In his first press briefing on 27 March since taking up the post of EU Director General for Research and Innovation, Jean-Eric Paquet announced his strategy for a more “joined-up process” in planning the next Framework Programme by working more effectively with other policy areas, such as regional development, energy, transport and digital technologies.

The Commission’s proposal for the next programme covering the period from 2021 to 2027 was more or less completed by his predecessor, Robert-Jan Smits, and will be announced officially by the end of May. There are currently three possible budget scenarios for FP9 ranging from a low-end €80 billion to €120 billion and even €160 billion, which was recently advocated by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. In comparison, the current seven-year budget, ending in 2020, is €77 billion. At this point it is not possible to say which option will prevail, but one indication will be the announcement of the Commission’s overall seven-year spending proposal, covering all policy areas, scheduled for 2 May.

A search for synergies between different areas of EU policy is not new. Successive Commissions have tried – with partial success – to make it easier to combine research money with regional development funding to build and run new scientific centres in eastern Europe, or to make research a key element of health or agricultural policy. The new Director-General admits that there is no magic formula for implementing synergies, but it is his intention that the different sectoral areas of FP9 should be developed in genuine “teams” that cut across departments.

Among the changes planned at the top of the Research & Innovation DG will be regular Monday meetings between Paquet and his three deputy directors-general, Wolfgang Burtscher, Patrick Child and Signe Ratso, to coordinate planning.  In addition, there is “a strong case” to reshuffle the top portfolios so that each of the three deputies controls some sector-specific areas as well as broad administrative or policy tasks, which again, will make policy coordination with other parts of the Commission easier. A further reorganisation may be needed at some point to prepare for FP9.

On planning the next Framework Programme, Paquet said the main work was completed by Smits. “We now have two more months to fine-tune it” before it is published at the end of May. As with Horizon 2020, there will be a basic science “pillar” comprising the ERC and the Marie Sklowdowska Curie researcher grants; a societal challenges sub programme including “missions” to apply science and technology to solving big problems; and an open innovation portion, including Moedas’ proposed European Innovation Council, “to promote disruptive, breakthrough innovation at the EU level, and to complement what many member states are already doing.”

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During the presentation of the EPO’s results for 2017 on 7 March, EPO President Benoit Battistelli revealed tha,t for the first time in the history of the European Patent Office, a Chinese company came top in terms of patent applications. 2017 also saw a new record in the number of intellectual property filings in Europe.

The number of applications for the European patent grew 3.9% to 165 590 submissions, a record figure in the history of the EPO. Most of the requests came from the US (26%), followed by Germany (15%), Japan (13%), France (6%) and China (5%), which made it to the top five thanks to a sharp increase in its patent requests (+16.6%). Huawei led the ranking of patent submissions (2,398 applications), followed by Siemens (2,220), LG (2,056) and Samsung (2,016).

Most European countries submitted a larger number of patent applications to the EPO in 2017. Among the countries with the highest number, applications increased in France (+0.5%), Germany (+1.9%), the United Kingdom (+2.4%) and the Netherlands (+2.7%). On the other hand, Norway (-0.6%), Belgium (-1.9%), and Portugal (-5.7%) were the European countries whose number of patent applications decreased in 2017.

In terms of patent applications per million inhabitants, Switzerland came top of the league (884), followed by the Netherlands (412) and Denmark (377). Most of the applications came from the sectors of medical technology, digital communication and computer technology.

According to Mr Battistelli, “The growing demand for European patents confirms the attractiveness of Europe as a market for leading technologies. The EPO has responded effectively to this constant demand with efficiency measures that have increased production, productivity and meeting deadlines. At the same time, we have optimised the quality of our products and services.” The EPO prides itself in the fact that the certificates issued by the 7,000-employee organisation are seen as more solid compared to intellectual property certificates given by its peers in other regions of the world.


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The Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI), the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron, who called last September for the creation of a European innovation agency modelled on the US DARPA, is close to realisation. In its start-up phase, the initiative will be a Franco-German joint venture (hopefully to be extended to all 27 EU member states), which is being driven by André Loesekrug-Pietri, an investment fund manager of Franco-German origin.

Similar to the 60-year-old DARPA agency of the United States Department of Defence responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military, JEDI will base its approach on meeting key development challenges rather than prescriptive specifications.

From its foundation in 1958, DARPA’s mission has been to fill the gap between academic work and the incremental innovation done by the military. Without DARPA, the world would have probably not seen projects that led to the creation of the internet, Global Positioning System, driverless cars, stealth, SpaceX and Siri.

The idea for JEDI is to develop dozens of operational prototypes every year within timeframes of months rather than years, which is currently the case. Mr Loesekrug-Pietri presents the case of  glyphosate as a current technological challenge. According to him it would be possible to find a viable alternative which satisfies environmentalists and farmers within 24 months if a number of research teams commit to work on the challenge.

Part of the strategy to develop prototypes is to enter the market faster by interesting investors and industrialists in producing and marketing the innovations. The other part of the strategy is to regain technology leadership in Europe and thereby restore the area’s strategic and economic independence. Unlike DARPA, however, JEDI will not function as an agency, but rather as a lean and agile structure. Ten project managers will each coach one or more selected funded projects full-time. They will be seconded for a period of two years – renewable once – from leading research centres. The goal will be for JEDI to be perceived as a career booster, thus attracting the best talents.

