Last week, the European Commission published the final Work Programme of the European Innovation Council (EIC), under the Horizon Europe framework programme. This first EIC Work Programme has been developed on the experience of the EIC pilot under Horizon 2020 and on the recommendations from the EIC pilot Advisory Board.
EIC Pathfinder is one of the three programmes offered by the EIC, along with EIC Transition and EIC Accelerator. It supports the early stage development of radically new breakthrough technologies, based on high-risk and high-gain collaborative research (including “deep-tech”). Although there are also opportunities for individual research teams, EIC Pathfinder projects typically involve large consortia of researchers from at least three different countries, rarely small consortia with two partners.
As outlined by the EIC, applicants participating in EIC Pathfinder projects are usually visionary scientists, research organisations, research start-ups, entrepreneurial researchers, high-tech SMEs, as well as industrial stakeholders interested in technological research and innovation. If you are thinking about applying for EIC Pathfinder calls, the EIC recommends to consider these questions:
- Do you have a vision for a future technology that could make a real difference to our lives?
- Do you see a plausible way of achieving the scientific breakthrough that will make this technology possible?
- Can you imagine collaborating with an interdisciplinary team of researchers and innovators to realise the proof of principle and validate the scientific basis of the future technology?
Source: the EIC Work Programme
The EIC Pathfinder programme consists of two funding opportunities, namely Open and Challenge Driven Funding. Most of the funding goes to the EIC Pathfinder Open, which provides funding for projects in any field of science or technology, based on interdisciplinary cutting-edge scientific collaborations. The grants for Open Funding calls are up to EUR 3 million and have a deadline on the 19th of May, 2021. EIC Pathfinder Challenges provides funding for projects focused on specific challenges that are typically steered by EIC Programme Managers. The grants for Challenge Driven calls are up to EUR 4 million and have a deadline on the 27th of October, 2021. In 2021, the EIC Work Programme highlights the following challenges:
- Awareness inside – for projects aimed to develop “new concepts of awareness that are applicable to systems other than human”; “to demonstrate and validate the role and added-value of such an awareness in an aware technology, class of artefacts or services”; and “to define an integrative approach for awareness engineering, its technological toolbox, the needs and implications and its limits, including ethical and regulatory requirements”.
- Tools to measure & stimulate activity in brain tissue – for projects aimed to develop “a full device with unique features, e.g. targeting a currently untreated disorder, offering unprecedented miniaturisation, low latency closed-loop monitoring-stimulation feedback (if necessary)” and “new or nascent physical principles or methodologies that could be the basis for future brain sensing and/or stimulation technologies, with clear and quantifiable advantages”.
- Emerging technologies in cell & gene therapy – for projects focused on “advancing cell therapy manufacturing and products to a clinical stage”; “improving adoptive cell therapies”; “identifying next generation cell therapies for cancer”; “applying cell therapy to treat cancer patients in a personalised manner”; “improving the effectiveness and lowering the risks of gene delivery systems (vectors)”; and “improving gene therapy manufacturing processes and production”.
- Novel routes to green hydrogen production – for projects aimed at “developing novel processes and technologies to produce green H2, at different scales (from small to large) and capturing cross sectorial coupling and system integration opportunities, entirely based on (i) renewable sources and (ii) non-toxic, non-critical raw materials”.
- Engineered living materials – for projects aimed to develop “new technologies and platforms enabling the controlled production of made-on-demand living materials with multiple predictable dynamic functionalities, shapes and scales”.