First European Innovation Council Calls Open for Applications

Calls worth over €1 billion launched from the EIC Accelerator and Pathfinder instruments, along with first two EIC challenges under Horizon Europe.

The European Commission is accepting applications for the first calls to launch under the European Innovation Council (EIC), the Commission’s primary tool for identifying and supporting breakthrough technologies and significant innovations with the potential to scale up internationally and become market leaders.

The EIC supports all stages of innovation, from R&D on the scientific underpinnings of breakthrough technologies, to validation and demonstration of breakthrough technologies and innovations to meet real world needs, to the development and scaling up of start-ups and SMEs. Financial support through the EIC is primarily provided under three main instruments:

  • The EIC Accelerator – to support companies (SMEs, start-ups, spin-outs and in exceptional cases small mid-caps) to bring their (usually high-risk/high-impact) innovations to market and scale up.
  • The EIC Pathfinder – for advanced research to develop the scientific basis to underpin breakthrough technologies.
  • The EIC Transition – for transforming research results into innovation opportunities, and to validate technologies and develop business plans for specific applications.

The majority of funding issued through the EIC takes the form of Open Funding with no predefined thematic priorities, although a challenge-driven approach is also used to provide funding to address specific technological and innovation breakthroughs.

The first Open Calls have now launched under the EIC Accelerator and EIC Pathfinder instruments, as well as two specific Challenges under the Accelerator. Further details of these opportunities are as follows:

EIC Accelerator Open Call

The EIC Accelerator Open Call provides a blended finance route, which is composed of:

  • Investment Component of between €0.5 and €15 million through the EIC Fund– The investment component is intended to finance market deployment and scale up but may also be used for other purposes, such as co-financing or, in some cases, fully-financing innovation activities. Investments will normally be made with a long average perspective (7-10 years) with a maximum of 15 years (‘patient capital’). The terms of investment will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the EIC Fund. Note that this particular route is not open to UK applicants.
  • Grant Component of up to €2.5 million – The grant component reimburses eligible costs incurred for innovation activities, including demonstration of the technology in the relevant environment, prototyping and system level demonstration, R&D and testing required to meet regulatory and standardisation requirements, intellectual property management, and marketing approval (ie at least TRLs 5/6 to 8). Small mid-caps are not eligible to receive grants.

Applications may be submitted by single start-ups and SMEs (including spin-outs) and individuals who are intending to launch, invest in or relocate a start-up/SME in a Member State or an Associated Country. In all instances, the company must prove its effective establishment in an EU Member State or Associated Country, and must not be under the direct or indirect control of a non-associated third country or of a legal entity established in a non-associated third country.

In exceptional cases applications may be submitted by small mid-caps consisting of fewer than 500 employees, but only for rapid scale-up purposes (ie Technology Readiness Level 9) and only for the investment component.

The indicative total Budget in 2021 for the Accelerator Open Call scheme is €592.5 million.

EIC Accelerator – Green Deal Innovations for the Economic Recovery Challenge

This Challenge will fund transformative green innovations that contribute to the goals enshrined in the European Green Deal strategy and the Recovery Plan for Europe. The challenge targets high-risk, high-potential SMEs, including start-ups, from any sector provided that their proposal contributes to Green Deal goals.

The challenge focuses on those innovations that fuel the societal transition towards a climate-neutral and circular economy while supporting EU’s competitiveness and leadership in green technologies and the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular it will focus on disruptive and breakthrough innovations by SMEs and start-ups.

EIC Accelerator – Strategic Digital and Health Technologies Challenge

This Challenge is open to companies with the potential to be global leaders in developing strategic technologies in either digital or healthcare technologies. The challenge targets high-risk, high-potential SMEs (including start-ups and spin-outs) as well as small midcaps from any sector provided that they are potential leaders in the specified areas of technology. Applicants must contribute to enhance Europe’s leadership and strategic autonomy in key technologies as well as to build competences and access to such technologies in Europe.

Activities supported could include: product/service development, trials, optimisation, prototyping, validation, demonstration and testing in real world conditions and market replication. Essential actions for the innovation project can be subcontracted.

For both the Open and Challenge calls of the Accelerator stream, applicants should submit a Short Application via the Commission’s Funding & Tenders Portal at any time. Short Applications will be evaluated on a first-come, first-served basis. Those successful at the Short Application stage will be invited to submit a Full Application by either of the two 2021 deadlines:

  • 9 June 2021 (17:00 Brussels local time)
  • 6 October 2021 (17:00 Brussels local time)

EIC Pathfinder Open Call

The EIC Pathfinder Open stream is designed to enable applicants to achieve an ambitious vision for radically new technology, with potential to create new markets and/or to address global challenges. This stream supports early stage development of such future technologies (at TRLs 1-4), based on high-risk/high-gain science-towards-technology breakthrough research, including ‘deep-tech’. This research must provide the foundations of the envisaged technology.

Interdisciplinary research and development is encouraged. Applicants should also involve and empower key actors in their team that have the potential to become future leaders in their field. This will strengthen Europe’s capacity for exploiting the scientific discoveries made in Europe throughout the steps to market success or for solving global challenges.

Submissions may be made by consortia of at least three different independent legal entities (such as research organisations, universities, SMEs, start-ups, industry, natural persons) established in at least three different eligible countries (EU Member States and Associate Countries), of which at least one must be an EU Member State.

There are currently no countries associated to Horizon Europe. However, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, provided that the Horizon Europe association agreement with the particular country is live at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

The indicative total Budget in 2021 for the Pathfinder Open Call scheme is €168 million. Grants of up to €3 million are available to achieve the proof of principle and validate the scientific basis of breakthrough technology.

For the Pathfinder Open Call, proposals must be submitted via the Funding & Tenders Portal by the coordinator on behalf of a consortium by the 19 May 2021 deadline.