Commission launches ‘Call for Ideas’ on new innovation investment institution
The European Commission’s Directorate-General responsible for research and innovation, (DG RTD) has launched a ‘Call for Ideas’ on the proposed creation of a new European Innovation Council (EIC). The structure of this proposed institution is sat the moment very unclear with comments ranging from creating a ‘one stop shop’ for innovation in the EU to something more akin to a ‘fund of funds’ for early-stage investment in hi-tech SMEs in chosen sectors as has been mentioned by the Commission in other policy areas. Through the Europe and International Panel the European Partnership intends to submit an opinion of its own to this call as well as jointly with the Brussels-based ERRIN network. If you would like to input into this document please get in touch with or at the European Partnership.
Council publishes conclusions on Single Market strategy and SMEs
The Council of the European Union has published its conclusions at the end of February on discussions held around the Single Market strategy and how it will benefit consumers and businesses, in particular SMEs. The Council also welcomed the Commission’s Single Market Strategy and its 11 key areas, highlighting that SMEs, start-ups, scale-ups and innovative businesses should be fully enabled to grow through cross-border economic activity. Looking to the future the Council emphasized that SMEs still report difficulties in accessing finance and said it would be looking to the Commission to prioritise facilitating access to finance and investment including improving bank financing as well as developing non-bank financing opportunities for all SMEs. Moreover it welcomed the potential establishment of a European venture capital ‘fund of funds’.
UK government hints at support for EU Digital Single Market
A speech by the Spokesperson in the House of Lords for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in the UK, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, has provided support for the principle of the EU’s digital single market. In the speech the Baroness Neville-Rolfe welcomes the newly appointed Director General of DG JUST, Tiina Astola, and talks about the government’s approach to the digital single market. The minister points out the government is seeking security for consumers and for them to have clear information relating to their buying and delivery of digital goods and services, particularly if things go wrong. Moreover the government states that it is looking to the Commission to maintain its proposals as ‘technology neutral’ and to avoid new EU legislation contradicting other existing regulations such as the Electronic Communications Framework.
Public-sector encouraged by Commission to take advantage of procurement reform
The European Commission has published a series of articles outlining how it sees local authorities, public-sector bodies and SMEs in particular as being able to take advantage of recent updates to EU public-sector procurement rules changes. With regards to SMEs the Commission points out that support for smaller businesses is hard-wired into rule changes as the required annual turnover for bidding enterprises would not normally be higher than twice the public-sector contract value. Moreover the procurement process itself should be made simpler with only a European Single Procurement document being required at the start of a bid, again helping SMEs. The Commission also highlights that the new rules should make it easier for contracting authorities to convene ‘innovation partnerships’ to combine research and procurement.
9 tips for improving your Eurostars application
EUREKA, the secretariat for the Eurostars programme of research-oriented SME funding, has published nine tips for prospective SMEs looking to submit an application to the programme. In essence their recommendations focus on getting in touch with National Contact Points in each Member State (Innovate UK in the UK) however they also mention looking carefully at the publicly available criteria for applications as well as looking at the official Eurostars guidelines.
EIB backs investment worth £500 million across Southern and Eastern England
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is to invest £500 million in maintaining and upgrading power network infrastructure across London, the East of England and the South East through a loan provided to UK Power Networks, the body which distributes 27% of the UK’s electricity. The loan, provided over 20 years, will add to an existing commitment from the EIB to invest £500 million in the networks.
Plan for a European Innovation Council takes shape
Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, has announced a ‘call for ideas’ on what a new European Innovation Council (EIC) should do and look to achieve for the EU. Speaking at a conference (where it was announced that the European Commission is already formulating plans for the 9th Research Framework Programme) the Commissioner said that possible guiding principles for the EIC would centre around ‘European Added Value’, facilitating the achievement of critical mass for market take-up of innovations and stimulating competition for ‘ideas’. In concrete terms this could involve more direct support for ‘bridging the gap’ between innovation and commercialisation although that could conflict with ‘stimulating competition’, something the Commission has not yet resolved. The call for ideas takes the form of an online questionnaire however position papers may also be submitted through the same webpage.
Latest funding results in for EUROSTARS-2 programme
The latest round of funding calls for the EUROSTARS-2 programme has now finished with 113 out of 333 applications being positively evaluated and all of those subsequently being funded by the programme. The overall success rate is 34% for the programme despite the rate for projects meeting this quality threshold being 100%. Disbursed through Horizon 2020, the EUROSTARS-2 programme is aimed at supporting R&D-performing SMEs investing at least 10% of their turnover in R&D activities or dedicated at least 10% of their Full-Time Equivalent staff to such activities. SMEs are the main beneficiaries of the programme with 233 out of 354 funded organisations having been SMEs, totaling around 76% of total project costs funded so far. Applications are made to the programme on a rolling basis with the next cut-off date falling on 15 September 2016 and the online application portal opening in June.
Latest tranche of grants for innovative SMEs under Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument
Forty-five SMEs have been awarded grants of between €0.5 and €2.5 million to bring their product from pilot-phase to the market (Phase 2 grants). The European Commission received over a thousand project proposals for the 2015 cut-off date in November. British SMEs were the most successful with seven successful beneficiaries, who will receive €10 million in total.
Since the launch of the programme in 2014, 356 SMEs have been selected for Phase 2 grants. These enable companies to invest in innovation activities such as demonstration, testing, scaling up and miniaturisation, in addition to developing a mature business plan for their product. Find out more.
EU-Asia Business Gateway launches
The EU-Asia Business Gateway, a new initiative funded by the European Commission, has just opened to offer companies the opportunity to join one of its business missions. The Gateway, focused in key specific sectors with strong growth potential for European Companies, this initiative plans to organise more than 40 business missions in the next 5 years. The EU Gateway will also provide selected companies support with a set of strategic, organisational and financial services from market studies, details of tailored missions and business opportunities to logistical assistance during business exhibitions as well as post-business mission advice. Find more information here.
Overwhelming interest in Horizon 2020 Blue Growth calls reported
INEA (Innovation and Networks Executive Agency) reports it has received 17 project proposals for the latest Blue Growth call under the Horizon 2020 programme totalling €48.56 million for two topics for which the budget available is only €9 million. The overwhelming interest in this call was directed towards the areas of transport and energy with calls on developing “High value-added specialised vessel concepts enabling more efficient servicing of emerging coastal and offshore activities” and “Multi-use of the oceans' marine space, offshore and near-shore: compatibility, regulations, environmental and legal issues”. The proposals will now be fully evaluated by mid-March however the Commission has said it is looking to expand its database of experts in a range of fields. If you would like to be considered as a proposal evaluator, please sign up in the Participant Portal here.
Blue economy projects to receive €7.5 million boost
Through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund 3 calls for proposals will be launched, targeting fostering of blue growth across Europe. The calls, named respectively Blue Careers, Blue Labs and Blue Technology, will aim to enhance career opportunities in the maritime economy as well as support cooperation between research and industry that will help bring products and services to market in areas of blue technology. The calls will be open to all sea basins surrounding the EU coasts and will target a wide range of stakeholders of the blue economy, including coastal areas of the East of England. The calls will be launched soon by EASME on behalf of DG MARE at the European Commission with an info day planned for April in Brussels. Further information will be published here on the EASME website. The total budget to be made available will be €7,672,000.
The European Partnership will be monitoring developments closely in this area and will update Partners as appropriate.
Europe’s SME innovators struggling to get products to market
A survey carried out by the European Commission’s in-house research group, the Joint Research Centre, has found that SMEs deliver 41% of the high-potential innovations generated from ICT-related, EU-funded research and innovation projects. The UK was found to be one of the most popular hosts of ‘key innovator’ organisations in Europe (12% of EU total) however the focus is now shifting to commercialisation as SMEs surveyed also reported that a bottleneck has developed for innovations fully getting to market. A key finding in this regards was that too much time and resources were being focused on the technology aspects of the EU-funded projects and this has come at the expense of SMEs developing solid market strategies with only 30% of innovations planned for commercialisation having or intending to produce a market study whilst a business plan was intended for only 27% of innovations. The Commission has said it intends to focus efforts on improving links between innovators and between innovators and market recipients.
European Investment Bank mobilises €50 billion in 2015 through EFSI
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has published an infographic outlining investments made using the European Fund Strategic Investment (EFSI) in 2015. In total the Bank’s EFSI operations covered 22 countries with 42 projects having been approved or signed by the EIB and 84 under the European Investment Fund (EIF) totalling €5.7 billion and €1.8 billion under each programme respectively. In turn the Bank believes that this will mobilise €50 billion and at least 81, 000 SMEs will benefit from financing across Europe.
Innovation Deals and start-up visa pondered by the Dutch Presidency
European ministers who recently met in Amsterdam under the new Dutch European Council presidency have discussed the possible introduction of European innovation deals and start-up visas for SMEs across Europe. The idea, would embed a so-called ‘innovation principle’ that has been discussed by ministers responsible for research throughout Europe as a way to ensure that future European legislation will be evaluated on the basis of its impact upon European innovation and competitiveness. Following on from the highly successful Dutch ‘green deals’ in past years, innovation deals would be a way to bring together government, businesses, academia and local populaces to agree on how, where and what barriers exist to invest in innovative activities for the benefit of all parties. In addition, ministers indicated they would be in favour of using ‘start-up visas’ to make it easier for start-ups to establish operations in different Members States without having to pass separate entry procedures for each jurisdiction they start in.
Commission highlights opportunity for eco-innovation with new procurement rules
DG GROW of the European Commission has published an article highlighting how the newly published EU public procurement rules can stimulate eco-innovation amongst public-sector procuring activities. According to the article, new award criteria contained within the rules place more emphasis on environmental considerations, for example allowing procuring authorities to require bidders to evaluate product or service costs on the basis of a life-cycle analytic approach accounting for internal costs and environmental externalities. A guide to public procurement entitled “Guidance for practitioners on the avoidance of the most common errors in public procurement of projects funded by the European Structural and Investment Funds” is also available for download here.
Final report summarising a number of case studies of usage of the Assisted Area Status for wards across England, including within the East of EnglandDownload document +
Briefing on the new EU public procurement directives and concession contractsDownload document +
Easy to read fact sheet on how SMEs can access the new SME Funding InstrumentDownload document +
Paper for members of the Europe & International Forum on the EU Industrial Renaissance CommunicationDownload document +
Update on the 2012 EU industrial policy, including a progress report on the UK's industrial competitivenessDownload document +