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Taking on the EIC Pathfinder Challenge: new directions in science and technology

20th April 2023 at 4:00 pm

With their Pathfinder programme, the European Innovation Council (EIC) support the research and development of bold ideas for future breakthrough technologies within the Horizon Europe framework. Pathfinder encompasses two funding streams. The first is the Pathfinder Open instrument, where applicants can propose any research topic (bottom-up approach). The second is the Pathfinder Challenge, which provides funding for projects targeting one of the so-called Challenges. These Challenges are call topics focusing on research subjects of high societal, economic and political interest (top-down approach).

In 2022, researchers, companies and other organisations could apply for six Challenges covering a variety of research areas and industries and ranging from new energy storage concepts over cardiogenomics to DNA-based digital data storage.

Logo of European Innovation Council with EU flag

EIC Pathfinder Challenges 2022 – results

The call for proposals attracted a total of 469 project applications by its submission deadline of 19 October 2022. The European Commission communicated the proposal evaluation results to the project coordinators and their partners at the end of January 2023.

As seen in the figure below, the competition was particularly fierce for the Challenges ‘Carbon dioxide and nitrogen management and valorisation’ and ‘Towards the Healthcare Continuum: technologies to support a radical shift from episodic to continuous healthcare’. To our knowledge, only seven to eight projects were funded for each Challenge. The 44 successful projects were chosen from 436 eligible proposals and will receive up to €167 million in EU funding (at an average of 3.8 million euro per project). At accelopment, we are pleased to be part of a successful application for the Challenge ‘DNA-based digital data storage’ and will soon share more information about this exciting initiative on our project webpage. For each specific Challenge, the EIC will establish a portfolio of projects exploring different perspectives, competing approaches or complementary aspects of that Challenge.

EIC Pathfinder Challenges 2022Proposals submittedEstimated success rate
Carbon dioxide and nitrogen management and valorisation1008%
Mid to long term and systems integrated energy storage5814%
Towards the Healthcare Continuum: technologies to support a radical shift from episodic to continuous healthcare1745%
DNA-based digital data storage2330%
Alternative approaches to Quantum Information Processing, Communication, and Sensing7810%

The typical project construct

Projects typically involve consortia of researchers and other partners from at least three countries, but there are also opportunities for individual teams and small consortia of, for example, two partners. The EU funding of up to 3 million euro for Open to 4 million euro for Challenge will support the early-stage development of breakthrough technologies at low Technology Readiness Levels (typically from level 1 to level 3, the Proof of Concept). To achieve a Proof of Concept, projects often include validation of their innovative technology and testing of the innovation potential of their research outputs.

Both, the Open and the Challenge strands, are high-risk/high-gain and promote interdisciplinary cutting-edge science collaborations with the potential to result in radically new technologies. Thus, they are great opportunities for visionary scientists and entrepreneurial researchers from universities, research organisations, start-ups, high-tech SMEs and industrial stakeholders interested in technological research and innovation.

EIC Challenges 2023 – new opportunities

The details for the call for EIC Pathfinder Challenges 2023 have already been announced. Applications will open on 20 June 2023, and the EIC work programme 2023/2024 will include five new Challenges:

  1. Clean and efficient cooling
  2. Architecture, Engineering and Construction digitalisation for a novel triad of design, fabrication, and materials
  3. Precision nutrition
  4. Responsible electronics
  5. In-space solar energy harvesting for innovative space applications

The proposal submission deadline is 18 October 2023 and it appears that the application and evaluation rules have remained unchanged from last year. The work programme offers more information about the respective Challenge portfolio roadmap and strategy plan. The tools through which projects can receive additional support are still in force.

Your Pathfinder proposal idea

Over the years, we at accelopment have been involved in several projects funded by Pathfinder and FET Open, the predecessor programme to Pathfinder Open, including CORENET, FRINGE and CLASSY. Our role is to provide support during the proposal preparation process and then to assist with management, communication and dissemination as a full project partner during the implementation of the action.

We are excited about the Pathfinder programme and the insights and innovations it will generate, and we would be happy to hear about your project idea, consortium and proposal plans.

Andreia Cruz
Research & Innovation Project Manager

Dr. Jörn-Frederik Wotzlaw

Dr. Jörn-Frederik Wotzlaw
Research & Innovation Project Manager

Dr Johannes Ripperger

Dr. Johannes Ripperger
Research & Innovation Manager