Last year major changes were introduced in the evaluation process of H2020 SME Instrument Phase 2 proposals
In addition to the usual remote evaluation procedure now successful proposers also need to go through a special on-site personal pitch interview conducted in Brussels to get their game-changer projects funded after all. These changes in the Phase 2 evaluation procedure were implemented as part of the large new scheme of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot that started recently and will be expected to evolve in the coming periods.
As a rule of thumb around twice as many applicants are invited to interview per each SME Instrument Phase 2 cut-offs than the funds that are available for each deadline and the invitation to the pitch is sent to the proposers maximum two weeks before the interview actually takes place. Pre-selected companies will be busy in this case as they need to prepare and submit their pitch presentation within maximum 2 days after being invited to the interview bearing in mind that after their presentation is submitted it cannot be further edited. EASME provides a recommended template for the pitch presentation that can be downloaded from here.
Maximum three persons (owners or employees) can participate at the pitch event per one SME and it should be noted that external advisors, consultants, subcontractors or other third parties are not allowed to be present at the interview.
The physical location of the pitch event is the Covent Garden Building in Brussels (Place Charles Rogier 16.) where the headquarter of EASME is located. After the security check at the entrance, the proposers are escorted to the interview room which will be already set-up with the submitted presentation projected. Usually, five English speaking experts (with a moderator included) will sit in front of the standing applicants (it looks a bit like an exam) and for each interview maximum, 30 minutes are dedicated.
The applicants have 10 minutes to pitch their presentation (not even a single more minute) and additional 20 minutes to answer the specific questions of the rapporteurs who will, after all, evaluate the pitch with reference to Implementation, Excellence and Impact with special focus on the last one.
Never mind how excellent scores you received for your Phase 2 proposal in your Evaluation Summary Report, everybody starts from a clean slate at the pitch. According to successful SMEs, the winning strategy is to keep a simple but convincing presentation that can be understood even by a layman. Although the rapporteurs are more or less business innovation oriented experts in the field of your proposal they are not professionals in every aspect, therefore, the story you will be trying to sell them should be plain but convincing.
Emphasis should be put on your business model, sales channels, competition(s) and how your company would be able to bring your innovative new product or service into the market. Do not engage in technical details of your project idea as the panellists can learn it from the proposal.
Bringing a mock-up or a sample device to the pitch for demonstration purposes is allowed and sometimes can boost the impression you are about to make. Project videos are also allowed to be aired at the time of the pitch, however, a Youtube link in the proposal also would help the jury to better understand your idea in advance.
Even if you and your team is making a good impression to the jury, simple reading your presentation word by word can ruin the whole situation, just as like running through the pitch with one breath. However do not worry if you are not successful for the first time, because you can be invited again to the interview for the next time (certainly only if your proposal scorings will be as good as again).
And a few final tips for the interview: believe in your idea, try to relax and be yourself: You can pass the SME Instrument pitching „exam”!
I wish you the best of luck!