23 pilot projects selected to unlock higher education’s innovation potential in Europe

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has announced 23 winning consortia for the EIT’s HEI Initiative: Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education Pilot Call for Proposals. 135 Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and 140 non-academic organisations from 32 countries will benefit from the EIT’s HEI Initiative and will see up to EUR 27.5 millions of funding supporting their innovation capacity.

This new initiative will support HEIs with expertise and coaching, funding and access to the EIT’s innovation ecosystem, Europe’s largest innovation network. The Pilot Call for Proposals invited HEIs and local partners across Europe to design institution-wide action plans to improve their entrepreneurial and innovation capacity across all institutional levels. By supporting such activities, this HEI initiative will create systemic impact, empowering HEIs and fostering sustainable growth and jobs across Europe.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said:

Universities have a critical role to play in the development and growth of local and regional innovation ecosystems. This new initiative will help them boost their entrepreneurial capabilities at all levels and unlock their innovation potential. I congratulate the selected consortia for putting bold and promising ideas on the table, and now it’s time to step into action and make them a reality!

Organisations involved

64 consortia representing nearly 750 organisations from across Europe applied to the Pilot Call that closed in May 2021. As a result, 23 projects involving 135 HEIs and 140 non-academic organisations (companies, research centres, public authorities and associations) from 32 countries will benefit from this first call with funding of up to EUR 27.5 million available. Organisations involved in the selected projects include the Medical University of Plovdiv (BG), University of Pardubice (Czechia), Robert Bosch GmbH (DE), Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain), University of Eastern Finland (Finland), Athens University of Economics and Business (Greece), University College Dublin (Ireland), University of Maastricht (Netherlands) and Confindustria Trento (IT). A full list of all partners is available at the EIT-hei.eu website.

Gioia Ghezzi, Chair of the EIT Governing Board added:

The selected projects will benefit from the expertise and coaching of Europe’s largest innovation ecosystem, the EIT. We are delighted that the EIT could broaden participation of HEIs in our activities and look forward to more European universities becoming regional engines of entrepreneurship and innovation.

EIT Digital

EIT Digital is as member of the EIT Community involved in the HEI Initiative. As such it will support three of the 23 projects. These are BOOGIE-U that, under leadership of the University of Trento, the universities of Linköping (Sweden), Stavanger (Norway), Kaunas (Lithuania), Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain), the National Institute of Applied Sciences of Toulouse (France) and the Trentino Innovation Hub – Foundation (Italy) and associated partners, want to execute novel models for increasing Innovation and entrepreneurial capacity within the consortium.

The EELISA UNFOLDS consortium is formed among others by Polytechnic University of Madrid, Ecole nationale des ponts et chaussées (France), Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (Italy), Scuola Normale Superiore (Italy), Polytechnic University of Bucharest (Romania), Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nürnberg (Germany), Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Hungary) and the Fundación Universidad-Empresa (Spain).

The third consortium that is connected to EIT Digital is Innohange, led by Eötvös Loránd University (Hungary) and also involves academic and non-academic and associated partners from all across Europe.

Roberto Prieto Chief Education Officer EIT Digital is looking forward working with these partners on their HEI initiative.

First, I want to say congratulations to all selected projects. It is great to see how many universities and business and research organisations unite to boost innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education in Europe. Second, I am happy to support and coach the projects that are linked to EIT Digital with our expertise in this area.


Each selected pilot project can be awarded a maximum of EUR 1.2 million with up to EUR 400,000 for Phase 1 (July – December 2021) and upon successful completion a conditional EUR 800,000 for Phase 2 (January 2022– July 2023).  Projects can focus on several themes, including:

  • fostering institutional engagement and change;
  • strengthening partnerships between higher education, business and research organisations;
  • developing innovation and business support services;
  • enhancing the quality of entrepreneurial education;
  • creating and disseminating knowledge.

A second call for proposals will be announced in late 2021 for projects that will start in 2022. The initiative aims to reach 550 higher education institutions by 2027 to boost European innovation in higher education and support the twin transition towards a more sustainable, digital and competitive Europe.

These are the selected projects:


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