The European Commission launched a Euro 10 billion programme to support European startups and small and medium businesses. It includes a dedicated equity fund of Euro 3 billion to scale up innovative startups and small and medium sized businesses. The fund is part of the Commission’s European Innovation Council (EIC) with a budget of more than Euro 10 billion (in current prices) to develop and expand innovations.
The EIC builds on a pilot programme under the project Horizon 2020 and combines research on emerging technologies with an accelerator programme and the dedicated equity fund.
The EIC is opening funding opportunities worth over Euro1.5 billion in 2021. At the same time, two prizes for Women Innovators and the European Capital of Innovation are opened for applications.
The Commission said the EIC includes the following
- The EIC Accelerator supports SMEs, in particular start-ups and spinout companies to develop and scale up game-changing innovations. The EIC Accelerator features a new innovator friendly application system, where start-ups and SMEs can apply for funding at any time via a simplified process.
- A team of EIC Programme Managers will be responsible for developing visions for technological and innovation breakthroughs (such as cell and gene therapy, green hydrogen, and tools to treat brain disease), managing portfolios of EIC projects and bringing together stakeholders to put these visions into reality.
- A new EIC Transition funding scheme will help convert research results (from the EIC Pathfinder and the European Research Council) into innovations (spinouts, commercial partnerships, etc.).
- New measures are introduced to support women innovators, which include a female leadership programme. In partnership with the Enterprise Europe Network, talented female innovators, as well as all innovative SMEs from lesser-known regions, will be supported to apply, helping to overcome the innovation divide.
Composed of leading innovators, the EIC Advisory Board will deliver the strategy of the European Innovation Council and provide advice on its implementation.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for ‘A Europe Fit for the Digital Age’, said: “We now have a fund to support small and medium sized companies that do breakthrough innovation, access equity and scale up innovative start-ups. This is a way to convert research results into business and to develop visions for technological and innovation breakthroughs.”
RECOVER FROM CRISIS
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “The European Innovation Council is Europe’s most ambitious initiative to support the breakthroughs Europe needs to recover from the economic crisis and accelerate the transition to a green and digital economy. By investing in visionary research and innovative companies, it will reinforce European technological sovereignty, scale up hundreds of Europe’s most promising start-ups, and pave the way for the upcoming European Innovation Area.”
The funding opportunities in the first work programme of the European Innovation Council include:
- EIC Accelerator financing, worth €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 a blended finance combining equity (or quasi-equity such as convertible loans) between €0.5 million and €15 million through the EIC Fund, with grants of up to €2.5 million. Out of the €1 billion, €495 million is earmarked for breakthrough innovations for the European Green Deal and for strategic Digital and Health Technologies.
- EIC Pathfinder for multi-disciplinary research teams, worth €300 million, to undertake visionary research with the potential to lead to technology breakthroughs. Research teams can apply for up to €4 million in grants. The bulk of the funding is awarded through open calls with no predefined thematic priorities, while €132 million is allocated to tackle five Pathfinder challenges: self-aware Artificial Intelligence (AI), tools to measure brain activity, cell and gene therapy, green hydrogen, and engineered living materials.
- EIC Transition funding to turn research results into innovation opportunities, worth €100 million. This first EIC Transition call will focus on results generated by EIC Pathfinder pilot projects and European Research Council Proof of Concept projects, to mature the technologies and build a business case for specific applications.
All projects of the European Innovation Council have access to Business Acceleration Services, which provide coaches, mentors and expertise, partnering opportunities with corporates, investors and others, and a range of services and events.
European Innovation Council prizes
Several prizes are integrated in the European Innovation Council 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) recognises the role cities play to shape local innovation ecosystem and promote game-changing innovation. This year 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 aim to recognise public and private buyers across Europe in their efforts to promote innovation procurement and the innovative ways the solutions are procured.
The EU Prize for Women Innovators and the European Capital of Innovation Awards are open for applications as of today, while the other two will open later this year.