At the beginning of May the European Commission unveiled a €100 billion budget for its new research programme for the period 2021 to 2017. The figure includes €97.6 billion for Horizon Europe, the EU’s flagship research programme, and €2.4 billion for the Euratom nuclear research programme. For Horizon Europe, that means an increase of almost 30%  – when adjusted for inflation – on the EU’s current Horizon 2020 research programme of €77 billion.

The next Multiannual Financial Framework represents an overall budget request of more than €1 trillion which is the equivalent of 1.11% of the EU27’s gross national income. It comprises reductions to the two largest EU spending programmes, farm and regional aid, down 5% and 7% respectively, to make room for more spending on research and defence. Tougher conditions are also placed on member states in receipt of funds, including economic reform and adherence to EU “values” such as rule of law.

“Everyone said we want more for research – it’s happening,” the Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters at the unveiling of the blueprint. The new research programme is one of the few EU budget lines to increase in the Commission’s seven-year proposal; another is the Erasmus student exchange programme, which sees its budget double to €30 billion.  EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas said at a conference in Brussels that “the budget is probably not what we wanted, but it is good news for science and innovation.”

Mr Moedas has been supported in his call for more spending on research and innovation by EU budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger and some in the European Parliament have vowed that they will fight for more. In general, EU staff working on research issues say that they are very satisfied with the Horizon Europe increase, even if it is less than the €120 billion asked for by the European Parliament, and the €160 billion hoped for by lobbyists. “Research and innovation have made it to the top of the political agenda,” said Robert-Jan Smits, special adviser on open access and innovation at the European Commission, and former director-general for research. “Mission completed!”

Horizon Europe


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The European Commission has already announced that the name of its new research framework programme for the period 2021 to 2027 will be “Horizon Europe”; however the Commission will have to wait another two months to find out whether it will be allowed to use it as the name is already registered in another company’s name.

Mohawk Carpet Corporation, a subsidiary of an American carpet giant, filed for the use of the name for a carpet in the EU in 1996, and was awarded protected status in 1998. It has until 16 July to register “opposition” to the Commission’s use of the name, according to an official working at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

There is no indication that the American company, which makes carpets, rugs, tiles, laminate and wood flooring, and has facilities in 10 EU countries, will actually block the use of the trademark – but if it did, the Commission would be forced to search for a different name for its research programme. Nevertheless a legal source close to the case said said: “Because it’s the European Union that’s doing the asking, I think we could expect a friendly outcome.”

Carlos Moedas, the EU’s research commissioner, is keen to use the Horizon Europe name as it bridges “the past and the future of research and innovation in Europe”.

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Thanks to its “smart money” the SME Instrument programme bridges the critical investment gap in early-stage innovation and makes market-creating innovation easier in Europe. With 8 companies floating on the stock market, 18 acquisitions and a total of €1.3 billion of extra private investment leveraged, the SME Instrument has become an essential player on the European innovation scene. The 2018 edition of the SME Instrument report reveals the ins and outs of Europe’s most wanted innovation funding programme for small businesses and presents you with its best successes.

Since its start in 2014, the SME Instrument has invested €1.3 billion in a unique selection of 3 200 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to get their breakthrough innovations faster on the market. With a network of 750 international business coaches and a growing community of global business and finance partners from the corporate and VC world, the SME Instrument gives the right business support and coaching to get companies ready to scale up and go global.

In 2017 SME Instrument-funded companies accounted for 10% of all tech IPOs in Europe and the follow-up equity investments into companies funded by the SME Instrument doubled within one year only. Each €1 invested by the SME Instrument generated €1.6 of private investment and this is just a glimpse of the companies’ potential. Companies funded under Phase 2 of the programme have benefited from a 118% increase in turnover and a 158% increase in employment two years down the line.

Looking ahead, in 2018 the SME Instrument has become a central pillar of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot that focuses even more on market-creating innovation. The SME Instrument brings forward a new evaluation process involving a jury of investment experts responsible for selecting the most innovative small businesses for funding.