Ten programme managers have already been identified, and likewise the technology priorities, i.e. AI, cybersecurity, components, computing power, biotechnologies, energy storage and nanotechnologies. The provisional budget is estimated at €235 million for 2018, the launch year, with €228 million for project funding and €7 million for operating costs. But the aim is to increase funding to €1 billion a year once the initiative gathers momentum.

It remains to be seen whether the initiative will attract other EU countries to join – and it is now clear that the model is different to the European Innovation Council advocated by EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas, and which has a strong focus on close-to-market innovation.


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The names of the 12 finalists competing for the 2018 EU Prize for Women Innovators were announced on International Women’s Day on 8 March by EU Research Commissioner, Carlos Moedas. Four cash prizes will be awarded to the top 4 women entrepreneurs, consisting of a first prize of €100 000, a second prize of €50 000, a third pize of €30 000 and the Rising Innovator’s prize of €20 000.

The finalists were selected by a jury of independent experts from the fields of business, venture capital, entrepreneurship and academia. The Commission received 122 applications from across EU Member States and countries associated to Horizon 2020. The companies created by the contestants are built around innovative ideas in a wide range of sectors, with health, biotech and social innovation being the most prominent ones.

Nine of the outstanding women are in the running for three prizes in the main category, and three others for the Rising Innovators prize that recognises excellent female entrepreneurs under the age of 30. The nine finalists in the main Women Innovators category are from Austria (1), France (2), Italy (1), Lithuania (1), Spain (3) and UK (1). The three candidates for the Rising Innovators award are from Norway, Italy and Greece.

An introduction to the 12 finalists can be found at https://ec.europa.eu/research/prizes/women-innovators/index.cfm?pg=finalists


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The European Commission has published some interesting figures relating to participation in Horizon 2020. You can find a range of graphs and tables concerning the number of successful project participations by country and total funding by country. Unsurprisingly, Germany, the UK, France and Spain occupy the top positions in the league table which reflects just over €29 billion in funding and 8 000 project participations.

You can also find statistics, such as the number of grants per type of organisation, per H2020 thematic area, etc. and the number of project participations and EU contribution by organisation. Furthermore, the website offers data on the number of submitted proposals per country and the success rates of proposals, etc.


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

We must be ahead of the curve?
There can be no doubt that being first to market with a new initiative may demonstrate great leadership, but just how important is that, or perhaps more importantly, how risky is it?

Innovation defined
Our definition of innovation, “Change that Adds Value”, that we first coined in the late 1990’s was derived for a special reason. It’s all about mitigating market risk, without doubt the single biggest risk with new products. This definition suggests that instead of being first, it’s a lot less risky to find something that is a big success in the marketplace and then to innovate it. Change it in some way to make it better and go to market with an improvement on what you know people are already buying.

Amazing examples
None of the following success stories was first to market.

  • Boeing 707 passenger jet
  • iPhone
  • VISA and MasterCard
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • PayPal
  • Seiko
  • Microsoft Windows
  • IBM PC
  • Nokia cell phone

The British Comet aircraft was the first passenger jet but it had some technical difficulties that enabled Boeing to learn and develop the Boeing 707, an aircraft that took the world market by storm.

Diners Card was the first true credit card, but its followers VISA and MasterCard were the real winners.

Motorola virtually created the cell phone but Nokia took the world market with the best phones only then to be displaced by Apple with the first tablet phones. Samsung is now challenging Apple with similar featured phones at a much reduced price.

The list of first to market failures is extensive. Of course this is not to say that being first is taboo, simply that being first carries a lot more risk.

History will be the judge!
The most current example of this may be the Tesla all electric vehicles. Certainly Tesla has in essence created a paradigm shift with their marvellous first to market products, but in doing so they have in effect, “poked the hornets’ nest”.

The big auto makers like Ford, GM, Hyundai, Toyota, Nissen and the like have now been stirred into action. By now these giants will have reverse engineered every Tesla model, learned some “new “tricks” and will soon be flooding the market with even better versions of electric cars, most likely at an even lower price.

It will be interesting to see is how Tesla will fare in the face of relentless competitors that will have learned so much from its pioneering work. There can be no doubt that being first to market with a new initiative may demonstrate great leadership, but just how important is that, or perhaps more importantly, how risky is it?



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The concept of open innovation (OI) has become a very popular topic during the last decade, with an increasing number of SMEs embracing OI practices to gain competitive advantage. This new publication, which is edited by Wim Vanhaverbeke of University of Hasselt (Belgium) and colleagues, is a timely opportunity to gather research on OI in SMEs, to investigate how OI is managed and implemented to determine the peculiarities compared to OI management in large companies, and to specify the consequences for future OI research.

The book offers insights into the following topics: The state of the art on open innovation in SMEs; adopting open innovation in SMEs; interorganizational networks and innovation ecosystems; sectoral patterns of open innovation in SMEs; and measuring, evaluating and stimulating open innovation in SMEs.

It is available in hardcover and as an ebook from World Scientific at https://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/10733#t=aboutBook

A 30% discount is available to celebrate USA Science and Engineering Week (discount code = WSUSWK30)

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