On 14 April 2022, the European Innovation Council (EIC) expert group on the design of the EIC Marketplace and Tech to Market activities released the report “Backing visionary entrepreneurs: Realising the Deep-Tech Entrepreneurial Talent of Europe”. The experts argue that as the most ambitious European programme promoting breakthrough technologies and game changing innovations, the EIC also needs to develop European human entrepreneurial skills needed to bring those technologies and innovations to the market.

The report starts by analysing the key challenges of deeptech and the main reasons behind what is still a low conversion rate of the significant human-based scientific and innovation potential in Europe. In order to overcome this, it proposes the design and subsequent implementation of an entrepreneurial deeptech training programme focusing on the real challenges affecting entrepreneurs. The programme would include two different models: the EIC Trailblazer programme and the Pioneer programme.

Two deeptech training programmes

The EIC Trailblazer programme would focus on PhD students and postdocs taking part in projects funded by the EIC’s Pathfinder and Transition instruments and designate them as EIC Trailblazer Fellows. The programme would function as an internal accelerator targeting proto-entrepreneurs and bring together talents and their inventions, thereby contributing to a more effective connection between training needs and the innovation ecosystem in Europe. To incentivise this, the report suggests awarding the entrepreneurial skills demonstrated by EIC Trailblazer Fellows with a prize (e.g. €50,000) that could be used to enrol in further training and/or to perform additional market research.

The Pioneer programme would be aimed at stimulating the ambition to become a deep tech entrepreneur. The report suggests building this programme upon already existing initiatives in the Member States and Associated Countries as a deeptech add-on module. Focusing on potential new EIC applicants – so-called proto-EIC Innovators – the curriculum of Pioneer programme modules would be designed and delivered locally. It would still be possible for participants to exchange with, support and learn from each other.

Separate but complementary

Although the proposed models are separate, they are complementary and the experts recommend implementing both in order to achieve optimal impact. The Pioneer programme would contribute to further develop the pipeline of future EIC innovators, while the Trailblazer programme would ensure that promising innovations and skilled talent already funded by the EIC’s Pathfinder and Transition programme are properly nurtured.

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