The much-awaited Lamy report on the future of the EU research and innovation programmes was presented by the former director general of the World Trade Organisation, Pascal Lamy, at the beginning of July in Brussels. It contains a numer of radical proposals, including shifting budget from agriculture and the regions to research and innovation, consolidating/simplifying the number of funding schemes, ending routine audits on researchers and overhauling state aid rules.

The highlights include:

  • Although not  saying how much money should go to areas like health, energy, security, space or oceans, the report advocates doubling the budget of the next framework programme dedicated to research and innovation. “Doubling the overall budget of the post-2020 EU research and innovation programme is the best investment the EU can make,” the report says. (Horizon 2020 is worth some €77 billion over 7 years.) Anything below €120 billion after 2021 “would break momentum and call into question the EU’s commitment to deliver on its political priorities,” the report adds.
  • Increasing the budget will help address the growing failure rate problem. Horizon 2020 has only enough budget to fund one in four proposals evaluated as being of high quality. “The post-2020 programme must ensure a success rate in the range of 15 to 20 per cent, as was the case for Horizon 2020’s predecessor. Funding should be secured for at least 30 per cent of high quality proposals”.
  • To simplify the programmes, a “minimum objective” should be to eliminate one third of funding “schemes, instruments and acronyms”.
  • The life of the applicant should be made simpler. For example, “audits should only be carried out when there is a suspicion of fraud or serious financial wrongdoing.” Applicants should also have a choice between cost-based or lump sum funding for their project.
  • Support is given to the new European Innovation Council to invest in entrepreneurs and businesses with risky innovations that have rapid scale-up potential (and thereby help compete better with innovation power houses Korea and Japan).
  • A reform of EU state aid rules are necessary for more innovation.. “The current rules are perceived as insufficiently innovation-friendly,” the report says. According to Lamy, “Korea, Japan and China are more relaxed than us on spending public money on research”.
  • The next framework programme should have several long-term research goals, or “missions”, e.g. achieving a plastic litter-free Europe by 2030 or producing steel with zero carbon by 2030, thereby helping to capture and inspire public opinion.
  • The report advocates that the EU R&I programme should set the agenda for R&I investments within the European structural funds, albeit with a geographical rationale. (The budget reserved for such activities during the current funding cycle is worth €100 billion over 7 years.)
  • Reesearch money should be ring-fenced for poorer regions in the future – the ‘widening participation and spreading excellence’ budget line.
  • Rules governing international participation should be relaxed so that rich, foreign countries can join the programme more easily. Canada and Australia should be able to join the programme as associate members (currently limited to countries which are geographically close to the EU, such as Israel and Turkey). The UK would be considered in this category after Brexit.
  • While welcoming the recent decision to finance defence research at EU level, the authors recommend that its budget be additional to the civil programme and kept separate from civilian research.
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Subject to much anticipation among the European research and innovation community since it was first mooted by EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas, the draft work programme for the European Innovation Council provides an outline for the pilot preparatory phase. As expected from previous Commission announcements, it proposes to preserve with some modifications four existing funding schemes under Horizon 2020, namely the SME Instrument, Fast Track to Innovation, FET Open and innovation prizes.

The document, which is preliminary and “may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position”, also contains a ‘blended finance’ pilot which would support the scale-up of fast-growing SMEs and small midcaps by blending grants with loans and/or equity finance. It could start as soon as the first quarter of 2019. Another trial will explore “one or more” crowdfunding ideas, to see whether ordinary people could invest money in business or project ideas sent by researchers to Brussels.

New prize competitions are also suggested. These include: a challenge to create a battery that can achieve “the same or better performance than current gasoline or diesel powered vehicles”; a working benchscale prototype artificial photosynthesis device that is able to produce a synthetic liquid fuel; a scalable, reliable and cost-effective early warning system for epidemics; another prize for “blockchain for social good”; and a final prize for an affordable solution for launching nano- and micro-satellites into low-earth orbit. Although the number, timing and subject of the prizes still need to be confirmed, their size could be in the range of €1 million to €2 million  each.

