1 Executive Summary
On March 5, 2020, EIT Digital launches the construction of the ‘EIT Digital 2021’ activities and accepts submissions until May 7, 2020. EIT Digital 2021 is aimed at entrepreneurial minds planning to launch a digital tech startup or product (Innovation Factory), or to deliver entrepreneurial digital tech education programmes (Entrepreneurial Academy). The selection will be finalised by the end of June 2020. Activities are typically expected to start on January 1, 2021.
The EIT Digital work programme 2021 is guided by the EIT Digital Strategic Innovation Agenda 2020-2022, which identifies the five focus areas of our strategy: Digital Tech, Digital Industry, Digital Cities, Digital Wellbeing and Digital Finance. We consider these to be the key strategic areas to work on for a strong digital Europe.
EIT Digital will co-invest in selected proposals to create value for a strong digital Europe. The activities are typically executed in and around the EIT Digital Co-Location Centres (CLCs) for community building.
1.1 Strategic areas
The EIT Digital Strategic Innovation Agenda 2020-2022 (SIA) identifies our five strategic areas. It is highly recommended to read about these areas in the SIA. An overview is available on page 15 of the SIA. More details on each area:
Digital Tech - secure IoT, data sovereignty and Artificial Intelligence based solutions: page 16 Digital Cities - “city as a data platform” based solutions for sustainable cities: page 17
Digital Industry - data platform-based sustainable digital industry solutions: page 18
Digital Wellbeing - solutions for quality of life improvement through sensing and data analysis: page 19
Digital Finance - sovereign embedded payment solutions in digital finance: page 20 The EIT Digital Innovation Factory
The EIT Digital Innovation Factory supports pan-European entrepreneurial teams to launch new startups and new products. With our pre-incubation support, selected activities will be embedded in our European ecosystem and receive a financial co-investment to package their technology, sign up customers and attract investors.
New startups or new products created by pan-European teams from education, research and business organisations are a focus for EIT Digital.
In EIT Digital 2021, our ambition is to build a strong innovation activity portfolio of 70% of startup-creating activities, and 30% of product-launching activities.
Market or societal impact on the one hand, and contribution to the financial sustainability of EIT Digital on the other hand, are the two main dimensions of the EIT Digital Innovation Factory 2021.
We support entrepreneurial teams that are creating tangible impact. Proposals should address a specific business pain in any of our five Strategic areas (section 1.1), build a specific plan leveraging a technology solution and presenting a clear go-to-market route by launching a startup or a product.
Selected activities will receive a co-investment from EIT Digital, with a return on investment expectation. Proposals are therefore requested to contribute to the financial sustainability of EIT Digital either through equity (for startup creation) or financial return mechanism (for product launch).
Pan European innovation teams of two to five complementary organisations with a joint innovation plan are recommended.
In 2021, through agile, intensive pan European collaboration supported by EIT Digital, your team will create a startup or package a product as the result of your innovation activity. Successful activities will have immediate customer and investor traction.
1.3 The EIT Digital Entrepreneurial Academy
Entrepreneurial education is a cornerstone in creating a Europe where industry and key public sectors are populated, on all levels, with knowledgeable, innovative and entrepreneurial people - people that in their personal capacity drive the innovation economy and create open and effective public organisations.
The EIT Digital Entrepreneurial Academy provides support for development and deployment of programmes and courses with business development-oriented components. The education paradigm is that learning must emulate the speed of business to meet disruptive technology and business model changes. Changing the scenario to integrate the learning of rapidly evolving technology with generic/transversal skills, and where continuous lifelong learning is an integrated part of work, is the only way to handle the needed speed. EIT Digital does this by:
EIT Labelled Master and Doctoral educational programmes breeding engineers and researchers with an entrepreneurial mindset
EIT Digital Certified Professional Education at the technology and innovation front
EIT Digital adopts a Blended Education approach where students develop cutting edge digital knowledge merged with innovation and entrepreneurship skills. Under EIT Digital 2021, we seek for Activity proposals for our Master School, Professional School and Summer School.
In response to the EIT requirement to become sustainable, EIT Digital is developing and deploying its sustainability approach, which includes financial return on investment of its activities. Partners are invited to co-invest with us and benefit from the impact of improved Education contributing to the digital transformation of Europe and creation of a European talent pool and a digitally-skilled workforce.
1.4 No innovation without education
Connecting innovation and education is fundamental in EIT Digital.
Get a strong competitive advantage by integrating Innovation and Education Activities in your proposal.
Have a proposal for the Digital Innovation Factory? Get access to the entrepreneurial talents of our Academy by offering internship positions to our students in your Innovation Activity. Benefit from the entrepreneurial skills of our graduates by involving them in your team.
Have a proposal for the Digital Entrepreneurial Academy? Include real business challenges from our Innovation Activities in your Summer School proposal. Develop a professional learning programme aligned with our Strategic Areas to help companies and organisations to acquire the right leadership capacity, workforce skills, and corporate culture needed for the digital transformation.
1.5 How to participate
EIT Digital is a partnership organisation. This implies that proposers are expected to be or become Partner of EIT Digital. Organisations that are not yet a Partner are expected to submit their application for partnership latest at the moment of submission of the proposal.
Recommendation to Partners, especially to new Partners, is to be in contact with EIT Digital before submission in order to ensure full understanding of the requirements.
More information including details on how to submit your activity plan are available at
1.6 Transition from Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe and Brexit
Transition from Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe
The EIT Digital Business Plan 2021 will be executed under the new Horizon Europe Framework Programme that will run from 2021 till 2027. The transition from the legal framework underpinning Horizon 2020 to the legal framework underpinning Horizon Europe is still under discussion and is expected to be finalized in the course of this year. This transition may have implications for the requirements on the final EIT Digital Business Plan 2021 Activities. These implications will be made available to proposers through the EIT Digital 2021 Intranet page as soon as they are communicated by the European Commission. While proposers can take the current legal framework underpinning Horizon 2020 as a starting point, they should be aware of the transition and its possible implications. Be informed that the EIT Grant Agreements will be derived from the overall Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement. Once again, proposers will be informed as soon as further information becomes available.
The Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK entered into force on February 1, 2020. Such Withdrawal Agreement provides for a transition period until December 31, 2020. Therefore, for 2020, the UK contributes to and participates in the implementation of the Union budgets, which means that UK entities remain eligible for grants and procurement procedures as if the UK was a Member State (Article 137 of the Withdrawal Agreement). For the UK’s participation in the current Multiannual Financial Frameworks (MFFs), such as “Horizon 2020”, applicable European Union law, including the rules on financial corrections and on clearance of accounts, shall continue to apply to the UK after 31 December 2020 until the closure of those programmes and activities (Article 138 of the Withdrawal Agreement).
However, as of March 2020, the long-term relationship between the EU and the UK remains subject of negotiations yet to come. If no agreement is reached by the end of the transition period, and the transition period is not extended, a no-deal Brexit would be the default outcome in 2021. Therefore, it is currently not predictable whether the EU’s future relationship with the UK will be the same as with other Associated Countries.
If the UK will be an Associated Country under Horizon Europe, the eligibility of UK Partners will continue after December 31, 2020. If the UK will not be an Associated Country under Horizon Europe, in principle, all UK entities will be ineligible for EU funding and the participation of UK entities will have to follow the Horizon Europe Regulation for the participation of entities from third countries. In this case, the EIT will have to develop strict criteria based on the European Commission guidelines.
For the above-mentioned reasons, UK Partners can apply to EIT Digital 2021, but their eligibility will need to be further assessed and verified in the course of 2020, after the transition process to a stable relationship between the EU and the UK will be complete.
2 EIT Digital Innovation Factory
The EIT Digital Innovation Factory supports pan-European entrepreneurial teams to launch new startups and/or new products. With our pre-incubation support, you will be embedded in our European ecosystem and receive a financial co-investment to package your technology, sign up customers and attract investors.
New startups or new products created by pan-European teams from education, research and business organisations are a focus for EIT Digital. In EIT Digital 2021, our ambition is to build a strong innovation activity portfolio of 70% of startup-creating activities, and 30% of product-launching activities.
More specifically, an innovation activity proposal needs to be submitted to a specific strategic area (section 1.1) by a team of typically 2 to 5 complementary organisations. It should be an agile, entrepreneurial, project that belongs to one of two distinct types:
It intends to create a startup
Activity proposals will be evaluated with respect to (i) their market or societal impact and (ii) their contribution to the financial sustainability of EIT Digital. Note that proposals with very low impact or very low sustainability stand a very slim chance of being selected. The review mechanism of the proposals is detailed in Annex B.2.
In the EIT Digital Innovation Factory, startup creation Activity proposals will be highly appreciated. The commitment and credibility of the founding team from the perspective of a potential investor will be elements that will strengthen the proposal. In addition, the commitment of a set of Partners (founding Partners) on becoming shareholders of the new venture will further strengthen the proposal. Spinoff creation from universities, research & technology organisations, or established companies, is a focus for EIT Digital.
If you are an existing entity launching an MVP, the involvement of a clearly identified business line that will lead the Activity is an element that will strengthen the proposal.
In either case, you must “begin with the end in mind” and pinpoint the specific “business pain” that you are trying to solve. That could be an explicit, unmet need (e.g. voiced by customers) or an implicit, latent need (that you have identified). You need to describe how you package mature research results and adequate technologies to address that particular need in an impactful manner, and how your solution will concretely benefit the users. The inclusion of a customer or early adopter explicitly engaged in the Activity will strengthen the proposal.
A key Partner is the Business Champion. It is an organisation that designs/packages the product (“product owner”) and brings it to the market. The Business Champion needs to commit to the go-to-market in the proposal, based on breakthrough technologies and validated research results provided by the technology provider and in relation to a launching customer. Examples of credible Business Champions include: for startup creation activities, the startup that will be created as an outcome of the Activity; for product launch activities, the business line of a corporation leading the Activity (in this case, it is recommended that the Lead Partner is the Business Champion).
For agility, we recommend a limited group of Partners per Activity (two to five Partners); each Partner should identify and propose engaged and entrepreneurial team members (including a strong Activity Leader preferably from the Business Champion). The suggested line-up of Partner teams should run like a venture, and as a guideline, it should look as follows:
Partner 3 - Supply
Specific technology that will be packaged in the product.
Partner 1 – Innovation Vehicle
Product owner, go-to-market.
Partner 2 - Demand
Customer actually involved in the Activity.
From a timeline perspective, the first half of the year 2021 should be dedicated to technology and product packaging (minimal viable product is ready, startup is incorporated). The second half of the year 2021 should be focused on go-to-market, customer deployment, and investor engagement.
Additional elements that will strengthen the proposal are:
• No innovation without education:
o Activities are encouraged to offer 3 to 6 months internships to EIT Digital Master School
students during the course of the Activities. Activities need to express their interest in the submission system at proposal stage and to plan the adequate budget in the submission system.
o In addition, selected Activities may also engage a Post-Master Professional, hired by EIT Digital and working at the EIT Digital CLCs, to work on technology and/or business model. Activities can express their willingness to engage a Post-Master professional in the submission system.
• Respect of the guidelines and recommendations provided in this document. Please refer to Annex A and Annex B.2 to understand the review mechanism.
In the context of the EIT Digital sustainability strategy, Innovation Activities are requested to contribute to the financial sustainability of EIT Digital either through equity (for startup creation) or financial return mechanism (for product launch). In case the Activity does not deliver on its sustainability commitments due to Partners being substantially in default, EIT Digital reserves the right to adjust the final balance payment.
For the Activity type “startup creation”, EIT Digital expects to receive an equity share in consideration of the grant received by the Activity.
First, the startup (with limited liability) will need to be incorporated by at least one of the Innovation Activity Partners (“founding Partner(s)”), who will initially own 100% of the shares.
Then, the founding Partner(s) will sign a Share Transfer Agreement with EIT Digital, aligned with the Innovation Activity commitments on EIT Digital equity level.
As a guideline, the level of (existing) ordinary shares expected to be transferred by the founding Partner(s) to EIT Digital is the following:
• EIT Digital’s equity share is determined by the EIT financial contribution as a percentage of the total budget of the Activity. In other words, EIT Digital equity percentage = 0.5 x EIT financial contribution / KAVA.
Example: EIT Digital receives a 30% equity in a startup resulting from an Innovation Activity with 60% EIT financial contribution and 40% co-funding.
It is recommended that a substantial amount of equity in the startup is allocated to the management team of the startup.
For the Activity type “product launch”, EIT Digital expects to receive a financial return up until five years after the completion of the Activity (i.e. by end of 2026). In the Activity proposals, Activity Partners commit to an annual return based on the projected revenue of the Activity. This will be an important factor in the evaluation process, and it is strongly recommended that this amount is forecast realistically.
It should be noted that the sustainability mechanism depicted in the proposal should not assume any additional support to be provided by EIT Digital (e.g. sales support, additional co-investment etc.).
Sustainability commitments of the Activity proposals accepted in the EIT Digital Business Plan will be included in the Internal Agreement Grant (IAG) formalised between each Partner and EIT Digital at the beginning of the year.
Please refer to Annex A and Annex B.2 to understand the review mechanism.
