A European Social Innovation Catalyst Fund to Advance EU Mission Objectives by Replicating and Scaling-up Existing, Demonstrably Successful Social Innovations






May 12 2022


Sep 21 2022



The Project is expected to contribute to the following outcomes:


This coordination and support action serves the Missions, namely, “Adaptation to Climate Change: Support at least 150 European regions and communities to become climate resilient by 2030”, “Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030”, “Cancer: Improving the lives of more than 3 million people by 2030 through prevention, cure and for those affected by cancer including their families, to live longer and better”, “100 Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities by 2030”, and “A Soil Deal for Europe: 100 living labs and lighthouses to lead the transition towards healthy soils by 2030”, by replicating and enhancing existing, demonstrably successful product, services, business model, organizational, governance, and other social innovations capable of addressing objectives appropriate for the Missions at European scale.

Social innovation concerns the development of new products, methods, and services for and with society involving not only citizens, but also public authorities, business and industry, and academia—i.e., the four constituencies of the “Quadruple Helix”—in their design, development, and execution. Social innovation engages and empowers citizens, enhances the resilience of communities, increases the relevance, acceptance and uptake of innovation, and helps foster lasting changes in social practices, therefore acting as a system changer. It thus helps answering societal and environmental challenges, connecting society with innovation.

EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation provide many examples of existing, demonstrably successful social innovations in very diverse thematic areas. Quantitative and/or qualitative indicators demonstrating success may include, e.g., reductions in energy costs expressed in EUR, Joules, or kWh, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions or increases in greenhouse gas capture in t(CO2eq), adoption of climate-related emergency plans or climate-resilient cropping systems, or number of jobs secured by a reskilling programme in areas traditionally depending on fossil fuel exploitation for employment; increases in fish population/school sizes, reductions in counts of microplastic particulates in water samples, area of coral reef restored in square kilometers, number of clean-up campaigns and cleaned-up areas in square kilometers; number of fatal cancers prevented, additional years of quality life or reduction in disability-adjusted life year (DALYs) in years; number of users switching to carbon-neutral modes of transportation or number of climate-neutral buildings; surfaces of rehabilitated soils in hectares, or increases in counts of species/individual of a given fungus, plant, animal, etc. species. Yet, the development of synergies with other public or private funding schemes may lead to the selection of social innovations elaborated independently.

The call targets

  1. for the consortium that will manage the project, a diverse assemblages of actors of social innovation, i.e., public authorities, academia, business, citizens and citizens’ organizations;
  2. for the creation of the fund, national research and innovation funding agencies, philanthropists, and other public or private investors; and
  3. for the replication of social innovations, as beneficiaries of third party financing through open calls, social innovators, social enterprises, companies working for reaching social impact and/or with a specific consideration of social impact, etc.

In relation with item (i), applicants are therefore encouraged to constitute a consortium that includes representatives of the public sector, the private sector, academia, and civil society. E.g., respectively, national, regional, and local government administrations and agencies; foundations, venture philanthropists, impact investors, industry, entrepreneurs, local businesses, and social enterprises; universities and research and technology organisation; social service providers, social innovators, Living Labs, Fab Labs, Third Places/Tiers-Lieux, and participants in the Makers Movement. Applicants are also encouraged to build on relevant ongoing activities undertaken by the Missions such as Missions Platforms.

In order to help Missions achieve their objectives, the consortium will undertake the following activities, i.e.,

  1. set up a European Social Innovation Catalyst Fund (“the Fund”) to ensure adequate financial support for replicating existing, demonstrably successful social innovations. The Fund will be funded jointly by the European Commission and by funding secured by the members of the consortium. The consortium is invited to combine Horizon Europe and other public and private funding including philanthropic sources to form a dedicated facility to support successful social innovations. Blending Horizon Europe and other public and private resources would translate into a meaningful innovation in terms of EU co-investment schemes for social and environmental good, building on the Horizon 2020 European Social Catalyst Fund pilot[1]. The EU will contribute a maximum of one quarter of the Fund. Accounting for financial investment calendars, the creation of the Fund should take no more than six months to a year;
  2. put forward open calls for proposals for the replication of existing social innovations demonstrated as successful based on quantitative and qualitative data that combine (i) a high potential to help each of the Missions achieve a selected number of their key objectives and (ii) a high potential for replication as documented by a replication plan. Notably, some of the existing, demonstrably successful social innovation projects could support more than one Mission by helping them achieve objectives that they share. The Fund will support third parties not only in terms of financing, but also of advisory, networking, and any other means objectively increasing the chances of success of the replication projects. The open call must be published widely, including on the Horizon Europe Participant Portal and through National Contact Points. Proposals should clearly indicate which mission(s) their social innovation will support;
  3. select the most promising and relevant social innovations on the basis of (i) their relevance to the Missions, (ii) the documentation of their success, and (iii) the credibility of their replication plan, including their ability to start delivering results within two to three years after the start of their implementation. Cross-Mission social innovation projects that serve several Missions at once are encouraged. Specifically, the proposal should define the process for selecting the plans for replication for which the consortium will grant financial support. This should include the process of selecting, allocating and reporting on the use of independent experts and ensuring no conflicts of interest. The description of the selection process should also clearly detail the criteria for awarding financial support and simple and comprehensive criteria for calculating the exact amount of such support. The consortium should refer to the Mission Implementation Plans when developing selection criteria. The selection process must also ensure that one or more replication plans are implemented per Mission and that the portfolio of selected projects covers all the Missions in a balanced, comparable, and equitable manner. The selected replication plans should make evident the potential to replicate different existing, demonstrably successful social innovations at European, national, regional and/or local scale in at least three different Member States and/or Associated Countries. The selection process should take no more than six months to a year;
  4. support through funding and mentoring the execution of the replication plans that will have been selected. The EU contribution to funding the execution of each replication plan will account for a maximum of one quarter of its cost;
  5. oversee—rather than manage—and monitor the roll out of the replication plans by their authors. The roll out of the execution of the plans should take no more than two to three years; and
  6. measure and communicate on the impact achieved via online platforms.

The consortium may wish to run the creation of the Fund (activity 1), and the publication of a calls for proposals and the selection of social innovations (activities 2 and 3) partially or totally in parallel.

The proposal should include detailed management and financial plans. The consortium should, in particular, specify how it will monitor and report call results, assess the quality of the outcomes, allocate funding to replication plans, support the roll out of the replication plans through funding and mentoring, and evaluate impact.

For information, it is estimated that the roll out of one social innovation at national scale takes indicatively three years and requires around EUR 1 million per year The figures are neither minima, nor maxima—only estimates. Indeed, the actual total budget necessary will depend on the nature and specifics of the social innovation, and the time and scale of deployment.

The proposal should establish the capacity of the consortium to manage portfolios of projects in different countries.

The EU estimates that a maximum 6% of the EU contribution is enough to operate the Fund. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the consortium using a different percentage of the EU contribution for its operation when duly justified. As the EU will contribute 25% of the total budget and expects the consortium to spend around 6% of the EU contribution on management costs, the EU expects around 98.5% (100% – (25% × 6%)) of the fund to support third parties.

The consortium will cooperate with the relevant Commission services to ensure that the Project contributes to the objectives of the Missions and, in particular, when it develops selection criteria to select the most promising and relevant social innovations. The consortium should constitute portfolios of projects covering all Missions in an equal manner. The consortium will have to document that it has done so.

Actions funded by the Fund should envisage, as appropriate, cooperation with other ongoing and future social innovation projects funded under Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe projects for, inter-alia, cross-project co-operation, consultations and knowledge exchange, joint activities on crosscutting issues as well as participating in joint meetings and communication events, especially where they relate to Missions. Applicants should plan the necessary budget to cover those activities without the need to define concrete common actions at this stage. 

[1]See also the Cordis Fact Sheet: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/870757.