Very soon, dedicated instruments developments at large telescopes (SPHERE for the VLT, GPI for Gemini) are about to discover and explore self-luminous giant planets by direct imaging and spectroscopy in significant numbers. The next generation of 30m- 40m ground-based telescopes, the Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs), have the potential to dramatically enlarge the discovery space towards older giant planets seen in reflected light and ultimately even a small number of rocky planets. EPICS is a proposed instrument for the European ELT, dedicated to the detection and characterization of expolanets by direct imaging and spectroscopy. EPICS is currently mid-way through a phase-A study carried out by a large European consortium which - by simulations and demonstration experiments - will investigate state-of-the-art diffraction and speckle suppression techniques to deliver highest contrasts. The final result of the study early 2010 will be a conceptual design and a development plan for the instrument. We will present the EPICS concept including the performance analysis and first results from prototyping experiments and discuss the main challenges and science capabilities of EPICS.