EIC: European funding for innovation

EIC is one of the main new features of the new Horizon Europe framework program and is one of three sub-programs of Pillar 3. The EIC offers support during all stages of development of a technological or scientific innovation, starting from the early stages of research and development of prototypes and proof-of-concept to the validation and market launch for an European-wide commercialization. 

  • The primary objective of the program is to support innovative start-ups and SMEs to develop and implement high-risk, disruptive innovations with the potential to create new markets or revolutionize existing ones and accelerate their internationalization
  • The European contribution for EIC is spread over 3 main funding instruments: EIC Pathfinder, EIC Transition and EIC Accelerator (former SME Instrument) , each with specific objectives and funding rules. 
  • The total budget allocated for the period 2021-2027 is 10 billion euros, making the EIC the most ambitious initiative within Horizon Europe. 
  • EU funding for the EIC will mainly be provided in the form of “open calls” without specific thematic priorities, following a bottom-up approach. There are also “EIC Strategic Challenges,” designed to support European technology innovation projects in specific areas according to a top-down approach.

The structure of the EIC

EIC Pathfinder Open

It funds basic research activities for the early stages of development of a technological and/or scientific innovation up to the validation stage.

  • Beneficiaries: at least 3 partners (SMEs, research centers, universities)  from 3 different countries 
  • Technology maturity level of the innovation: TRL 1-4 
  • Grant funding up to max. 3 million euros

EIC Transition Open

It supports validation activities of technologies whose proof-of-concepts were previously developed in projects funded by EIC Pathfinder or the ERC program.

  • Beneficiaries: SMEs, spin-offs, start-ups, research centers, universities individually or in small consortia (2 up to 5 partners)
  • Technology maturity level of the innovation: TRL 5-6
  • Grant funding up to a maximum of 2.5 million euros

EIC Accelerator Open

It funds the final stages of innovation development, already tested and validated, and subsequent market entry for commercialization and scale-up.

  • Beneficiaries: individual SMEs, start-ups or small-mid-cups or individuals or legal entities intending to launch an SME or start-up
  • Technology maturity level of the innovation: TRL 6-9
  • Financing in the form of blended finance consisting of a portion of equity investment up to max. 15 million euros and a portion in the form of grant financing up to max. 2.5 million euros

EIC Accelerator: European funding for start-ups and enterprises

The EIC Accelerator (formerly the SME Instrument) is a single-beneficiary instrument of the EIC targeted at individual SMEs or start-ups aiming to obtain European facilities to finance the later stages of development of a highly innovative product, process or service (with TRL between 6 and 9) and initiate the commercialization and scale-up phase. 

The EIC Accelerator allocates most of the available European funds to finance innovation projects in any thematic area through “open calls.” A portion is instead allocated to fund projects under the “EIC Accelerator Challenges”.

The extent of funding

In the EIC Accelerator, European grants are provided in the form of blended finance, which includes a grant component and an equity investment component.

Grant funding

  • It funds innovation activities including testing, validation and prototyping (TRL6-8) and marketing and intellectual property management activities 
  • Maximum eligible funding: 2.5 million euros
  • Eligible funding rate: 70% of total eligible costs
  • You can only apply for grant component if you have sufficient resources to finance the commercialization phase or if the innovation developed is a new scientific discovery or new technology that requires more resources for validation

Equity investment

  • It funds the commercialization phase (TRL9) and the scale-up phase 
  • Minimum investment: 0.5 million euros
  • Maximum investment: 15 million euros
  • It is also possible to apply for equity investment only

The submission of an EIC Accelerator project proposal

The application process in the EIC Accelerator is divided into 3 stages. The project proposal must pass each stage to access the next stage and obtain European funding.

Short application 

  • Presentation of the project idea (5 pages)
  • Pitch deck (max 10 slides)
  • Video presentation (max 3 minutes)
  • Deadlines: always open

Full application 

  • Detailed description of the project idea (50 pages)
  • Business model and business plan
  • Business coaching and acceleration services


  • In Brussels or online
  • Project presentation with pitch (10 minutes)
  • 30-minute Q&A

Do you want to enter the world of European funding?

If you are a company, organization, or start-up and you have an idea you would like to implement, we offer support in approaching European project design: we can support you all the way to building and implementing your project.