Visions from the EIC Programme Manager: Marco Pantaleo

Meet Antonio Marco Pantaleo, the EIC Programme Manager appointed for the area dedicated to clean energy technologies, energy systems integration and biosystems engineering


EIC Programme Managers are responsible for a number of things: developing visions for technological and innovation breakthroughs, and managing actively the portfolios of EIC-supported projects by bringing together stakeholders and different communities and turning their scientific results into the market and have them applied at a societal context. FETFX asked the EIC Programme Managers their ambitions and visions for the upcoming years under the fully-fledged European Innovation Council in 2021-2027. The aim of this series is to guide the EIC Pathfinder R&I community to the new main concept introduced by the  EIC: the EIC Portfolio and its proactive management principle.


Antonio Marco Pantaleo, the EIC Programme Manager appointed for the area dedicated to clean energy technologies, energy systems integration and biosystems engineering shared with us his visions on science-enabled innovation and the opportunities for European society.


Can you please introduce yourself and your expertise?

AP: I’m 46 years old, with 20 years expertise in research and innovation applied to clean energy technologies, biosystems engineering and energy systems integration. My background is in electric engineering at Politecnico of Bari, and I hold a PhD in process systems engineering at Imperial College London. I am an associate professor of clean energy technologies at the Department of Agro-environmental Sciences of the University of Bari and affiliated as a research fellow to the Clean Energy Processes Lab (CEP) and Centre for Process Systems Engineering (CPSE) of the Department of Chemical Engineering since 2006. Before joining the University, I co-founded an energy service companya and joined Edison Energie Speciali as a wind and biomass energy engineer, and worked in the strategic planning division of GSE (Italian TSO). I worked as a scientific expert and consultant for a number of public and private organisations, including the Italian Ministry of Research, and was Vice-Rector for energy policy of University of Bari. I authored over 100 scientific papers and delivered speeches to several scientific conferences and workshops, and I’m member of IEA working group on energy storage, of ASME technical committee on clean fuels, delegate for energy in the Italian Sustainable Universities network. Since October 2020, I am programme manager at EIC for energy systems and green technologies.


How can a Programme Manager (PM) stimulate synergies between exploiting innovative results and explore pathways to further R&D in an emerging technological trend?

AP: A key role of the EIC PMs is to nurture innovation by facilitating the transition of early-stage research to the market. This can be accomplished with a number of strategies. These include networking and putting on the same table the missing players of the innovation ecosystem and facilitating the dialogue among researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, investors. At the level of breakthrough research seeding, this can be done by involving all the players of a product’s supply chain, by exploring different applications for  a given technology, or by adopting a different methodology, which has been well-developed to one research domain and not tested in another one. For example, some solutions for solar cooling via optical technologies, well known for specific applications in lab-scale tests with laser for selected materials refrigeration, have been recently proposed to capture solar radiation and produce a cooling effect with specific nanoparticle-based coatings. Such applications, envisaged by the inventor for the automotive sector, could be also extended to greenhouses and agricultural sector, and a specific role of the PM is to understand if, and at what extent, a specific technology could be adopted for different applications or likewise if a given product could benefit from the know-how and deep tech knowledge available in another sector. This cross-sectorial contamination is a key strategy to explore disruptive research pathways, while ecosystem community networking is one of the main approaches to facilitate the interactions between research and innovation.


A key EIC concept is the one related to project portfolios. Can you explain us if and how it will be ensured a cross-fertilization among project portfolios, whenever relevant, or in general outside the boundaries of the project portfolio?

AP: The concept of portfolio assumes that projects are clustered in thematic areas where the pro-active role of the PM could be put into practice identifying synergies, complementarities and potential interactions among projects that attach a similar challenge from different angles, or that focus on different aspects of the same broader challenge. With this strategy, a number of projects, at different technology readiness level, could be grouped for the following purposes: facilitating interactions, brainstorming, sharing the same innovation ecosystem and organizing sectorial events and workshops to define emerging trends, innovation needs, scientific research challenges, and making the innovation happens. In the portfolio concept, the PM’s vision on a specific innovation domain can be put into practice by mobilizing a number of complementary projects towards a common challenge, so that the sum will be more than the single.


Would you foresee a collaboration with ERC – European Research Council?

ERC represents the first pillar of Horizon Europe, and it supports fundamental research and basic knowledge advancement. It is a prerequisite for any breakthrough deep-tech innovation, which is per se driven by the demand and the needs from the end-users but requires a strong scientific background to be pursued and developed. In this perspective, the collaborations with ERC are essential and are developed on a number of levels. The groups of experts in each thematic portfolio will be composed by representative of relevant DGs of the Commission but also experts from ERC panels. Also, the EIC thematic portfolios may benefit from interactions with ERC funded projects, thanks to the transversal role of the PMs that have a vision of all the projects funded in each specific area at EU level, and in particular those from ERC. Also, the recently introduced Transition program, tailored to support the transition from early-stage research to innovation, is eligible for both Pathfinder and ERC beneficiaries, so representing a perfect link between the ERC beneficiaries and further funding opportunities offered by EIC.


The views expressed in this interview are the sole responsibility of the interviewed EIC Programme Manager and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.


Cover photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash