EU's AI Strategy Falls Short

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has issued a critical report on the European Commission's (EC) strategy for artificial intelligence (AI), highlighting significant shortfalls. The report reveals that the EU underspent on AI by €600 million due to delays in the 2021 launch of Horizon Europe.

Key Failings Identified

The ECA's audit identifies several key issues that have hindered the EU's AI strategy:

  • Lack of Post-Project Checks: There were insufficient mechanisms to monitor projects after their completion.
  • Fragmented Management: A disorganised array of departments and agencies were responsible for AI policy, leading to inefficiencies.
  • Inadequate Performance Indicators: The EC lacked an accurate overview of funded AI projects, impeding effective monitoring and evaluation.

Mihails Kozlovs, the ECA member who led the review, emphasised the need for the EC to enhance its focus on delivering results. "More than five years after adopting the EU AI plan, weaknesses in implementation and performance monitoring are still evident," he stated at a press conference.

EU Commission's Defence

In response, the EC defended its record, rejecting many of the ECA's proposals. The EC highlighted the establishment of the European AI Office, which aims to enforce the new AI Act and bolster support schemes. Despite these advancements, the ECA's findings come at a crucial time, as the EU continues to trail the US and China in AI development, particularly in patents and private investment.

Comparative Investment Figures

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the US led in AI venture capital funding in 2023 with €55 billion, followed by China with €18 billion, and the EU with just €8 billion - a significant drop from 2022.

Historical Context and Strategy Implementation

The audit traces back to 2018 when European governments began releasing ambitious AI plans. The EC’s strategy included significant investments through the Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe programs. While nearly meeting its spending targets for 2018-2020, the EC fell short by €600 million for the 2021-22 period due to delays in Horizon Europe's adoption.

Expert Opinions

Robert Praas, an AI specialist at the CEPS think tank, deemed the audit an "accurate assessment" of the EU's slow progress in AI innovation. He attributed this to a gap between political ambition and implementation capability, suggesting that the EU's regulatory focus hindered its innovation potential.

Coordination and Fragmentation Issues

The ECA pointed out the absence of a central coordinating body for AI projects, leading to overlapping and fragmented efforts. For instance, three different AI taxonomy projects were funded by various EU bodies without coordination, exemplifying the management inefficiencies.

Performance and Exploitation Challenges

The audit highlighted that while Horizon projects were monitored during their lifetime, post-completion checks were lacking. In many cases, research did not translate into commercial applications. A cybersecurity project on autonomous cars, for instance, failed to commercialise despite an extensive 117-page exploitation plan.

Furthermore, the audit found that per €10 million spent on AI in Horizon 2020, only 0.65 patents were applied for, well below targets.

EC’s Response to Recommendations

The EC agreed to update its AI investment targets considering the rise of generative AI but rejected the ECA's calls for a new framework for tagging and tracking AI financial support, citing cost and burden concerns. It also dismissed the need for AI-specific performance targets, arguing that existing indicators under Horizon Europe and Digital Europe were sufficient given the fast-evolving nature of AI technologies.

The ECA’s report highlights the need for improved coordination, monitoring, and strategic focus if the EU is to enhance its competitive standing in the global AI landscape.

Wales Technology Awards 2024 Winners Announced

Technology Connected recently played host to the eagerly awaited Wales Technology Awards 2024, in collaboration with Headline Partner de Novo Solutions. The grand gala served as a platform to spotlight the remarkable accomplishments and ground-breaking innovations within Wales' thriving tech sector.

Hosted by BBC Wales news anchor Jennifer Jones, the Awards ceremony drew together 300 luminaries from across the Welsh technology landscape, including industry titans, representatives from the public and private sectors, and avid supporters. It served as a tribute to the significant contributions of the Welsh tech industry, showcasing its pivotal role in shaping communication, business practices, and global engagement.

One of the evening's standout moments was the presentation of the prestigious 'The Sir Michael Moritz Tech Start-up Award', shining a spotlight on the exceptional start-ups in Wales driving innovation in cutting-edge technologies. In collaboration with Hexa Finance, this coveted accolade was clinched by Optimise-AI, marking a testament to their creativity and ingenuity.

The distinguished winners of the Wales Technology Awards 2024 included:

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies, the Guest of Honour, lauded the event, highlighting the crucial role of the tech sector in the Welsh economy and extending congratulations to the winners.

The Wales Technology Awards 2024 received generous support from esteemed industry organisations and stakeholders, including Headline Partner de Novo Solutions, Hexa Finance, Box UK, Deloitte, Wynne-Jones IP, HCR Law, CSA Catapult, Venture Graduates, and Cardiff Capital Region, BusinessNewsWales, NCL and RedKnight.

Avril Lewis, Managing Director at Technology Connected, praised the event's success, highlighting the pivotal role of Welsh technology in driving societal progress and combating global challenges. She reiterated Technology Connected's commitment to advancing Wales' tech industry and fostering innovation on the global stage.

RedKnight would like to congratulate the Technology Connected team for what was a fantastic evening of celebration. We are already looking forward to seeing what the Class of 2025 will have in store for us next year.

