EIC Accelerator Updates

EIC Applicants that have received a ‘GO’ after submission of their short (Step 1) proposal can now familiarise themselves with the annexes in view of preparing their full application for the 13 March 2024 cut-off. These annexes include for example the simplified financial plan and equity needs, a detailed budget table for lump sum calculations and the ownership control declaration. In addition, ‘Part A’ of the full application form is being updated to ensure automatic collection of key data for the EIC, such as gender of the CEO/CTO/CSO of applicant companies, requested type of funding, and consent to share application data with EIC National Contact Points and the Enterprise Europe Network. This will further facilitate support to future applicants.

The updated Part A of the application form as well as all annexes are expected to be available on the Funding & Tenders Portal of the European Commission by mid February for eligible applicants who receive an automatic notification in the Funding and Tenders Portal with the submission links. In the meantime, applicants are advised to familiarise themselves with the application forms and annexes in preparation of their application, but to wait with uploading the forms until the final versions are available on the Funding and Tenders Portal.

Annexes for applicants to the EIC Accelerator full proposal:

Tpl_Annex_Mandatory data and consent (HE EIC Accelerator full application)

Tpl_Application Form (Part B) (HE EIC Accelerator full application)

Tpl_Data Management Plan (HE)

Tpl_Detailed Budget Table (HE Lump Sum - EIC)

Tpl_Annex Ownership control declaration (HE EIC)

Tpl_Annex_Financial plan and equity needed (HE EIC Accelerator)


New EIC Board holds its first plenary meeting

The recent inaugural meeting of the new European Innovation Council (EIC) Board, held on January 10 and 11, 2024, in the prestigious imec facility in Leuven, Belgium, marks a significant milestone in the journey towards fostering innovation across Europe. This event symbolises the commitment of the European Union (EU) to spearhead innovation and sets the stage for strategic advancements in European research and innovation.

Appointed by the European Commission (EC) on December 13, 2023, the new EIC Board, under the leadership of its President, Michiel Scheffer, holds a pivotal role in guiding the direction of the EIC. The Board’s responsibilities extend beyond advisory roles; they encompass shaping the strategy, work programme, thematic portfolios, and, upon the Commission's request, advising on broader innovation policy matters. This structure ensures a comprehensive approach to innovation, integrating strategic insights with practical implementations.

The EIC Board is scheduled to convene five to six plenary meetings annually. These sessions are crucial for deliberating on the EIC's strategic and operational frameworks and advising the EC on various matters within their mandate. The recent meeting marked the first plenary session with the new Board membership. The primary agenda was to establish the priorities for the Board’s work in 2024, especially focusing on strategizing and implementing the EIC's objectives for the latter half of the 2024-27 programme. This session was attended by Iliana Ivanova, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, and Youth, who engaged with Board members in a fruitful exchange on the EIC’s priorities within the broader context of EU policies and the mid-term review of Horizon Europe. Horizon Europe, the EU's flagship funding programme for research and innovation, is integral to the EIC's mission, underscoring the importance of aligning the EIC's strategies with the overarching goals of the EU.

The composition of the EIC Board reflects a blend of continuity and fresh perspectives. Members serve in a personal capacity, with their terms set for two years, renewable twice. This structure facilitates the rotation of approximately one-third of the members every two years, ensuring a dynamic infusion of ideas and experiences. The current Board, comprising 10 members with renewed mandates from the 2021-23 period and 10 new members selected from a reserve list, represents a diverse and experienced group of individuals committed to steering Europe towards a brighter, innovation-driven future.

The mandate of these new and renewed members, extending until December 2025, symbolises a period of opportunity and challenge. As Europe navigates through complexities of the modern world, the EIC Board's role becomes increasingly vital. It embodies a strategic think-tank, poised to influence the direction of European innovation, making substantial contributions to the development and implementation of policies that nurture research, innovation, and education.

As the Board embarks on its journey to shape the future of innovation, its decisions and strategies will undoubtedly play a critical role in determining the trajectory of Europe's innovation landscape. With a balanced mix of continuity and new insights, the EIC Board is well-positioned to drive significant advancements in research and innovation, ultimately contributing to the prosperity and competitiveness of the EU on the global stage.


It’s official: UK to associate to Horizon Europe

After more than two and a half years of uncertainty and negotiations, the UK government and the European Commission (EC) have reached a landmark agreement to enable the UK's association with Horizon Europe. This momentous announcement brings a sigh of relief to UK and EU scientists who have been in limbo since 2021, uncertain about their future in collaborative research endeavours. This article explores the significance of this agreement, its implications for UK scientists and researchers, and the rocky road that led to this crucial decision.

A Milestone Agreement

The joint statement released today (7th September 2023) by the UK government and the European Commission marks a turning point in UK-EU relations, particularly in the realm of scientific cooperation. EC President Ursula von der Leyen aptly described this agreement as proof of the EU and UK's status as key strategic partners and allies. This collaboration reaffirms their commitment to being leaders in global science and research.

Under the terms of this deal, UK scientists will regain access to European Research Council (ERC) grants and will be able to coordinate academic-industrial consortia within the Framework program. This move ends the period during which UK researchers had to rely on UK equivalent grants and funding, and it paves the way for seamless integration into Horizon Europe.

Addressing Past Uncertainties

While UK academics have been able to participate in industrially-focused Pillar 2 projects of the Horizon program, the uncertainty surrounding the UK's long-term involvement caused UK participation in the program to decrease significantly. This reduction raised concerns that UK scientists might be excluded from vital European academic networks that had been cultivated over decades.

UK-based winners of ERC grants faced a difficult choice between relocating to the EU to maintain their awards or settling for UK equivalent schemes. This decision was fraught with uncertainty and implications for both individuals and the broader scientific community.

The Long and Winding Road to Association

The journey to re-associate with Horizon Europe has been characterised by twists and turns, and it has been far from straightforward. Initially, the Horizon association was agreed upon in principle at the end of 2020, as part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that outlined post-Brexit relations between the UK and the EU. All that was required to formalize this association was the signature of both parties.

However, 2021 saw relations sour over the Northern Ireland issue, as the UK government threatened to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. This protocol was designed to prevent customs checks on the island of Ireland and to ensure continued peace. The EC, in response to the unresolved Northern Ireland dispute, withheld its approval for the Horizon association.

The Horizon association became intertwined with broader political disputes, remaining elusive until February of the following year when the Windsor Framework addressed the Northern Ireland issue. Despite this progress, negotiations continued to stall, with the UK seeking assurances to prevent substantial financial losses from its late entry into the program.

Details of the Agreement

While today's announcement does not explicitly detail how negotiators resolved these financial concerns, it does mention a "temporary and automatic mechanism" designed to address any significant financial underperformance by the UK. If the UK contributes 16% more than its scientists receive in grants, this mechanism would activate. The UK is set to contribute "almost €2.6 billion" annually for its participation in Horizon Europe.

Additionally, the agreement confirms that the UK will remain part of the EU's Copernicus satellite system, despite initial concerns that the UK had already missed significant calls under the program. Copernicus plays a crucial role in understanding and addressing environmental and climate change-related challenges, making the UK's continued association valuable.

Euratom and ITER: The Missing Pieces

One notable absence in the UK's renewed association with European research initiatives is Euratom, the EU's nuclear research program. As a result, the UK will not participate in ITER, a multi-billion euro collaborative project located in France aimed at building a prototype fusion reactor. The decision not to re-join Euratom was guided by the UK's assessment that its industry's long absence from Euratom and ITER programs could not be reversed.

Instead, the UK will pursue a domestic fusion energy strategy with international collaboration, including partnerships with European counterparts. This alternative program is supported by substantial funding, up to £650 million until 2027, to ensure the UK's research interests and taxpayer funding align with its priorities.

Future Steps

The association deal reached between the UK and the EU will need to be ratified by member states through the Council of the EU, adding another layer of complexity to the process. However, this agreement signals a moment of reconciliation between the UK and the EU after the divisive Brexit debates that followed the 2016 Leave vote.

Conclusion

The UK's re-association with Horizon Europe is a significant milestone for the scientific community on both sides of the Channel. It marks a renewed commitment to collaboration, innovation, and scientific excellence. While challenges remain, including the ratification process, the agreement provides a glimmer of hope for UK scientists who can once again fully participate in Horizon Europe, ensuring the country remains at the forefront of global science and research. This development underscores the enduring power of science to bridge political divides and foster international cooperation for the greater good of humanity.


Horizon Europe Draft Work Programmes 2021-2027

Details have begun to emerge of what researchers can expect from the European Commission's next research and innovation framework programme, Horizon Europe. The final work programmes will not be published until April but the drafts give us a clearer idea of what the €95.5B programme will fund:

Pillar 1 - Excellent Science

The European Research Council - The ERC will continue to award Frontier Research and Proof of Concept grants, with the first funding calls planned for 20th May. Meanwhile, Synergy Grants are unlikely to be available until 2022.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) - In Horizon 2020, the MSCA helped develop training networks, promote staff exchanges and fund mobility programmes. We expect the MSCA to work similarly in Horizon Europe but a draft is not yet available.

Research Infrastructures - European Research Infrastructures (EU RIs) are organisations that facilitate excellent science by providing access to cutting-edge technology and resources. We are awaiting further information on EU RIs as a work programme is not yet available.

Pillar 2 - Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness

Health Cluster - There are 16 calls for research planned for 2021-22. They relate to the following 6 topics: staying healthy; the environment and health; tackling diseases; access to healthcare; digital tools for health; and support for Europe’s health-related industries.

Culture, creativity and inclusive society - The cluster will focus on three areas of research from 2021-22: democracy and governance; European cultural heritage; and social and economic transformations.

Civil security for society - There will be calls for research into better protection against crime and terrorism, as well as effective management of external borders; infrastructure protection; increased cybersecurity; resilience to disasters; and strengthened security R&I.

Digital, industry and space cluster - Through fifteen research calls, the cluster will support enabling technologies which are important for Europe’s industrial future. The calls will include the following: increased autonomy in key-value chains, a secure and dynamic data-agile economy and human-centred development of technologies.

Climate, energy and mobility - In order to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the cluster will launch calls in six areas. According to the draft work programmes, they include cross-sectoral solutions for the climate transition, clean and competitive solutions for transport, and smart mobility services for passengers and goods.

Food, Bioeconomy Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment - There will be 19 funding calls from 2021-22 in the following areas: biodiversity and ecosystem services; food systems, circular economy and bioeconomy sectors; clean environment; land, oceans and water; and rural, coastal and urban communities.

Pillar 3 - Innovative Europe

The European Innovation Council - Firstly, the Pathfinder will provide funding for advanced research on breakthrough technologies. Secondly, the Accelerator will enable SMEs to develop and scaleup breakthrough innovations. In addition, the Transition programme will help build on promising results from the Pathfinder or ERC Proof of Concept projects. The EIC also includes other calls and actions such as Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) and the Horizon Prizes.

Cross-cutting

Widening Participation - There are three key lines of action to boost research performance in under-performing regions: building R&I capacities, advancing the free circulation of knowledge and strengthening the European Research Area.

If you’d like more information or a copy of any of the above work programmes, please get in touch. In addition, you can subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest information direct to your inbox.


European Innovation Agencies Make Plans to Strengthen Innovation

The European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) have signed a letter of intent to coordinate efforts and strengthen Europe’s innovation services, pledging to build a “more integrated and inclusive EU innovation ecosystem for the benefit of EU innovators.”

Potential areas of cooperation are currently being tested in three €1 million pilot projects. The innovation agencies will finalise their collaboration in Spring 2021, before rolling it out in 2022.

Context

The EIC and EIT are complementary organisations, working towards the shared goal of translating Europe’s research strengths into jobs and growth. However, they operate in different ways:

  • The EIT focuses on the integration of higher education, research, and innovation to address global challenges set in Horizon Europe. It has eight designated Knowledge and Innovation Communities, each of which addresses a specific societal challenge.
  • In contrast, the EIC provides financial support for innovators. Its focus is on all areas of disruptive and breakthrough market-creating innovation.

A closer working relationship between the two institutions will enable companies from underperforming countries to secure more funding. As a result, this will help narrow the innovation gap between east and west Europe.

Significance

EU research commissioner, Mariya Gabriel, has labeled the move “a stepping stone in creating the European Innovation Area.” It marks a recognition that European innovation is vital. Innovative ideas key to tackling major societal challenges, including Covid-19 and climate change. They can also help Europe regain its position as a world leader in the field of innovation.

Please note: Negotiations are still ongoing to determine the UK's participation in Horizon Europe, the EU's next funding programme for research and innovation. However, UK scientists, researchers, and businesses can still apply for funding from the European Green Deal, the last and biggest call under Horizon 2020. You can read more about this competition here.

Source: Science|Business


Horizon Europe: New Horizons for European Funding

2020 marks the end of Horizon 2020, the EU’s biggest ever EU Research and Innovation programme, which has provided nearly €80 billion of funding over 7 years (2014-2020). Succeeding Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe will run from 2021 to 2027 to ensure that Europe remains a world-class leader in Research and Innovation. The European Commission will invest €100 billion into Research and Innovation that will shape the future of Europe, making it the most ambitious programme of its kind.

“With Horizon Europe, we want to build on this success and continue to make a real difference in the lives of citizens and society as a whole.”

-European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness.

Preliminary Structure of Horizon Europe

Preliminary structure of Horizon Europe

Like Horizon 2020, the programme will have three pillars. The first will fund excellence in science, supporting frontier research projects designed by researchers through the European Research Council. The second pillar focuses on Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness. It will support research into societal challenges and reinforce technological and industrial capacities. It also sets ambitious EU-wide missions to tackle some of Europe’s biggest problems, including health and climate change. Thirdly, the Innovative Europe pillar aims to increase Europe’s prowess in market-creating innovation and SME growth through the European Innovation Council.

Following the Horizon 2020 Interim Evaluation, the European Commission has implemented several changes to support Research and Innovation across Europe. For example, they will support breakthrough, high-risk innovation through the creation of the European Innovation Council. This will help innovators to create new market opportunities. Additionally, through the launch of new missions with bold, ambitious goals, Horizon Europe will create more impact across Europe. An open science policy will enable better science through collaborative ways of producing and sharing knowledge and data. Further, an emphasis on widening participation will help low Research and Innovation performing Member States to participate in Horizon Europe.

Despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit, we are hopeful that the UK will remain a part of the Horizon Europe research programme. If you'd like to discuss European funding with one of our specialist advisers, please do not hesitate to contact us today.

To stay updated on the grant funding landscape, sign up to our free monthly newsletter, and receive expert insights direct to your inbox.