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European Union to invest billions in innovation

April 01, 2021

As the most ambitious innovation initiative that Europe has ever undertaken, the European Union (EU) recently launched the European Innovation Council (EIC) with a €10 billion (about $11.7 billion USD) fund that will provide both non-dilutive grants to and direct equity investments in innovative startups within the union. After a successful three-year pilot, the EIC is merging with the current Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, and has already launched its first official program with a call for proposals worth €1.5 billion (approximately $1.8 billion USD).

The EIC is a keystone element of the EUs Horizon Europe proposal, a €95.5 billion (roughly $112.4 billion USD) R&D funding program, and accounts for 70 percent of the Horizon Europe budget set aside for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Although the EIC cannot officially sign off on any grant agreements or investment deals and no money can flow until EU Parliament gives its final approval of Horizon Europe, which is expected later this month, the EIC is still allowed to accept and review proposals. Once passed, companies and researchers may begin accepting funds and participating in the EIC’s programs:

  • EIC Pathfinder: Funds the exploration of bold ideas for radically new technologies. Projects in any field are accepted, but there are also challenges in specified areas of interest to the EU. The program will provide up to €4 million ($4.7 million USD) per award for the early stage development of these technologies.
  • EIC Transition: Funds innovation activities that go beyond the experimental proof of concept in laboratory to support both 1) the maturation and validation of novel technology in the lab and in relevant application environments and 2) the development of a business case and model towards the innovation’s future commercialization. Funding will take the form of grants of up to €2.5 million ($2.9 million USD) or more.
  • EIC Accelerator: Supports individual SMEs, specifically startups and spinout companies, to develop and scale up game changing innovations. Funding will be composed of non-dilutive grants of up to €2.5 million ($2.9 million USD) and equity investments of up to €15 million ($17.7 million USD).

Projects supported by these programs will also receive entrepreneurial support and training including access to mentors and coaches, relationship and resource networking, technical assistance, and other business accelerator services.

innovation, international R&D, funding