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European Innovation Council
Call for proposalsClosed

EIC Pathfinder challenge: Tools to measure and stimulate activity in brain tissue


Publication date
Opening date
Deadline model
Deadline date
27 October 2021, 17:00 (CEST)


Medical devices to measure and stimulate brain activity are emerging as tremendously powerful therapeutic tools that could revolutionise the treatment of brain diseases. Anomalous neuronal electrical signals are present in a wide range of disorders including memory impairment (Alzheimer’s), epilepsy, chronic pain, mood disorders, movement disorders (Parkinson’s), ischemic cognitive decline (post-heart attack), sensory disorders (hearing loss, tinnitus), cerebrovascular events, aging related neurodegeneration, traumatic brain injury amongst many others.

Unfortunately, existing devices to restore normal patterns of brain activity by stimulation have serious limitations. Invasiveness, limited miniaturisation, poor resolution (with only coarse measurement and stimulation available), limited spatial coverage (not able to monitor or stimulate a sufficient number of neurons) hamper the therapeutic effect or render these solutions unattractive for clinicians and patients.

Yet today’s state-of-the art microelectronics and microfabrication are potentially conducive to novel neuro-devices with high levels of miniaturisation, ultra-low power consumption, multi-site sensor/stimulator arrays (linear, planar or 3D with a wealth of geometries) and wireless architectures, leading to lower risk, shorter recovery times and better patient acceptance.

Further, progress can also be achieved by the discovery of new physical principles for activity monitoring (invasive or non-invasive) and activity modulation. These could explore ultrasound, light (optogenetics or otherwise), mechanical stimulation, local release of neuroactive compounds, ionising radiation, etc.

It is the right time to explore these opportunities and develop novel neurodevices that can be rapidly accepted by clinicians and patients.

Proposals submitted to this call should tackle at least one of the following two challenges:

A full device with unique features, e.g. targeting a currently untreated disorder, offering unprecedented miniaturisation, low latency closed-loop monitoring-stimulation feedback (if necessary), ultra-low power consumption, low/moderate invasiveness (e.g. compatible with implantation with endoscopic techniques), high-resolution, sustainable, etc.


New or nascent physical principles or methodologies that could be the basis for future brain sensing and/or stimulation technologies, with clear and quantifiable advantages. Focus is on techniques that can offer unprecedented data on brain function or that allow unprecedented modulation of brain activity for therapeutic purposes or brain-computer interfacing.

Specific conditions for this challenge

Proposals targeting a full device are strongly encouraged to establish a plausible work plan to realise by the end of the project at least 1) a working prototype device or instrument and 2) pre-clinical data with proof of therapeutic action.

Proposals targeting the discovery of a new mechanism for monitor and/or stimulate are advised to de-risk the work plan by exploring multiple strategies in parallel, merging competing strategies into a single proposal for cost efficiencies and increased likelihood of success.

Consortia considering both targets in a single proposal are advised to carefully analyse whether the high risk inherent to the discovery of new mechanisms or principles could hamper the plausibility of completing a full device hinging on said principles.

All proposals must fully justify the clinical need for the targeted development, and structure the work plan accordingly, towards credible future transition to market. Proposals need to consider the cost-benefit of the targeted technology and demonstrate that the outcome will be acceptable by clinicians and patients.

The gender dimension in research content should be taken into account, where relevant.

For more details, see the EIC Work Programme 2021 and the relevant Challenge Guide.

How to apply

In order to apply, your proposal must meet the general as well as possible specific eligibility requirements for a specific Challenge. Please check for particular elements (e.g. specific application focus or technology) in the respective challenge chapter below. 

The Pathfinder Challenges support collaborative research and innovation from consortia or applications from single legal entities (unless stated otherwise in the specific challenge chapter). In case of a consortium your proposal must be submitted by the coordinator on behalf of the consortium that includes at least two independent legal entities. The legal entities may for example be universities, research organisations, SMEs, start-ups, natural persons. In the case of mono-beneficiary projects, mid-caps and larger companies will not be permitted. 

The call deadline for submitting your proposal is 27 October 2021 at 17:00 Brussels local time. You must submit your proposal via the European Funding & Tender Opportunities Portal.

Sections 1 to 3 of the part B of your proposal, corresponding respectively to the evaluation criteria Excellence, Impact, and Quality and Efficiency of the Implementation, must consist of a maximum of 25 A4 pages. 

You will be informed about the outcome of the evaluation 5 months after call deadline (indicative), and your grant agreement will be signed by 8 months after call deadline (indicative).


15 JUNE 2021
Challenge Guide Tools to measure and stimulate activity in brain tissue - Part I
15 JUNE 2021
Challenge Guide - Part II