EIC Pathfinder

Who can apply for the EIC Pathfinder in 2024?

Open Call: Consortia of minimum 3 partners from 3 different eligible countries.

Challenge Call: Single applicants or small consortia of minimum 2 partners.

  • Total budget: €256mn
  • Max project funding: €4mn
  • Funding rate: 100%

When to apply for the EIC Pathfinder in 2024?

The EIC Pathfinder is a 1-step process.

Proposals of 20 pages for EIC Pathfinder Open and 30 pages for EIC Pathfinder Challenge.

The EIC Pathfinder has 2 deadlines in 2024: 07/03 for Open proposals; and 16/10 for Challenge proposals.

Step 1

20-30 Page Proposal

Funding Options

The projects funded through EIC Pathfinder are eligible:

  • To receive EIC Booster grants of up to €50k.
  • To submit an EIC Transition proposal.
  • To submit an EIC Accelerator proposal via the Fast Track scheme.

Open Call

Budget

€136mn

Deadline

07/03/2024

Grant

Grants of max. €3mn

Funding Rate
0%

Challenge Call

Budget

€120mn

Deadline

16/10/2024

Grant

Grants of max. €4mn

Funding Rate
0%

Challenge Topics

Solar-to-X devices for the decentralized prosumption of renewable fuels, chemicals and materials as climate change mitigation pathway

This Challenge is directly relevant to the objectives of the European Green Deal and Repower EU. The objective is to make progress towards synthetic fuels and chemicals technologies which integrate all necessary conversion steps into a single device, and which are solely and directly driven by solar energy.

 

Specific Objectives:

 

Proposals should address one (and only one) of the following three areas:

 

Area 1: Standalone solar-to-X device development:

Projects should address all of the following specific objectives:

  • Develop standalone solar-to-X devices, converting sunlight and simple, low-energy molecules such as water, carbon oxides or N2 (non-exhaustive list) into fuels, chemicals and materials.
  • Enable simplified production chains where one directly goes from simple feedstock to complex products, beyond hydrogen or carbon monoxide.
  • Design solar-to-X systems that can operate independently, allowing communities and remote areas to have access to reliable and sustainable energy sources and a local production and utilization of chemicals and fuels.
  • The developed devices have to reach at least TRL 4 within a 3-4 year project runtime.

Area 2: Benchmarking and common metrics development for solar-to-X devices:

Projects should address all of the following specific objectives:

  • Develop common metrics, protocols and equipment to enable a fair and standardized comparison between technologies within the same class, as well as between different technology classes in the field of solar-to-X.
  • Develop a holistic framework by identifying key performance indicators common to the different categories, while considering unique features of each category. It is required to develop metrics, protocols and equipment for multiple solar-to-X device architectures.
  • Devices stemming from area 1 should serve as a portfolio-own testbed to validate the developed methodologies, protocols and equipment in practice. Standards for solar-to-X devices can (and should) build on existing ones.
  • Acceptance of the developed metrics and protocols by a broad range of stakeholders within the diverse research communities must be ensured from the beginning.

Area 3: Understanding fundamental mechanisms by means of computational materials science:

Projects should address all of the following specific objectives:

  • Explore fundamental phenomena crucial to multiple device architectures to enable next-generation solar-to-X devices.
  • Drive forward the one-to-one comparison between theory at the atomistic level and experiment. Developing more accurate and less resource-demanding quantum mechanical methods is highly encouraged.
  • Bridge the scales from describing properties at the atomic, mesoscopic up to the macroscopic device level within a multiscale approach.
  • Adopt a holistic approach to exploring phenomena applicable to multiple solar- to-X device architectures. Devices stemming from area 1 should serve as a portfolio-own testbed to validate the developed theoretical models.
Towards cement and concrete as a carbon sink

Support breakthrough innovations and alternative pathways for decarbonized and carbon-negative cement and concrete.

 

Specific Objectives:

 

This challenge is supporting the development of breakthrough technologies in one or more of the following domains:

 

  1. Advanced technologies that change the paradigm of prevailing binder technologies with alternative low-carbon compounds based on alternative feedstocks and curing processes, and the combination thereof.
  2. Advanced technologies for a more efficient use of clinker in cement (reducing its clinker fraction), and of cement in concrete compositions (binder efficiency).
  3. Advanced technologies that lower or negate the need for burning fossil fuels to avoid the associated CO2 emissions. For example, novel breakthrough process innovations to manufacture decarbonized lime
  4. Enabling technologies in support of (1), (2) and (3) based on technologies for computational material science or data-driven science (including AI and ML).
Nature inspired alternatives for food packaging and films for agriculture

Support ambitious interdisciplinary research that will lead to the development and production of sustainable nature inspired alternatives for food packaging and agricultural production such as, but not limited to, greenhouse and mulch films. These materials must have a reduced environmental impact, through design and production, while delivering the functional characteristics of plastics.

 

Specific Objectives:

 

The Challenge seeks groundbreaking solutions with the capacity to replace the use of fossil-carbon-based plastics from farm to fork and thereby support EU policy ambitions to move towards a more circular, resource efficient and climate neutral economy. They must look to address one or more of the current uses of plastics in the food system, and use bio-based sources and raw materials like:

 

  • Polymers extracted from nature (e.g.,cellulose, chitin, lignin, keratin)
  • Natural polymers (e.g.,microbial, fungal and plant materials), or
  • Synthetic polymers from biobased materials.
Nanoelectronics for energy-efficient smart edge devices

Explore novel materials and beyond CMOS devices, non-von Neumann architectures and alternative information processing paradigms to drastically reduce energy consumption in order to meet application-specific needs of smart edge devices and circuits.

 

Specific Objectives:

 

Innovations proposed under this Challenge are expected to address one or more of the following aspects:

 

  • Fundamental issues like heat dissipation at nanoscale that has turned out to be the most critical bottleneck in information processing covering the design of a device from the understanding of the physics and the nanoscale thermal transport at component level to circumvent the “heat valley”, selecting the materials and process solutions.
  • Demonstration of the potential of the developed technologies for energy savings and contained environmental footprint towards responsible smart edge devices.
Strengthening the sustainability and resilience of EU space infrastructure

Support the development of innovations that will strengthen the protection of EU space infrastructure.

 

Specific Objectives:

 

Innovations proposed under this Challenge are expected to address one or more of the following aspects:

 

  • Game-changing technologies for controlled space debris mitigation and active debris removal,including ones that prevent spacecraft system damage. This includes among others propellantless propulsion technologies such as space-based lasers, laser pushed lightsails, physical sweeper in orbit, laser electric propulsion, tethers or water propulsion for moving all sized debris.
  • In-space Recycling & Re-use of orbital assets- with a focus on recycling and re- using dysfunctional orbital assets. The overall aim is recycling, partial and/ or complete re-use of assets in-space.
  • Game- changing innovations and innovative space applications for protecting EU space infrastructure that focus on concepts that enable detection, identification and avoidance of natural and human-made hazards in space.

Contact us today to discuss your funding needs

EIC Pathfinder FAQs

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 need 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 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) as well as an assessment of relevant aspects related to regulation, certification and standardisation. 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 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:
o at least one legal entity established in a MS; and
o at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different MS or AC.
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, an Italian university, a Polish SME and an Italian company (consortium of more than three legal entities, but only two MS or AC represented)
– a Finnish research organisation, a Finnish 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).
How will the rebuttal (“right-to-react”) procedure in the evaluation process of EIC Pathfinder work in practice? When and how will applicants be contacted for submitting observations to the evaluators’ assessments? What happens if an applicant does not submit observations?
Please note that the rebuttal procedure will be discontinued for calls under the EIC work programme 2024 and this answer refers to ongoing evaluations from the 2023 Pathfinder calls.
About 1.5-2.5 months after the call deadline the applicants will receive the evaluators’ comments via the EU 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: firstly, an assessment of each proposal separately and secondly, 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. Applicants are advised to include a work package dedicated to portfolio activities in their proposal and allocate at least 10 person-month to it.
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 include a work package dedicated to portfolio activities and allocate at least 10 person- months to it.
In specific cases the participation in portfolio activities may be supported by booster grants with amounts of up to EUR 50 000 per project.
Will the Pathfinder Challenges still exist in future EIC work programmes?

The Challenge-driven approach will continue in future EIC work programmes beyond 2024. The topics
identified for the challenge-driven calls are in principle for one call only, with new topics identified in later
years, with the possibility of some topics identified in this Work Programme to be complemented with
additional funding. As an ongoing process the EIC organises 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.

Will dedicated events be organised to support the formation of consortia for Pathfinder calls?
Pathfinder Open proposals do not need to allocate budget for these activities while those from Pathfinder Challenges should include a work package dedicated to portfolio activities and allocate at least 10 person- months to it. In specific cases the participation in portfolio activities may be supported by booster grants with amounts of up to EUR 50 000 per project.
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 considered as not having gender balance.
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.
Can an unsuccessful proposal submitted to an EIC Pathfinder Challenge call be resubmitted to an EIC Pathfinder Open call?
EIC Pathfinder Open calls support projects in any field of science, technology or application without predefined thematic priorities. It is therefore possible for applicants to resubmit an unsuccessful EIC Pathfinder Challenge proposal to an EIC Pathfinder Open call.
In this case, applicants should nevertheless ensure that their proposal is in line with the eligibility conditions and with the Award criteria of the EIC Pathfinder Open call, which are different from the EIC Pathfinder Challenge call to which they previously applied. They should also use the specific application form for Pathfinder Open calls.
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