to bring confidence to the coachee.

The impact is especially high when coaches bring learnings from their own business development experience. Successful coaching demonstrates impact to avoid mistakes, to consider new options and networks, to improve strategy and to go-to-market faster. Coaching aims to equip the coachee with the necessary skills and means to ensure commercial success and growth.

Target groups for coaching

The business coaching is available for various target groups and shall be tailor made to deliver the desired outcome for each of them:

  • For Accelerator applicants (2nd stage) and Seal-of-Excellence teams, the objective is to improve the value proposition, business plan and investor pitch.
  • For Pathfinder researchers the objective is to discover innovation opportunities and to provide insight in the entrepreneurship potential.
  • For Transition teams the objective is to analyse the industry and to create a value proposition.
  • For Accelerator start-ups and scale-ups, the objective is to improve the business plan, the strategy implementation and a faster market entry.
  • In the Women Leadership Program (WLP), we offer additional WLP coaching to help leaders tackle potential glass ceiling issues.

Accelerator applicants and Seal-of-excellence holders will receive three days of coaching while for the other target groups additional coaching may be requested to the project officer.

Coaches’ way of working

EIC business coaches have the task to discover improvement opportunities together with their coachee and have the responsibility to accompany them in actually learning and solving complicated business development issues.  Coaching topics cover the entire entrepreneurial venture from discovering or challenging the value proposition and business model, improving the strategy and investor business case, building the team, the leadership and processes, up to partnerships and international expansion.

Contrary to consultants, who merely provide requested information, a coach will mainly question the aspirations and challenge the assumptions, in face-to-face sessions.

The EIC adopted business development topics are:

  • value proposition development;
  • validation of the offer;
  • go-to-Market steps;
  • people management;
  • partnerships strategy;
  • finance and Investment readiness;
  • prganisational development ;
  • supply chain and distribution.

With the complete agenda of topics in mind, (also e.g. Osterwalder Canvas model serves well), the coach will typically insist questioning until the coachee and coach are confident about:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What is necessary to reach that?
  • What is your biggest challenge?
  • How will you get there?

Obviously, a well-trusted personal relationship is a necessary base to enable a fruitful exchange of thoughts and ideas. Building trust is the main essential skill in the coach selection criteria. Coaches shall consult the leaflet we use to manage expectations for coachees and check the disclosure of some EIC coaches, how they work.

EIC coaching assignments cannot be instrumental for writing proposals or other consultancy activities.

Applicant coaching

From the above target groups, the Accelerator applicants will be the most numerous. Coaches need to reflect on their role with this special coachee type.

The new Accelerator application process – in short - has three steps:

  1. Submit a short application, containing the ‘innovation story’, a slide deck and a video,
    to be remotely evaluated with either a NO GO or a GO.
  2. When step1 is GO: Submit a full proposal (on cut-off dates), containing a business plan and pitch deck, to be remotely evaluated with either a NO GO or a GO.
  3. When step2 is GO: Pitch the business plan and face-to-face interview to EIC jury panel.

During the full proposal preparation in step 2, the applicants are entitled to three days of coaching to help them improve the business plan.

The content of the applicant coaching concentrates on improving the persuasiveness of the business plan.

Coaches shall therefore check the assessment details in the Guide for applicants, , and in particular take note of the Accelerator Questions, which the applicant has to answer in the AI portal.

Normally, the applicant will grant access to the AI-based application portal for the coach, in which all the project materials are visible and coaches have room to comment in the system.

Depending on which deadline cut-off date the applicant has in mind, the available time before the proposal submission may be limited. Interested coaches may need to be available at short notice.

Bear in mind that the applicant is clearly instructed: “The applicant remains fully responsible for the content of the proposal and is the only one to decide to which call to apply.” Coaches are not accountable for the outcome of the evaluation.

Further, a coach shall not spend precious time on writing (parts of) the proposal texts or other consultancy services like e.g. market research or IPR advice.

Matching and selection process

Coachees will search in the database of accepted coaches, indicating their market and industry context, their most acute business development topics and biggest challenge. A thus selected shortlist of coaches with matching profiles is then notified and invited to express their availability and interest to take the case.

Interested coaches will indicate their availability within three working days. The coachee will choose a few responders for an ‘acquaintance and chemistry call’ to make a final selection. Before the assignment, coach and coachee will agree on a coaching plan containing the objectives and activities. Upon receipt and approval of the coaching plan, EISMEA will prepare the EIC coaching contract with the coach.

Coaching contract and starting date

Upon the confirmed coach selection, the coach is invited to prepare the coaching plan in the Casetracker, the monitoring system of EISMEA. The plan is a brief description of objectives and activities, to be implemented during the assigned number of coaching days.

Upon receipt and approval of the coaching plan, EISMEA will prepare the EIC coaching contract with the coach.

The starting date of the coaching activities is stated and the contract includes a Code of Conduct, which will then also carry your signature.

Coaching may never commence before a contract is fully signed by both parties. Costs incurred outside the contract start and end dates cannot be paid.

Coaching report and timesheet

When the coaching sessions have finished, a lean report will be filled in by the coach in the Casetracker platform. Also a timesheet, justifying the spent hours needs to be uploaded there. Upon approval of the report by EISMEA, coaches are invited to claim their payment and when applicable, claim reimbursement of travel and subsistence costs.

Evaluation feedback

Upon report approval, the coachee is invited to provide feedback by ticking the extent of agreement with a few statements:

  • The coach selection steps enabled me to select the appropriate one
  • Thanks to the coaching we are more ready to achieve our goals
  • Thanks to the coaching our business strategy improved
  • Thanks to the coaching we expect our business development to go faster
  • I would recommend business development coaching to my peers

And one free text field where they may describe their experiences.