2.3 Additional information
The detailed process including requirements, criteria and evaluation methodology for Innovation Activity Proposals is detailed in Annex A and Annex B.
Proposals involving Cross-KIC Collaboration
Proposals involving cross-KIC collaboration are welcome. The proposals should be submitted as sub- projects to the respective KICs and will be evaluated by those KICs. The proposals should demonstrate the need for multidisciplinary collaboration and should contain at least one Partner from each KIC, including at least one business Partner. Partners should request EIT financial support from the KIC in which they are a Partner (in case they are Partner in multiple KICs, they should only ask EIT financial support from one KIC). Activity proposals that fall into this category need to indicate this in their proposals via the box that is provided for this purpose.
Early Bird Activity start in 2020
To facilitate an agile execution of the entrepreneurial projects that want to start already in 2020, EIT Digital offers the opportunity to apply for the Early Bird support. Innovation Activities that want to apply for this support, must indicate it in their submission for 2021 in the “Innovation Activity Specifics” tab. Here, the proposal authors should also indicate how they intend to split the budget between 2020 and 2021 EIT Digital Business Plans. If the Early Bird proposal is accepted, then the additional 2020 Activity will be included in the Business Plan 2020 amendment that EIT Digital will submit in September 2020.
Please note that only proposals ranked A or B are potentially eligible for Early Bird support (see Annex A for details on the placement mechanism).
3 EIT Digital Entrepreneurial Academy
Education in EIT Digital is organised into four Schools, Master School, Industrial Doctoral School, Professional School and Summer School, which together form the EIT Digital Entrepreneurial Academy. However, the Doctoral School is not part of EIT Digital 2021. A common thread of online education runs across all schools, although it is prevalent in the Master School and Professional School. Notably, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) Education is developed and delivered across the schools. EIT Digital seeks to use this as an opportunity to bring greater innovation into the education that it delivers, ensuring enhanced alignment with the changing business and technology practices brought about by the digital transformation.
For more information about the EIT Digital Academy please refer to the EIT Digital Strategic Innovation Agenda 2020-2022 page 26.
The EIT Digital Master School educates digital engineers with advanced knowledge in key digital technology areas, combined with Innovation and Entrepreneurship skills that lead to a unique digital transformation set of competencies for students. The goal is to establish a globally recognised digital Master education brand.
The two-year Master School programme portfolio comprises nine key digital topics answering to the digital competencies needed in the future.
Proposals for improving I&E Education and Blended Masters should also be presented under the Master School section.
The EIT Digital Professional School teaches new digital competencies to European professionals using blended online and face to face learning. The new digital competencies learned in the context of the global digital transformation we are living in, create the personal platform that the European professionals need for a career change or a career promotion. The blended format allows for parallel work and study. The EIT Digital Professional School will focus on developing and deploying a portfolio of courses that address the identified needs of European professionals.
The EIT Digital Summer School organises a two-week programme which combines state-of-the-art excellence in key digital technologies as well as societal and industrial applications with an expertise in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E). The Summer Schools are open for students of the EIT Digital Master School, PhD students and other students and young professionals who want to deep dive in emerging technologies and learn how to create new businesses using these technologies.
3.2 Education Activity Proposals
To complement its existing entrepreneurial education in the Master, Professional and Summer School, EIT Digital seeks Activity Proposals of the following kind:
EIT Digital Master School
EIT labelled Master programmes
EIT Digital is seeking proposals for joining existing Master programmes
The proposals for new entries/exits will be reviewed in terms of how well they integrate with the existing education offering of the EIT Digital Master School. Evaluation criteria will include, but will not be limited to course content, location, potentials to attract students, opportunities for internships and characteristics of the local ecosystem. Proposals for new entries should have the potential to enrol at least 15 students in the first year of operation, with a possible yearly increase. Proposals for new exits should have the potential to enrol at least 10 students in the first year of operation, with a possible yearly increase. The proposal must outline specification plans to meet those recruitment targets.
The EIT Digital Master School welcomes applications from new Partner universities to join the Network. We are keen to work with new Partners who can add value to our existing activities, benefit from our comprehensive Partner network, and help us achieving greater impact. Proposals from underserved or underrepresented geographical areas are particularly welcome.
It is noteworthy to highlight the key role of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) minor in EIT-labelled Master programmes. When offering a programme of the EIT Digital Master School, Partner universities commit to offer an integrated I&E Minor in accordance with the current EIT Digital I&E Education specifications and implementation guidelines and EIT Digital University Cooperation Agreement (for additional information, please refer to the EIT Digital 2021 Intranet page).