At a recent European Consortium of Innovative Universities’ conference in Brussels, Lieve Wierinck, Belgian MEP and shadow rapporteur on the Horizon Europe research programme, cast doubt about the dividing line between the the newly proposed European Innovation Council and the existing European Institute of Technology. She even went as far as saying, “I think the EIT will be eaten by the EIC.”

The EIC, which will officially open in 2021, is set to receive €10.5 billion or 11% of the total €94.1 research budget for 2021-2027. Its budget will be divided between a “pathfinder” programme for breakthrough ideas, and an “accelerator” for more developed ones. Its mission will be to provide fast and simple grants, loans and possibly equity in some projects. There will also be a mentoring service, introductions to other companies and investors, events, and co-funding opportunities with the European Investment Fund.

For Mrs Wierinck – and many universities for that matter – the EIC shows significant overlap with the EIT. Launched in 2008, the Budapest-based organisation funds collaborations between universities and industry in fields including climate change adaptation and sustainable energy.  In comparison with the the EIC, the EIT is due to receive only €3 billion from Horizon Europe.

The two innovation funders are not intended to compete with each other, said a Commission official, while conceding the need to distinguish them better. “We’ve tried to make the EIC complementary to the EIT, but perhaps we’ve not done as good a job as possible in communicating this to the Parliament,” said Stephane Ouaki, head of SMEs, financial instruments and state aid, at the European Commission’s directorate for research.

In a report outlining amendments to the Commission’s Horizon Europe proposal, the “
MEP responsible for steering the Commission’s proposal for Horizon Europe through the European Parliament, Mr Christian Ehler, commented: “Current duplications between the EIT and EIC need to be settled.”


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Fast Track to Innovation

In August the European Commission announced that it would support 14 winning projects to bring their innovations faster to the market under the Fast Track to Innovation strand of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot . Each project will receive around €2 million. The 14 projects involve 59 partners, including SMEs, industrial partners, universities and non-profit organisations, from 18 countries. With this funding and extra business acceleration support, the projects will be able to finance their close-to-market innovation activities.

Projects selected for funding include a recycling technology to introduce rubber from ‘end-of-life’ tyres into production lines as virgin rubbers substitute, a system to treat persistent atrial fibrillation, an artificial intelligence tool that improves video quality and limits internet traffic tied to video streaming, and a stirling heat pump for industrial use in high temperatures.

The Fast Track to Innovation scheme is for relatively mature groundbreaking technologies, concepts and business models that are close to market. The participants also have access to free business coaching and acceleration services. At the cut-off date on 31 May 2018, the European Commission had received 2016 applications for funding. The next cut-off date for Fast Track to Innovation is on 23 October 2018.

SME Intrument Phase 2

A total of 65 SMEs from 16 countries were selected last July for funding under the latest round of the SME Instrument. The companies will receive a total of €113 million to share between their projects to work towards the market entry of their innovations.

Examples of the projects selected include a sensory feedback system for phantom pains, a new technology for micro motors, a control system for e-bikes that extends battery autonomy, a distance communication system for drones, a valuation tool for start-ups based on artificial intelligence, an add-on solution for industrial robots to improve their accuracy and a new ecological packaging based on straw fibers.

The 63 projects will receive up to €2.5 million each to finance innovation activities like demonstration, testing, piloting and scaling up. The companies will also benefit from 12 days of free business coaching and acceleration services. Most projects selected for funding are in the field of health, engineering, information and communication technology (ICT). Most projects are based in Spain (12), Germany (10) and Norway (6).

At the 23 May cut-off date, the European Commission had received a total of 1644 proposals. The next application deadline for the SME Instrument Phase 2 is 10 October 2018.

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Cohesion Policy represents one-third of the current EU’s budget and is the main investment policy of the Union. As the negotiations on the next Multiannual Financial Framework are about to kick off, EURACTIV took a look at how funds are distributed across different regions in Europe and what kind of projects are funded with them.

