The SME Instrument funding scheme, which has raised huge interest among innovative SMEs across Europe, will undergo significant changes in the 2018-2020 period. Compared with previous work programmes, the scheme will benefit from a larger budget over the next 3-year period without any topic constraints and a new evaluation process for Phase 2 proposals (an interview for the best applicants).

The highlights are as follows:

  • Fully bottom-up, no predefined topics, so innovative projects that cut across sectors/technologies become eligible for support
  • Single budget line, maintaining budgetary contributions from Societal
    challenges and LEIT
  • Larger pool of evaluators with relevant technological/scientific expertise as well as financial/commercial backgrounds
  • Evaluation criteria in Phase 2 revised to better target the scaling up of SMEs with the greatest potential for breakthrough, market-creating innovation (business capacity, international growth ambition)
  • Interviews for successful Phase 2 applicants
  • Coaching for SMEs (available across SMEi, FTI and FET-open)
  • Mentoring introduced
  • Monitoring of thematic coverage

As far as the SME Instrument Phase 2 evaluation criteria are concerned, the breakdown is as follows:

  • Impact (50%): covering demand, users, market, scale up, commercial
    strategy, international dimension
  • Excellence (25%): involving high risk and potential,  steps to market, beyond state-of-the-art, feasibility
  • Implementation (25%): covering the team, resources, implementation plan and time frame

The interview step will concentrate on the commercial strategy, feasibility and quality of the team.


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The European Association of Research and Technology Organisations with 350 members in over 20 countries has recommended that the European Commission run a number of trials of the lump sum payment system before changing the payment rules under Framework Programme 9.

A recent high-level report by former EU Trade Commissioner and head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, argued that applicants to the next EU research programme, due to start in 2021, should be given a choice between cost-based or lump sum funding for their projects. Cost-based reimbursement is the method of payment used by Horizon 2020, but a switch to a lump sum system would eliminate the need for cost reporting, timesheets and routine financial audits, the report argues.

The recent EARTO paper warns that while lump sum payments may appear attractive, the approach would need to properly trialled. “Changes in the structure of the proposal will be needed with a new proposal template as well as a new evaluation procedure. Indeed, the nature of the work packages might need adaptation: more work packages with fewer tasks, fewer partners, over shorter periods of time,” the paper says. The lump-sum approach may in fact be more suitable for single beneficiary programmes, such as the SME Instrument, than for collaborative projects, the paper notes.

In the last period of Horizon 2020, from 2018-2020, a number of pilot lump sum payment schemes will be run. EARTO is in favour of this arrangement, saying that “The two-call pilot will be key to determine whether lump sum funding is the right instrument for further simplification of the FPs.” If pilot results are positive, “the next step should be to extend the experiment to about 10 pilot calls during the first [work programme] of FP9,” the paper says. Pilots should be transparent, open and representative, including for instance large collaborative projects with all types of stakeholders involved. EARTO expressed interest in their members taking part in the pilots.

Last but not least, the association expressed support for an end to financial audits by the Commission or the European Court of Auditors if the executive is serious about simplifying its next research programme.


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The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has issued a statement which guarantees funding for UK participants in Horizon 2020 projects also in cases where the project application is submitted before the UK exits the EU and is subsequently approved after exit. The statement runs:

The Government’s underwrite commitment guarantees awards where the application is submitted before exit and is subsequently approved after exit. This includes proposals which are informed of their success but, at the point of exit, have not signed a grant agreement, and proposals which have been submitted before exit and that are only informed of their success following exit. We will work with the Commission to ensure payment when funds are awarded.

The statement was issued in response to a note published by the European Commission on the Horizon 2020 Participant Portal on 6 October 2017 stating:

For British applicants: Please note that until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, when it comes to rights and obligations; this includes the eligibility of UK legal entities to fully participate and receive funding in Horizon 2020 actions. Please be aware however that the eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant. If the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, you will cease to be eligible to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible, to participate) or be required to leave the project on the basis of Article 50 of the grant agreement.

On a number of occasions EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas has stated that “for as long as the UK is a member of the European Union, EU law continues to apply and the UK retains all rights and obligations of a Member State. This of course includes the full eligibility for funding under Horizon 2020.” He also reasserted that “Horizon 2020 projects will continue to be evaluated based on merit and not on nationality. So I urge the European scientific community to continue to choose their project partners on the basis of excellence.”

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The 9th European Innovation Summit will take place during the week 27.11 – 1.12 2017 in and around the European Parliament in Brussels in the context of the first ever European Innovation Week.

2017 is an important year for the future of innovation in Europe as preparations for the next Multiannual Financial Framework start and attention focuses on the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. At the same time, it is an opportunity to reflect on how we can innovate more intelligently by making better use of available knowledge and resources. Each day offers a varied programme of debates and presentations on a diverse range of topical themes, such as Regenerative Medicines and the Future of the Cohesion Fund,  each session being hosted by an MEP.

The EU Top 50 Millennial Start-up Competition is at the centre of the European Innovation Week programme. Over a three month period from August to October 2017 the next generation researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs were invited to submit their ideas and inventions in areas such as health & life science, food and agriculture, bio-, nano-, neurotech, digital technologies and deep tech materials and new production technologies, as well as energy transition, environment and climate change, transport, space, security, creative sectors and education etc.

The programme of the European Innovation Week starts on 27 November with pitches by the top 50 innovators selected  as a result of the competition. Five will be selected to speak on Tuesday morning, 28 November alongside Members of the European Commission and the European Parliament, C-level corporate representatives and investors.

