European Innovation Council (EIC)
The European Innovation Council (EIC) will provide a coherent and connected system of innovation funding that supports projects with market potential. Its two schemes, piloted at the end of Horizon 2020, will be principally targeted at Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and industry, but will also have opportunities for academic involvement (mainly in the EIC Pathfinder).
How will the EIC be established?
An Enhanced EIC pilot was introduced in 2019, restructuring the available funding schemes and building on successful Horizon 2020 instruments such as Fast Track to Innovation and the SME Instrument. This allowed to better align the EIC pilot structure with the vision for a fully-fledged European Innovation Council under Horizon Europe with its own Board and dedicated Programme Managers. The formal establishment of the EIC was supported by the work of a dedicated EIC Advisory Board, which provides the European Commission with independent advice on the necessary steps.
At the end of June 2020, the Advisory Board published a report entitled "A Vision and Roadmap for Impact" which presents a roadmap for establishing the fully-fledged European Innovation Council in Horizon Europe. The document sets out the steps the Commission should take to fully establish the EIC and makes a number of recommendations, which are in-line with the Commission's proposal to establish the EIC as a more formal structure under Horizon Europe.
As part of the process to create a more formal structure for the EIC, the Commission has also started recruiting dedicated EIC Programme Managers who are professionals with visionary thinking, appointed as temporary Commission staff to help ensure a flexible and pro-active management and steering of technology or challenge-based portfolios. Between three and five EIC Programme Managers will look after projects under the EIC Pathfinder scheme.
The Commission is also planning to establish an EIC Forum at the beginning of Horizon Europe to gather together public authorities and bodies in charge of national innovation policies in the EU Member States/ Horizon Europe Associated Countries.
The main aim of the Forum will be to discuss the development of innovation-friendly regulation; promote the alignment of R&I agendas with EU efforts to consolidate an open market for capital flows and investment; enhance coordination between national innovation programmes and the EIC; and to establish a joint communication strategy on innovation in the EU.
What will the EIC fund?
The EIC will be the main component of Pillar III of Horizon Europe – Innovative Europe – which aims to foster all forms of innovation, including breakthrough innovation, and market deployment of innovative solutions.
Building on the success of the Enhanced EIC pilot in Horizon 2020, the EIC will serve as a ‘one-stop shop’ for European innovators and channel funding through two main instruments:
- Pathfinder – based on the FET Open scheme in Horizon 2020, this instrument will support international consortia working on establishing future and emerging breakthrough technologies through collaborative research and innovation projects.
- Accelerator – based on the SME Instrument in Horizon 2020, this instrument will bridge the financing gap between late stages of innovation activities and market take-up, to effectively deploy breakthrough market-creating innovation and scale up companies where the market does not provide viable financing.
In addition, activities such as prizes, fellowships and business added-value services will be funded through the Accelerator.