EIC Pathfinder: Tips For a Successful Proposal

The EIC Pathfinder is an extremely competitive funding programme, with success rates in the 5-10% range. As a programme that provides 100% funding rates for academic organisations and companies working on early-stage research, it is no wonder that the total number of applications submitted to Open and Challenge calls surpasses the 1100-1200 mark every year. If you want to get your EIC Pathfinder proposal funded, you need to make sure to implement the following four tips.

Tip 1: Understand the purpose of the EIC Pathfinder programme

Take a helicopter perspective and understand why the Pathfinder programme exists and its positioning in the context of the EIC funding opportunity spectrum. The EIC provides a funding route for disruptive, high-risk/high-reward ideas to achieve proof of concept (EIC Pathfinder), investment readiness (EIC Transition), and then reach the market (EIC Accelerator). Even if the Pathfinder is the first step in the innovation value chain, you have to understand the feasibility of translating the results into the market, and the pathways in which this can be achieved. Ignoring this in your project will make it really difficult for you to get the funding.

Tip 2: Understand how to position your Pathfinder project for success

It is vital that you convey how groundbreaking your concept is in your EIC Pathfinder proposal, given that the programme seeks to fund transformative ideas that have the potential to make major impact. The list of winners is made available every year by the EIC, and we can learn a lot by just looking at the titles of winning proposals. Most winning projects present their innovations as platform technologies. This makes sense looking at the scope of the Pathfinder and the EIC innovation value chain that prioritises a high level of return on investment. For example, in projects focusing on just one product or disease rather than a platform, the scale of the impact will be viewed as smaller. You can have specific use cases that you would like to test in the Pathfinder project, but the innovation should be presented as a platform technology with broad future applicability and wide capacity to generate impact.

Tip 3: Building the right consortium to meet the objectives

Take your time to brainstorm and consider any consortium partner that can push your project ideas forward in a more innovative way, better fitting the scope of the Pathfinder programme. As a programme with a 100% funding rate provided by the EU, it is relatively easy to convince a new partner to join your project, so consider reaching out to new potential partners beyond your network. Give special attention to the interdisciplinarity aspect too. This is one of the three ‘Pathfinder gatekeepers’. You should aim to combine traditionally distant disciplines into your project. Finally, although there is nothing wrong with fully academic consortia, having an industrial partner or small R&D company in your project can improve your scores on the Impact criteria, as they can be positioned as a vehicle for exploitation of the project outcomes.

Tip 4: Applying to Pathfinder Challenges presents a unique opportunity

A set of new Pathfinder Challenges is released every year. The Challenges tend to be very specific, and some applicants may be discouraged to apply if they believe that they do not fit well with the given Challenge. At Catalyze, we believe this is a unique opportunity to tap into a higher success chance, given the lower number of applicants in comparison to the Open programme. In 2023, 783 proposals were submitted to the Open call and only 371 to the Challenge calls, despite the budget being very similar – €169.5M and €163.5M, respectively. In 2024, the EIC Pathfinder has an indicative budget of €136 million for the Open Call, and €120 million for the Challenges.

One of the major lessons that we have learned at Catalyze is the importance of not being discouraged to apply and instead try to go the extra mile to align with the call requirements. As long as there is initially some overlap, it is usually possible to further align the project to the Challenge call text. We have been successful in securing Pathfinder funding for clients that were not considering applying to a Challenges call. Therefore, do not be discouraged about a very stringent call text, and instead brainstorm with us about how to make the best out of it.


This article was written by David Alonso Amado, Senior Innovation Consultant.



EIC Pathfinder 2024 Guide

Our programme experts have assembled a concise, comprehensive overview of the programme, including the application and evaluation process for the new Open and Challenge Calls.

Download our 2024 EIC Pathfinder guide here



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