The summit ends on 30 November with a closing ceremony and networking reception on the occasion of St. Andrews Day.

More info at


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NearUS is an initiative funded under Horizon2020 for the purpose of increasing European and US research and innovation collaborations while strengthening the position of Europe as the world´s leading partner in science, technology and innovation. Its overarching aim is to create a sustainable network of centers with US and EU-based nodes, to enable cross-continent R&I partnerships.

During its pilot phase, NearUS is offering a variety of services for researchers and entrepreneurs, including research connection symposia, business matchmaking opportunities, working visits and innovation tours to US organisations to explore technology/product partnerships and/or business development opportunities, pitching to potential investors, R2M and B2B boot camps, work space access, hands on business acceleration programmes, media promotion service and more. The following calls have just been launched:

  1. NearUS Match & Pitch at CES 2018 (January 7-11, 2018)
  2. NearUS Innovation Tour to San Francisco, Sacramento and Silicon Valley (January 15-19, 2018)
  3. NearUS Research2Market (R2M) Bootcamp in Boston, with an individualised programme across the USA (March 4-16, 2018) and a pre-departure workshop in Brussels in February 2018
  4. NearUS Business2Business (B2B) Bootcamp in Boston, with an individualised programme across the USA (March 4-16, 2018) and a pre-departure workshop in Brussels in February 2018

Deadline for applications is:
November 12th, 2017 23.59 CET for the NearUS Match & Pitch at CES 2018 and the NearUS Innovation Tour to the West Coast

December 5th, 2017 23.59 CET for the NearUS Bootcamps in Boston

More information on the individual programmes and conditions for application can be found at


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

Being bold has risks

In our blog about a year ago we referred to the “outrigger model”. This is where a company with a recognised brand may wish to explore new spaces, but do so without risking its brand name by potentially backing a “dud”.

Exploring new horizons, especially in today’s fast moving world is essential. Indeed research has well shown that the rate of innovation or perhaps product “churn” is a strong indicator of revenue and profit growth. One needs only look at Apple to see this with virtually none of their products more than two years old.

I was reminded of this this week in a conference where KODAK’s folly in dismissing digital photography as a “nothing” was being discussed. It’s easy with hindsight, but perhaps a smarter move would have been for KODAK to create a separate entity, divorced from its brand and allow some budding entrepreneurs to explore the opportunity. Then if it works and represents new business, that’s the time to bring it home and give it the power of the “mothership” brand.

There are other benefits as well

The case of IBM using this model to explore the idea of a desk top computer worked perfectly. If it had been a fad, the IBM brand would have been untarnished. Nothing lost there. However, what IBM claims was another great advantage was that being divorced from IBM, not even telephone connections, the new fledgling business was free of the inertia of big brother! An inertia that would have questioned every step of the way and slowed the development from the 12 months it actually took, to an estimated ten years.

It’s essential

Nothing stands still these days. For example, companies that build platforms on 2G, 3G or even 4G technologies will soon be rendered obsolete by the march of technology and ever changing codes and protocols. Change is ongoing and accelerating.

In the world of tangibles things are also changing. Power generation, ever growing and tightening OH&S requirements demanding improved safety apparatus, vehicle designs, digital disruption and technologies in universities we have yet to see but will soon likely emerge are all game changers.

The outrigger model works well, but so too do innovation, design and research centres we are not even aware of that are often buried deep within the walls of major companies. The 3M labs are just one of the few well known such centres.

What’s the lesson?

As business managers perhaps there are several things we need to be alert to:

  • Don’t be afraid to ditch dying products and ways. Selling obsolescent products is a distraction that damages your brand.
  • Forever explore news ways of doing whatever it is you do. Understand your business must evolve or expire, there are no options.
  • Fund an entrepreneur in an outrigger to explore a new business initiative. Keen young entrepreneurs will work 24/7 on a shoestring budget.

In short, keep moving or somebody will pass you, that’s a given.

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A new Marie Curie Innovative Training Networks call with a budget of €375 million was published on 12 October with a closing date of 17 January 2018. The Innovative Training Networks (ITN) aim to train a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative early-stage researchers, able to face current and future challenges and to convert knowledge and ideas into products and services for economic and social benefit. They are intended to provide enhanced career perspectives in both the academic and non-academic sectors through international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral mobility combined with an innovation-oriented mind-set.

ITN supports competitively selected joint research training and/or doctoral programmes, implemented by partnerships of universities, research institutions, research infrastructures, businesses, SMEs, and other socio-economic actors from different countries across Europe and beyond.

The programme should exploit complementary competences of the participating organisations, and enable sharing of knowledge, networking activities, the organisation of workshops and conferences. In order to increase the employability of the researchers, the research training should be complemented by the meaningful exposure of each researcher to the non-academic sector. Secondments of the researcher to other beneficiaries and partner organisations are encouraged, but should be relevant, feasible, beneficial for the researchers and in line with the project objectives.

Substantial training modules, including digital ones, addressing key transferable skills common to all fields and fostering the culture of Open Science, innovation and entrepreneurship will be supported. A Career Development Plan should be established jointly by the supervisor(s) and each early-stage researcher recruited by the selected network. In addition to research objectives, this plan comprises the researcher’s training and career needs, including training on transferable skills, teaching, planning for publications and participation in conferences.

More information and submission forms at



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