Europe will invest 343 million Euros in early research for Deeptech in 2023

 The EIC (European Innovation Council) Pathfinder is a European Funding instrument that supports early-stage development of cutting-edge technologies that can make a real difference to society. With a budget for 2023 of € 343 million, it is expected to strengthen the European Union’s research and innovation capabilities. This year the EC has set aside almost half of the Pathfinder budget to address 5 specific thematic areas that are of key importance to the EU.

What are the Pathfinder projects?

The EIC Pathfinder support projects that perform research activities from initial development of future technologies to proof of concept or validated at lab scale (TRL<5). 100% of the costs of the project can be reimbursed. Projects last between 2 and 3 years. There are usually 3 to 5 multidisciplinary partners.

Open and Challenges Pathfinder calls

There are two main types of EIC Pathfinder calls: open or challenges.

Candidates to the open EIC Pathfinder call can address any disruptive area in line with the EU policy priorities. They can request up to €3 million of support per project. The deadline of the open call is March 7, 2023.

The EIC Pathfinder challenges call can address one of the 5 challenges defined in this year’s call which we detail later. A project applying to a challenge call can request up to €4 million. In 2023 almost half of the € 343 million budget Pathfinder programme, i.e., 163.50 million, will be allocated to projects in one of the 5 Challenges defined in the yearly work programme. The deadline to apply to one of the challenges is October 18, 2023.

The 5 EIC Pathfinder challenges of 2023’s call

Challenge 1: Clean and efficient cooling

Objective: this challenge aims to support advancing scientific knowledge and technological development of novel, clean and efficient cooling solutions that fully underpin “cold economy” vision. The project should explore new devices, processes, components and materials for cooling generation, storage and/or transport. Technologies to be integrated in products and services shall demonstrate their potential to (a) reduce investment/operational costs, (b) increase efficiency, operational reliability and interoperability, (c) avoid the use of critical raw materials or harmful refrigerants and (d) pursue circularity by design approaches, low environmental impact and low carbon footprint.

Expected impact: increase the EU technological leadership in strategic productive fields linked to cold production (such as food), improve building comfort and health in living environment, increase operational security of server and computing facilities, reduce carbon footprint of energy systems, emission reduction and cost reduction of the cooling sector.

Challenge 2: Architecture, Engineering and Construction digitalisation for a novel triad of design, fabrication and materials

Objective: this challenge seeks the realization of disruptive solutions for AEC in one or more of the following areas: (a) computational design solutions that advance the state of the art of algorithmically generated design, (b) digital fabrication solutions synchronous with a vast potential of the nearly unlimited complexity of computational design, (c) alternative materials as a field where the mix with digital design and digital fabrication technologies can be demonstrated by the AEC sector to vastly reduce the use of cement and its CO2 emissions in the transition to net zero.

Expected impact: achieve a proof of principle and validate the scientific basis of the breakthrough technology. Development and expression of techno-economic views on geometric and economic scalability of the technology itself.

Challenge 3: Precision nutrition

Objective: this challenge aims to investigate and provide scientific evidence of the role of diet in FrHCs and NCDs, covering the following areas:

  • Investigate causal relationships among diet, microbiome and glycans, with potential impact on personalizing human diet.
  • Identify food ingredients, food technology processes, additives and dietary patterns that have negative effects or beneficial effects on human health and, aging.
  • Reformulation of new food products and processes with no- or fewer additives.

Expected impact: enable the prevention and alleviation of the consequences of FrHCs (Food-related Health Conditions) and NCDs (Noncommunicable Chronic Diseases) on health and well-being through changes in diet.

Challenge 4: Responsible electronics

Objective: this challenge aims to create opportunities for discovery of new environmentally friendly electronic materials, reducing its environmental impact and the need for critical raw materials and hazardous chemicals.

Expected impact: support the transition from traditional materials and manufacturing processes to less environmental impactful ones, developing materials with new properties or replacing materials used in electronic devices with materials.

Challenge 5: In-space solar energy harvesting for innovative space applications

Objective: this challenge aims to develop technologies required for in-space energy harvesting and transmission, and of novel propulsion technologies that will use such harvested energy. At least one of following fields should be covered:

  • Scalable solutions (solar energy harvesting antennas, on-board spacecraft photovoltaic cells) for in-orbit efficient solar energy collection and storage.
  • Conversion of the harvested energy in a form, appropriate for transmission at long distances in empty space.
  • Efficient wireless and secure power transmission of the transformed energy between in-space harvesting devices on spacecraft and re-translation stations or other final receivers.

Expected impact: design and laboratory validation of concepts to develop technologies for space-based energy harvesting in space, development and laboratory validation of breakthrough technologies for wireless power transmission of energy, development of eco-friendly and innovative green propulsion solutions for in-space application and use of innovative in-space robotic solutions for in-space manufacturing and assembly of space-based solar units. Moreover, it will reduce fuel costs, bring in-space clean energy solutions and innovative in-space robotic and assembly solutions, increasing the EU strategic autonomy.

Main novelties of the EIC Pathfinder in 2023

Although there have been no major changes in this year’s program, it presents new nuances, among which we can find:

  • Projects funded through the EIC Pathfinder will be eligible to participate in the ‘Next Generation Innovation Talents’, programme allowing eligible researchers to carry out an innovation internship.
  • Regarding the eligibility criteria, a clearer definition of the rules for the composition of consortia has been included: at least 3 different independent legal entities (including universities, research organizations, SMEs, start-ups) from three different Member States/associated countries (of which at least one of the partners must be a Member State). In addition, single legal entities or small consortia may also apply to the challenges call.
  • Finally, a rebuttal procedure has been included giving the possibility to answer to the evaluator’s comments through a contestation procedure.
Who should apply?

If you need a financial boost to perform high-risk research that creates new concepts, paradigms and radically changes current approaches, participating in the EIC Pathfinder instrument can be an excellent way to overcome the limits and continue exploring the unknown.

Are you interested to fund your next innovation project?