The report offers first-hand insights into growth trends and profiles of the companies funded under the SME Instrument (cumulative data from 2014 to the end of 2017). Click on the following link to read the full text


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The biennial one-million-euro Millennium Technology Prize was awarded on 22 May to Finnish physicist Dr. Tuomo Suntola. Suntola’s prize-winning ALD (atomic layer deposition) innovation is a nanoscale technology in use all over the world. ALD is used to manufacture ultra-thin material layers for microprocessors and digital memory devices and without it our smartphones and computers would not be so efficient.

Thanks to the constantly evolving ALD technology, IT equipment has become smaller and less expensive yet more powerful. Suntola’s innovation is one of the key factors in the continuation of the famous Moore’s Law that has kept its validity to this day: the efficiency of microchips has doubled at approximately two-year intervals while their price has decreased.

“The ALD method is a textbook example of a technology that is hidden from users but is nevertheless vital for visible development. ALD has also made the ownership of information technology more democratic, thereby contributing to the wider access to information and communication,” said Academy Professor Päivi Törmä, Chair of the Millennium Technology Prize Selection Committee.

From theory to innovation by Tuomo Suntola

Tuomo Suntola developed ALD technology and the equipment for the manufacture of thin films back in the 1970s and then acquired international patents for them, thus enabling the industrial production of thin films on a mass scale. Fundamental research that underlies ALD technology had also been conducted in the former Soviet Union by Professors Valentin B. Aleskovsky (1912–2006) and Stanislav I. Koltsov (1931–2003).

Suntola himself considers the breakthrough in electronics his greatest achievement. “When the semiconductor sector came to understand the significance of ALD technology in the early 2000s, its use exploded,” said Tuomo Suntola.“Being awarded the Millennium Technology Prize is a great honour for me, especially because the innovation has proved useful in so many applications that improve the quality of life for humanity.”

New applications in medicine

The winning innovation has a firm position in the IT sector and a great future in many other fields as well. Research has yielded promising results with manufacturing ALD thin films for medical instruments and coating of implants. Startups have been formed to commercialize the technology in applications such as controlled release in the human body.

The ALD method can be used to improve the efficiency of solar panels, LED lights and lithium batteries for electric cars and its use has also been researched for environmentally friendly packaging materials. ALD-films are used in optical applications, and also on watches and silver jewellery to prevent corrosion.

Today the global market of equipment and chemicals used for the manufacture of ALD films is estimated to be about two billion US dollars, and the market value of consumer electronics relying on ALD technology is at least five hundred billion dollars.

“World-class ALD expertise has been developed in Finland. I hope that the prize will inspire Finnish researchers and companies to invest in new technological applications,” said Professor Marja Makarow, Chair of the Board of Technology Academy Finland.


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

Too quick to protect

When we meet with inventors, entrepreneurs and innovators to discuss what they believe is the “next big thing” it seems what they most often think they need is money. More to the point, the money they want is for protection, with this most commonly being for patents.

A Provisional Patent with its international 12 month priority date protection, followed by a PCT application and then the National Phase (where patents are sought in every place imaginable) seems to be the order of the day. The fact is, only a tiny percentage of patents ever return a cent to their creator, but notwithstanding this, too many people see patents as the panacea. Unfortunately, apart from the risks and uncertainty in obtaining strong defensible protection, it’s the costs involved in patenting that most often brings inventors to their knees, even before they have a final working prototype.

The reality is quite different
In the first case, what is not widely understood is that a patent does not so much protect an idea, what it protects is the particular way a problem has been solved. This is why patents are best referred to as “Method and Apparatus”. Indeed the inventor’s ideal way of solving the problem is normally referred to in patents as “the preferred embodiment”. Of course in many cases there are other ways to solve the same problem.

Good protection is best obtained in narrow fields where there is little room to manoeuvre with few other possible embodiments. For example the helix thread would be a great invention to protect because of its fundamental simplicity. So too the Star or Phillips head screw, again with the simplicity being the key to a strong patent. But then of course some “bright spark” may see the Phillips head screw as a stimulus to create an Allen key drive head, or a triangular recessed drive head.

The other issue with a patent is that it discloses the problem and of course the solution. Indeed this is one reason, often after a great deal of research, expense and effort, sometimes patents are not sought. Simply the know-how is retained in-house as a “trade secret”. Remember the contents of a patent eventually become public knowledge. It is said that Coca-Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken retained their IP as well kept trade secrets with no public disclosure.

