EU opens €1bn call for start-ups with ‘breakthrough innovations’

9 Apr 2021

Image: © tiero/

The EIC Accelerator is looking to support start-ups and SMEs with game-changing tech innovations through a ‘unique’ funding programme.

The European Commission has today (9 April) opened the first call for applicants under the new EIC Accelerator programme.

With funding worth more than €1bn, this programme aims to help scale start-ups and SMEs that have the potential to achieve high impact. While more than half of this funding is open to any field, €495m is earmarked for innovations that support the European Green Deal as well as digital and health technologies.

The European Innovation Council (EIC) was launched last month, with plans to invest more than €10bn over the next seven years to develop and expand breakthrough innovations in the EU.

It is part of the €95.5bn Horizon Europe initiative, which is the largest ever funding instrument for research and innovation in Europe.

‘It will lead Europe at the forefront of innovation and new technologies’

The EIC Accelerator is a key component of the EIC that aims to support SMEs, particularly start-ups and spin-outs, that are in the later stages of developing or are scaling game-changing tech innovations.

It focuses on scientific or tech breakthroughs that need significant funding over a longer time frame before returns can be generated, and which may struggle to attract financing because the risks and time involved are too high.

The accelerator provides blended finance combining equity through a new €3bn EIC Fund and grants of up to €2.5m. This means the European Commission will be investing directly in start-ups and SMEs, with the aim of attracting additional capital from the private sector.

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

In additional to financial supports, all EIC Accelerator projects get access to a range of business acceleration services.

“The EIC Accelerator is a unique funding instrument of the EU,” said Mariya Gabriel, commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth.

“It supports the development of breakthrough innovations through crowding-in private investors and offering support services to scale up. It will lead Europe at the forefront of innovation and new technologies, and help us tackle the health, environmental and societal challenges we are facing.”

The commission also opened calls for the EIC Pathfinder today. This programme, which has a budget of €168m, provides research and innovation grants to interdisciplinary teams that want to realise a breakthrough idea.

Pathfinder grants, which vary from €3m to €4m, will focus on game-changing innovations that will address global challenges and have a positive effect on the economy and society.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic