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Commission launches European Innovation Council to help turn scientific ideas into breakthrough innovations

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The European Commission has launched, at an online event, the European Innovation Council (EIC) with a budget of more than €10 billion (in current prices) for 2021-2027 to develop and expand breakthrough innovations. Building on a successful pilot programme under Horizon 2020, the new EIC is not only a novelty of Horizon Europe, but it is also unique in the world: it combines research on emerging technologies with an accelerator programme and a dedicated equity fund, the European Innovation Council Fund, to scale up innovative start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). Around €3 billion of the EIC's budget will go towards the EIC Fund. Related media

Furthermore, the first annual work programme of the EIC is published, opening funding opportunities worth over €1.5 billion in 2021. At the same time, two prizes for Women Innovators and the European Capital of Innovation are opened for applications.

A Europe Fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said: “We now have a fund to support small and medium sized companies that do breakthrough innovation, access equity and scale up innovative start-ups. This is a way to convert research results into business and to develop visions for technological and innovation breakthroughs.”

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Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “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. By investing in visionary research and innovative companies, it will reinforce European technological sovereignty, scale up hundreds of Europe's most promising start-ups, and pave the way for the upcoming European Innovation Area.”

The European Innovation Council capitalises on lessons learnt and achievements from its pilot phase during the period 2018-2021. It supported more than 5,000 SMEs and start-ups, as well as over 330 research projects with a budget of €3.5bn.

Key novelties of the European Innovation Council

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The European Innovation Council (EIC) has several features that make it unique in its way of supporting pioneering ventures and projects.

  • The EIC Accelerator supports SMEs, in particular start-ups and spinout companies to develop and scale up game-changing innovations. The EIC Accelerator features a new innovator friendly application system, where start-ups and SMEs can apply for funding at any time via a simplified process.
  • A team of EIC Programme Managers will be responsible for developing visions for technological and innovation breakthroughs (such as cell and gene therapy, green hydrogen, and tools to treat brain disease), managing portfolios of EIC projects and bringing together stakeholders to put these visions into reality.
  • A new EIC Transition funding scheme will help convert research results (from the EIC Pathfinder and the European Research Council) into innovations (spinouts, commercial partnerships, etc.).
  • New measures are introduced to support women innovators, which include a female leadership programme. In partnership with the Enterprise Europe Network, talented female innovators, as well as all innovative SMEs from lesser-known regions, will be supported to apply, helping to overcome the innovation divide.

Composed of leading innovators, the EIC Advisory Board delivers the strategy of the European Innovation Council and provides advice on its implementation (see the statement of the EIC Advisory Board).

Funding opportunities in 2021

The funding opportunities announced today in the first work programme of the European Innovation Council include:  

  • EIC Accelerator financing, worth €1bn, for start-ups and SMEs to develop and scale up high impact innovations with the potential to create new markets or disrupt existing ones. It provides a unique blended finance combining equity (or quasi-equity such as convertible loans) between €0.5 million and €15m through the EIC Fund, with grants of up to €2.5m. Out of the €1bn, €495m is earmarked for breakthrough innovations for the European Green Deal and for strategic Digital and Health Technologies.
  • EIC Pathfinder for multi-disciplinary research teams, worth €300 million, to undertake visionary research with the potential to lead to technology breakthroughs. Research teams can apply for up to €4 million in grants. The bulk of the funding is awarded through open calls with no predefined thematic priorities, while €132 million is allocated to tackle five Pathfinder challenges: self-aware Artificial Intelligence (AI), tools to measure brain activity, cell and gene therapy, green hydrogen, and engineered living materials.
  • EIC Transition funding to turn research results into innovation opportunities, worth €100m. This first EIC Transition call will focus on results generated by EIC Pathfinder pilot projects and European Research Council Proof of Concept projects, to mature the technologies and build a business case for specific applications.

All projects of the European Innovation Council have access to Business Acceleration Services, which provide coaches, mentors and expertise, partnering opportunities with corporates, investors and others, and a range of services and events. 

European Innovation Council prizes

Several prizes are integrated in the European Innovation Council to celebrate those shaping the future of innovation in Europe.

