Mutual learning and support scheme for national and regional innovation programmes (HORIZON-EIE-2024-CONNECT-02-02)

  • Action type: HORIZON-CSA HORIZON Coordination and Support Actions
  • Opening date: 6 June 2024
  • Closing time: 19 September 2024 17:00 (Europe/Brussels)
  • Budget per project: € 100 000 of total € 1 000 000
  • Estimated number of projects funded: 10
  • Official website


Start-ups and SMEs are the primary source of innovation in the European Union (EU) and globally. However, the fragmentation of innovation ecosystems and the lack of connectedness among public national and regional agencies and innovation support schemes appear to be one of the main bottlenecks towards ensuring sufficient support of the most promising start-up and scale-up companies in the EU.

Building on the outcomes of different INNOSUP actions on peer learning of innovation agencies, as well as the Horizon 2020 pilot action under the enhanced EIC Pilot Work Programme “Mutual learning and common tools and resources for national/regional schemes supporting innovation projects of start-ups and SMEs”, this action aims at bringing together public innovation authorities and agencies to increase the dialogue and networking towards the design and implementation of regional and national innovation funding programmes in line with the requirements of the Plug-in certification for step 2 of the EIC Accelerator. In line with previous activities supporting peer learning of innovation agencies, use of the ‘Twinning+’ methodology is strongly encouraged in the context of this action. The project shall provide a Design Options Paper summarising the main findings in order to guide any innovation agency in translating and concretely implementing the identified good practices.

Projects results are expected to contribute to at least four (4) of the following expected outcomes:

  • Reduced fragmentation of innovation ecosystems and national/regional start-up support schemes;
  • Increased cooperation, learning, and exchange of knowledge between national and regional innovation support public authorities and agencies in order to ensure that their innovation funding schemes respond to the requirements of the Plug-in certification for step 2 of the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator;
  • Improved ongoing and/or set up of new national and regional innovation funding programmes whose criteria are fit to pass the certification for the Plug-in scheme;
  • The use, requirements, and access to the Plug-in scheme are well communicated to the innovation ecosystem stakeholders, particularly start-ups and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs);
  • A more homogeneous, equal, and aligned approach in the evaluation of projects under national and regional support schemes;
  • Enhanced cooperation among national and regional public authorities and agencies and SMEs and start-ups, particularly between innovation ‘leaders’/’strong’ innovators and ‘moderate’/’emerging’ innovator countries[1];
  • Stable pipeline of high-quality projects to the EIC Accelerator Step 2.

Target group(s): national or regional innovation agencies or similar organisations, national and regional authorities in charge of management of innovation programmes, EIC Plug-in contact points.

The pilot Plug-in scheme is a novelty under Horizon Europe and is a specific process applicable to the EIC Accelerator only. It applies to proposals that result from existing national or regional programmes and its specific modalities are outlined in the EIC Work Programme 2022 Annex 5.

Under the ‘Plug-in’ scheme, applicants do not apply directly to the EIC Accelerator callsInstead, a project review is carried out to assess the innovation or market deployment potential of an existing project at national or regional level to decide whether the project is suitable for support under the EIC Accelerator.

The first pilot results of a mapping of national and regional programmes by the European Commission in close cooperation with Member States has shown that although 31 out of 52 programmes submitted were certified, several programmes did not pass the certification and some Member States have not submitted any programme to the review at all. This action aims to assist Member States and Associated Countries to improve or create national and regional funding programmes that could qualify for certification under the Plug-in scheme of the EIC Accelerator. Applications from regional and national agencies from ‘moderate’ and ‘emerging’ innovator countries and regions are particularly encouraged.

The proposals are expected to include specific activities that will allow applicants to:

  • Enhance the quality of support provided at national and regional levels to the most promising innovative start-ups and SMEs;
  • To improve or set up national and regional funding programmes that could qualify for certification under the Plug-in scheme of the EIC Accelerator;
  • To share best practices in terms of design, functioning, operation, and monitoring of such programmes;
  • To broaden access to information and communicate to the applicants (start-ups and SMEs) on the opportunities to access the national and regional funding programmes and have their chance to be selected under Plug-in scheme to apply to step 2 of the EIC Accelerator.


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