Welsh European Funding Office's (WEFO) Horizon2020 Annual Event in Cardiff

Like every year, the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) organises an annual event to showcase the newest results in EC funded research and development, and to update Welsh stakeholders on the new strategies to support and promote Wales's competitiveness internationally. This year the event took place on 4th July at the Mercure Hotel and in attendence were a range of Welsh industry, academia and political institutions.

The event included key note speeches by the Counsel General and Brexit Minister for the Welsh Government, Mr Jeremy Miles, and the Deputy Director General of the European Commission, Mr Patrick Child. Both took a moment to praise the +300 projects and 3,000 entities that constitute Welsh contribution to Horizon 2020. Forsight was also provided into the next Framework Programme, Horizon Europe, and on this topic, Mr Child stated the European Commission's effort to include the UK within the programme; a result that, if achieved, would mean a lot for future Welsh economic growth and jobs.

Overall, the event proved to be another great opportunity for RedKnight to have insight on what is going to happen with future funding in Wales and beyond, and to further strengthen our position as the most trusted bid writer in the region. Our delegate at the event, Mr Matteo Radice said, "The event gave me a great chance to sit at the table with some of the most influential figures in our community and it was a pleasure to see high-profile figures like Mr Miles and Mr Child praising the work of such a remarkable network that we are proud to be a part of."


BreathSpec project showcased at the MediWales Connects event in Swansea.

This month’s newsletter opens with the latest update on our flagship Horizon 2020 project, BreathSpec, which is about to reach its conclusion. After 2 years of development and clinical trials, the project made centre stage at the MediWales Connects event which took place in Swansea on July 2nd, 2019.

In the beautiful setting of Swansea University’s Bay Campus, important sector representatives from across the UK gathered to share the latest innovations in the health tech industry. Needless to say, BreathSpec stirred quite an interest and many stopped by our booth to see the machine in action.

To show the outcomes of this €2.3m project, the Project Coordinator, Dr. Emma Brodrick from IMSPEX Diagnostcs Ltd, set up a live demonstration where delegates could breath into the device to see (within three minutes) the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being analysed and displayed on the screen.

MediWales Connects was also the setting in which our BreathSpec consortium hosted a workshop on the recent development in the use of breath sampling to reduce the consumption of antibiotics. The panel was chaired by IMSPEX CEO, Mr Santi Dominguez, and saw the participation of leading UK figures in the field, including Professor James Covington from the University of Warwick, and Professor Paul Thomas from Loughborough University. Attendance at the workshop was incredibly high with more than 30 people attending the talks and actively participating in the discussion.

To understand more about the project, please visit www.breathspec.com.


European Innovation Council readies €17.5 million to support rapid growth of innovative companies

Innovative companies across Europe can now apply for up to €17.5 million in combined grant and equity financing to scale-up quickly and effectively through the EIC ‘Accelerator’ pilot, increasing support for ground-breaking concepts that could shape new markets or disrupt existing ones in Europe and worldwide. This comes following the announcement in March by the Juncker Commission of a €2 billion Enhanced EIC pilot, to turn Europe's scientific discoveries into businesses that can scale up faster.
To celebrate the start of this new scheme, Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation said:

When we designed the European Innovation Council our top priority was to focus on the needs of our European innovators. This kind of entrepreneurs often need more funding and support than grant schemes alone can offer; the EIC Accelerator pilot will test a grant and equity blended financing model, paving the way for a fully-fledged European Innovation Council in the next EU research and innovation framework programme, Horizon Europe

The Accelerator pilot will support high-potential enterprises (mainly small and medium-sized - SMEs), with financing as well as coaching and mentoring, to develop and bring to market new products, services and business models that could drive economic growth, filling the market gap by support innovation considered ‘high-risk’ for private investors. It is complemented by the EIC Pathfinder Pilot, which supports advanced technologies/early-stage innovation. Together both instruments of the EIC cover the entire innovation chain.

