The European Institute of Innovation and Technology has launched a call for proposals to support the growth of the best European start-ups and scale-ups whose solutions increase the quality of life of citizens and foster a more sustainable and inclusive Europe
Since mid-October, innovative European companies have had a new opportunity to finance their growth projects. It is the Community booster programme of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which will support 20 projects from 20 start-ups or scale-ups (i.e. companies with an average annualised return of at least 20% over the last three years and with at least 10 employees at the start of this period). The winners will receive 50,000 euros each, including cash grants and acceleration support services. The call for proposals closes on 17 December.
This programme is being developed within the framework of the so-called New European Bauhaus, an interdisciplinary initiative at the crossroads between science, technology, social inclusion, culture and art, with the aim of creating sustainable ways of living and bringing the European Green Deal to all corners of the Old Continent through innovation. Therefore, the projects must be permeated by three main values: durability (i.e. meeting the guidelines of the fight against climate change, the circular economy and the concept of zero emissions); aesthetics (of which the quality of the experience, beyond functionality, is part); and inclusion (diversity, accessibility and viability).
The EIT is a European Union body established in 2008 to strengthen the innovation capacity of Member States and is integrated into Horizon Europe, the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. It is made up of eight Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), i.e. collaborative networks of companies, research organisations and universities, each working on a specific theme.
The EIT Community booster – Scaling new European Bauhaus ventures is a cross-cutting call which is articulated in five sub-programmes, each proposed by a KIC. For each sub-programme, the corresponding KIC will select four winning companies.
The timeline of the call is common to all five sub-programmes: the evaluation will take place between January and February 2022. The names of the winning companies are expected to be announced in March 2022. However, the other conditions vary from sub-programme to sub-programme, so it is worth looking at them in more detail.
1. New european Bauhaus climate acceleration programme
Elaborated by the EIT Climate community, this call responds to three challenges of the New Bauhaus. On the one hand, it is about ensuring ecological transition through architectural, cultural and historical sites, using natural building materials and energy efficiency, implementing sustainable alternatives for urban spaces, converting degraded public areas into natural spaces, creating green areas and respecting biodiversity, among other examples.
On the other hand, the ambition is to approach circularity and urban resilience by strengthening the public realm, accessibility and the interconnection of different modes of active mobility, with the aim of mitigating air pollution and noise, and improving physical and mental health.
Thirdly, efforts will be directed towards ensuring affordability and accessibility for all. Thus, the focus will be on building energy communities; moving from a building-based to a community-based approach to telecommunications, data, energy, water and waste management; upgrading historic and old buildings to meet new energy efficiency requirements; and promoting universal mobility (i.e. mobility that is not dependent on gender, race, creed or disability) as a key factor for social inclusion.
This programme is ideal for start-ups that are close to reaching the market or have already done so thanks to innovative technology or business models that have been sufficiently demonstrated in controlled environments. The four selected companies will receive a fund of €25,000 each to accelerate their growth and a tailor-made package of services for another €25,000 including access to training and expert advice, individual mentoring, networking with other start-ups and projects of the European New Bauhaus as well as stakeholders, and promotion at local, regional and global level through the EIT Climate-KIC and Cross-KIC NEB, EIT events, and communication tools.
To be eligible to apply, candidate companies must be less than five years old, be active in the European Union or one of the partner countries, be aligned with the principles of the European New Bauhaus and demonstrate the high potential impact of their solution on the climate challenges facing cities; have a proof of concept or an alpha or beta version or a prototype; have a scalable solution; and have a dedicated team of at least two people, among other criteria.
2. Scaling up European digital ventures
This programme is designed for scale-ups with international growth ambitions that harness the power of digital transformation to create innovative solutions and products in industries, cities and communities that integrate circularity, inclusion and aesthetics in building a green, safe and sustainable future.
The four best companies will receive one year of personalised international growth support from the EIT Digital accelerator, worth €50,000. In this way, these companies will be able to raise their next round of Series A or B funding from European investors in a faster and more efficient way, thanks to the support of the Access to Finance team.
In addition, the Market Access team will be able to help them expand their market share, reach new customers and increase their international presence. The winners will also be able to tap into the pan-European network of leading corporations, investors, SMEs, universities and research institutions and gain international visibility through EIT Digital’s communication channels.
