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Fund 100% of your innovative idea with the EIC’s Pathfinder Challenges call for proposals

Pathfinder Challenges
Javier Uranga

Javier Uranga

Entrepreneurship Consultant

A grant of up to €4 million with 100% financing of eligible costs for all types of entities, including for-profit organisations. This is the main attraction of the Pathfinder call, part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) programme, which aims to accompany the development of disruptive and innovative ideas from their origin or conceptualisation to their market launch and scaling.

Heir to the former Future Emerging Technologies (FET) call, which belonged to the Horizon 2020 programme, Pathfinder is responsible for supporting these ideas in their initial phase of technological maturity, financing their first validation through a proof of concept.

As with the other branches of the EIC programme (Accelerator and Transition), Pathfinder is also divided into two calls, Open and Challenge, which is differentiated by the type of projects they support. Open calls follow a bottom-up approach: any proposal can be submitted, regardless of its subject matter. Challenges, on the other hand, follow a top-down methodology, as it is the European Commission that decides which challenges are to be solved.

An edition with some new features

In the case of Pathfinder calls, only one cut-off date is set each year. In 2022, the Open call has already closed and the Challenges call is about to open, for which projects can be submitted from 15 June to 19 October.

The challenges identified for this call are the main novelty compared to 2021. They range from carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide management and recovery to DNA-based digital data storage, cardiogenomics, continuity of medical care, and medium- and long-term energy storage and integrated systems.

It also highlights the 15% increase in the budget, from 145 million euros released last year to fund 39 of the 403 proposals evaluated (9.5%), to 167 million euros for the 2022 edition.

Growing popularity

Beyond an unbeatable level of funding, the EIC Pathfinder Challenges is interesting because the consortia that apply tend to be smaller than in other calls (an average of 5.5 partners in 2021) and therefore their projects are easier to manage. The proposal is also relatively short. This is not to say that it is simple, but its length of just 25 pages encourages greater participation.

The other instruments and services provided by the EIC to Pathfinder beneficiaries should also not be overlooked. They will have access to EIC Booster Grants, the EIC Transition call, networking events, investment rounds and business acceleration services, among others.

For all these reasons, the EIC Pathfinder Challenges is gaining popularity, which is reducing the success rate of one of the most competitive programmes within Horizon Europe. Based on these premises, at Zabala Innovation we believe that, in order to be successful, the essential requirements are to develop a disruptive, non-incremental technology (i.e. one that represents a paradigm shift in its technological area), and that has a clear commercial application or responds to a market need.

Zabala Innovation experience

Although the participation of single entities is allowed, it is necessary to have a solid consortium that covers both the technological and market aspects. The leader of this type of project is usually the university from which this disruptive technology emerges. However, it must be backed by private companies looking for a long-term economic return. As these are very immature technologies that still have a long way to go to reach the market, these companies are usually start-ups or spin-offs from universities, as large industries or companies are looking for a shorter-term return.

At Zabala Innovation we have experience in both the preparation of proposals and the implementation of projects in which we participate as partners. In the first case, we help applicants to organise the activities to be developed during the project and to focus on how to generate the expected impact. The latter is an area in which researchers are often not experts.

As partners, we participate in the management, communication, dissemination, and exploitation tasks, enhancing the overall impact of the project. Two examples of these are BOW and the recently completed VES4US, which have been very positively evaluated by the European Commission.

Expert person

Javier Uranga
Javier Uranga

Pamplona Office

Entrepreneurship Consultant

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