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At an online event last Thursday, the European Commission launched the European Innovation Council (EIC), with a budget of over €10 billion for 2021 – 2027 to develop and expand breakthrough innovations.

The Commission described the council as “unique in the world”, combining research on emerging technologies with an accelerator programme and a dedicated equity fund, “the European Innovation Capital Fund”.

It expects this fund will be used to help scale up innovative start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses. Around €3 billion of the EIC’s budget is expected to go to the fund.

Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel commented, “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.”

“This is a way to convert research results into business and to develop visions for technological and innovation breakthroughs”, according to Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for “A Europe Fit for the Digital Age”.

Some of the key features of the EIC include, the Accelerator, supporting SMEs to develop and scale-up innovations, the assigning of a team of Programme Managers to develop visions for breakthroughs as well as manage projects, and the EIC Transition funding scheme, to help convert research results into innovations.

Additionally, measures were announced to support female innovators, including a female leadership programme.

This programme will operate in partnership with the Enterprise Europe Network, and will see “talented female innovators, as well as all innovative SMEs from lesser-known regions”, supported to apply.

The EIC has three main funding components:

The Accelerator will offer financing worth €1 billion for start-ups and SMEs to develop and scale-up high impact innovations. Out of that €1 billion, nearly half is earmarked for breakthrough innovations for the European Green Deal.

 The Pathfinder, for multi-disciplinary research teams, is worth €300 million. It will offer grants to research teams to “undertake visionary research with the potential to lead to technology breakthroughs”. 

The Transition fund, worth €100 million will focus on the results obtained by the Pathfinder pilot projects and European Research Council Proof of Concept projects.

Also announced were the council’s Champions in Malta, Angele Giuliano and André Xuereb.

Ms Giuliano commented the EIC “has chosen, already, some of the most innovative deep tech companies in Europe, and is helping them bridge the gap of the infamous valley of death in between raising initial funding, and real scale-up”.

More than just money, however, “the EIC programme and accelerator offers so much more, with coaching, mentoring, and networking, to really become a movement for all European innovative companies,” she emphasises.

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