  • The EU Prize for Women Innovators recognises the most talented women entrepreneurs from across the EU and countries associated to Horizon Europe, who have founded a successful company and brought innovation to market.
  • The European Capital of Innovation Awards (iCapital) recognises the role cities play to shape local innovation ecosystem and promote game-changing innovation. This year includes a new category 'The European Rising Innovative City' that targets towns and cities with a population of more than 50,000 and fewer than 250,000 inhabitants.
  • The European Social Innovation Competition aims to incentivise, support and reward social innovations that will help people and organisations to identify, develop and strengthen the skills they will need to adapt and thrive in a changing world.
  • The European Innovation Procurement Awards aim to recognise public and private buyers across Europe in their efforts to promote innovation procurement and the innovative ways the solutions are procured.

The EU Prize for Women Innovators and the European Capital of Innovation Awards are open for applications as of today, while the other two will open later this year.

Background

The Commission launched in 2018 the European Innovation Council pilot under Horizon 2020 to support the most talented European innovators in the fast and effective scaling-up of breakthrough, disruptive innovation, with a budget of €3.5bn. Further information on the European Innovation Council pilot can be found in the Impact Report.

Following the launch, an applicants' day will took place on Friday 19 March to provide information on how the European Innovation Council works, how to apply, and who is eligible. Sessions will include information on funding opportunities for research teams, start-ups, SMEs and investors.

More information

Factsheet: European Innovation Council in Horizon Europe

European Innovation Council

Launch event – European Innovation Council

Horizon Europe

Cyprus

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €157 million in pre-financing to Cyprus

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The European Commission has disbursed €157 million to Cyprus in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's financial allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €1.2 billion in total over the lifetime of its plan, with €1 billion provided in grants and €200m in loans. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80bn in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU. Part of NextGenerationEU, the RRF will provide €723.8bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states.

The Cypriot plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Belgium

EU Cohesion policy: Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy receive €373 million to support health and social services, SMEs and social inclusion

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The Commission has granted €373 million to five European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) operational programmes (OPs) in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy to help the countries with coronavirus emergency response and repair in the framework of REACT-EU. In Belgium, the modification of the Wallonia OP will make available an additional €64.8m for the acquisition of medical equipment for health services and innovation.

The funds will support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in developing e-commerce, cybersecurity, websites and online stores, as well as the regional green economy through energy efficiency, protection of the environment, development of smart cities and low-carbon public infrastructures. In Germany, in the Federal State of Hessen, €55.4m will support health-related research infrastructure, diagnostic capacity and innovation in universities and other research institutions as well as research, development and innovation investments in the fields of climate and sustainable development. This amendment will also provide support to SMEs and funds for start-ups through an investment fund.

In Sachsen-Anhalt, €75.7m will facilitate cooperation of SMEs and institutions in research, development and innovation, and provide investments and working capital for micro-enterprises affected by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the funds will allow investments in the energy efficiency of enterprises, support digital innovation in SMEs and acquiring digital equipment for schools and cultural institutions. In Italy, the national OP ‘Social Inclusion' will receive €90m to promote the social integration of people experiencing severe material deprivation, homelessness or extreme marginalisation, through ‘Housing First' services that combine the provision of immediate housing with enabling social and employment services.

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In Spain, €87m will be added to the ESF OP for Castilla y León to support the self-employed and workers who had their contracts suspended or reduced due to the crisis. The money will also help hard-hit companies avoid layoffs, especially in the tourism sector. Finally, the funds are needed to allow essential social services to continue in a safe way and to ensure educational continuity throughout the pandemic by hiring additional staff.

REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6bn additional funding (in current prices) to Cohesion policy programmes over the course of 2021 and 2022. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

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European Commission

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €2.25 billion in pre-financing to Germany

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The European Commission has disbursed €2.25 billion to Germany in pre-financing, equivalent to 9% of the country's financial allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). This corresponds to the pre-financing amount requested by Germany in its recovery and resilience plan. The pre-financing payment will help kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Germany's recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Germany's recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €25.6bn in total, fully consisting of grants, over the lifetime of its plan. The disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80bn in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU. Part of NextGenerationEU, the RRF will provide €723.8bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states. The German plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A full press release is available here.

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