What does a patent really offer?
Good patents that you are prepared to defend can really work. The Kodak versus Polaroid case of many years ago proved that and there are many other examples. But understand the risks. In reality, and we have said this before, a patent is only as good as your willingness and ability to defend it.

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The European Investment Fund has published its first VC Survey, a survey among venture capital general partner (GP)/management companies headquartered in the EU-28 and some additional countries (mainly Norway, Switzerland and Turkey). The surveyed population includes both companies in which the EIF invested as well as companies in which the EIF has not (or not yet) invested. The EIF VC Survey consisted of questions covering three main topics:

  • VC market sentiment
  • Market weaknesses and public intervention, as well as
  • The value added, products and processes of the EIF

An EIF Working Paper summarizes the findings of the first two parts mentioned above. The study provides a detailed overview of the respondents’ state of business and market activity as well as their general perception of the European VC market. In doing so, they looked at the current situation, developments in the recent past and expectations for the future.

Market sentiment

State of business

  • The state of business is perceived positive, with the vast majority of the fund managers reporting an improvement over the last year and a positive outlook for 2018.

Availability of funding and fundraising environment

  • A large majority of the fund managers consider that there is a lack of funding to finance VC-supported companies’ prospects in general; but fewer believe that this is an issue affecting their own portfolio companies in particular.
  • Fewer than half of the fund managers consider the fundraising environment over the last year to have been good; with only one third of the respondents expecting an improvement in 2018.
  • Finding co-investors to syndicate is perceived relatively easy by the majority of respondents; with expectations remaining largely the same for 2018. However, two fifths of the fund managers did report difficulties in finding co-investors.

Investments and portfolio development

  • The number of qualified investment proposals received and of new investments undertaken are both expected, on balance, to increase in 2018.
  • Portfolio development during the last year has been at least in line with expectations; with further improvement expected for 2018.
  • Trade sales dominated the exit activity in 2017, while improved exit opportunities are expected for 2018.

Important challenges in the European VC business

  • The exit environment, fundraising, and IPO market are perceived as the three biggest challenges in the European VC business.
  • Recruiting high-quality professionals is perceived as the biggest challenge faced by VC-supported companies; securing financing is ranked second.
  • The extent of the regulatory requirements applied in the European VC business is largely expected to remain the same, bringing no significant change to the VCs’ state of business.

Overall prospects of the European VC market, promising countries and industries for future VC investments

  • The overall VC market in Europe and investment activities in the European VC market are both expected to improve in 2018.
  • Fund managers are rather confident about the long-term growth prospects of the VC industry in their market and in Europe altogether.
  • While Germany, UK and France are still perceived as the three most promising countries for VC investments in 2018, the UK might lose ground, in particular to Germany.
  • ICT and Life Sciences are perceived as the two most promising industries for VC investments in 2018.
  • Alongside traditional industries, the importance of relatively newer sectors such as Cybersecurity, Fintech and Deep Technology is also expected to rise in the future.
  • Variations across countries and industries do exist in certain aspects of the survey. In particular, the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit implications seems to have negatively affected the market sentiment of UK-based fund managers.

Role of the public sector

  • Public support in general is perceived crucial for the European VC market.
  • The VC managers are especially calling for an improved public role for increasing investment volumes and targeting different stages in venture capital financing.
  • The vast majority of the respondents (64%) indicated governmental support should be increased for early-stage businesses.
  • The fund managers are more satisfied with European programs than with national or regional programs.
  • Involvement of pension funds as investors appeared to be the most important element that is currently under-developed.
  • The respondents perceive the readiness of large private institutional investors to invest in European VC to be poor and they appreciate governmental programs that encourage other private LPs to invest.

The full report is available at



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The Open Innovation 2.0 Yearbook 2017-2018 builds on the experience of open innovation cases already introduced in previous editions. Open innovation 2.0 (OI2) is gaining momentum and is scaling up in many domains, as this publication will show. It provides new perspectives on open innovation ecosystems and how to build and run them from the process and skills perspective. Innovation measurement and modelling are also topics that are dealt with, as it is important to understand the impact of the OI2 approach compared to traditional innovation methods.

The publication can be downloaded at

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