View the video at


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Former European Commission director general for research and innovation, Robert-Jan Smits, has been appointed president of the Eindhoven University of Technology, a job he will take up on 1 March next year. Mr Smits was chief architect of Horizon 2020, with responsibility for the overall design and execution of the €80 billion programme. His 8-year term ended in February, following a major reshuffle of top Commission civil servants jobs. Since then he has been the Commission’s special envoy on open science, leading efforts to force a major change in the business model of science publishers, by making thousands of research papers free to read on the day of publication.

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Over the summer, the INSPIRE consortium (standing for Integrated Support for Open Innovation pRofessionalization initiative, a Coordination and Support Action funded by the European Commission) published its 2018 annual report and a second batch of 12 inspirational cases of open innovation in SMEs from across Europe.

Each story relates the company’s unique open innovation journey, how the SME engaged with external parties to develop and implement their innovation and the ways in which they managed this collaboration to achieve success for their business. The full compendium of inspirational cases can be found at

In the coming months, INSPIRE will launch its ready-to-use integrated toolbox to help SMEs and innovation intermediaries to manage effectively the OI process in small businesses. You can  stay up-to-date with the project’s outputs and activities and with what is new in open innovation by joining the INSPIRE LinkedIn group “Open Innovation in SMEs”.

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For the first time TII joined forces with ASTP-Proton to organise a  joint summer school, a 4-day skills development course for Capturing and Optimising Research Business Opportunities. The course took place in the last week of August at the Ca Foscari University in Venice and consisted of six stand-alone workshops delivered by two TII members, two ASTP-Proton members and one member registered with both associations! Altogether 32 KTO representatives and innovation support intermediaries from 11 countries attended the event, the majority of whom for all four days.

The TII trainers were innovation support intermediaries and serial entrepreneurs Max Nielsen (Denmark) and Roger La Salle (Australia) who in completely different styles shared their experience and methods for capturing economic value from new technologies and scientific discoveries. Christoph Köller (Germany), who is a member of both associations, organised an interactive “impact café” so that the participants could increase their understanding of the specifics of knowledge transfer for the Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts (SSHA), e.g. how to identify SSHA projects that are suitable for transfer, what kind of business models can be considered.

ASTP stalwart Jeff Skinner of the Institute of Innovation and Enterpreneurship at London School of Business conducted two workshops, the first on developing a commercial strategy for a new technology and the second on using proof of concept funds to good effect. Last but not least, Bernard Denis of the Technology Transfer Group at CERN in Geneva took the group through several iterations of a licensing deal that he negotiated on behalf of CERN over a number of years.

The summer school experience was rated excellent or good by 92% of the participants and a number have already asked where the destination of the 2019 summer school will be. Encouraged by this positive feedback, the managements of the two associations are considering making the event a regular feature in their respective programme of activities.

Summer school class of 2018

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The ENRICH in China initiative is organising another Matchmaking Tour to China from 11 to 16 November 2018, this time to the cities of Suzhou, Wuxi and Shenzhen. The event will feature

  • Matchmaking with key Chinese tech-based organisations
  • Visits to leading Chinese innovators and soft landing zones
  • Introduction to business and research opportunities in Suzhou, Wuxi and Shenzhen
  • Free access to the China hi-tech fair in Shenzhen (one of the largest technological cooperation platforms)
  • First-hand information on the Chinese Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) landscape and innovative activities in China
  • Contacts with high-level representatives of the EU and Chinese government
  • Connecting with the ENRICH in China initiative

Suzhou is a major economic centre and the second largest city in the Jiansou province; it is also the second largest manufacturing centre in China. Wuxi is one of the birthplaces of China’s modern industry and commerce and hosts the China Yixing Industrial Park for Environmental Science and Technology.  Shenzhen’s economic output is ranked third behind Beijing and Shanghai. Located within the Pearl River Delta and bordering Hong Kong to the south, it is home to major hi-tech companies.

More information and registration at



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