The European Innovation Council: over one and a half billion euro for breakthrough technologies

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


The Commission adopted today the 2023 work programme of the European Innovation Council (EIC). It opens funding opportunities worth €1.6 billion in 2023 for scientists and innovators to scale up breakthrough technologies and create new markets. Over half a billion euro is earmarked for next generation technologies in strategic areas for Europe, including energy storage, quantum, semi-conductors, and food security.

The new funding for 2023 reinforces the EIC’s increasing track record in supporting high-impact technologies and start-ups. The EIC Impact Report, also published today, highlights that the EIC has already supported 12 ‘unicorn’ companies, incentivised over €10 billion in follow-on investments and leveraged a multiple of over 2.6 times additional investments via the EIC Fund.

This year’s work programme includes several novelties and pilot actions to support the New European Innovation Agenda.

Novelties

  • A set of eight challenges for start-ups and SMEs to become global leaders in strategic areas of technology, with budget for grants and investments of €525 million.
  • A new scheme to increase the flow of innovative talent into deep tech start-ups through internships of promising researchers.
  • Enhanced support to women innovators, linking the EIC Accelerator to companies supported by Women TechEU initiative.
  • Support to test EIC innovations among public and private procurers.
  • Further collaborations with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), through opening up business acceleration services and launching a joint EIC-EIT woman innovators prize.

Support to EU priorities

The 2023 EIC work programme sets out an updated set of ‘EIC Challenges’. Over half a billion euro is made available for start-ups to develop future technologies that will contribute to EU objectives to accelerate the roll-out of renewables, ensure security of semiconductors supply and safety of food supply chains, as well as environment friendly construction. The challenges will directly support EU policy objectives such as REPowerEU, the Chips Act, New European Bauhaus, food security and EU Missions in Horizon Europe.

European Innovation Council funding and support in 2023

  • EIC Pathfinder(€343 million) for multi-disciplinary research teams to undertake visionary research with the potential to lead to technology breakthroughs (grants up to €4 million).
  • EIC Transition(€128.3 million) to turn research results into innovation opportunities, focussing on results generated by EIC Pathfinder projects and European Research Council Proof of Concept projects, to mature the technologies and build a business case for specific applications (grants up to €2.5 million).
  • EIC Accelerator(€1.13 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 (grants below €2.5 million, equity investments from €0.5 up to €15 million).

All projects of the European Innovation Council have access to Business Acceleration Services, which provides coaches, mentors and expertise, partnering opportunities with corporates, investors and others, and a range of other services and events.

Visibility and impact

The EIC impact report documents the impact of the EIC covering the period 2014 through its first full year of activity as a fully-fledged initiative under Horizon Europe, in 2021.

The support provided to date has resulted in:

•  The portfolio of EIC companies achieving a combined valuation of over €40 billion, including 12 ‘unicorns’ and 112 ‘centaur’ companies.

•  Incentivising over €10 billion in follow-on investments in its portfolio companies, including from venture capital, corporates, and national promotional banks.

•  20% of funding for women led companies under the Accelerator and over 30% women researchers in the Pathfinder.

•  Completed 92 investment agreements and leveraged €500 million in co-investment alongside the EIC Fund representing 2.6 euro of additional equity investment for every euro of investment via the EIC Fund.

•  Supported over 500 research projects that have produced around 1 375 innovations, with over 90% likely to result in a new or improved product or process.

•  Provided €100 million to commercialise ground-breaking ideas through the first set of EIC Transition calls.

Background

The EIC was launched in March 2021 as a major novelty under the Horizon Europe programme, building on a pilot phase from 2018-2020. It has a budget of over €10 billion between in 2021-2027. The EIC Board, which has independent members appointed from the world of innovation (entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, corporates and others from the innovation ecosystem), provides advice on the strategy and implementation of  the EIC.

The EIC takes a proactive approach to managing funding under the leadership of EIC Programme Managers who develop visions for innovation and technology breakthroughs and steer portfolios of projects to achieve these goals.

The financial support to startups selected by the EIC Accelerator has been strengthened by the restructuring of the EIC Fund which is now in position to implement equity investments.

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