Background

Currently in its pilot phase, the EIC will become a ‘fully-fledged’ reality from 2021 under the next EU research and innovation programme Horizon Europe (2021-2027).  The Commission has proposed to dedicate €10 billion to the EIC under Horizon Europe for support to innovators through two main funding instruments – the Pathfinder for advanced research (for early-stage research) and the Accelerator, a blended financing model (grants plus equity).

The Commission will announce shortly the appointment of 15 to 20 innovation leaders to an EIC Advisory Board to oversee the EIC pilot, prepare the future EIC, and champion the EIC globally. In addition, a call for recruitment will be published in June to recruit a first set of “programme managers” with leading expertise in new technologies to provide full-time, hands-on support for projects.

Source: ec.europa.eu


Smart energy and adult care leading the latest round of UK funding

The Summer session of UK funding opens up with two key topics:  Smart energy and Social care.

Smart, affordable energy is the aim of the recently opened Round 7 of the Energy Catalyst, which encourages the development of products and services that will help poorer households and enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa access to accessible electricity for the first time by 2021. On the other hand, increasing demand in adult social care services is the main drive for the next Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition, which aims to use technology to make adult social care provision more effective and efficient, and reduce demand on social care services.

Affordable energy in the sub-Sahara

Following what the World Energy Council defined as the ‘Energy Trilemma’, the Energy Catalyst will allocate up to £22 million (partly funded by the Department for International Development and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) to invest in innovative, market-focused energy technologies that will address:

  • cost – reducing prices to make energy accessible to everyone
  • emissions – generating cleaner energy with lower emissions
  • security of supply –reliable infrastructure to keep energy flowing without disruption or shortage

The competition will run from 17 June 2019 to 18 September 2019 and it is going to be divided in three different strands, following different TRLs:

  • early – feasibility study
  • mid-stage – R&D stage
  • late stage – prototype and pilot testing (testing or demonstration must be carried out in sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia by either a UK or international partner)

Better management for better care

The rapid increase in the demand for adult social care services, has put the currently available resources under pressure. Following such premise, the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition, with funding provided by the GovTech Catalyst for Torfaen County borough council, aims at supporting projects that can use novel technologies to better track data in real-time on how the resources used in adult care are deployed and prioritised. This competition will be delivered over 2 phases:

  • Phase 1: feasibility (running from 10 June 2019 to 17 July 2019)
  • Phase 2: prototype development (open only to Phase 1 winners)

And it will be likely to fund 5 projects that shall include:

  • using technology to improve the point of entry into adult social care
  • creating more dynamic and flexible care systems that respond to changing needs
  • making better use of evidence to inform commissioning both now and in the future

Source: Innovate UK


EU support to SMEs ready for change

After helping thousands of SMEs across Europe access funding to fuel their innovation, the SME Instrument is soon to change radically.

On the 18 March 2019, the European Commission revolutionised the traditional framework to support innovation in SMEs, by signing off the updated version of the Enhanced European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot for the period 2019-2020 of Horizon 20202 programme. With an allocated budget of 2 billion euros, this important update to the framework programme, will prepare the ground for the upcoming Horizon Europe 2021-2027 programme.

Besides including other calls and actions – such as Fast Track to Innovation and the Horizon Prizes – the Enhanced EIC Pilot sanctioned:

  • The end of the Phase 1 SME instrument, with a final deadline for applications issued to be 5 September 2019;
  • The replacement of the current Phase 2 SME Instrument with the new EIC Accelerator Pilot, starting from October 9th, 2019. From this deadline the programme will cease to provide only grant support, to move to a mixed model in which grants-only and blended finance(combining grant and equity) opportunities will be equally provided.
  • Starting from the 9 October 2019 single beneficiary only (a single company, not a consortium) can apply for Phase 2/EIC Accelerator.

The SME Instrument was launched in 2014 and since then, it has become a very popular and competitive instrument that has firmly established itself on the European SME and startup scene. By the end of 2018, the instrument has invested in more than 3,200 ambitious SMEs in the amount of 1.3 billion euros and created a network of 750 business coaches to advise the beneficiaries.

If you are looking for funds and you are a SME, there is still enough time for you to apply the SME Instrument programme! Don’t miss the chance to win €50,000 up to €250,000 worth of funding to support your innovation. Contact us at info@redknightconsultancy.co.uk to find out how.


Top Commissioner pledges for UK amid COST funding chaos

Whilst Brexit has been delayed until October 2019, uncertainties about the future of UK research in Europe still loom long and large over academics and grant holders in general; and this has come not without some daunting episodes, the most recent of those coming from the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Association.

As a matter of fact, the Brussels-based association issued last April that U.K. grant holders would have shifted financial administration to a partner in Europe by 1 May. This has been an extraordinary decision that does not follow the political direction taken by other EU funding schemes, such as Horizon 2020, and it is worth reminding that COST is not strictly part of the EU (indeed it is an intergovernmental organisation, although its funding for grants comes from Horizon 2020); yet, the decision has cast a dire shadow over UK researchers.

The action caused inevitably commotion amongst the 20 networks administered by UK researchers, who wasted no time in showing their disapproval, but mot importantly it raises a strong concern about the future opportunities for a post-Brexit UK to access EU funding, and contributes in further stirring an already confused scenario. However, latest declarations from EU research commissioner Carlos Moedas, might help easing the tensions and cast a relieving light.

As a matter of fact, ahead of the major vote that approved the deal on the next Horizon Europe programme, commissioner Moedas thus commented: “I cannot see the European programme, to be frank, in the future – whatever happens to the UK – without the UK,” said Moedas. “I will fight for having the UK on board” he said, “I hope that the UK also fights for that.” Also Moedas did not show fear for the lack of clarity with regards to Brexit in Horizon Europe’s upcoming agenda. “It’s probably something that will become clear in the next couple of months,” he said. “I don’t foresee any major problems on those discussions on the international associations, to be frank.”
Horizon Europe’s association rules are indeed yet to be discussed as part of negotiations on the EU’s overall long-term budget, which was originally supposed to be finalised in time for the next EU summit in Sibiu, Romania on 9 May. We all look forward to seeing some major step forward in defining the role of a post-Brexit UK in EU funding.

Source: ScienceBusiness & Science Mag


Moving on...

This month we would like to share with our readers a touching moment in our company's history. A key member of our team, Dr. Diana Branzea, has decided to move on to pastures new and departed the company at the end of March. We wanted to offer our colleague and friend an unforgettable farewell party to thank her for all her hard work whilst she was part of the team. To do so, the team visited the Escape Rooms Cardiff to take on Oculus, a thrilling murder-themed experience in the heart of the city. We are pleased to say the team made it out alive, with 4 minutes to spare on the clock!

We hope Diana enjoyed her day as much as we did and even though she is no longer part of the team, she will always remain a beloved friend and we wish her all the best with her future endeavours.


£1.25m available to improve efficiency in UK housing

Housing in the UK is among the least energy efficient in Western Europe. Although houses in England are recommended to be at least 18˚C at all times, many households do not meet this standard, leaving the inhabitants at risk of ill health.

To overcome this issue, on April 1st 2019, Innovate UK launched a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition in which all UK based businesses can compete for up to £1.25m to develop non-intrusive ways to monitor a household’s environmental condition. Successful projects will work with Leeds City Council and the City of York Council, so it critical that applicants take into consideration the different types of homes in Leeds and York, including high rise tower blocks which include a variety of tenants.

Overall, the competition will consist of 2 stages:

  1. Around 5 research and development contracts are expected to be awarded, with projects lasting up to 3 months. A total of £250,000 including VAT has been allocated to this phase.
  2. Amongst the successful applicants from phase 1, two will be awarded R&D contracts of up to £500,000 including VAT, to develop a prototype and begin field testing that can last up to 12 months.

