What you need to know from the EIC’s first summit

26 Nov 2021

Image: © Zerbor/Stock.adobe.com

Irishman Paddy Cosgrave has been named as an EIC ambassador to guide the European Innovation Council on its future investments and policies.

The European Innovation Council (EIC), which was officially launched in March this year, has held its first summit on the future of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in the EU.

The community, which has more than 12,000 members, held a hybrid summit event in Brussels on the 24 and 25 of November. The summit saw innovators and businesspeople awarded for their achievements, with Ireland performing particularly well.

On 24 November, Dublin was joint runner-up in the iCapital awards, which recognised Europe’s most innovative cities. Irish sisters Ailbhe and Isabel Keane of Izzy Wheels won the Rising Innovator award on 25 November.

Tech entrepreneur and founder of Web Summit Paddy Cosgrave was named as an EIC ambassador in recognition for his work in innovation in Europe. Cosgrave will join 32 others in providing advice on the EIC’s future programme.

Keynote speakers at the summit included director of the EIC and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA) and chair of the EIC fund’s board of directors, Jean-David Malo; executive VP of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, and European commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, Mariya Gabriel.

Panel discussions were held on diversity in innovation, investing in European deep tech, technological sovereignty and the rise of corporate venture capital as an investment tool.

According to its first impact report, which was published to coincide with the summit, the EIC has set aside more than €10bn to invest in forward-thinking SMEs, start-ups and research consortiums. As part of its efforts to step up Europe’s response to social challenges such as the pandemic, the climate crisis and technological ethics, the EIC provides three separate funding streams to entrepreneurs. So far, it has supported more than 800 innovations – mostly from SMEs.

The EIC Pathfinder stream funds advanced, high-risk research on breakthrough technologies. The EIC Transition fund helps innovators turn promising research results into innovation opportunities, while the Accelerator fund supports companies as they develop and scale up innovative ideas. The initiative falls under the remit of the larger Horizon Europe innovation fund.

Since its pilot phase in 2014, the EIC fund has supported around 5,500 start-ups and SMEs that have in turn secured €9.6bn in follow-up investments. Of the 218 start-ups awarded EIC funding in 2020, 72 are developing innovations for Covid-19. A further 64 are Green Deal start-ups working in the area of sustainability, while at least 40 specialise in digital technology.

As of 2020, 90.5pc of the portfolio of EIC accelerator companies are developing innovations that address at least one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

On the final day of the summit, Malo and Gabriel revealed that one of the companies supported by the EIC had achieved a valuation of €1bn, making it the EIC’s third unicorn.

In her opening address to the crowd of attendees at the summit, Gabriel said she counted on them for their help in turning the EIC into a “factory of unicorns”. She added that the council’s aim was to create an “ecosystem of pan-European innovation” that will be “willing to take risks” for the benefit of future generations.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic