What can you expect as part of EIC Pathfinder?
With its Pathfinder programme the EIC supports the exploration of bold ideas for radically new technologies. It welcomes the high-risk / high gain and interdisciplinary cutting-edge science collaborations that underpin technological breakthroughs.
Pathfinder goes beyond what is already known. Visionary thinking can open up promising avenues towards powerful new technologies.
Applicants participating in EIC Pathfinder projects are typically visionary scientists and entrepreneurial researchers from universities, research organisations, start-ups, high-tech SMEs or industrial stakeholders interested in technological research and innovation.
Projects typically involve consortia of researchers and other partners from at least three different countries, but there are also opportunities for individual teams and small consortia (two partners).
Grants of up to 3 to 4 million euro support early stage development of future technologies (e.g. various activities at low Technology Readiness Levels 1-3), up to proof of concept. Pathfinder projects can also receive additional funding for testing the innovation potential of their research outputs.
What is the expected size and duration of an EIC Pathfinder project? Can single beneficiaries apply and if yes, will they be competing against multi-beneficiary proposals?
EIC considers proposals with a requested EU contribution of up to EUR 3 million for Pathfinder Open and up to EUR 4 million for Pathfinder Challenges as appropriate. Nonetheless, this does not preclude you to request larger amounts, if properly justified.
In general, there is no specific expectation on the number of partners in a consortium or the duration of EIC Pathfinder projects, which should be “fit-for-purpose”, i.e. decided in line with the S&T ambition, by ensuring an efficient implementation strategy of the planned R&I, dissemination and exploitation activities and considering quickly changing research landscape in given area(s). Note however that the eligibility conditions of each call needs to be satisfied (e.g., 3 minimum legal entities for consortia in Pathfinder Open and 2 for consortia in the Pathfinder Challenge, unless specified in the Challenge text call). For some Pathfinder Challenges, projects are expected to have a set duration specified in the in the Challenge Guide.
Applications from single legal entities are not eligible under the EIC Pathfinder Open call. Single legal entities can however submit applications under the EIC Pathfinder Challenges call, where they will compete with proposals submitted by consortia.
What range of TRL should EIC Pathfinder projects cover? What is the expected project output?
It is expected that the various activities within the EIC Pathfinder projects should cover low TRLs, typically in the range between TRL 1 and 4. Note however that the TRLs range of some EIC Pathfinder Challenges may be narrower as specified in the given Pathfinder Challenge text call and Challenge Guide.
The main expected outcomes of Pathfinder projects are top-level scientific publications in open access and an adequate formal protection of the generated Intellectual Property (e.g. a patent application). In addition, the expected outcome of Pathfinder Open project is the proof of principle that the main ideas of the envisioned future technology are feasible, thus validating its scientific and technological basis. For Pathfinder Challenge projects, the expected outcomes are described in the given Challenge text call and Challenge Guide. Moreover, Pathfinder Challenge projects are also expected to contribute to the outcomes of the Challenge Portfolio activities as described in the Challenge Guide.
Is participation of SMEs or industrial partners to EIC Pathfinder consortia compulsory?
The participation of SMEs and industrial partners in the EIC Pathfinder consortia is not compulsory.
Please note however that for the Pathfinder Open call, applicants are encouraged to involve and empower in their team key actors that have the potential to become future leaders in their field such as excellent early-career researchers or promising high-tech SMEs, including start-ups.
Can you provide some examples of eligible and non-eligible consortium compositions in the EIC Pathfinder Challenges call?
The EIC Pathfinder Challenges call is open for participation of single legal entities established in a Member State (MS) or an Associated Country (AC). Note however that mid-caps and larger companies are not permitted as single applicants. Consortia of several legal entities can also participate in this call provided that they fulfil certain eligibility criteria:
- Consortia of two entities must be two independent legal entities from two different MS or AC.
- Consortia of three or more entities must include as beneficiaries at least three legal entities, independent from each other and each established in a different country as follows:
- at least one legal entity established in a Member State; and
- at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member State or Associated Country.
Important: associated partners participate in the project without funding but are not a party to the grant agreement which they do not sign. They are therefore not taken into consideration for the eligibility of the project. An affiliated entity to a beneficiary is not considered as independent legal entity.
Examples of ineligible consortia:
- a French university, a German research organisation and a French SME (consortium of three legal entities, but only two MS or AC represented)
- a Polish university, am Italian university, a Polish SME and an Italian company (consortium of more than three legal entities, but only two MS or AC represented)
- a Finish research organisation, a Finish university, a Norwegian SME and a Canadian university (the Canadian university participates as associated partner; hence this is a consortium of three legal entities, but only two MS or AC represented)
Examples of eligible consortia:
- a Maltese university and a Czech SME (consortium of two legal entities with two different MS or AC represented)
- A Greek research organisation and a Swiss university (the Swiss university participates as associated partner; hence this is not counted as a consortium but as a single legal entity)
A Portuguese company, an Israelian hospital, a Latvian university, and a US research organisation (there are three entities from two different MS and one AC, and one associated partner).
For further clarifications, see FAQ "In Horizon Europe, what is the status of participants from non-EU, Associated or Third Countries?"
How will the rebuttal (“right-to-react”) procedure in the evaluation process of EIC Pathfinder work in practice? How will applicants be contacted for submitting observations? ? What happens if an applicant does not submit observations?
About 1.5 - 2.5 months after the call deadline the applicants will receive the evaluators’ comments via the Funding & tenders portal, the deadline for sending replies to these comments will be eight calendar days (at 17h00 Brussels local time) after the receipt of these comments. The participants’ replies are strictly limited to maximum two A4 pages. They cannot be used to alter or add to the content of the proposals but must strictly focus providing clarifications and/or on responding to potential misunderstandings or errors by the evaluators. The replies will be made available to the evaluation committee who will decide on the final score on the basis of the remote score and the outcome of its consensus discussions, taking into consideration the comments from the rebuttal procedure, if any.
There are no consequences if a participant does not submit observations (not compulsory).
For the Pathfinder Challenges call, what does it mean that portfolio considerations will be taken into account in the evaluation process? What does the portfolio approach mean for beneficiaries in successful Pathfinder Challenges projects?
The evaluation process includes two steps:
- an assessment of each proposal separately and
- the Evaluation Committee will consider each proposal’s contribution to setting up of a consistent portfolio of projects.
Portfolio considerations for a given Challenge call are described in the Pathfinder Challenge Guide. As a general principle, in order to balance out the portfolio, a mapping of the proposals in a number of categories will be used. A suitable portfolio of proposals will be selected by the evaluation committee by applying portfolio considerations in order to propose for funding a coherent set of projects to achieve the expected outcomes and impacts of the Challenge.
Projects in a Challenge portfolio are expected to interact and exchange, remaining flexible and reactive in the light of developments within the portfolio or in the relevant global scientific or industrial community. They will progress together towards common Portfolio goals and create new opportunities for radical innovation as described in the Challenge Guide for the particular Challenge.
Why and when may Pathfinder Open projects be added to an EIC portfolio? What kind of portfolio activities are expected? Can projects or beneficiaries, selected to join a portfolio, opt out?
EIC funded projects may be allocated in at least one thematic or challenge-based portfolio of projects. This allocation may change over time as new portfolios are created or evolve. EIC Portfolio activities will be identified and developed by EIC Programme Managers in consultation with the beneficiaries of the actions in each portfolio, and where appropriate with other interested EIC Community members and third parties. The aim of thematic portfolios is to develop cooperation within the portfolio in order to support the member-projects in achieving more efficiently and effectively their objectives, and more generally to enhance research, prepare transition to innovation and stimulate business opportunities, and strengthen the EIC Community. Such activities may include participation to conferences, workshops or meetings, data sharing, or participation to any relevant EIC Business Acceleration Services events, just to name a few.
It should be emphasised that the Pathfinder Open call is bottom-up and thus the level of adherence of a proposal to one or several existing portfolios is not an eligibility or evaluation criterion for proposals submitted to this call. It is nevertheless expected that all Pathfinder projects will be included in at least one portfolio.
How will participation in portfolio activities be supported? At the submission, do proposals need to allocate a budget for portfolio activities?
Pathfinder Open proposals do not need to allocate budget for these activities while those from Pathfinder Challenges should allocate a corresponding budget as indicated in the relevant Challenge Guide.
In specific cases the participation in portfolio activities may be supported by booster grants with fixed amounts of up to EUR 50 000 per project.
Will the Pathfinder challenges still exist in future Work Programme?
The Challenge-driven approach will continue in future EIC work programmes beyond 2022. The topics identified for the challenge-driven calls in the EIC work programme 2023 will evolve, with new topics identified in later years, with the possibility of some topics identified in this Work Programme to be complemented with additional funding. Throughout 2023, the EIC will organise various discussions and events to help identify the most promising emerging topics for the Challenges, and EIC Programme Managers are expected to play a central role in this process.
Are there events foreseen to support the formation of consortium for Pathfinder calls?
The European Commission supports the formation of consortia for Pathfinder calls by means of its Partner Search tool on the Funding and Tenders Portal. Specific networking events may be organised and announced at a later stage. Please also contact your National Contact Point for further information and support.
In the Pathfinder Open evaluations, how do you apply the “gender balance amongst work package leaders” criterion when prioritising proposals with the same final score?
Applicants must include information about the gender of their work package leaders in the application form (part B, table 3.1a – list of work packages). This information will be used to calculate the gender balance criterion. Proposals with a more balanced composition in terms of gender of work package leaders get priority.
Work packages for which the gender of the work package leader is not clearly indicated will be counted as contributing to the gender which is already mostly represented. Work package leaders which are leading more than one work package will be counted only once. Proposals where the information on the gender of work package leaders is entirely missing will be counted as 100% imbalanced.
In the Pathfinder Open evaluations, how do you apply the “number of Member States and Associated Countries” criterion when prioritising proposals with the same final score?
This criterion is applied by calculating how many Member States (MS) and Associated Countries (AC) are represented in the consortium. Consortia with a larger number of MS and AC represented get priority. Associated partners not requesting funding are not taken into account. Countries with several entities are only counted once.Example:
- Consortium A with 2 German, 3 Spanish, 2 Estonian and 1 Tunisian entities: 4 Member States and Associated Countries represented
- Consortium B with 1 Greek, 3 Norwegian, 1 Lithuanian, 1 Swiss and 1 US entity: 3 Member States and Associated Countries represented
Consortium A has priority over consortium B.
The EIC Pathfinder programme consists of a combination of both open and challenge driven funding.
EIC Pathfinder Open provides funding for projects in any field of science or technology, based on high-risk/high-gain science-towards-technology breakthrough interdisciplinary research.
The total indicative budget for this call is EUR 179.5 million.
The EIC Pathfinder Open 2023 call will close on the 7th March 2023 17.00 (CET).
Strategic EIC Pathfinder Challenges
EIC Pathfinder funding is also available for specific challenges that are typically steered by an EIC Programme Manager.
2023 EIC Pathfinder Challenges
- Clean and efficient cooling (PDF)
- Architecture, Engineering and Construction digitalisation for a novel triad of design, fabrication, and materials (PDF)
- Precision nutrition (PDF)
- Responsible electronics (PDF)
- In-space solar energy harvesting for innovative space applications (PDF)
The total indicative budget for this call is EUR 163.5 million which is expected to be allocated in approximately equal shares across the Challenges.
The call will open on 20 June 2023 and it will be closed on the 18 October 2023 at 17h00 Brussels local time.