EIC Pathfinder

For whom?

Legal entities in the EU, such as SMEs, universities, companies

For what?

Advanced research on breakthrough technologies and innovations

Technology Readiness Level (TRL)

1 – 3

More information on EIC Pathfinder

Are you envisioning a project with radically new technology that can create new markets? Then the European Innovation Council (EIC) Pathfinder may be the programme for you. The first work programme of the EIC under the new Horizon Europe programme (2021-2027) has now officially been published. Within this programme, the EIC Pathfinder is a funding scheme for advanced research to develop the scientific basis to underpin breakthrough technologies. This page informs you on the topics, the evaluation criteria and process, and the most important differences compared to its predecessor FET-Open.

EIC Programmes

The EIC funding and support will be organised in three funding schemes: the EIC Pathfinder for advanced research to develop the scientific basis to underpin breakthrough technologies; the EIC Transition to validate technologies and develop business plans for specific applications; and the EIC Accelerator to support companies (SMEs, start-ups, spin-outs) to bring their innovations to market and scale up. There are two types of calls for the EIC Pathfinder:

  1. Pathfinder Open (meaning open to proposals in any field of science, technology or application, no predefined thematic priorities);
  2. Pathfinder Challenges (meaning targeted, strategic priorities, complementary to the open call).

Pathfinder Open

Pathfinder Open aims to realise an ambitious vision for radically new technology (TRL 1-4), with potential to create new markets and/or to address global challenges. Proposals should meet the following characteristics:

  • Convincing long-term vision of a radically new deep-tech that has the potential to have a transformative positive effect to our economy and society.
  • Concrete, novel and ambitious science-towards-technology breakthrough, providing advancement towards the envisioned technology.
  • High-risk/high-gain research approach and methodology, with concrete and plausible objectives.

The expected outcome is the proof of principle that the main ideas of the envisioned future technology are feasible. Interdisciplinary research is key, and in addition, EIC wants to stimulate that promising young researchers or start-ups/high-tech SMEs are empowered in your team.

Pathfinder Challenges

The EIC has formulated five targeted Challenges:

  • Clean and efficient cooling
  • Architecture, Engineering and Construction digitalisation for a novel triad of design, fabrication, and materials
  • Precision nutrition
  • Responsible electronics
  • In-space solar energy harvesting for innovative space applications

The Pathfinder Challenges support collaborative research and innovation from consortia or applications from single legal entities.

Who can submit?

Proposals must be submitted by consortia of at least three independent legal entities, each one established in a different Member State (or associated country and with at least one of them established in a Member State). The legal entities may for example be universities, research organisations, SMEs, start-ups, industrial partners or natural persons.

Evaluation criteria & process: excellence, impact, quality & efficiency

The main criterium for evaluation is excellence, which is amongst others where evaluators will score the novelty and ambition of the proposed plan in comparison to the state-of-the-art. Next to excellence, proposals will be evaluated on impact, and the quality and efficiency of the implementation. Some criteria may vary between the Pathfinder Open and Challenges, with the latter for example also including ‘relevance to the Challenge’.

Pathfinder Open

Pathfinder Open proposals will first go through a remote scoring phase, where EIC expert evaluators will allocate scores based on the above mentioned evaluation criteria. This phase is followed by a rebuttal procedure, which allows for response to potential misunderstandings or errors. Proposals will then go to the evaluation committee, which will have a different composition of experts than during the remote phase. Based on the remote score and the outcome of consensus discussions, and, if applicable, the rebuttal, a final score will be given.

Pathfinder Challenges

Pathfinder Challenges proposals will also first go through a remote scoring phase. Only proposals that meet a certain threshold will then proceed to be evaluated by the evaluation committee. This committee will make a list of proposals to be funded, which will be based on the initial remote score and the proposal’s contribution to the setting up of a consistent portfolio of projects.

The outcome of the evaluation of proposals for both Pathfinder Open and Challenges will be communicated within 5 months.

Changes & updates | From FET-Open to EIC Pathfinder Open

The Pathfinder Open is largely similar to its predecessor FET-Open, but there are some notable changes:

  • The FET-Open was part of Excellent Science pillar under Horizon 2020, while EIC Pathfinder Open belongs to the Innovative Europe pillar under Horizon Europe. This might suggest an increased focus on innovative and market-driven aspects.
  • A rebuttal procedure after the remote evaluation phase allows applicants to reply to the evaluators’ comments.
  • The FET-Open gatekeepers (essential characteristics) ‘Radical vision’ and ‘Breakthrough technological target’ are maintained, but the Pathfinder Open’s ‘High-risk/high-gain’ has replaced the ‘Ambitious interdisciplinary research’ gatekeeper. Clearly, the EIC seeks out to fund only those ambitious projects that have significant breakthrough impact.

Extensive support for grant applications and excellent track record

Hezelburcht has obtained extensive experience in supporting universities and companies with acquiring grants under the previous European Framework Programmes (Horizon 2020 and FP7), including FET-Open. We provide full service: identification of grant opportunities, feasibility check, application writing and reviewing, and project management. If you have any questions concerning the new EIC Pathfinder Programme and our support, please contact us via 088 495 20 00 or info@hezelburcht.com.

European Innovation Council (EIC)
Related grant European Innovation Council (EIC)
The current European Innovation Council (EIC) has been established under the Horizon Europe programm...Read more


If you have any questions concerning the EIC Pathfinder Programme and our support, please don’t hesitate to contact us via 088 495 20 00 or info@hezelburcht.com. Or fill in the form below: