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European Innovation Council
News article15 June 20212 min read

The Pathfinder Challenge calls worth €132 million are open

EIC Pathfinder Challenges build on cutting-edge directions in science and technology to create new market opportunities. For each Challenge, the EIC will support a carefully crafted portfolio of projects that jointly explore different perspectives, competing approaches or complementary aspects of the Challenge. Stepping up the EIC proactive management approach, the EIC Programme Managers will steer their Challenge portfolio, keeping it focused on the highest risk science-to-technology path with the highest gain in innovation potential.

With its five Pathfinder Challenges for the 2021 call, EIC invites you to bring together the best in science and engineering to crack some of the toughest nuts in key areas of future technologies. It calls for high-risk/high-gain research and development, venturing into new interdisciplinary areas. Success will pave the way for innovation, not just from a specific application but ultimately sweeping across industrial and societal sectors.

  • Awareness inside – what is different when a system has awareness? What is the added-value of such an awareness, for instance in terms of performance, flexibility, acceptability or user-experience? This challenge seeks theoretical and technological answers to these questions, for instance from new concepts of awareness that are applicable to systems and technological artefacts alike, with implications for how it can be measured and engineered. This Challenge, if successful, will fundamentally alter the way we engage with technology.
  • Tools to measure and stimulate activity in brain tissue - This challenge seeks to develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic technologies by exploiting the unique opportunities offered by recent technological progress (e.g. microelectronics or non-invasive imaging) in parallel with rapid advances in our understanding of how electrical signals in the central and peripheral nervous system relate to clinically impactful disorders
  • Emerging technologies in cell and gene therapy (CGT) – Cell and Gene therapy is a fiercely competitive field that is full of challenges and obstacles. This Challenge aims to strengthen European consortia, start-ups and spinoffs to compete and sustain themselves at critical points on the way from discovery to manufacturing. It looks for new technological solutions and/or breakthrough concepts that go far beyond the current state-of-the-art. Both disease-specific and non-disease-specific proposals are welcome.
  • Novel routes to green hydrogen production – Green hydrogen will be essential for achieving Europe’s green ambition. This challenge aims at novel ways to produce green hydrogen at different scales (from small to large) and entirely based on renewable sources and non-toxic, non-critical raw materials. Solutions should also capture opportunities for cross sectorial coupling and system integration, and facilitate the implementation of circular economy principles, possibly with the co-production of decarbonised chemicals.
  • Engineered living materials – this challenge aims to harness the engineering potential of nature for materials’ production. It targets new technologies and platforms for the production of made-on-demand living materials with predictable dynamic functionalities, shapes and scales. Research teams that integrate synthetic biology, materials engineering, control engineering, artificial intelligence, synthetic or engineered morphogenesis as well as ethical, legal and social aspects are challenged to produce, in a controlled manner, a minimum of two different living materials (e.g. with different applications, scale and cellular composition).

The Programme Manager provides more background on their Challenge in the corresponding Challenge Guide, accessible from the call pages.

The deadline for submission of proposals is on 27 October 2021. 


Publication date
15 June 2021