INTRODUCING HORIZON EUROPE, SUCCESSOR TO HORIZON 2020

As reported on 24 April in Science|Business, the secret is out: European Commission officials are pitching Horizon Europe as the name for the next framework programme for research and innovation.

Although not yet confirmed, the name appears in draft Commission documents. It would replace the rather anonymous ‘Framework Programme 9’ title as the research programme has been called for over a year, and ensure what some Commission officials have privately referred to as the continuation of a successful brand (cf. Horizon 2020).

EU Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, is conscious of the need for a catchy name which will stick in the public’s consciousness. In order to promote Europe’s reputation in research excellence the Commission realizes that it must become more savvy in terms of branding and communication. For the new research programme, which will run between 2021 and 2027, we should therefore expect a sharper focus on programme branding via different communication channels to promote the fact that the research results were obtained with the support of EU funding. It is planned to reserve more funding for “open access to research results and data, availability to publications, knowledge repositories and other data sources.”

Proposals for the new research programme will be published in early June.

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EU COUNCIL AND PARLIAMENT AGREE TO SIMPLIFICATION OF COHESION FUND RULES

Rules on the so-called Omnibus regulation on EU financial rules, including Cohesion policy, will be simplified, whether they are managed by the Commission, by various organisations and bodies, or jointly with national authorities. The European Parliament is now expected to approve the regulation in the first reading. The regulation is expected to enter into force in July 2018 and apply in most parts immediately. Some additional time is provided to the EU institutions, which will apply the new rules from 1 January 2019.

The new rules will extend the possibility of basing EU payments on the achievement of results or on pre-defined method rather than tracing every euro of expenditure. Where no statistical or historical data is available, expert judgements could be used for assessing costs. This will reduce paperwork for both beneficiaries and authorities, who will be able to focus on policy achievements rather than on collecting and checking financial documents.

Furthermore, it will become easier for small beneficiaries with limited resources to access EU funds but small organisations will also benefit from the fact that volunteer work will be recognised as part of their contribution towards the co-financing requirement.

Almost all member states are in favour of maintaining the eligibility of all EU regions to access Cohesion funds – on condition that fresh money is found. Under the new rules, it will become easier to use EU structural funds for the integration of migrants and refugees, but the new regulation will also facilitate the fight against tax avoidance and shell companies.

In order to avoid multiple controls of the same activities and entities, the Commission will be able to rely more on audits and assessments carried out by its international partners and member states. The new rules also make it clear that the Commission will not be able to ask for the same information twice. These measures will further cut red tape and allow beneficiaries such as NGOs which receive money from several donors to focus on their work on the ground.

Several amendments are aimed at facilitating the use of different programmes and instruments for the funding of projects, applying a single set of rules where possible. This will encourage the use of a wide mix of contributions from national budgets and private investors in order to make the best use of EU resources. For example, it will become easier to combine financing from EU structural funds with financial instruments and the European Fund for Strategic Investments through so-called ‘blending’. It will also be possible to blend grants and financial instruments under the Connecting Europe Facility to finance projects in the fields of transport, energy, and information and communication technology.

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INDEPENDENT REPORT FINDS THAT SME INSTRUMENT ACCELERATES SUCCESS

The Report on the Assessment of the Performance of the First Finalised Phase II Projects measured the performance of 70 companies that have finished their SME Instrument project and concluded that two out of three of the funded companies have put their innovation out on the market and met commercial success thanks to the grant. The independent report found that the SME Instrument delivers growth and market creation with large spill-over effects on society – all thanks to its flexible grant scheme, its exclusive acceleration support and its unique design.

The SME Instrument has generated an increase in turnover in 2 out of 3 companies, all of which have created jobs following the grant, according to the report. In addition, the SME Instrument strongly facilitates the investment process by minimising the risk for private investors and by its unique networking effects. Despite the short time-span following the funding, 27% of companies reached a highly positive commercial success, usually illustrated by outstanding market performance or additional funds raised from investors (venture capital, acquisitions, IPOs etc.) following the Phase 2 support. In addition, another 31.4% have reached the market, an achievement that was the target of the Phase 2 grant, but don’t show outstanding commercial results yet, albeit promising signs.

Overall the SME Instrument played a critical role in supporting small innovative companies in the demonstration phase of their technology, says the report. This long and costly stage is what gets many start-ups stuck in the “Valley of Death” – the difficulty to recover negative cash flow in the early stages of commercialisation before the product sales bring real revenue. The reasons for this are mostly that the SME Instrument grant helps accelerate technology development and builds the capacity of the funded companies to deploy their innovation on the market. The SME Instrument funding also helped the companies secure the necessary investments, the human capital or the equipment to develop their technology and get it onto the market. Companies could also build demand capacity and secure intellectual property rights thanks to the funding.

The SME Instrument has a unique “label effect”. EU branding and the programme’s notorious competitiveness is a real European added value. The programme has an international reach targeting international markets compared to other public funding schemes that stick to the local or regional level.

