EU investing €10bn to support breakthrough tech innovation

18 Mar 2021

Image: © jpgon/

With an accelerator programme and equity fund, the new European Innovation Council aims to help Europe ‘make money out of science’.

More than €10bn will be invested over the next seven years to develop and expand breakthrough innovations in the EU.

This is part of the European Innovation Council, launched today (18 March), which will support research into emerging tech with an accelerator programme and a dedicated equity fund for innovative start-ups and SMEs.

Speaking at a virtual launch event, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the European Innovation Council will help Europe get better at “making money out of science”.

“We fund small- and medium-size companies with high risk but also with high potential. We support innovative researchers that have ideas for the next breakthrough technology. And we offer coaching, matchmaking and support them to set up a business.”

Funding opportunities

The European Innovation Council (EIC) is part of the €95.5bn Horizon Europe initiative. It builds on a pilot programme that ran from 2018, which supported more than 5,000 SMEs and start-ups, as well as more than 330 research projects.

A key element is the new €3bn EIC Fund, which aims to tackle the equity funding gap in Europe. With this fund, the European Commission will be investing directly in start-ups and SMEs, with the aim of attracting additional capital from the private sector.

The EIC Accelerator will support SMEs, particularly start-ups and spin-outs, to develop and scale game-changing innovations. It provides blended finance combining equity through the EIC Fund and grants of up to €2.5m.

Equity investments range from €500,000 to €15m per company, and the first companies to receive equity financing were revealed earlier this year.

The first European company to sign an investment agreement with the EIC Fund was French company CorWave, which secured €15m for its tech to help patients with life-threatening heart failure. Dublin-based Geowox was also among the beneficiaries in the first round of investments.

The European Commission said today that €1bn will be available this year under EIC Accelerator financing – half of which is earmarked for innovations that fall under the European Green Deal actions and for strategic digital and health technologies.

The EIC Pathfinder programme will also make €300m available this year for multidisciplinary research teams to undertake research that has the potential to lead to tech breakthroughs. Meanwhile, EIC Transition will provide €100m of funding to turn research results into innovation opportunities.

New measures will be introduced to support women innovators, in particular, including a female leadership programme. There will also be an EU Prize for Women Innovators, which will recognise women entrepreneurs across the EU who have founded a successful company and brought innovation to market.

“14 years ago, we created the European Research Council to support top researchers, based on scientific excellence,” von der Leyen added in her speech.

“The European Innovation Council we are creating today will be its strong partner to support breakthrough technology and scale up disruptive innovation.”

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic