The independent High-Level Group of Innovators published its recommendations this month on the European Innovation Council (EIC), indicating it should support breakthrough innovation for the benefit of all, meeting the needs of high potential innovators from across the EU from start-up to scale-up.

In their first set of recommendations, entitled “Europe is open for innovation”, the Group (including successful innovators, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from across the EU), also recommend bringing all relevant EU funding schemes into a single, fit-for-purpose ‘one-stop-shop’ for innovation financing, with major reforms to introduce excellence, flexibility and agility (for example to combine grant financing with venture capital investments).

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation said: “This first set of key recommendations is a substantial contribution to the current debate on a future European Innovation Council. They come at a critical time in the preparations for the next EU programme and provide very clear views on what is needed for Europe to lead on breakthrough innovation.”

Among the top recommendations, the experts focus on

  1. Bringing all relevant EU innovation financing into a single, fit for purpose, EIC by cutting down the multitude of existing EU schemes into a significantly simplified set of impact-driven EIC Awards addressing different needs of innovation-driven entrepreneurs from:
    ✓ proof of concept (feasibility of breakthrough ideas);
    ✓ acceleration (demonstration of commercial viability);
    ✓ scale-up (co-investing for market introduction and expansion).
    The Awards should include different forms of funding – grants, finance (debt and equity), including in combination (blending) – and taking into account different types of innovators at different stages (e.g. start-ups vs established SMEs/Midcaps; digital vs deep-tech; etc.). It is also recommended to design all EIC websites, application forms, etc. focusing on the needs of the innovators and minimise administrative and financial reporting.
  2. Empowering the innovator by bringing in leading innovative entrepreneurs, universities, research organisations, venture capitalists and other investors (Business Angels, banks, etc.) and corporates in an EIC strategic advisory board. This could be done by introducing a prestigious EIC fellowship to recognise Europe’s leading innovators and pairing up EIC-awarded innovators with experienced peers and help them build a “camp” of supportive investors and “mentors/peers”.
  3. Focusing on excellence even if high risk and crowding in private investors by designing evaluation and selection of EIC Awards in ways that promote excellence, enable risk taking and align interests with private investors; the group also recommends basing award decisions on face to face interviews involving funders and allowing flexibility to stop or change EIC Awards. The EIC should focus grants and other high risk-finance on innovators commercialising breakthrough products based on science, research and development, where there are most significant market gaps for private financing and largest positive externalities. To do so it should continue to improve overall access to innovation finance (incentivising private funds into venture capital (including support to deep-tech VC Funds-of-Funds), risk-sharing guarantees with banks and financial intermediaries, etc.).

Full text at

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After a marathon 17-hour negotiation session which finished in the small hours of Saturday 18 November, EU negotiators agreed  to allocate an extra €110 million to the Horizon 2020 research programme in 2018. The additional money will be distributed among several sub-programmes of H2020, including the Marie Curie fellowship grants, the SME Instrument, European Research Council, and some climate change competitions.

In May, the Commission proposed a budget of €160.6 billion for 2018, while the Council counter-attacked in July, asking for a €1.7 billion reduction. In the final settlement it was agreed that the EU would spend €160.1 billion overall next year, up from €157.9 billion in 2017.

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The new innovation platform has launched some 30 social challenges published by cities, regions and companies from across Europe which are in search of solutions to pressing social problems. The areas covered include migration/refugees, nutrition/food, energy,  ageing, employment/skills, smart cities/mobility, education, gender/social inclusion, youth, health/disability and other.

The initiative, which is funded by Horizon 2020, is now calling all social innovators, startups and SMEs to identify the social challenge they wish to address and make a pitch as to how they would go about solving it. The challenge owners will then be able to select up to three promising proposals which will receive a €30.000 grant and six months of mentoring to help turn their product or service into reality. The challenge owner commits to be the solution’s first client.

Innovators have until 21 December 2017 to apply for the challenge(s) of their choice at


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Paris was selected as iCapital of the year from a total of 32 entrants based in 17 European countries at an award ceremony held in Lisbon on 7 November during the Web Summit. The prize money of €1 million, which comes from Horizon 2020, will be used to scale up and further expand the city’s innovation efforts. Tallinn and Tel Aviv were runners-up and received €100 000 each.

Over the last decade, Paris has built more than 100 000 square meters of incubators, and hosts now the world’s largest start-up campus. In addition, the city spends 5% of its budget on projects proposed and implemented by citizens. Thanks to this strategy, citizens and innovators from the private, non-profit and academic sectors have made Paris become a true FabCity.

The Reinventing Paris project is a good example of how the city facilitates innovation by inviting national and international talents to rebuild many of its significant sites. In the current phase of the project the city is inviting interdisciplinary teams to submit innovative urban development projects for transforming a number of underground sites in Paris.

