Having been active in FET and being part of the present-day EIC Advisory Board, Professor Jerzy Langer explains how FET and the EIC can work together in unleashing Europe's untapped potential and let it be an upcoming leader in innovation
Professor Jerzy Langer, Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences – European Innovation Council (EIC) Advisory Board member. Langer has vast experience in pan-European organizations such as Academia Europaea, the ESF, Euroscience related to breakthrough science and innovation. Between 2015 and 2016 he acted as a FET-AG chair, coordinating analysis to underpin the EIC and the European Research Council (ERC).
Concerning the ‘Future of FET’ report drafted by the FET Advisory Board, why has FET been a seed for the European Innovation Council?
Europe is losing a competitive position in innovative technologies not only to the US but also to Asia. However, Europe has enormously large, still untapped but very dispersed, intellectual potential to attack most challenging issues of modern times. To do so, a concerted scientific and entrepreneurial activity in the field of developing and implementing breakthrough technologies is a must. None of the Member States can do so, but the European Commission has all the assets to play a pivotal role in unleashing this potential at European scale. In a nutshell, it is a mission of the EIC.
How has FET research fed into the actions of the EIC?
Over the years the FET has been a catalyst for phenomenal scientific and technological innovation, especially in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). It was simple, non-bureaucratic, adaptive, goal oriented and most important – delivering at relatively low cost. It was also building an entrepreneurial community through collaboration across Europe, which is most critical. This why we, the FET Advisory Board (AB) so vigorously advocated to build the research leg of the EIC upon the FET experience.
What are the new challenges for the EIC Pathfinder programme?
The FET success was achieved mostly in the ICT field, which benefited so much on a rapid growth of semiconductor technologies and the explosive growth of informatics. But these miraculous technologies can open new avenues in other fields, like medicine and pharma, green technologies, manufacturing and finally AI – artificial intelligence. Hence, opening up the FET to these novel technological challenges through a novel Pathfinder instrument is a natural evolution, almost guaranteeing a success at large scale.
What are the obstacles to success for the EIC?
The key to success is a concerted approach, namely attacking not just interesting scientific problems, what is a domain of the European Research Council (ERC), but those which seek rapid practical solutions. And then constant monitoring in a way not letting to lose such an objective from sight – a common occurrence in a purely scientific community. This means a permanent checking of a possible developmental stage and a possibly to use the power of the second leg of the EIC, namely the Accelerator program. The EIC, therefore, must be seen not just as a more technology-oriented twin to the ERC – it has to become a seed of new deep-tech companies aspiring to become the world leaders and the technological unicorns.
What is your overall future vision for European FET research programmes?
There is a tendency to place innovators as prime clients of the EIC in contrast to the researchers-oriented ERC. But I hope to persuade both the business-based colleagues of the EIC Advisory Board and the Commission, that such a vision is not only short sighted but simply wrong. Pro-innovative research taken care of by the EIC Pathfinder and innovations supported by the Accelerator are just two sides of the coin and their separation would just kill the prime idea of the EIC – an EC offer to the most talented and entrepreneurial young Europeans – a fundament of the European New Deal and European Dream.
This is one of the interviews which is now available in FETFX’s latest publication, Voices of the Future