Althought the EU legislative process does not allow the Commission to make major changes to Horizon 2020, it is foreseeable that the funding schemes SME Instrument, Fast Track to Innovation, FET Open and innovation prizes will eventually be given new names under a common EIC brand. Under FP9, for example, the SME Instrument could become the ‘EIC starter grant’.

The same 4 funding schemes will soon become accessible in their present form via a newly created EIC website – which could go live already this year. The website will also include a “portfolio” section that highlights companies which have received EU funding with details of how to invest in them. This forms part of the EC’s thinking that more should be done to attract funding for the scaling up of European start-ups with high growth potential.

The Commission also proposes to spend €150,000 to study the potential of crowdfunding and artificial intelligence for evaluating proposals. “Little is known about how much the crowd differs from investors, lenders or experts in judging which proposals to support, how rational the crowd is in making funding decisions, and what tools might best assist the crowd in this process,” the paper says.

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Günther Oettinger, the EU Budget Commissioner, has said that research should be the only programme spared spending cuts as the EU debates how to balance the books for the next 7-year funding period faced with the loss of the UK’s €11 billion yearly contribution.

By the middle of next year the European Commission intends to publish a proposal for the EU’s trillion euro budget for the next financing period that begins in 2021. The departure of the UK, the EU’s number two net contributor after Germany, in March 2019 will create a financing gap of around 16% of the EU’s overall budget, or between €10 and €11 billion annually, hence the need to make cuts in the different EU funding programmes – or find alternative sources of income.

EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas has begun an early campaign to protect, and even increase, the current Horizon 2020 research budget of €77 billion. He won some prominent allies recently when former World Trade Organisation head and former EU trade commissioner, Pascal Lamy, with 11 other research, industry and finance heads, called for the next EU budget cycle starting in 2021 to double spending on research and innovation. Mr Moedas can count on the support of his cabinet colleague Günther Oettinger who has repeatedly referred to research and innovation as critical ingredients for achieving economic growth in Europe



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A new business insight provided by Roger La Salle, innovation thought leader and pioneer of “Matrix Thinking”™ Mr La Salle will be delivering a one-day workshop on Opportunity Capture at the TII Summer School in Lyon (2-6 October 2017).


The CEO has little power

The CEO of a large company once said to me, believe it or not:

“I am in the position of least power to change this organisation. If people will not change I am unable to make them, the organisation is simply too large for me to do their jobs in a different way. I must rely on my people.”

How true this is, but do we realise it?

What’s Push-back?

Anybody in a medium to large sized organisation will have encountered what is best referred to as “Push-back”. This occurs when an individual or a group with some influence on business decisions or direction expresses doubt or even rejects outright the notion of a new approach or change to a particular issue being discussed.

We call this resistance to a change proposition “Push-Back” and it is unfortunately all too common in many organisations. With this in mind, how can we best implement innovation or value adding changes to our businesses?

Should we discourage “Push-back”?

Push-back has its place and can be used as a valuable catalyst for creating open, full and frank discussion in meetings. The last thing one wants in a meeting aimed at exploring new horizons is for all to agree with no dissenting views and thus no discussion.   Seldom are new initiatives enacted without some “pain” to somebody, consequently the expression of alternative views should be welcomed.

Surrounding yourself with “Yes-men” is the ploy of weak and insecure managers who are afraid to be challenged and moreover do all they can to discredit dissenters.

The negative pre-disposition

Unfortunately in many organisations there are people that simply object to everything and resist change at every turn, though such people are to some extent a dying breed. Having said that, some occupations in particular do have an attraction for “status quo steady as she goes” individuals. These people tend to be in the fields of engineering, quality, standards and production where change means risk and risk means exposure to failure. Such a mindset is quite understandable, but this is not to say such thinkers should still not be open to explore alternatives and embrace change.

