The European Innovation Council has published the 2024 European Innovation Council (EIC) Work Programme funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. It outlines how the EIC will allocate its funding of over EUR 1.2 billion for the year 2024 and introduces some key changes when compared to the 2023 Work Programme.
Overview of the 2024 Work Programme
The Work Programme for 2024 outlines calls for applications, targeting innovative researchers, startups, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as founders and other organisations and individuals with an interest in innovation. It centres on breakthrough technologies and game-changing innovations characterised by high risk and the potential for significant impact, intending to scale up internationally and establish market leadership.
The allocation of funds is structured into three primary funding schemes.Each funding scheme is designed to support different stages of innovation development.
- EIC Pathfinder focuses on advanced research to establish the scientific foundation for groundbreaking technologies.
- EIC Transition is dedicated to validating technologies and formulating business plans tailored to specific applications.
- EIC Accelerator aims to assist companies (including SMEs, start-ups, spin-offs, and, in exceptional cases, small mid-caps) in bringing their innovations to market and scaling them up
The changes to the 2024 Work Programme are guided by recommendations from the EIC Board and insights gained from implementation experience and feedback.
EIC Pathfinder Changes
As per the 2024 Work Programme there were a few changes made to this funding scheme. In 2023 the evaluation process included the rebuttal pilot which is no longer available this year. Additionally, specific Intellectual Property rules regarding the EIC Pathfinder and EIC Transition have been revised as per the recommendations of the EIC Board. For an in-depth comprehension of these rules refer to Annex 6 of the EIC 2024 Work Programme.
EIC Transition Changes
Unlike last year, EIC Transition will not have dedicated Challenge topics. Instead there will be only one Open call in any area of science or technology. The eligibility criteria for the EIC Transition Open have been expanded to encompass results from Horizon 2020 Societal Challenges and Leadership in Industrial Technologies, as well as Horizon Europe Pillar II projects that meet the specified eligibility criteria outlined in the call text.
EIC Accelerator Changes
In terms of evaluations, in the short application process companies require 3 out of 4 approvals from expert evaluators to proceed, whereas in 2023 only 2 out of 4 approvals were needed. Additionally, consensus meetings have been introduced for the evaluation of full applications, in cases where there are divergent views among evaluators. Another change is that the "grant first" form of support has been discontinued. Applicants may still request “grant only”, “blended finance” and “equity only” forms of financing..The jury is now strictly restricted from altering the form of support (e.g., between grant only, blended finance, and equity only) or adjusting the requested amount of equity. Nevertheless, they may provide recommendations on the equity finance amount, which will be duly considered by the EIC Fund.
Each applicant company can now apply up to 3 times across all stages of the application process (short application, full application and interview), without any “freezing” period of 12 months, as was the case in the previous work programme. Indeed, all projects previously “frozen” can now reapply without further waiting and have 3 attempts. However, once a company has unsuccessfully applied 3 times, it may not apply again to the EIC Accelerator for the remaining duration of the Horizon Europe Framework Programme.
Apart from the specific changes in each funding scheme, EIC also made some common changes. The previous financial reporting obligations will be replaced by a lump sum cost model in the majority of EIC main calls, with the exception of the Pathfinder Open Call. This move aims to streamline financial processes and reduce the administrative burden for participating entities. Under this new approach, applicants propose the amount of the lump sum based on the estimated project costs, and payments will be made based on the implementation of the project activities.
Another significant change is the reinforced measures to protect against economic security risks. The EIC has introduced stricter eligibility criteria to exclude entities controlled by non-associated third countries in sensitive sectors such as AI and quantum technologies. It also incorporates tailored investment protections in the EIC Fund's agreements for critical technology sectors, ensuring the safeguarding of the Union's strategic assets. Additionally, there's an emphasis on intellectual property oversight, requiring EIC project beneficiaries to report any intended IP transfers to entities outside the associated countries, maintaining control over valuable technological advancements.
The 2024 budget for all three EIC schemes has undergone a reduction, from €1.6 billion to €1.2 billion. This is due to two main reasons, a) the withdrawal of the Next Generation EU contribution and b) the necessity to allocate budget for follow-on financing for companies selected in prior EIC Accelerator calls, as outlined in the EIC's established framework.
The table below illustrates the changes in the budget for 2024, compared to the budget in 2023.
Open and Challenge Calls
The main calls (Pathfinder, Transition, Accelerator) provide for “Open” funding meaning that innovations across all fields without any predefined priority areas can be funded. In addition to “Open” funding, the Pathfinder and Accelerator offer "Challenge" funding options that zoom in on specific technologies and innovations that are aligned with strategic interests of the European Union. These Challenges are geared towards supporting initiatives like Net Zero Industry, Critical Raw Materials, the Chips Act, and Health Emergency Responses.
EIC Pathfinder Challenges
120 million has been allocated to the following Pathfinder Challenges in 2024:
- “SOLAR-TO-X” DEVICES FOR THE DECENTRALISED PROSUMPTION OF RENEWABLE FUELS, CHEMICALS AND MATERIALS AS CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION PATHWAY
- TOWARDS CEMENT AND CONCRETE AS A CARBON SINK
- NATURE INSPIRED ALTERNATIVES FOR FOOD PACKAGING AND FILMS FOR AGRICULTURE
- NANOELECTRONICS FOR ENERGY-EFFICIENT SMART EDGE DEVICES
- STRENGTHENING THE SUSTAINABILITY AND RESILIENCE OF EU SPACE INFRASTRUCTURE
Now that we have understood the EIC Pathfinder Challenges, let’s look at the EIC Accelerator challenges.
EIC Accelerator Challenges
€300 million has been allocated to the following EIC Accelerator Challenges in 2024
- HUMAN CENTRIC GENERATIVE AI MADE IN EUROPE - Indicative Budget: €50 million
- ENABLING VIRTUAL WORLDS AND AUGMENTED INTERACTION, IN HIGH-IMPACT APPLICATIONS TO SUPPORT THE REALISATION OF INDUSTRY 5.0 - Indicative Budget: €50 million
- ENABLING THE SMART EDGE AND QUANTUM TECHNOLOGY COMPONENTS - Indicative Budget: €50 million
- FOOD FROM PRECISION FERMENTATION AND ALGAE - Indicative Budget: €50 million
- MONOCLONAL ANTIBODY-BASED THERAPEUTICS FOR NEW VARIANTS OF EMERGING VIRUSES - Indicative Budget: €50 million
- RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES AND THEIR WHOLE VALUE CHAIN INCLUDING MATERIALS DEVELOPMENT AND RECYCLING OF COMPONENTS - Indicative Budget: €50 million
We will provide regular updates about the implementation of the 2024 EIC Work Programme, but in the meanwhile for any related questions or comments, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay informed about the latest EIC updates by connecting with us on LinkedIn.