New release of EU Funding & Tenders Portal launched

The European Commission (EC) recently announced the launch of the latest iteration of the EU Funding & Tenders Portal, marking a significant milestone in its journey to enhance user experience. Drawing on the invaluable feedback from a diverse community of over 1.5 million users, which includes EU funding applicants, beneficiaries, tenderers, and experts, the EC has worked to implement improvements that cater to user needs and preferences.

This new release introduces a range of enhancements aimed at providing users with a more intuitive and immersive experience. Among the notable updates are refreshed interfaces across the Portal, with the homepage now prominently showcasing the EC's core services and functionalities. Powered by state-of-the-art technology, the funding page search engine has been revamped to deliver more precise and relevant results, ensuring users can easily discover funding opportunities that align with their interests and objectives.

For logged-in users, the EC has introduced affinity-based recommendations of 'calls for proposals,' tailored to their specific profile and preferences. This personalised approach ensures that users never miss out on relevant opportunities that could take their project forward. Additionally, to further streamline navigation, the EC has integrated a global search feature at the top right corner of the Portal, allowing users to quickly access the information with ease.

The EC’s commitment to continuous improvement means it is constantly striving to enhance user experience on the EU Funding & Tenders Portal. To provide a comprehensive overview of all the latest updates and novelties, interested stakeholders are invited to watch a 3 minute informative video, which highlights the key enhancements and previews what's to come in the future.

Ofgem Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) Round 4 Challenges

The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) is an Ofgem programme managed in partnership with Innovate UK. Its purpose is to support energy network innovation that will help achieve Net Zero rapidly and at lowest cost; deliver real net benefits to energy network users and consumers; and help the UK to become a 'Silicon Valley' of energy. The next round of SIF is being launched next week, with 4 new targeted innovation challenges.

Innovators will be invited to submit an Expression of Interest (EoI), outlining their idea to address the challenges. The EoI stage will give Innovate UK an opportunity to engage innovators in developing ideas before submission into the Call for Ideas; opening on Innovate UK’s Innovation Funding Service portal on 1st May 2024.

Successful ideas will have an opportunity to pitch their idea to the energy networks. Networks will then invite the most suitable pitches to partner with them to develop their idea further, with the aim of applying to the Discovery phase of Round 4.

Innovate UK will be hosting two introductory webinars to give a more in-depth view of the new challenges and explain next steps on how to get involved in this exciting new round of the SIF:

  • Thursday 7 March @ 11:00 am
  • Friday 15 March @ 9:00 am

You can register your attendance for the Round 4 Challenges Launch Webinars to ensure you are informed of the new challenges.

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.

UK Research and Innovation's Leap into Open Access: Empowering Knowledge Sharing

In a landmark move, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) ushers in a new era of academic openness. From January 2024, its comprehensive open access policy extends to monographs, book chapters, and edited collections, revolutionising the dissemination of scholarly work. This paradigm shift in knowledge sharing aligns with the growing global mandate for open access, marking a significant evolution in academic publishing.

Building on its 2022 policy for peer-reviewed research articles, UKRI now includes a broader range of academic outputs under its open access umbrella. The policy ensures that research funded by UKRI, a critical financier in the UK's academic landscape, is freely accessible to everyone. This democratisation of knowledge aims to accelerate scientific discovery and innovation by removing traditional barriers to information access.

The policy is a response to the scholarly community's call for more equitable access to research findings. It reflects a fundamental change in how research is shared, promoting transparency and collaboration across disciplines. The inclusion of monographs and book chapters is particularly notable, as these forms of academic outputs have historically been less accessible due to cost and distribution limitations.

The implications of this policy are far-reaching. For academics, it represents an opportunity to increase the visibility and impact of their work. Students, educators, and researchers worldwide stand to benefit from unrestricted access to a wider array of scholarly materials. This could particularly benefit those in developing countries, where access to academic literature is often limited. For the private sector, it will enable translation of research into innovative products, processes, and services to aid economic growth and job creation.

The response from the academic community has been largely positive, with many viewing it as a progressive step towards a more inclusive and collaborative research environment. However, there are also concerns about how this transition will be funded and managed, particularly regarding the financial implications for researchers and publishers.

UKRI's expansion of its open access policy marks a pivotal moment in academic publishing. By embracing open access, UKRI is not just enhancing the visibility of UK research but also contributing to a global movement towards a more accessible and equitable knowledge economy. While challenges remain, particularly in implementation and sustainability, the potential benefits of this policy for the global research community are immense. As this policy takes effect, it paves the way for a future where knowledge is a shared and accessible resource, fostering innovation and understanding across borders.

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.


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 guarantee: application and grant offer statistics

On behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is delivering the statistic for 'Horizon Europe guarantee'. 

This data is updated each month and includes the total number of: 

  • verified applications submitted to UKRI, and the total grant value requested in these applications 
  • grant offer letters issued to applicants, and the value of the grant offers issued. 

The data is also divided according to the method used by UKRI to apply for the guarantee funds. 


Number of applications and grant offers made through the Horizon Europe guarantee up to 28 February 2023. 