These days things are changing somewhat with younger people very quick to accept new ways and new technologies, courtesy of IT and life in a world of constant change.

A real life scenario

Suppose a new opportunity for a product is presented to the production department and they simply reject it out of hand. “No we cannot do that, it won’t work” is the message delivered back to the boss.

The production people have stated their position and to get a different answer will now essentially require a back down and admission that they were wrong! Nobody likes to be wrong, so what now? What can the boss do to change that message? Little I would suggest and the more pressure the boss applies to get a different answer the more “push-back” is received. Further if the boss insists it can and will be done; you can be sure the production people will work very hard to show it can’t be done.

Like it or not, this is life and human nature.

What’s the solution?

Without doubt the most effective way to bring about change and acceptance of a better way is to have the negative thinkers involved in the development of the new initiative. Run a session or meeting and lead the naysayers to the “font of discovery” and have them inspire the new thinking.  People generally love their own ideas. An alternative approach is to ask somebody for their advice. People love to give advice, this makes them feel in control, feel well respected and perhaps admired.

Ask somebody for their advice and you will immediately have them on side.

What now?

The realisation that the boss really has little power to make change comes as a surprise to most, but is a fact. To inspire change and get “buy in” you need to embrace those that will drive the change in developing the change initiative. Get them involved in developing the new thinking. This is the secret to mitigating “Push-back”.

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Science|Business has launched a survey on behalf of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union regarding the importance of research and innovation in Europe. As Estonia takes up its leadership role over the second half of 2017, it will release a Call for Action to increase the impact and societal value of European Research Excellence.

The aim of the survey is to gather the views of key scientists, financiers, journalists, corporate executives, academics and policy makers.  The survey should take no longer than 5 minutes and will inform the Tallinn Call for Action to be released at the Presidency’s Research Conference in Tallinn on 12 October 2017. Results will be anonymous.

The survey can be found at

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ERICENA is the European Research and Innovation Centre of Excellence in China, which has been set up to connect and support European researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses in the Chinese market in order to help strengthen Europe’s position as a world leader in Science, Technology and Innovation. In conjunction with its offical launch in Beijing and the opening of an office in Chengdu this coming October, the project team is organizing a Matchmaking Tour to Beijing, Chendu and Qingdao from 24 to 31 October.

The event comprises

  • Matching making with hundreds of Chinese technology-based companies and research institutes
  • Visits to leading Chinese innovators
  • Meetings for business and research opportunities in 2nd tier cities (Chengdu and Qingdao)
  • Free access to the 12th EU-China Business and Technology Cooperation Fair in Chengdu and Qingdao (gathering 1 500 exhibitors from China and Europe)

The programme offers access to

  • Counterparts in China for the new Horizon 2020 work programme (2018-2020)
  • First hand information about the STI landscape in China and other innovation activites
  • Contacts with high-level representatives of EU DG Research and Innovation and the Chinese government
  • Connections with ERICENA to support your future growth in China

ERICENA targets:

  • Companies, business networks and clusters
  • Universities, university associations, research institutes and research networks
  • Science parks, incubators, accelerators and funding agenices.

Interested parties should register their interest by 11 August 2017 at in order to receive information updates. Participants are required to cover all air travel costs while some bursaries for local accommodation may be available.

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Science|Business is organising a conference with EU Commissioner for Research Carlos Moedas in Brussels on 6 September from 15.00 to 17.30. The starting point for the discussion is the recent report released by Pascal Lamy which proposes a doubling of EU research and innovation funding, thereby challenging other budget lines, such as agriculture and regions. The conference is intended to launch the debate at the very start of the autumn political season in Brussels.

Topics of discussion include:

  • How research and innovation can make Europe more competitive
  • How to rebalance the budget priorities in Brussels
  • The Lamy report urged the EU to inspire the public with moon-shot missions – in health, energy and other fields. What should they be?
  • How to build a real innovation marketplace across Europe

The programme and registration can be found at

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