The European Commission is planning to make available a budget of €300 million for the European Innovation Council pilot to help it start investing in small businesses. Commission sources said they hope to have the investment vehicle up and running in the autumn of 2019, because the EIC will start accepting applications for ‘blended finance’ – a mix of grants, loans, and equity – in June, and will begin assessing them in September. This will be the first time in EU R&D funding history that equity investment will be offered alongside more traditional forms of grant and debt financing for small tech companies. The €300 million extra budget for  the pilot programme will bring total funding this year and next to more than €2 billion.

The idea of the EIC is to allow small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to get larger investments faster and more easily than at present from EU programmes. The Commission is promising it will be a “one-stop-shop” for tech companies, and will operate much like a venture capital firm. The SMEs won’t have to wait for a relevant call for proposals; instead, applicants define the scope of the project themselves.

The initiative to form a European Innovation Council aims to create more world-scale tech companies in Europe with a budget that will eventually exceed €1.5 billion a year. It aims to seed “disruptive” innovations – in virtual reality, self-driving cars, new materials and other fields that can make Europe more competitive. The EIC is one of the contested areas of the forthcoming Horizon Europe research programme, the successor to Horizon 2020. The Commission wants the EIC to help businesses scale-up on a total budget of €10.5 billion from 2021 to 2027. However, some members of the European Parliament want to reserve a chunk of EIC resources just for grants rather than equity, and think the EIC is getting too large a share of the Horizon Europe budget.



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The new European Patent Offices’s 2018 report, released on 12 March, shows an increase in European patenting activity, after Chinese tech giant Huawei dominated the previous year, with a 4.6% increase in European patent applications.

The new 2018 report shows German manufacturer Siemens in first place with 2 493 patents filed, taking the lead for the first time since 2011 and edging out Huawei into second place. Huawei led the EPO in 2017 with 2 398 patent applications.

The report shows that European companies filed almost half of the patent applications, the strongest increase since 2010. Almost 40% of the total growth in patent applications came from 38 EPO member states. “The growth in patent applications confirms Europe’s role as a powerhouse of global innovation,” said António Campinos, president of the EPO.

Most European countries saw growth, with only France (-2.8%) and Finland (-3.8%) decreasing. Notable growth was from Switzerland (7.8%), the UK (7.8%) and Sweden (7.1%). German companies filed 26 734 patents in 2018, 1 200 more than the previous year with a 4.7% increase.

The increase in German and European companies is tied to new technologies specifically in transport. The transport sector makes up 39% of all patent applications and registered an 11.6% increase compared to 2017. At the same time, life sciences saw the strongest growth, while medical technology had the most applications. “The dominance of European firms in this field shows that the transport industry is a cornerstone of the European economy,” said Campinos. “Major achievements in transport technology, of which self-driving cars are just one example, underline that innovation is widespread across the sector.”

New and notable transport patents are largely in self-driving and electric cars, the latter increasing in Germany by 71% in 2018. Self-driving cars account for a third of all European patent applications since 2011. “The growth in applications across the majority of leading technology sectors is proof that European innovation can rely on a competitive and effective patent system, said Campinos. “Innovative companies need a robust patent system so they can build strong patent portfolios.”

Europe also offers a good environment for individual and small and medium enterprises. One in five applications at the EPO from Europe was filed by an SME or individual inventor, the report said.

The report can be downloaded at

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The European Commission has published a call for applicants for the EIC Pilot Advisory Board. The EU executive is looking for 15 to 20 successful entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, and others with a strong background in relevant fields, like technology transfer and innovation agencies. The board is to advise on the EIC pilot through to 2020, and plan for Horizon Europe thereafter. It can also make innovation policy recommendations, and act as an ambassador to “increase the visibility” of the programme. Applicants have until 10 May to apply.

More information on the application procedure can be found at

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The European Commission is launching the first Horizon Impact Award – a prize dedicated to EU-funded projects whose results have created societal impact across Europe and beyond. Applications are invited until 28 May 2019. The prize acknowledges and rewards the most influential and impactful project results under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme, and its predecessor, the 7th Framework programme (FP7, 2007-2013).

The prize will highlight concrete achievements that have demonstrable value for society, and will celebrate the people who made it happen. The contest is open only to FP7 and Horizon 2020 projects that are closed and that can provide proof of their impact. Each of the five winners will receive €10 000.

This prize aims to illustrate the wider socio-economic benefits of EU investment in research and innovation and to encourage project beneficiaries to manage and utilise their research results in an optimal way. The five winners will be announced at an award ceremony in Brussels in September, with more than 4 000 high-level industry participants and promotors of innovation present.

