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EIC calls for increased funding in innovation

It receives requests for more than €6bn but only has a fraction of that sum to dish out


Pete Carvill

European Innovation Council (EIC) director Jean-David Malo has intimated the organisation needs vastly increased funding to finance the projects it deems worthy of investment.

Speaking to the Innovation Origins platform, Malo said the EIC’s accelerator programme, which runs three to four times each year, has around €450m available in each round – and yet it receives requests from applicants amounting to in excess of €6bn. He told Innovation Origins this means the organisation is only able to finance a small percentage of possible projects.

Regarding the digital innovation scene in North America, Malo said Europe needed the help of the state in order to compete. “We are already in competition with the Americans and the rest of the world,” he explained. “It’s not our intention to create this level of competition. And yes, we need the help of the state because of the characteristics of our financial market. By the way, people often forget that at the very beginning, the American venture capitalist market was also supported by the state.”

‘Political problem’

Malo also acknowledged the problems between the European states, citing the politics of most of the EIC’s pledged money going to projects in north-western Europe. “Yes, it is a political problem,” he said. “We try to address this through the Horizon Europe programme with several measures that support research organisations and companies that have the aim of increasing the research and innovation capacity among Eastern European Member States.”

The interview comes a few months after the European Parliament said it was to look at governance issues around the EIC. Back then, MEP Christian Ehler told Science Business he was concerned the EIC was falling short of its objectives.

Since the Commissions handed oversight of the EIC to the European Investment Bank, critics suggest bureaucracy has stymied the funding of applying companies. Despite this, the EC has continued to trumpet the fund, drawing more companies into applying.

Science Business wrote: “[This week], the Commission announced 61 companies out of 71 in the latest €382m funding round are set to receive equity funding, promising the money will come some time in autumn. In mid-May, following months of delays, Ehler threatened to push for the EIC Accelerator to lose its funding if the Commission did not tackle the problems.

The difficulties with the EIC have been recurrent news over the year. In May, Science Business reported on the continued hold-ups in start-ups receiving funding. And the EIC recently said its second EIC Transition call received 287 proposals, up from the 165 proposals that were submitted to the first call earlier this year. It added that 236 proposals, with applicants from 33 countries, have been submitted for the EIC Transition Open Call.

Out of these, 157 proposals were considered eligible, requesting a total grant contribution of €371.7m. For the EIC Transition Challenges call, with three thematic priorities, the Commission received 51 applications from 19 countries. 24 of these proposals, requesting a total of €58.6m, were deemed eligible.