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The European Innovation Council (EIC) is Europe’s flagship innovation programme to identify, develop and scale up breakthrough technologies and game-changing innovations. It provides support all the way from early-stage research to proof of concept, technology transfer, and the financing and scale-up of start-ups and SMEs.

“The EIC Accelerator offers both grants and equity investments, as well as coaching and support in commercialisation,” explains Inna Perepelytsya, Advisor – European R&D and Innovation Support at Luxinnovation.

In order to have a chance, companies must be exceptionally innovative.

“The funding provided is very attractive, which also means that competition is fierce,” continues Francisco Melo, Advisor – European R&D and Innovation Support at Luxinnovation and the EIC National Contact Point for Luxembourg. “During its first year, 164 projects were selected for EIC funding out of more than 4,000 applicants. In order to have a chance, companies must be exceptionally innovative.”

Two EIC Accelerator winners

At the very end of 2022, two Luxembourg-based start-ups received this attractive funding: Arspectra, a global pioneer in the development of medical augmented reality glasses and automated battery upcycling specialist Circu Li-ion. Their achievement is lauded by Luxembourg’s Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot.

I am very proud that talents and products from Luxembourg have been recognised at such a prestigious level through the EIC.

“Our ambition is to offer Luxembourg start-ups and scale-ups an exceptional ecosystem where innovators are actively supported by a vibrant community and by our comprehensive acceleration and funding programmes,” says Minister Fayot. “I am very proud that talents and products from Luxembourg have been recognised at such a prestigious level through the EIC and that they will benefit from this additional growth opportunity. Arspectra and Circuli-ion operate in two of our key innovation areas and I look forward to seeing them make an impact where it is most needed. We believe that innovation will be key to navigating the next decade and creating positive change.”

Healthtech and cleantech

Arspectra has obtained funding from the EIC AcceleratorFounded in Luxembourg in 2018, Arspectra develops and offers unique proprietary augmented and mixed reality solutions for a variety of medical applications. “With our fully see-through augmented reality glasses and unique 3D navigation software, we are able to display data that healthcare specialists can benefit from without taking their eyes off their patients,” explains CEO Cédric Spaas. “We already have several devices on the market and are now taking the technology to the next level where surgeons can use the glasses to see exactly where they have to intervene and operate on patients. This, however, requires very large investments and clinical trials with hundreds of patients.”

We are now taking the technology to the next level. This, however, requires very large investments and clinical trials with hundreds of patients.

This is where the EIC Accelerator grant comes in. The EIC funding will make it possible for Arspectra to conduct a technical, usability and clinical pilot validation of its upcoming and newest navigation solution by relevant end users for advanced surgical applications.

Circuli-ion has obtain funding from the EIC AcceleratorCircu Li-ion accelerates the green revolution by maximising the value of each battery to enable a truly sustainable economic electrification. Its automated battery dismantling and diagnostics solution recovers up to 90% of battery cells for a useful second life application while reducing battery CO2 emissions by 48% (max. of 50%) compared to a traditional battery lifecycle.

The EIC funding obtained will enable us to focus on the industrial scale development and on deriving further value from our data.

The company will benefit from the EIC funding to bring its technology for upcycling batteries to an industrial scale. “Instead of just recycling batteries – and basically transforming valuable resources into waste – we have developed an automated process for dismantling batteries, analysing each cell and reassembling based on reused components,” says CEO Antoine Welter. “We already do this on a small scale with batteries from soft mobility such as e-bikes, and we are currently starting the work with batteries from electric cars. The EIC funding obtained will enable us to focus on the industrial scale development and on deriving further value from our data.”

Circu Li-ion applied for “blended finance” funding from the EIC, which includes a grant component as well as an investment that is provided in the form of equity or quasi-equity such as a convertible loan. “The equity funding will give us an excellent basis for launching a bigger funding round with private investors,” Mr Welter points out.

Luxinnovation coaching for success

Both Circui Li-ion and Aspectra have participated in the Fit 4 Start acceleration programme and knew Luxinnovation prior to the EIC application. “We have had the pleasure to work with Luxinnovation on previous national funding applications and benefitted from the agency’s networking events. When we worked on the EIC application, the EU funding team kept challenging us throughout the process. This brought us to a higher level where we needed to be to obtain the grant,” Mr Spaas points out.

This brought us to a higher level where we needed to be to obtain the grant.

Mr Welter found it useful to discuss how to handle intellectual property in the context of European funding applications with the Luxinnovation team. “Another key point that we want to discuss is how to best benefit from our data.”

Luxinnovation also advised a third previous Fit 4 Start participant: innovative ophthalmology solutions developer AkknaTek, which applied through its German mother company but has recently opened a subsidiary in Luxembourg. “Preparing an EIC proposal requires much work,” says CEO Edgar Janunts. “The coaching provided by Luxinnovation was extremely helpful, in particular when preparing the interview phase of the application process.”

European recognition

Obtaining the first EIC Accelerator grants is a great milestone for Luxembourg. “Start-ups that are selected by the EIC receive European recognition for their innovation,” comments Sasha Baillie, CEO of Luxinnovation. “Luxinnovation is there to guide start-ups from idea to market success, notably through Fit 4 Start and through the support to obtain national and European funding. We are proud to have worked with Arspectra, Circu Li-ion and, more recently, AkknaTek throughout their innovation journey.”

Start-ups that are selected by the EIC receive European recognition for their innovation.

The EIC targets, in particular, deep tech start-ups, whose technologies are based on cutting-edge scientific progress and discoveries and which need to stay at the technological forefront by constant interaction with new ideas and research results. “I’m confident that the recognition by the EIC of the first Luxembourg pioneers will pave the way for other companies to win EIC Accelerator grants in the future,” Ms Baillie concludes.

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