The European Innovation Council has awarded over €307 million to 64 game-changing ‘green deal’ start-ups and SMEs contributing to the objectives of the European Green Deal Strategy and the Recovery Plan for Europe. Winning proposals range from innovative solutions for the automotive, aerospace and maritime sectors to advanced materials or Internet of Things technologies.
Over one third of the selected companies are led by women CEOs, which is a big increase (tripling) of the number in previous EIC funding rounds. This increase reflects a pilot measure introduced for the first time in EIC funding which guaranteed at least a quarter of companies invited to the final interviews would have female CEOs. The 64 startups and SMEs selected are based in wide range of countries, including 17 EU member states – seven of which are countries catching up in their R&I performance – making this the most geographically diverse EIC call so far.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:
“The European Innovation Council supports visionary entrepreneurs who create transformative solutions to pressing societal and environmental challenges, supporting the Green Deal and the recovery plan for Europe. These startups and SME are set to scale up, creating jobs and growth and giving Europe the global lead in green technologies and solutions. I am also proud of the increased inclusiveness with the greater numbers of women innovators and geographic spread across Europe.”
The results demonstrate the high demand for EIC ‘blended finance’, which combines grant and equity (38 companies, representing €182.6 million in equity investments). Equity investments are through the recently established EIC Fund managing equity stakes on behalf of the European Commission. All selected companies also benefit from exclusive business acceleration services opportunities to support rapid growth and scale.
In addition, the EIC awarded 562 “Green Deal” Seals of Excellence to startups and SMEs to help these companies access funding from other sources.
The EIC is currently in a €3.3 billion pilot phase and is due to be fully-fledged in 2021 as part of the new Horizon Europe programme.
In March 2020 the Commission amended the pilot EIC 2020 Work Programme in order to include a €300 m budget through the EIC pilot Accelerator for funding game-changing, market-creating innovations that contribute to the goals of The European Green Deal and the UN’’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The scheme offers startups and SMEs the option to apply for either grants or blended finance (grant and/or equity support). Since the start of the EIC Accelerator Pilot in autumn 2019, a total of 140 start-ups and SMEs active in all technology intensive sectors (health, digital, energy, etc.) have been pre-selected for equity financing for a total of over €500m. The amended pilot EIC Work Programme also introduced special provisions to support applications by SMEs and startups with female CEOs.