New EIT Initiative to Boost Innovation in Higher Education Across Europe

HEI Initiative: Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education –
Unlocking the potential of higher education institutions for innovation and entrepreneurship

The HEI Initiative is a novel cross-KIC initiative that aims to unlock the full innovation potential of higher education institutions (HEIs) whilst integrating them into Europe’s largest innovation ecosystem. As part of HEI Initiative: Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education, the EIT has announced a Pilot Call for Proposals, inviting higher education institutions to design activities that will improve their entrepreneurial and innovation capacity. By supporting these activities with expertise and coaching, access to the EIT innovation ecosystem, and funding, the initiative creates systemic impact and empowers HEIs to become regional engines of innovation. As a result, sustainable growth and jobs across Europe are also fostered.

From July 2021, 23 pilot projects will be selected and implemented over a 24-month period. Each pilot project has the opportunity to be awarded a total of EUR 1.2M with up to EUR 400,000 for Phase 1 (Jul -Dec 2021) and up to EUR 800,000 for Phase 2 (Jan 2022 – Jul 2023).

Activities 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

“Higher Education Institutions play a key role in our society to nurture the talents of the future. Therefore, the new EIT Regulation contains a new pilot initiative focusing on the innovation and entrepreneurial potential of European HEIs.” – Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

Because the initiative is a joint EIT Community activity, it spans across all EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), meaning the chances of success are higher. HEIs based in the EU and Horizon Europe Associated Countries are eligible to apply, in consortia of at least four organisations including at least one that is not an HEI. Applications will be accepted until 25 May 2021.

The call document is available here.

In April, EIT will hold online info sessions to present the HEI Initiative and the Pilot Call for Proposals in more detail. The webinars will cover eligibility requirements, evaluation, administration, as well as guidance on how to define your Innovation Vision Action Plan.

Wednesday 14 April 2021 – 13:30 – 14:45 CET (register by 13 April 15:00 CET) (full)
Thursday 15 April 2021 – 10:00 – 11:15 CET (register by 14 April 15:00 CET) (full)
Friday 16 April 2021 – 14:00 – 15:15 CET (register by 14 April 15:00 CET) – additional session due to high demand

For further questions and inquiries, get in touch with our Education Manager Jeff Wilkesmann at
Further information on the initiative is linked here, while the official website and registration for the info sessions can be found here.