The EIC Pathfinder programme funds research to develop the scientific basis to underpin breakthrough technologies. The EIC Pathfinder programme that supports research teams to research or develop an emerging breakthrough technology, consists of a combination of both open and challenge driven funding. Which are the differences?

EIC Pathfinder Open 

EIC Pathfinder Open provides funding for projects in any field of science or technology, based on high-risk/high-gain science-towards-technology breakthrough interdisciplinary research. In particular, the EIC Open funidng is based bottom-up approach with no predefined topics.

EIC Pathfinder Challenges

EIC Pathfinder funding is based on top-down challenge-driven calls for tackling specific technology and breakthroughs. In 2024 these Challenges are: 

“Solar-to-X” devices

Solar-to-X technologies, also called artificial photosynthesis or solar fuel technologies, support the vision of a decentralized, local energy and production system with a local provision of the needed resources. In this vision, communities become not only prosumers of electricity, but also of fuels, chemicals and materials [See work programme page 34].

Towards cement and concrete as a carbone sink

Cement and concrete are versatile, low-cost, abundant and relatively local. Modern societies are hard to imagine without these materials. Realistically, cement and concrete are here to stay. Then again, current mainstream cement and concrete technologies are also the source of 8% of our CO2 emissions (about 600 kg per capita), which are “embodied” in our buildings and infrastructures. Roughly 60% of these emissions are “chemical” released by converting limestone into clinker, and 40% of doing so at very high temperatures by burning fossil fuels. With EU (and global) commitments for rapid and radical emission reductions, it is necessary to pull all scientific, economic, and regulatory levers to reduce the environmental impacts of the cement and concrete sector [See work programme page 37].

Nature ispired alternatives for food packaging and films or agriculture

This Pathfinder Challenge aims to support ambitious interdisciplinary research that will lead to the development and production of sustainable nature inspired alternatives for food packaging and agricultural production such as, but not limited to, greenhouse and mulch films. These materials must have a reduced environmental impact, through design and production, while delivering the functional characteristics of plastics [See work programme page 41].

Nanoeletronics for energy-efficient smart edge devices

The overall objective of this challenge is to explore solutions (starting at TRL 1/2) that will have a drastic impact on decreasing the power consumption of any smart edge device, but specially for Edge Processing and memories, Edge Sensing and Imaging, Edge Communication and Edge Power Management. The proposed solutions should start at TRL 1-2 and reach TRL 3-4 [See work programme page 44].

Strengthening the sustainability and resilience of EU space infrasrtucture

The ever-growing orbital population of satellites and space debris poses increasing challenges to space infrastructure. The density of space objects amplifies the risk of orbital collisions, unexpected fragmentation events and re-entries that may result in the degradation of space assets, hindering the services they deliver and, thus making Earth orbits unusable. Debris growth is escalating with more than 2,500 non-operational satellites, 36,500 space debris pieces bigger than 10 cm and 1 million pieces of debris between 1-10 cm in Earth’s orbits. Collision avoidance manoeuvres for satellite owners has doubled and is expected to grow. Continuous trajectory changes of spacecraft will result in insufficient fuel for deorbiting, critical end of life spacecraft manoeuvres and any other remediation or in-space mobility activities. In-space recycling of dysfunctional orbital assets will provide an opportunity for space assets re-utilisation and in-space refuelling. This challenge addresses the long-term emerging need for green, compact and affordable de-orbiting solutions and in-space recycling of space debris [See work programme page 46].