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The European Commission has launched the European Innovation Council (EIC) with a budget of 10 billion € for the period of 2021 to 2027 providing funding for the development and expansion of breakthrough innovations. The EIC is based on the experiences of the 2018 European Innovation Council pilot programme under Horizon 2020 that supported the most talented European innovators in the fast and effective scaling-up of breakthrough, disruptive innovation, with a budget of €3.5 billion. Further information can be found in the Impact Report.

Integrated in the 3rd pillar of Horizon Europe “Innovative Europe” the EIC aims at boosting Europe’s economic growth by bringing visionary ideas to market. The programme combines research on emerging technologies with an accelerator programme and an equity fund. The EIC Fund targets the scale up of innovative Start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). About 3 billion € of the EIC’s budget are dedicated to the EIC Fund.

The EIC consists of the following programmes:

► The EIC Accelerator is the EIC’s flagship funding instrument for SMEs and Start-ups that develop and scale up breakthrough innovations with high growth potential. It was launched in September 2019 as a pilot for the new SME instrument.

EIC Programme Managers has been commissioned to develop ideas and visions for technological and innovation breakthroughs. It manages portfolios of EIC projects and brings together stakeholders to put their visions into reality.

► The EIC Transition funding scheme aims at facilitating the conversion of research results into applied projects towards future commercialisation.

Funding opportunities in 2021

At the applicants’ day detailed information was made available information on how the EIC works, the application processes as well as eligibility criteria. The first annual work programme of the EIC provides funding opportunities worth 1.5 billion € in 2021:

► The EIC Accelerator has a budget of 1 billion € for Start-ups and SMEs to develop and scale up high impact innovations with the potential to create new markets or disrupt existing ones. It provides blended financing combining equity between 0.5 million € and 15 million € through the EIC Fund, with grants of up to 2.5 million € per project. Out of the 1 billion € budget, 495 million € is foreseen for breakthrough innovations for the European Green Deal and for strategic digital and health technologies. The EIC Accelerator intends to introduce user friendly application system, allowing Start-ups and SMEs to apply for funding at any time via a simplified process.

► The EIC Pathfinder for multi-disciplinary research teams has a budget of 300 million € and targets visionary research with the potential to lead to technology breakthrough. Research teams can apply for up to 4 million € in grants. Most of the funding will be awarded through open calls with no predefined thematic priorities. 132 € million is allocated to particularly tackle five challenges, namely self-aware Artificial Intelligence (AI), tools to measure brain activity, cell and gene therapy, green hydrogen and engineered living materials.

► The EIC Transition has a budget of €100 million to turn research results into innovation opportunities. The first EIC Transition call will focus on results generated by EIC Pathfinder pilot projects and European Research Council Proof of Concept projects.

All projects of the European Innovation Council shall have access to coaches, mentors and expertise, partnering opportunities with corporates, investors and others, and a range of services and events.

EIC prizes

Several prizes are integrated in the EIC to celebrate those shaping the future of innovation in Europe.

► The EU Prize for Women Innovators recognises the most talented women entrepreneurs from across the EU and countries associated to Horizon Europe who have founded a successful company and brought innovation to market.

► The European Capital of Innovation Awards iCapital) acknowledges the role cities play to shape local innovation ecosystem and promote game-changing innovation. 2021 includes a new category The European Rising Innovative City that targets towns and cities with a population of more than 50.000 and less than 250.000 inhabitants.

► The European Social Innovation Competition aims to incentivise, support and reward social innovations that will help people and organisations to identify, develop and strengthen the skills they will need to adapt and thrive in a changing world.

► The European Innovation Procurement Awards recognise public and private buyers across Europe in their efforts to promote innovation procurement and the innovative ways the solutions are procured.

► The EIC Horizon Prizes is a pilot version to award the most innovative solutions to societal challenges.

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