The European Commission 2024 work programme of the European Innovation Council is now on. The programme focuses on strategic technologies and scaling up companies. The emphasis, specifically, is on empowering SMEs and start-ups to foster the development and scaling up of ‘deep tech’ innovations. Critical sectors include generative artificial intelligence (AI), space, critical raw materials, semiconductors, and quantum technologies. EIC 2024 work programme paves the way for funding opportunities surpassing €1.2 billion.
What to Expect in 2024: Funding Breakdown
The EIC Work Programme 2024 outlines funding across three main schemes:
- EIC Pathfinder (€256 million): This designed for multidisciplinary research teams pursuing visionary research with the potential for ground-breaking technological advancements (technology breakthroughs). The available grants go up to €4 million.
- EIC Transition (€94 million): It aims to translate research outcomes into innovation opportunities. The goal is to build on the achievements of EIC Pathfinder projects. Additionally, it focuses on European Research Council Proof of Concept projects. For the first time, it is open to project results from Horizon collaborative projects in Pillar 2/societal challenges. The available grants are of up to €2.5 million.
- EIC Accelerator (€675 million): This is tailored for start-ups and SMEs. Its purpose is to develop and scale up innovations capable of creating new markets or disrupting existing ones. Grants below €2.5 million and investments ranging from €0.5 to €15 million are available. Additionally, there is an allocation of €405 million for investments managed by the EIC Fund. Also, an extra €180 million is earmarked for follow-on investments in companies selected under previous EIC Accelerator calls.
All projects supported by the European Innovation Council gain access to Business Acceleration Services. These services include coaches, mentors, expertise, and partnering opportunities.
Proactive Funding Management
The EIC adopts a proactive approach to funding management with EIC Programme Managers leading the way. They develop visions for innovation and technology breakthroughs while steering portfolios of projects toward achieving these goals.
EIC Fund Restructuring
In a significant move, the Commission has restructured the EIC Fund by transferring its shares to the European Investment Bank. This transfer, combined with measures outlined in the work programme, provides the EIC Fund with greater flexibility. Specifically, it enhances the fund’s ability to manage its investment portfolio. Currently, this portfolio includes over 500 of Europe’s most promising start-ups and high-growth companies.
Simplification and Innovations
To enhance the efficiency of the funding process, the work programme introduces several simplifications and improvements, including:
- The introduction of lump sum funding in most EIC calls, eliminating financial reporting requirements for beneficiaries.
- Updates to specific rules on Intellectual Property to empower Technology Transfer Offices, following EIC Board recommendations.
- Introduction of Consensus meetings for EIC Accelerator applications to improve the robustness of the evaluation process.
- Flexibility for the EIC Fund to adjust investments in selected companies to better respond to their needs and market developments.
- Creation of EIC Transition funding to cover results from Horizon collaborative projects, in addition to results from ERC Proof of Concept, EIC Pathfinder, and European Defence Fund projects.
Investing in Strategic Technologies
While most of the EIC funding is open to all technological fields, €420 million are allocated for novel technologies and SMEs and start-ups addressing particular challenges. These challenges are aligned with the European Green Deal, REPowerEU, the Chips Act, future AI Act, Net Zero Industry, and other EU policies, including the New European Innovation Agenda.
In line with the Commission’s economic security strategy, applications in critical areas like AI and quantum will undergo screening for foreign ownership. These applications will also be subject to investment safeguards applied by the EIC Fund.
On 15 January 2024, an Info Day dedicated to potential applicants took place online. High-level speakers presented the new work programme and provided an overview of the three main funding schemes that EIC offers.
On 16 January 2024, another Info Day was held. This one focused on the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator Challenges under the EIC Work Programme 2024.
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