EIC PATHFINDER: european funds for disruptive ideas

If you have a reliable, disruptive, innovative, high-risk and high-impact idea that involves an interdisciplinary activity based on new technologies, perhaps your project is a EIC-PATHFINDER.

The EIC (European Innovation Council) Pilot Program has as its main objective to support innovative groups, start-ups, small companies and researchers with brilliant ideas that are radically different from the products, services or business models that are existing today, through projects with enormous international potential to be developed.


Within the EIC-PATHFINDER line, we can find unique financing schemes that support research groups and innovative companies, to develop disruptive concepts and to lead the European Union towards the exploration of new markets in a global growth system:

FET-OPEN: For new ideas for radically new technologies

  • FET-OPEN “Challenging Current Thinking” (RIA): Early stages of scientific research and innovation around new ideas to develop radically new technologies. Bottom-up projects.
  • FET-OPEN “Coordination and Support Action”: Aimed at facilitating the coordination of research activities and networking.
  • FET-OPEN “Innovation Launchpad”: Individual or collaborative actions focusing on non-scientific aspects to facilitate commercial applications of the results obtained in projects finished in FET-FP7 or H2020 programmes.

FET-PROACTIVE: Strengthening research communities and creating critical mass for specific topics (Human-Centric AI, Implantable autonomous devices and materials, Breakthrough zero-emissions energy generation for full decarbonisation, Future technologies for social experience, Measuring the unmeasurable – Sub-nanoscale science for Nanometrology, Digital twins for the life-sciences).

The FET programme (Future and Emerging Technologies) is part of the “Excellent Science Pillar” of the European Research Framework Programme H2020, with a total budget of 2.695 billion euros available until 2020, and following implementation of the new Horizon Europe Programme, which will define the research and innovation strategy from 2021 to 2027.

FET is risk research, going beyond the state of the art, and which aims to develop new ideas, concepts and paradigms that represent a radical change in current scientific and technological approaches. FET supports those visionary applications that open paths to radically new and interdisciplinary technologies (social sciences, engineering, life sciences, ICT, etc.).


The basic characteristics that all FET proposals must meet are known as “Gatekeepers“. Minimum compliance criteria are described below:

  • Future vision and long-term exploitation
  • Disruptive and well-identified scientific and technological approach. Blue-sky” research is not a FET project
  • New: If your project is aimed at new stages of development on existing concepts, or to give continuity to previous projects, your idea is not FET.
  • Foundational: If your project does not provide a new line of research to develop a technology not yet established, it is not a FET concept.
  • High risk: If your research methodology is not directed towards the exploration of new and unknown territories, which suppose a high risk and degree of benefit, it is not FET-Open.
  • Interdisciplinarity: If your project only collaborates between similar research areas or similar disciplines, or you participate through established collaborative groups, your program is not FET.

The degree of maturity at the end of the project (TRL) is not clearly defined in this program. It is established that the proposed research will be directed towards a concrete development through the viable consolidation of a radically new technology with utility in future applications, thus defining its essential scientific foundations (proof of concept).

If you are a researcher who is risky enough to participate in the PATHFINDER program, I encourage you to come up with ideas that go beyond SoA, what is currently established. It is not enough to improve what already exists, but to propose new lines of research that will allow us to design the future scientific and technological paradigms of our society at European level. Have you got a dream?


Within this plan, new programs are created, and others are reinforced, to increase their capacity to react and recover from possible pandemics.

Thus, a new Health programme, “EU4Health“, is born with a budget of 9.4 billion to strengthen health security, while reinforcing the “EU rescue” (civil protection mechanism) to respond to large-scale emergencies. This includes grants and public contracts managed by the Commission for a volume of EUR 3.1 billion.

The Commission has also proposed to reinforce other programmes to ensure that the challenges posed by the pandemic can be addressed. These include Horizon Europe, Connecting Europe, the CAP, the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument and the Humanitarian Aid or the Digital Europe Programme.

This fund is an example of Europe’s willingness to respond strongly to the new crisis and complements the 540 billion credit plan approved in April and which is part of an emergency plan that is divided into the 240 billion credit lines of the MEDE rescue fund, the 100 billion to support the maintenance of SURE employment and the new 100 billion line of EIB guarantees to finance SMEs.