Research Funding Available Through the New European Innovation Council


Key Points

  • The European Innovation Council (EIC) identifies and supports breakthrough technologies and game-changing innovations.
  • The EIC plans to invest €10 billion through 2027.
  • Funding and support are organized into three main tiers for all stages of business.

european innovation councilThe European Union recently released details for the new European Innovation Council (EIC), the innovation funding program for the 2021 – 2027 financial planning period.

The EIC aims to identify and support breakthrough technologies and game-changing, market-creating innovations with the potential to scale up internationally and become market leaders. It 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 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

EIC Pathfinder chartFunding and support are organized into three main funding schemes: the EIC Pathfinder for advanced research to develop the scientific basis to underpin breakthrough technologies; the EIC Transition to validate technologies and develop business plans for specific applications; and the EIC Accelerator to support companies (SMEs, start-ups, spinouts, and in exceptional cases, small mid-caps) to bring their innovations to market and scale up. In each case, the direct financial support to innovators is augmented with access to a range of business acceleration services.

The majority of funding will be awarded through open calls with no predefined thematic priorities (‘Open Funding’) and is designed to enable support for any technologies and innovations that cut across different scientific, technological, sectoral, and application fields or represent novel combinations. A second arm is a challenge-driven approach (‘EIC Strategic Challenges’) that provides funding to address specific technological and innovation breakthroughs in EU priority areas, which include a healthy society.

EIC Pathfinder – Early-Stage Research

The EIC Pathfinder Open funding program is looking for consortia with ambitious proposals that convey a convincing, long-term vision of a radically new technology that has the potential to have a transformative positive effect to economy and society. The consortium must include at least three independent legal entities, each one established in a different EU member state or associated country and with at least one of them established in a member state. The rapidly approaching call deadline is May 19.

The EIC Pathfinder Challenge aims to build on new, cutting-edge directions in science and technology to disrupt a field or market. The challenges can also create new opportunities by realizing innovative technological solutions grounded in high-risk/high-gain research and development. This part of the program is open for consortia and applications from single legal entities. Consortia must include at least two independent legal entities, which may be universities, research organizations, SMEs, start-ups, or natural persons.

Of the five EIC Pathfinder Challenges, two are especially interesting for focused ultrasound:

  • EIC Pathfinder Challenge – Tools to Measure and Stimulate Activity in Brain Tissue
  • EIC Pathfinder Challenge – Emerging Technologies in Cell and Gene Therapy

This call will be open from June 15 to October 27. Eligible costs are reimbursed.

EIC Accelerator

The EIC Accelerator Open program is targeted specifically to start-ups or SMEs that seek to scale up high-impact innovations with the potential to create new markets or disrupt existing ones. The program provides substantial funding – via both grants and equity – for high-risk innovations that are too high-risk for private investors alone. It focuses in particular on innovations building on scientific discovery or technological breakthroughs (‘deep tech’) and where significant funding is needed over a long timeframe before returns can be generated. The EIC Accelerator supports the later stages of technology development as well as scale up. There must be a working prototype of the innovation’s technology component that has been tested and validated in a laboratory or other relevant environment.

There can be a grant or investment component or a combination of the two.

Grant Component

  • Maximum EUR 2.5 million
  • Eligible costs are reimbursed up to a maximum of 70%
  • Supported innovation activities should be completed within 24 months
  • Small mid-caps are not eligible for a grant but can apply for investment only

Investment Component

  • Minimum EUR 0.5 million and maximum EUR 15 million
  • Usually in the form of direct equity or quasi-equity
  • Maximum 25% of the voting shares of the company

The application process is an efficient two-stage process. The first stage asks for a five-page form, a brief slideshow pitch, and a three-minute video where the core team provides the motivation of the application. Applicants should receive the evaluation decision within four weeks, and of those invited to submit a full application within 12 months.

The EIC Accelerator Challenges follow same principles for eligibility and application process. There is one healthcare related challenge:

  • EIC Accelerator Challenge – Strategic Digital and Health Technologies

There is no timeline for short applications, but full applications are due June 9 and October 6.

EIC Transition

The EIC Transition program is for projects that build on results from previously funded EU projects under, for example, the Horizon 2020 program, European Research Council Proof of Concept projects, and others. The total indicative budget for this call is a relatively small EUR 59.6 million for the open part and EUR 40.5 million for the challenges.

  • EIC Transition Challenge – Medical Technology and Devices: from Lab to Patient

The call opened on April 15.


For more details about the European Innovation Council, calls, application requirements, and forms visit the EIC website.

The EIC Work Programme 2021 provides a good summary and further details.

The EU Funding & Tender Opportunities portal contains all the information necessary to apply as well as details of a relevant point of contact who can provide information and personalized support in many languages.