Disruptive technologies can drive Europe’s economic future

Emerging trends from pioneering research meet policy in Brussels event


Promoting innovation through fostering disruptive technologies can power Europe’s economy for decades and give the continent a competitive edge in an increasingly challenging market, according to experts and policymakers who gathered in Brussels on March 7.


Some of the event’s keynote participants. From left to right: Dermot Diamond (SFI INSIGHT Centre), Daniela Corda (Italian National Research Council), Patrizia Toia (Member of the European Parliament), Annika Thies (Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres), Jerzy Langer (Polish Academy of Science), Thomas Skordas (Director DG CONNECT), Maria Chiara Carrozza (Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa), Paul Lukowicz (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence DFKI GmbH), Olivier Frey (InSphero AG).

At an event in the European Parliament European Leadership through Disruptive Technologies: Future and Emerging Technologies Towards 2030, hosted by Patrizia Toia, MEP and Vice-Chair Industry and Research Committee (ITRE), European Parliament, and by Isabella De Monte, MEP and ITRE Committee, participants learned more about the European Union’s focus on encouraging innovation through its flagship Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, and efforts to support the public and private sectors to move towards the new generation of disruptive technologies.


The event on the EU Future and EmergingTechnologies (FET) programme showcased Europe’s leadership in catalysing scientific and technological advances to anticipate needs and make a difference in some of the most important challenges facing society – from ageing to automation, urbanisation to healthcare.


Khalil Rouhana, Deputy Director-General DG CONNECT, European Commission, said

“The FET programme is a success story from the European Commission perspective, when we started we were not thinking it would get to that level, although we hoped. It’s unique because of its multidisciplinary approach, it’s about combination of various disciplines into technologies breakthrough and application.”


As Maria Chiara Carrozza from Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa said “If we want that our industry in Europe become leader in the future key technologies and future production of the industrial revolutions, we must invest in basic research but also in the transformation of research into technologies. That means taking high risks and have high benefits. It is not possible to have high benefits, high values without taking risks”.


The importance of the FET programme is well summarised by the following figures: around 25% of FET projects lead to patent applications within three years of completion; roughly 40% include partners from high-tech research small and medium enterprises; one in eight lead to a start-up company within three years of finishing.


The event, organised by the EFFECT project and held in cooperation with the European Parliament’s ITRE Committee and with the support of the European Commission, brought together parliamentarians, EU officials, industry experts, scientists, academics, members of the FET Advisory Group and the Horizon 2020 FET Flagship Interim Evaluation Committee.


Discussion focused on how to best maintain Europe’s position as the cradle of FET innovation, prospects for the next EU research and development programme post-2020 and ensuring the right long-term research policy support framework in the coming decade.


Patrizia Toia said “We will fight to ensure that FET will receive an adequate financial support in the Framework Programme 9 under the next Multiannual Financial Framework.”


The Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme has earmarked around €2.5 billion for FET in the current budget cycle, thus so far allowing 180 projects from 40 countries inside and outside the EU to benefit from collaborative platforms to work towards fine-tuning new applications from discoveries.


Participants at the meeting agreed that if Europe is to build on this competitive advantage in FET and lead the world in promoting disruptive technologies, a larger funding envelope will be essential.


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