Innovative Enterprise Week conference sees scientists and policymakers scan the monetary horizon of FET research and its evolution in the EIC Pathfinder programme
Finding ways to connect “the right people to the right people” and removing the financial barriers that prevent brilliant, but risky, ideas from coming to market are the most important challenges of future-focused EU research in the years to come.
This conclusion was issued during the event ‘Innovative Enterprise Week Bucharest 2019’, co-organized by the EC’s DG Connect and DG for Research and Innovation (RTD) and the Romanian Ministry of Research and Innovation, under the aegis of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. From 19-21 June the event gathered scientific experts, innovators, investors and policymakers from Europe and across the world to debate the future of innovation and its impact on the creation of new jobs.
“The technology that we are now hearing every day such as quantum, artificial intelligence, robotics or the Internet of Things has been pioneered within the Future Emerging Technologies (FET) programme , because it has always combined high-risk academic research with the strong participation from industry, including high tech small and medium enterprises (SMEs),” said Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, in a video message send to the participants at the conference. “The continuation of this mission, which is at the heart of the pilot program Pathfinder, will form an excellent completion to the European Innovation Council’s component Accelerator for driving market creation and business leadership.”
Two components of the newly created European Innovation Council, the pilot scheme Pathfinder and the Accelerator, together with other possible financial instruments such as InvestEU, ranked highly on the agenda of the discussions. These tools, but especially Pathfinder and Accelerator, are meant to fill the gap between researchers who have innovative ideas and investors who may consider them too risky to be taken further.
“Pathfinder will depend largely on the future and emerging technologies; it is about bridging the world of research and a world of innovation. Through Accelerator, we will finance those SMEs and start-ups that have an ambition about the future, that want to scale up and see their innovative ideas going to the market, but which are too risky to be supported by normal financing possibilities,” explained Thomas Skordas, Director of ‘Digital Excellence and Science Infrastructure’ at the EC’s DG Connect.
He also emphasised the challenges Europe is facing today: an innovation gap, due to the fact that many of the excellent ideas which have emerged from the EU programmes are not valued in Europe but abroad. He also highlighted the insufficient financial risk deficit that prevents business to scale-up, and the fragmented research ecosystem at local or national levels. Many panelists agreed that these ecosystems need to be addressed by creating a framework where scientists and innovative SMEs can meet. They also said that the new financial schemes should be flexible, agile and open to any sort of innovation.
Elaborating on the changes, Nicolas Sabatier, advisor to the Director at DG RTD, shaped a more accessible financial scheme for the applicants: “We will not have these heavy, bureaucratic administrative procedures anymore. There is a shift in attitude, in the way we operate, we have to assure that we go for the risk which have innovative potential.”
Other panels focused on: how to manage the equity investment and how to attract potential scale ups; trends that will drive the development and market deployment of breakthrough and market-creating innovations; responsible research and innovation and impact investments; and European, regional and national venture capital schemes.
Exhibits displayed during the event showcased ongoing or completed research projects in the fields of sport, agriculture, medicine and physics. FETFX, a project funded by the HORIZON 2020 FET-Open Programme, had an exhibition stand together with two other FET Coordination and Support Action (CSA) projects and informed participants about its projects and their innovative, breakthrough results.
Several FET-related initiatives – as the FET Coordination and Support Action (CSA) projects – were presented at the event by Marta Calderaro, FETFX Project Coordinator at Italian Agency for the Promotion of European Research, APRE, to support the upcoming Calls for Proposals available at the European Innovation Council Work Programme. Alongside Viorel Peca, Head of the Innovation Unit at the EC, DG Connect, Calderaro emphasised that key elements of FET, as part of the EIC Pathfinder Pilot, are people, ideas and markets capable of fostering talents, new technological paradigms and innovative communities for an innovative society.
The EIC Pathfinder Pilot comprises FET-Open and FET-Proactive and offers grants of up to €4M to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary research and innovation on science-inspired and radically new future technologies. It will bridge science, technology and innovation in the new European research and innovation program, Horizon Europe, which will run from 2021 to 2027.
Cover image: via unsplash
Wins and risks in research and innovation
Two Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) projects, Lumiblast and FutureAgriculture, shaped up well at the 2019 Innovation Radar Awards, landing a category winner prize.