Guarantee grant type  Applications submitted and verified  Value of grants requested in verified applications  Grant offer letters issued  Value of grant offers issued 
Collaborative Horizon Europe guarantee grants (hosted on Innovation Funding Service)  1,387  £614.0 million  1,206  £500.9 million 
European Research Council guarantee grants  211  £304.4 million  210  £301.6 million 
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions guarantee grants  359  £82.1 million  347  £80.3 million 
Total  1,957  £1,000.5 million  1,763  £882.8 million



Apply for Horizon Europe guarantee funding 

Although the UK is in the process of associating with the programme, the "Horizon Europe guarantee" scheme offers funds to academics and innovators who are unable to get their Horizon Europe grant. UKRI is distributing the cash through its grant mechanisms. 

To be eligible you must: 

  • be based in the UK 
  • have been successful at applying for a Horizon Europe grant with final submission deadlines on or before 30 June 2023 
  • have been included on the initial grant proposal as a ‘beneficiary’ with an assigned budget 

Before you submit your application for "multi-beneficiary funds," the coordinator and the European Commission must have signed your grant agreement.  

For "mono-beneficiary grants," the Commission's financing offer must have been withdrawn, or you must send a letter saying that the "grant agreement preparation" process with the Commission has been terminated. 


Follow the specific guidance for your type of grant here: UKRI guidance for the Horizon Europe guarantee scheme. 

Source: UK Research and Innovation 

DASA launches two new Innovation Focus Areas

In order to achieve strategic goals, the Defence Artificial Intelligence Centre (DAIC) will enhance the capability of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) to use artificial intelligence (AI) effectively. A new Innovation Focus Area (IFA), Artificial Intelligence for Defence, is being launched by Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) and Defence AI Centre (DAIC). A purpose of this IFA is to invite proposals for innovative research projects aiming to implement AI within Defence and/or to overcome common barriers to implementing AI. This IFA seeks to use a variety of AI advances, including autonomous logistics, machine-speed decision-making, and human-machine teaming for military purposes, to significantly advance defence. 


Applying AI to address defence challenges: 

The UK's aim to adapt and utilise Artificial Intelligence (AI) at pace and scale for defence advantage is outlined in the Defence AI Strategy (DAIS). This IFA gives innovators the chance to recommend AI projects to defence in an effort to bring the best ideas from a diverse range of innovators. By using AI application to address defense challenges, the UK and its allies will be capable to maintain an advantage in defence and security.  Defence is willing to utilize the efficiency gains that AI is delivering to a variety of other industries. Examples of intended outcomes from AI include changes in: 

  • the quality and timeliness of intelligence data available to military commanders 
  • the effectiveness in planning and conducting operations 
  • reducing the risk to life of armed forces personnel through the use of uncrewed, autonomous platforms 
  • automating routine tasks to free defence personnel up to do higher value activities 
  • achieving better value for the taxpayer by making the business of defence more efficient 


DASA and DAIC are interested in funding proposals that bring significant benefits to defence through the use of AI. 

  • autonomous logistics and any research with the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of the logistics chain or increase availability 
  • exploiting operational data, e.g., to support intelligence analysis, or to protect the force. This could require using open-source data or classified data from any source, including sensors; if the exploitation of the innovation is likely to use classified data, your proposal would benefit from considering how this could be achieved (please note that no classified data will be provided) 
  • human-machine teaming for military effect (including the use of autonomous systems within the force, and the coordination of multiple crewed / autonomous systems) 
  • machine-speed decision making (e.g., to support operational planning and command and control) 
  • increasing efficiency, or how defence manages and supports its people and its systems 


Read the full IFA and submit a proposal. 

Source: Defence and Security Accelerator, 

Has the UK-Horizon Europe Association reached a breakthrough?

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says, the moment the Protocol agreement is approved, negotiations on the UK rejoining the science research programme can start. 

In an effort to resolve the problems affecting post-Brexit trade and regulations in Northern Ireland, the president of the European Commission and Rishi Sunak have reached a "in principle" agreement to revise the protocol.  

Additionally, Ms. von der Leyen claimed that approval of the Windsor Framework would make it possible for the UK to rejoin the €95.5 billion (£84.1 billion) Horizon programme. "This Windsor Framework is fantastic news for scientists and researchers in the European Union and in the UK," she told a press conference in Windsor. 

Academics, lobbyists, and politicians are urging the two sides to complete affiliation as quickly as possible after 18 months of uncertainty as it appears that the main barrier to the UK joining Horizon Europe has been removed. 

According to MEP Christian Ehler, a rapporteur for Horizon Europe in the European Parliament, the Windsor framework was a significant development in the relationship between the EU and the UK. “If a large majority in Westminster supports this agreement, the UK will once again be a trustworthy partner for the EU, and we must immediately complete the UK's association with Horizon Europe”, he said. 

The UK government has consistently pledged that researchers and firms will get at least as much money from the EU initiative during the 2021–27 EU budget term if the UK is permanently excluded from Horizon Europe. In accordance with the TCA (Trade and Cooperation Agreement) , the UK would be permitted to take part in the Copernicus earth and space observation initiative in exchange for making an annual financing contribution of about €2 billion.