The full report is available at https://ec.europa.eu/easme/sites/easme-site/files/sme-i_assessment_report_final.pdf

 

 

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TII 2018 AGM – NEW BOARD MEMBERS ELECTED

The association’s spring Board meeting and Annual General Meeting took place on 18 April in Brussels, hosted at the premises of our sister association EBN (European Network of Business & Innovation Centres). Secretary General Christine Robinson reported on the highlights of 2017, which included the redesign of the website and the launch of the TII Commercialization Hub at http://www.tii.org/en

Other items of business included the presentation of the accounts for 2017 and the programme of activities and budget for 2018. On the same occasion elections were held for 4 places on the TII Board of Management. The 4 candidates elected were

Arjan de Bruin of Van der Meer & van Tilburg Innovation Consultants (NL)

 

Morten Løfsnæs of Nova Corporate (Norway)

 

 Martin McGurk of RTC North (UK)

 

Zhu Ling of Coway (China)

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TII INNOVATION DIALOGUE – ROAD MAPPING PRIORITIES FOR FUTURE INNOVATION SUPPORT PROGRAMMES

TII’s new-style annual meeting – shorter, more interactive, more intimate – took place on 19 April in Brussels at the Beford Hotel & Congress Centre. Inaugurated last year in Vaasa, the TII Innovation Dialogue focuses on a single theme and discusses it from all different angles. Since innovation has been the leitmotiv of TII for the past 30 years – and we chose Brussels as a venue – we thought it fitting this year to take a closer look at the performance of the most famous innovation support programme of all – Horizon 2020 – as well as other types of open innovation initiatives, involving both public and private sector support.

For this purpose, we invited a panel of representatives from the European Commission – Jasper Hemmes, SME Instrument Coaching Manager, Ramona Samson, Deputy Head of Unit (SMEs, Financial Instruments and State Aid), DG Research and Innovation and Elena Kostadinova, Intellectual Property and Fight Against Counterfeiting Unit, DG GROW – to tell us how well Horizon 2020 and other initiatives are doing to offer value to their beneficiaries and to bring more innovations to market in Europe.

This was followed by three testimonials from innovation support practitioners from different walks of life who shared their practical experience of recent innovation support programmes, including Morten Løfsnæs (Nova Corporate, Norway) on his experience as an SME Instrument coach and financial adviser to SMEs, Andy Zynga (formerly NineSigma and currently Maastricht School of Management) on his experience of running publicly fundeded open innovation programmes for SMEs and Sara Medina (SPI) on her experience of managing a soft landing programme for European SMEs in China.

Following this series of short interventions, the discussion was opened up to the audience to find out their opinion of whether today’s innovation support programmes are giving true value to their beneficiaries – in other words,  how well are we really doing, what has improved and where and how can we do better?

The afternoon session consisted of a participative road mapping exercise, run by long-time TII member and two-times President of the association, Gordon Ollivere, to identify, quantify and increase the benefits gained by end users from EU innovation programmes. In a first phase, the participants considered challenges and drivers  that could affect future innovation support instruments and then populated a wall chart with post-it notes to record their opinions and suggestions in terms of priority application areas and stakeholders’ needs in the immediate, medium and long-term.

The results of the road mapping exercise will feed into a report to be circulated among all participants and shared with the European Commission.

 

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LIONEL MESSI WINS ECJ RULING ON TRADEMARK

Football superstar Lionel Messi won the backing of European Court of Justice judges on 26 April, when they ruled that the Barcelona player’s request for a trademark is legitimate, citing his fame outside the world of football as a crucial element of the case.

The case dates back to 2011, when Messi’s representatives requested the European Union Office for Intellectual Property (EUIPO) to register a logo that includes a capital letter ‘M’ and the football player’s surname in all capital letters. Following that request, a complaint was lodged against Messi by another clothing and sports equipment company, MASSI, which cited the similarities between the two trademarks and the likelihood the two could be confused.

EUIPO upheld that complaint, agreeing that there was a real chance of confusion, due to the visual and phonetic similarities. Messi first appealed at the EUIPO and then went to the ECJ for a ruling. The General Court annulled the EUIPO’s ruling, insisting that Messi is enough of a “famous figure” even outside of the world of football for most average consumers not to confuse the two brands.

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WINNERS OF 2018 MILLENNIUM TECHNOLOGY PRIZE TO BE ANNOUNCED IN MAY

The international Millennium Technology Prize, awarded by the Technology Academy Finland, is Finland’s tribute to innovations for a better life and sustainable development. The one-million-euro prize highlights the extensive impacts of science and technological innovations on society, even on humanity at large. A total of 72 innovations and 105 individuals were nominated for the 2018 Millennium Technology Prize by the nomination deadline. Health technology, biomedicine and materials and process technology received the most nominations.

Most of the nominations, which were submitted between 3 April and 31 July 2017, were from Europe, followed by the United States. Candidates were nominated most actively by universities and research institutions, while companies were somewhat more active than in the previous 7 editions of the prize. Asia was especially active in making submissions, with Asian organisations nominating three times as many innovations as in the previous nomination period in 2015.

The winner of the 2018 Millennium Technology Prize will be announced on 22 May 2018 in Helsinki, with the prize ceremony taking place on the same day. The winner will give a public talk on the winning innovation on 23 May 2018 at 9 am at Aalto University Otaniemi campus. The event will be held in English and is open to the public free of charge. The winner will also give a keynote address during the EUREKA Innovation Days in Helsinki (from 22 to 24 May).

http://taf.fi/events/millennium-technology-prize-2018/

 

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