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23 pilot projects selected by EIT 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 partners from 32 countries will benefit from the EIT’s HEI Initiative, which will see up to EUR 27.5 million of funding supporting the innovation capacity of HEI across Europe.

14 Jul 2021

12 July 2021 - Budapest, Hungary – 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 partners from 32 countries will benefit from the EIT’s HEI Initiative, which will see up to EUR 27.5 million of funding supporting the innovation capacity of HEI across Europe.  

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 new EIT 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!”

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-HEIs partners (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 (CZ), Robert Bosch GmbH (DE), Foundation Startup Wise Guys (EE), Universidad de Zaragoza (ES), University of Eastern Finland (FI), Athens University of Economics and Business (GR), University College Dublin (IE) and Confindustria Trento (IT). More details on the selected projects can be found here

EIT Food is a partner in the following projects: 

  • EntreUnity: a network of aspiring entrepreneurial universities that share a passion and a responsibility to tackle global food security, ageing populations and climate change by educating and training the next generation of agrifood, health and green-tech students in entrepreneurship and leadership. The network also contributes to the transfer of knowledge, know-how and innovation processes to companies and public actors.  
  • HEADLINES: this project will incrementally improve the degree to which entrepreneurship is included within the core ecosystems of partner universities. All resources in universities will be focused on accelerating directed learning in nurturing entrepreneurship. In this way, the consortium universities will become regional engines of growth, contributing to education, leadership, knowledge and innovative thinking.  
  • The Innovation Capacity Building in UNITA (INNOUNITA): this project represents the opportunity to bring together experiences and know-how, and develop a consistent overall strategy, based on the UNITA University alliance. UNITA is a European University alliance of six comprehensive research universities from five countries, gathering together more than 160,000 students and 15,000 staff members.  

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.”

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 run over the 2022−2023 period. 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. 



The EIT strengthens Europe’s ability to innovate by powering solutions to pressing global challenges and by nurturing entrepreneurial talent to create sustainable growth and skilled jobs in Europe. The EIT is an EU body and an integral part of Horizon Europe, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.  

The Institute supports dynamic pan-European partnerships, EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities, among leading companies, research labs and universities. Together with their leading partners, the EIT Community offers a wide range of innovation and entrepreneurship activities across Europe: entrepreneurial education courses, business creation and acceleration services and innovation driven research projects. 


The EIT’s eight Knowledge and Innovation Communities work to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy (EIT Climate-KIC), drive Europe’s digital transformation (EIT Digital), lead the global revolution in food innovation and production (EIT Food), give EU citizens greater opportunities to lead a healthy life (EIT Health), achieve a sustainable energy future for Europe (EIT InnoEnergy), strengthen the competitiveness of Europe’s manufacturing industry (EIT Manufacturing), develop raw materials into a major strength for Europe (EIT RawMaterials), and solve the mobility challenges of our cities (EIT Urban Mobility).  

In line with the EIT’s new strategy for 2021 to 2027, a Call for a new EIT Culture and Creativity Knowledge and Innovation Community will be launched in October 2021. In addition, the EIT has a strengthened focus is being renewed to the EIT’s Regional Innovation Scheme with the aim to increase innovation and EIT impact in more regions across Europe.   


  • Europe’s largest innovation network: 2, 000+ partners from top business, research and education organisations across Europe in 60+ innovation hubs across Europe 
  • Making innovation happen: powered more than 3, 100 start-ups and scale-ups, created more than 1, 170 new products and services that have gone to raise more than EUR 3.3 billion in external capital. More than 3, 100 students have graduated from EIT labelled master and doctoral programmes and over 10, 000 have participated in EIT Community entrepreneurial trainings.  

About EIT Food 

EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, with the aim to create a sustainable and future-proof food sector. The initiative is made up of a consortium of key industry players, startups, research centres and universities from across Europe. It is one of eight Innovation Communities established by the European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT), an independent EU body set up in 2008 to drive innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.  

EIT Food aims to collaborate closely with consumers to develop new knowledge and technology-based products and services that will ultimately deliver a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle for all European citizens. EIT Food has created the RisingFoodStars Association, which serves as an umbrella for high potential agrifood startups and scaleups, to support and nurture a select group of young companies. The Association is a partner of EIT Food and as such allows its members to participate in all EIT Food activities, thus contributing to the delivery of EIT Food’s strategic objectives. EIT Food is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). 

You can follow EIT Food via our website or via social media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or Instagram

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