The Innovative Europe pillar aims to make Europe a frontrunner in market-creating innovation and SME growth through the European Innovation Council (EIC). It also supports the integration of business, research, higher education and entrepreneurship through the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

European Innovation Council (EIC)

Europe wants to upscale its science, innovative SMEs and start-ups, so that Europe will achieve a leading position in future markets, driven by new technologies and innovation. Therefore, the EIC provides funding for ideas from innovative research consortia, innovators, entrepreneurs and small companies with bright ideas and the ambition to scale-up internationally. The EIC supports ideas in any field of innovation and one can apply at any time.

The EIC consists of three main funding channels: pathfinder, accelerator and transition.

  • Pathfinder. The EIC Pathfinder finances projects intended to develop future and emerging breakthrough technologies. Pathfinder applications are aimed for interdisciplinary researchers and technologists with a radical vision and a breakthrough technology idea. It builds on the experience from the Future and Emerging Technology (FET) schemes supported under FP7 and Horizon 2020, as well as the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Phase 1. 

  •  Transition. The idea behind EIC Transition is to bridge the gap between the results of basic research, funded by the ERC, and innovation projects, funded by the EIC which are expected to have higher Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) and be closer to market. During the pilot phase in 2021, eligible ERC Proof of Concept (PoC) and EIC Pathfinder projects will be expected to have results or outputs that applicants wish to 'transition' to a higher Technology Readiness Level (TRL) so as to bring their existing work to a stage that is better suited to EIC Accelerator funding. 

  • Accelerator. The EIC Accelerator supports the further development and market deployment of breakthrough and market-creating innovations, to a stage where it can be financed under normal commercial terms by investors (e.g. demonstration, user testing, pre-commercial production, including scale-up). Accelerator applications are aimed for the development and scaling up of high risk innovations by start-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs, where the market does not provide viable financing. Applicants can apply for grants or for blended finance (i.e. grants combining direct equity and access to financial guarantees).

European Innovation Ecosystems

This programme aims at contributing to the development of an effective innovation ecosystem at EU level, and encouraging cooperation, networking, and the exchange of ideas, funding and skills among national and local innovation ecosystems.

Next to targeting innovation in private enterprises, it also aims to support social innovation and public sector innovation.

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

The EIT will operate primarily through its (existing) Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs): large-scale European partnerships of knowledge institutions (mostly universities) and companies. It will also establish new KICs in emerging priority areas.

The EIT also encourages the development of entrepreneurial skills and innovation and the entrepreneurial transformation of European universities by supporting training and the development of new curricula for students and young researchers.