More information on how to apply at

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According to a joint report by Europe’s intellectual property office and the OECD released this month, 6.8% of EU imports are counterfeit and pirated goods. This represents an annual loss for the European economy of €60 billion.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development assessed data from nearly half a million customs seizures from a wide variety of international enforcement agencies. According to the report, trade in counterfeit and pirated goods is worth €460 billion worldwide. Compared to the previous report, there has been an increase of 3.3% worldwide and 1.8% in Europe. Illicit trade has been growing significantly since 2013.

“The rise in the share of counterfeit and pirated goods in world trade is deeply concerning, and clearly calls for coordinated action, at all levels, to be fully tackled,” Executive Director of the EUIPO, Christian Archambeau, said. Most of the companies whose intellectual property was infringed are US-owned. However, five out of the ten countries most affected by piracy are EU member states, namely France, Italy, Germany, UK and Spain. Companies in other member states such as Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium are particularly targeted too.

India, Thailand, Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and Vietnam are major producers of counterfeited goods. Nevertheless, China remains the top offender, responsible for over 50% of this type of illicit trade. Hong Kong is responsible for 20% and Turkey also has a booming trade in illicit goods that is right on the EU’s doorstep.

These goods follow different paths before reaching their market destinations. In the case of products travelling to Europe, Albania, Egypt, Morocco and Ukraine are the main transit points, according to a previous report. Footwear, clothing, leather products, technology and watches are among the most forged products but perfumery, cosmetics, toys and jewellery are also illegally copied. As many pharmaceuticals, food and drink products and medical equipment are also counterfeited, the authorities warned that there could be potentially serious risks for security and health.

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The H2020 INSPIRE project, which aims to professionalize Open Innovation (OI) processes in European SMEs, has just launched its own YouTube channel “INSPIRE open innovation by and for SMEs”. Two testimonial videos of how one Belgian and one Spanish SME navigated their open innovation journey have already been uploaded and two more are in the pipeline. The suite of testimonial videos will be complemented by two short animation films about how to use the INSPIRE portal and the different open innovation tools and materials that are available for SMEs and SME innovation support intermediaries as well as an introduction to the INSPIRE open innovation canvas.


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A new business insight provided by Roger La Salle, innovation thought leader and pioneer of “Matrix Thinking”™

Most recent experience

I have just returned from almost two full weeks of workshop sessions in Colombia, (despite what many people may think, this is a marvellous country I often visit and a place where I could happily live). What became most apparent to me in many of the sessions with major companies in Colombia on this trip came into sharp focus. I have also observed this elsewhere, including Australia.

Big companies are mostly poor at innovation

Whilst many big companies extol the virtues of innovation and many have entire stand-alone innovation departments, which too often become a bureaucracy in their own right, these departments usually deliver little and seldom provide anything even approaching a return on the investment they represent. Indeed in many cases these departments simply morph into departments for special projects.

The fact is that even if the innovation people and staff suggestion schemes discover and advance new ideas, senior management is always far too busy to be engaged in change. Senior managers have bonus-dependent KPIs to reach with little or most often absolutely no regard to embracing new ideas and ways. Of course who can blame these managers? Their work is demanding and with no provision in their duties to deliver on innovation the very notion of such managers taking their “eye off the ball” to be distracted by change is simply a bridge too far.

The message is repeated

Too often after my sessions in Colombia staff approached me with the same story. “We have ideas but nobody listens.” In speaking at a major bank in Colombia last week I pointed out the wonderful revenue stream banks are starting to lose as savvy developers create Apps that allow international money transfers to happen in seconds whilst taking only a tiny “snip” of profit from the transaction. Gone are the commissions and gone are the exchange rate margins that are 10% and more. No longer will banks have the cash cow of the “international money clearing house in the sky” they have long been hiding from us.

Like the taxi industry and Uber, the banks have been sitting on their hands for far too long and will now suffer the consequences with many alternative monetary products coming on line and with Apple reportedly now about to launch their own total financial transfer package App. But let’s not “beat up” the banks. This is just one industry that has been too slow to change.

What can be done?

One very large organisation we have worked with in both Singapore and Malaysia is a major company, indeed a bank, where we conducted dozens of workshops with senior managers in attendance. The reason such busy people attended was simple. They all have delivery on innovation as one of their five major KPIs. Their metric being that 10% of each successive year’s revenue shall come from a new product. The company demands it and they deliver on it.

What’s the message?

Demand innovation as a job-dependent deliverable and it will happen. The alternative may ultimately be oblivion.


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