Tallinn was rewarded for its initiative to act as a testing ground for potential breakthrough technologies. The municipality fostered the use of self-driving cars, parcel delivery robots and ride-sharing. Tallinn has also implemented an innovative e-Residency system, which enables local citizens and businesses to work closely together with foreign entrepreneurs.

Tel Aviv has set up a Smart City Urban Lab that links up innovative start-ups with leading technology companies in order to facilitate breakthrough innovations for solving urban challenges. Education being among Tel Aviv’s priorities, part of the prize will be dedicated to strengthening the Smart Education Initiative, developed by the municipality in collaboration with teachers, parents, students and local tech start-ups.


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As the race hots up towards the next EU research funding programme, the European University Association has issued a set of recommendations to the European Commission’s on how  Framework Programme 9 should look. In a nutshell, it wants Brussels to boost research funding, broaden and clarify the concept of impact, better link its research and education programmes, and stop using loans to fund university-based research.

After consulting with its member universities in 47 countries, the EUA published From Vision to Action: What EUA Proposes for the Next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP9), which outlines its recommendations for the programme. Among them is a call to increase the programme’s budget so that it can fund all the top-rated proposals that it receives, and a call to use grants instead of “financial instruments and loan-based schemes”.

“Allocate more funding for collaborative research projects and frontier research, as this would propel stronger links between innovation, research and education,” says the report. On impact it adds: “Broaden and clarify the concept of ‘impact’; other ways of capturing impact beyond purely numerical measures must be included in the assessment.”

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Carlos Moedas, EC Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, launched a new Horizon Prize in Social Innovation to improve the mobility of older people during the “Opening up to an era of social innovation” conference in Lisbon on 27 November. The prize has a budget of €2 million and is funded under Horizon 2020. One prize of €1 million and four runner-up prizes of €250,000 each will be awarded to the most innovative mobility solutions that enable older citizens to continue to participate fully in social activities, maintain their autonomy and age healthily.

Horizon Prizes are challenge prizes which offer a cash reward to whoever can most effectively meet a defined challenge. They act as an incentive for innovation by prescribing the goal, but not how the goal should be achieved. The Commission is introducing a set of challenge prizes under Horizon 2020 and the theme of this prize was identified on the basis of a public consultation. The Commission received 9685 votes, with 32% supporting the topic of ageing population.

Commissioner Moedas said: “In 2060, almost a third of the population of the European Union will be over 65. This share is nearly twice as big as it is today. We have no choice but to innovate now in order to address the increasing needs of older citizens, especially the need for improved mobility. Designing and operating mobility solutions will provide new opportunities for innovators and social entrepreneurs.”

The Commission is looking for replicable and scalable solutions that promote bottom-up creativity by bringing together innovators and organisations from civil society and the private and public sectors. The winning projects will be expected to combine technological, social and behavioural features, and they will have to be implemented for at least five months during the period of the contest. In other respects, applicants will have total freedom in the approach they take to deliver their solution.

Submissions will be accepted until 28 February 2019 from any legal entities established in the EU or in countries associated to Horizon 2020. The prize will be awarded in the second quarter of 2019.

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On 22 November, 28 innovators (one from each European Union member state) competed in the semi-finals of ‘Ideas from Europe’ in Tallinn and shared their solutions to global challenges which include tackling food waste, using innovative technology to diagnose health problems, cures for the common cold and antibiotic resistance, smart uses of renewable energy, diminishing CO2 emissions, programmes for children with autism, anti-bullying initiatives and refugee support systems.

The 28 innovators delivered a three-minute pitch in front of a jury, which together with the audience, selected the top nine ideas to be showcased during the finals in The Hague in April 2018. The nine successful candidates came from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Sweden.  They are as follows:

  1. Julien Penders of Bloomlife (Belgium): “If you are a mother the solution of Bloomlife will give you a piece of mind.”
  2. Klaus B. Pederson of Too Good to Go (Denmark): “A practical solution to the second hand market of food.”
  3. Steffen Preuss of Ichò (Germany): “This solution is acknowledging the tremendous problem of dementia and a practical device that brings relief.”
  4. Fiona Edwards Murphy of ApisProtect (Ireland): “We need bees to make sure our food supply will last. This solution will help the bee population.”
  5. Aida Nazarikhorram of LuxAI (Luxemburg): “There is a big potential in technology that lets children interact more easily with robots.”
  6. Mark Offerhaus of Micreos (the Netherlands): “This solution is potentially so ground breaking as an alternative for antibiotics.”
  7. Artur Racicki of SEEDia (Poland): “The combination of something practical and modern that will help both us and the environment.”
  8. Francisco Duarte of PavNext (Portugal): “The combination of safety and energy producing has a great potential.”
  9. Mervi Pänkäläinen of Mightifier (Finland): “This really brings a change to behaviour and help children against bullying.”

The tenth finalist will be selected by the public from the 19 remaining candidates. You can vote online at

All 28 pitches can be found at


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