After its three-year pilot phase, the EIC was finally launched as a fully-fledged agency on the 18th of March 2021. It has a budget of €10billion to support game changing innovations throughout their lifecycle – from early stage research, to proof of concept and technology transfer, as well as to financing and scale up of start-ups and SMEs.

A key novelty of the new Horizon Europe programme, the EIC combines research on emerging technologies with an accelerator programme and a dedicated venture fund for European Deeptech, the EIC Fund, with the aim of supporting game changing innovations throughout their lifecycle – from early stage research, to proof of concept and technology transfer to scaling up.

Key novelties:

  1. The EIC Accelerator supports start-ups and spinout companies in their effort to develop and scale up game changing innovations. The Accelerator has introduced a new online application system for candidates, added a preliminary step in the application process to filter applications and notify candidates of their fit, and has simplified its evaluation procedure through an IT-based qualification method.
  2. A new EIC Transition funding scheme is introduced to convert research results (obtained by the EIC Pathfinder and the European Research Council) into marketable innovations (spinouts, commercial partnerships, etc.).
  3. New measures are introduced to support women innovators, which include a women leadership programme. In partnership with the Enterprise Europe Network, talented women innovators, as well as all innovative SMEs from lesser-known regions, will be supported to apply, helping to overcome the innovation divide.
  4. Another novelty in this program is the addition of open topic calls, without a focus on a specific challenge as in the challenge-driven calls. The challenge-driven approach provides funding to address specific technological and innovation breakthroughs. The challenges focus on EU priorities for transitioning to a green, digital and healthy society, as well as the overall strategic planning for Horizon Europe. Each instrument is divided over Open calls and Challenge-driven calls.

The first EIC funding calls have been announced


1.The EIC Accelerator

A total budget of €592.5 million allocated for this year with an additional €495.1 million for challenge-driven targeted calls in certain areas of health, digital technology and green deal innovations.

The program aims to support SME applicants in the mid-/later stages of the development cycle, or TRL 6-9. SMEs can apply individually for a 2.5 M grant with a 70% funding rate and/or equity investment (so-called blended finance) up to 15 M. Thus, the program offers 17.5 M in financing opportunities.

The Accelerator is open to both bottom-up calls and challenge-driven specific calls. The challenge-driven calls in 2021 focus on: strategic health, digital technologies and Green Deal innovations for the economic recovery.

First stage applications: On-going ‘first come first served’ model, starting April 8th.
Second stage (full applications): 2021 deadlines set for June 9th and October 6th.

2. Transition

Will fund innovation activities that go beyond the experimental proof of principle in the laboratory, with grants of up to €2.5million and more available to validate and demonstrate technology in an application-relevant environment and develop market readiness.

Deadline in 2021: September (tentatively).

3. Pathfinder

Will fund high-risk projects with breakthrough potential and accept applications for research in any field until 19 May. A total of €168 million will be awarded in grants of up to €3 million in this bottom-up, open, call.

Deadlines in 2021: May 19 and October 27.

4. EU Prize for Women Innovators

The prize is awarded to 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 the market. The prize is managed by the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, and the winners are chosen by an independent expert jury.

Three prizes of €100,000 each are awarded in the main category. A fourth prize of €50,000 is awarded to a promising ‘Rising Innovator’ aged 30 or younger.

Deadlines in 2021: June 30 via the Funding and Tenders Portal.

Keep up to date with the latest news about the EIC Accelerator Programme.

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