The European Innovation Council (EIC) announced its first round of ‘blended’ grant and equity investments with a commitment to fund 39 high-tech SMEs, of which the largest number come from France and Israel.

Another 36 companies won grants alone. The total value of the awards is €278 million, of which more than half is equity investment. The funding spans 20 countries, of which five are outside the EU.

The awards are a milestone in the roll-out of the EIC, the new technology commercialisation body funded through the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme that has the European Commission acting as an equity investor for the first time. The EIC is still in its pilot phase and will be fully launched in 2021 together with Horizon Europe, Horizon 2020’s successor programme. The Commission aims to have the EIC Fund, which will buy the equity, fully operational by early next year.

France and Israel each contributed six beneficiaries of the ‘blended finance’ which is a mix of grants and equity investment. Although only an associated country to Horizon 2020, Israel supplied the largest number of applicants for this round of EIC funding which closed in October. Switzerland, another associated country, accounted for the largest share of grant-only recipients, with nine Swiss companies receiving grant funding.

The blended finance recipients include S-Biomedic, a Belgian firm producing anti-acne cosmetics; Mybiotics Pharma, an Israeli business developing a system for delivery of personalised probiotics to prevent gut problems; and Orthox, a UK firm that uses silk to create medical implants for repairing cartilage damaged by osteoarthritis.

The equity investments range from €500 000 to €15 million each, with an average of €3.67 million. The exact size of each share purchase will be made public once the equity agreements have been signed.

The EIC will seek stakes of between 10 and 25% of the voting rights in each of the 39 companies and private investors will also have the option to put in their own money. The EIC will not get involved in determining the value of the companies receiving blended finance.

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