Meet Enrique Claverol Tinturé, the EIC Programme Manager appointed for the area dedicated to medical devices and technologies
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.
Enrique Claverol- Tinturé, the EIC Programme Manager appointed for the area dedicated to medical technologies and devices shared with us his visions on science-enabled innovation and the opportunities for European society.
Can you please introduce yourself and your expertise?
ECT: I am a medical engineer by training who over years shifted from academia to industry. My heart is in medical technology and my mission is to create companies that bring revolutionary products to patients. Back in the 90s as my engineering degree was coming to an end, and after a stint at Hewlett-Packard’s medical department, a PhD combining biology and engineering caught my attention. My PhD at the Univ. of Southampton bridging two very different departments ended with me fully committed to the field and my wife and I moving to the US for a couple of postdocs, at the California Institute of Technology and Los Alamos National Lab. I ended up winning a fellowship to return to Barcelona and eventually got a tenured position as head of the Neuronengineering lab at the Catalonia Institute for Bioengineering.
Overall I spent close to 15 years developing devices, teaching PhD students, writing grants, etc. But something interesting happened, we set up a spin-off Aleria Biodevices, with some VC support, and it seemed I liked the thrill of the business world. So I decided to leave academia.
Quite unexpectedly, while launching new ventures, I was offered the CEO position at the Catalonia Science Foundation. This was a great opportunity to fund early-stage spin-offs and promote science in general and do big things with both private and public support in a very unique organisation. We launched many programs and saw many spin-offs off the ground. My calling has always been to create new products and launch them into the market and this is what I intended to do after the foundation. I then started new ventures, my latest Afferent Technologies devoted to intraoperative nerve monitoring. In the mid of this new adventure the Programme Manager role was created and I jumped on board. What could be better than heading the medical technologies’ portfolio with a European scope?
What are the main novelties introduced in the Pathifinder with the Programme Manager?
Can you explain to us the concept of the EIC portfolio?
ECT: These two questions are related.
The EIC Pathfinder challenges are a big novelty. The Programme Managers identify opportunities, gaps, needs, etc. where Europe can make a big splash, and launch specific calls focusing on these opportunities. This approach to identifying topics is quite new. The rational is that PMs bring in technology and market knowledge, and come with clear ideas of which are the opportunities for Europe and for patients.
But the operational aspects of the project selection and management also include some interesting novelties.
The evaluation is still mostly carried out by external experts. The first phase will continue to be a scoring exercise by external experts. But then the top-ranking projects (as many as twice the available budget) are retained and evaluated in a second phase. This involves interviews with a jury populated by external experts and the Programme Manager in charge of the challenge. In this phase, the top projects are analysed not just in isolation but in relation to the rest of the projects, because the projects coming out of this challenge call will form a challenge-driven portfolio.
The PM has set a number of objectives for the portfolio as a whole, and the resulting criteria to guide the jury during the interviews and decision making. The challenge guide to be published as the call opens will include a description of these criteria and the rational behind them so that the proposers have this information in advance.
A PM might look for complementarity (avoiding overlaps), risk balance (including different levels of risk in the portfolio), broad coverage of the challenge goals, narrow focus on particularly hard objectives, etc. Each PM rationalizes why a given set of criteria have been selected.
The projects finally selected in the second round are ready for funding and in these projects we have for the first time evaluated the proposals individually, in isolation first, and then as a whole (as a challenge-driven portfolio) to maximise our chance of reaching the goals of the challenge.
This combination of individual and portfolio-level evaluation can deliver more efficient use of resources and, hopefully, big successes in the near future.
As you see, the challenge-driven portolios will be short lists of projects (probably under 10) resulting from challenge-driven calls. The PMs will follow the execution of these projects closely, and will trigger additional financial help (50K) or fast-tracking to Accelerator if appropriate.
There is a second type of portfolio, the thematic portfolio. This is a single large list of projects which can be considered to fall within the expertise of the PM. These are projects which were funded by previous calls, Open calls in EIC or other Programmes in the commission. Obviously the PM will interact with these large sets of projects differently, compared to small challenge-driven portfolios. The PM will be able to spot common hurdles across the portfolio (e.g. regulatory, financial, etc.) and propose actions at the EIC that can have wide ranging impact across the thematic portfolio. It is also possible that the PM identifies particularly unique projects and proposes specific actions towards these projects. But in general, at the thematic portfolio level, the PM will seek broad impact actions helping the entire portfolio with efficient actions.
In summary, challenge-portfolios and thematic-portfolios are a unique feature of the EIC and we are hoping will make a huge difference in terms of the number and impact of the technologies reaching the market place.
Do you foresee the identification of a roadmap associated to the portfolio, and if yes, which should be the most important milestones? Who should be engaged?
ECT: I see the need for multiple roadmaps at different levels. A tough technical challenge will require a roadmap towards solving this narrow but tough problem. But a thematic portfolio, which will by definition relate to a broad field, will also benefit from a roadmap. We are working on these ideas and how to turn them info operationally useful maps guiding the future of the EIC and our industries. In this process, we will involve a variety of stakeholders, ranging from the end-user to industrial players and the scientific community at large.
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.