Innovation Fund

Inland waterway sector stakeholders are called to submit ideas for the projects to be funded under the Innovation Fund. Any contact or request for further information can be done through

The Innovation Fund aims to support projects demonstrating highly innovative technologies, processes or products, that are sufficiently mature and have a significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Fund is open for projects from the waterborne sector, thus as well from inland waterway transport, independent on whether the investments are made into inland vessels or reduction of emissions from port activities.


The Innovation Fund is one of the first EU funding instruments tangibly supporting the European Commission’s strategic vision for climate neutral Europe by 2050 as outlined in its communication “A Clean Planet for All”.

The Innovation Fund is funded by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and may amount up to about €10 billion, depending on the carbon price.

It is one of the world’s largest funding programmes for the demonstration of innovative low-carbon technologies. The Fund provides the financial incentives for companies and public authorities to invest now in the next generation low carbon technologies in all Member States.


The Innovation Fund improves the risk-sharing for projects, as the grant will cover up to 60% of the additional capital and operational costs (up to 10 years) [1] linked to innovation, depending on verified emission reductions.

It will provide support in a more flexible way, following the cash flow needs of the projects. Up to 40% of the award will be provided as upfront funding on pre-defined milestones to de-risk projects so that they can proceed as fast as possible to construction. This will provide also an impetus for projects to speed up with their financial close. The remaining 60% of the grant will be provided to projects according to their cash-flow needs when they reach specific milestones.


The Innovation Fund is a novelty as it supports the project through its whole development cycle. A two-phase application procedure will be established with a view to reducing costs and administrative burden for project proponents, comprising an expression of interest and the full application.

At the expression of interest phase, the project proponent will be required to submit a description of key project characteristics in line with the requirements laid down in the relevant call for proposals, including the description of the project’s related to the assessment criteria (1) effectiveness, (2) degree of innovation, and (3) maturity. The highly innovative projects that have the potential to deliver substantial emission reductions but may need improvement, in terms of maturity, may qualify for project development assistance. Such projects will receive a grant from the Innovation Fund already after the first phase of the application procedure to cover their costs related to project development, such as improving and developing the project documentation, the feasibility assessment, advice on the financial and legal structure of the project and capacity building for the project proponent.

It is important that the projects financed by the Fund are at advanced technology readiness levels so the Innovation Fund helps them reach the market with a competitive advantage and viability.

In order to ensure a balanced distribution of the support, the Innovation Fund foresees simplifications for small-scale projects (a total capital expenditure not exceeding €7.5 million), interesting in particular for projects raised by the IWT sector.


The first call for proposals is expected mid-2020, followed by regular calls until 2030. Currently, the EC / DG CLIMA with the sectoral organisations collect ideas for the project pipelines in order to define the objectives and conditions of the first call. Each call for proposals will contain information on:

  • the overall amount of support available for the call, including the amount foreseen for project development assistance,
  • the types of solicited projects or sectors,
  • the application and selection procedure, including a detailed list of information and documentation and clarifications on the methodology for selecting projects.

Please contact for further information and advice as well as in case of ideas for possible projects to be funded under the Innovation Fund.


[1] i.e. the difference in costs and revenues compared to a conventional technology.