Background and development of the European Innovation Council (EIC)
In 2014, the Commission launched the first pilot phase for the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot. The key difference, when compared to previous support programmes for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), was that the SME Instrument also supported individual companies and not just consortia. Starting in 2017, general selection procedures and personal interviews were carried out to identify and support Europe's most innovative start-ups and established SMEs, both directly with monetary help and indirectly with the help of a business coach (funded via the EU). Since then, 1,276 highly innovative projects have been funded all over Europe, with more than 730 million euros being provided through the SME Instrument.
The European Commission announced in March 2019 important steps to intensify the pilot phase of the European Innovation Council (EIC) until the end of 2020. In this timeframe, it invested over €2 billion in Innovation Chain Grants, funding Pathfinder projects to support advanced technologies from the research base, as well as seed funding to support start-ups and SMEs (Accelerators) in developing and preparing for the commercialisation of innovations.
In addition, the European Commission has appointed 22 innovators from the fields of entrepreneurship, venture capital, science and technology to the Advisory Board of the European Innovation Council, including two experts from Germany: mRNA pioneer Ingmar Hoerr from CureVac and Kerstin Bock from media tech.
Based on their expertise from the innovation and business world, the members of the Advisory Board are tasked with supporting the Commission in strategic and operational decisions within the framework of the European Innovation Council.
The European Commission has also recruited an initial group of EIC programme managers who have particularly strong experience in new technologies and provide hands-on support to projects around the clock.
Since the beginning of 2021:
Given the increasing economic importance of disruptive and disruptive innovation, and building on the early success of the EIC pilot, the Commission has allocated around €10 billion to the EIC under Horizon Europe, the EU's Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2021-2027).
The European Innovation Council (EIC) covers the whole innovation chain
- EIC Pathfinder: replaces the two Future and Emerging Technologies (FIT) funding programmes, the FET Open (development of new ideas) and the FET Proactive (development of emerging topics and research landscapes). The programme is aimed at all forms of organisation. It promotes basic research – from the idea through to the prototype or the development of a general business case. For more information, please click here.
- EIC Transition:
The instrument is used to support further steps after the "Proof of Principle" in the lab. This provides financial support for both the validation of the prototype and the development of the business model. Only individual applicants with (almost) completed Pathfinder (EIC) or Proof of Concept (ERC) projects are eligible for funding. For more information, please click here.
- EIC Accelerator: replaces the SME Instrument. The programme is aimed exclusively at SMEs (especially start-ups) for the marketing of highly innovative and high-risk ideas. It is possible to combine the funding with financing (silent participation of up to 15 million euros). The Accelerator is designed to support companies that are not yet mature enough or are too high-risk to receive investment from a bank. For more information, please click here.