This sub-programme is divided into five themes: Digital Industry (digital solutions for energy efficiency, sustainability, transparency and resource optimisation in manufacturing, logistics, supply chain and retail); Digital Cities (digital solutions to make city operations more efficient, improve urban infrastructure and mobility, and improve the quality of citizens’ experience); Digital Wellness (digital solutions for disease prevention and rehabilitation, chronicities, diagnostics, monitoring and healthy lifestyle); Digital Technology (digital solutions for efficiency and improvement of existing infrastructures, and security and privacy of citizens); and Digital Finance (digital solutions that improve access to financial services for communications and business, affordability and risk mitigation).
To be eligible for this call, the company must be registered after 1 January 2011, its headquarters must be in one of the 27 member countries or one of the associated countries of the Horizon Europe programme, and it must meet one of the following parameters: 2020 annual revenues of at least 300,000 euros; or revenues of at least 300,000 euros in 2021, until 30 June; or two million euros of total funding.
3. Drive food innovation and transformation at scale
Are you a start-up in the agri-food sector and ready to make a big impact at any point in the agricultural or food supply chain? Are you committed to building a healthier, more reliable and sustainable food system? Are you at a very early or initial stage of your journey, successfully validated by customers and already able to produce traction indicators such as sales or letters of support? Have you already completed Technology Readiness Level 4 (or TRL) and Customer Readiness Level 4? Are you active in the EU or partner countries? And finally, can you guarantee an active and constant participation in the programme, with the presence of at least one team for 30 days in the accelerator programme? Then this call is for you.
Run by the EIT Food Accelerator Network, the programme will provide the four winning companies with financial support to equip them with all the tools they need to become significant change agents, develop skills, benefit from mentoring and gain exposure in their market, to potential customers, investors and the media.
The pan-European research network will also be able to connect these companies with other agri-food start-ups and research institutions. To support them in solving critical challenges within the food system, they will be provided with access to facilities such as laboratories, pilot sites or agricultural land.
In terms of themes, under Green transition through architectural, cultural and historical sites, the project may address urban and vertical farming, regenerative agriculture and carbon farming, short supply chains, last mile delivery, and the renewal of the farmer-citizen relationship, among others.
In the section on circularity and urban resilience, issues to be addressed could be sustainable food packaging, reduction and prevention of food waste, utilisation of secondary flows, for example.
In terms of ensuring affordability and accessibility for all, it will be possible to submit projects that, among other features, promote and support a healthy lifestyle, facilitate access to healthy food, also in schools or hospitals.
4. Green and socially sustainable manufacturing: startup acceleration call
Carried out by EIT Manufacturing, this programme is aimed at start-ups involved in green and socially sustainable manufacturing and the promotion of long-term product life cycles.
Thus, on the one hand, projects can be presented that develop green manufacturing through solutions that involve a reduced environmental footprint or related to the decarbonisation of manufacturing and maintenance processes, or manufactured and delivered locally, or circular economy, or urban manufacturing.
On the other hand, projects that promote socially sustainable manufacturing processes, using efficiency, automation and human-machine co-working solutions, agile, flexible and resilient supply chains, or inclusiveness and quality of experience (including aesthetics) in manufacturing are also welcome.
To be eligible to apply, the company will have to demonstrate that it has been operational for more than a year, have a full-time project team, and seek access to funding from equity partners, among other criteria.
In selecting the winners, the innovation of the solution will weigh 20%, the potential for market growth and existing customer traction 20%, and the strength of the motivation letter submitted 20%, while identifying the existing problem in the market and addressing customer pain points 15%. A further 15% of the evaluation will be reserved for the team, experience and business drive and the remaining 10% for the overall impression.
5. EIT Urban mobility Accelerator
With themes very similar to those of the New European Bauhaus climate acceleration programme, this call, focused on urban mobility, is aimed at start-ups that have generated less than €1 million in cumulative revenues and whose shareholding outside the eligible countries does not exceed 5%. Among other criteria, special attention will be paid to the team, which has to consist of at least two full-time equivalents (FTE), and to the fact that more than 70% of the shares are in the hands of the founders and employees. The business idea has to be clear and scalable and the relevant market has to be at least EUR 1 billion.