All applicants must take in due account the following conditions for eligibility:

  • Provide reporting and predictive modelling
  • Improve the health and well-being of council tenants
  • Enable tenants to make environmental and lifestyle changes to improve the condition of their home

If you think your business is up to the challenge, but you need further support, please do not hesitate to call our experts, or visit our website redknightconsultancy.co.uk

Source: InnovateUK


2822 SMEs applied for funding under the SME Instrument phase 1

According to the latest report from the European Commission, 2822 proposals for the SME Instrument Phase 1 have been submitted before the latest cut-off date on 13 February 2019, to compete for a chance to win a lump sum funding of €50,000 to carry out a concept and feasibility study.

Overall, SMEs from 39 countries submitted proposals, with Spanish applicants sitting at the top of the charts with the biggest number of proposals for this batch (428), followed closely by Italian (384) and Swedish applicants (160).

The most popular areas of activity for applicants were ICT, health and engineering. Since 2018, the SME Instrument is part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot. A novelty under the EIC pilot is that applications are fully bottom-up. Therefore as there are no longer set topics, proposals are classified according to keywords introduced by applicants. The top keywords introduced were, ICT, health and engineering and technology.

Stay tuned – results will come out in late March 2019. 

Source: EASME

We at RedKnight wish to thank all the participants who entrusted us with their proposals and we wish all our clients the best of luck!! The next round of calls for this competitions will start from 7 May 2019. If you are interested in competing for the SME Instrument (Phase 1 or Phase 2), but you are not sure where to begin, contact RedKnight for a free consultancy.


A "flexible" Horizon Europe amid UK and Switzerland fear for exclusion

According to the European Commission research chief Jean-Eric Paquet, Horizon Europe will offer more "flexibility" to foreign countries that wish to join the new EU’s biggest ever R&D programme, which will run for seven years from 2021. The idea, said Jan -Eric Paquet, is to offer association membership that would allow former Third countries to participate in EU research under the same conditions as member states. This is indeed a proposal that already has stirred some interest from important partners (such as Canada) and it is expected to induce more foreign partners - at least between 20/30 - to seek association. However, although this is looks like a very promising development to the "open door" policy issued by the European  Commission, internal disagreement and, a legal framework that still makes any EU programme too bureaucracy-intensive and, therefore, less appealing to major countries such as the US. On top of that, the most ambitious R&D programme ever, might risk losing two of the most influential countries.

As a matter of fact, Horizon Europe includes in its preliminary legal text a category of countries that may be barred from programmes designed to encourage innovation. The proposal still needs to be approved by member states yet, if the text is not amended, the whole programme is indeed destined to kick-off in 2021 amid serious uncertainties around the status both the UK and Switzerland will hold in the programme.

Swiss fears

With regards to the Alpine country, Swiss researchers have already experienced the effect of an exclusion from EU R&D funding when, in 2014, Switzerland was temporary relegated to third country status, with no access at all to important opportunities, such as the SME Instrument. The decision, due to an issue of migration quotas, caused the country to fall rapidly from a 3.9% to just 0.3% of all project coordination between 2014 -2016.

When it comes to the new programme, instead, Switzerland has been classified in category 4 of non-EU states.  Strictly speaking, this new classification should not affect funding of Swiss research projects however, the heads of Switzerland’s two Federal Institutes of Technology, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) and  and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have recently voiced their concerns that funding restrictions could apply anyway, unless a political settlement between Swiss and EU politicians is reached.

UK Research between a "no deal" and pledges to "fully associate"

If talks between Swiss and the EU politicians have been going on since 2014 to reach a political agreement that might safeguard the “cake-and-eat-it” model granted to Switzerland, Britain’s research institutions have been trying to fill the recently increased political gap by engaging in alliances and agreements with other European counterparts. the idea behind this diplomatic effort is that “If the UK is left out of any part of Horizon Europe, it makes the programme less appealing [and] it lowers the level of competition, and probably lowers the value of the grant.” (Jessica Cole, head of policy at the Russell Group). For as bold as this statement can appear, it cannot be denied that in the much feared event of a no-deal Brexit, the new Horizon Europe will lose a net contributor that currently weights for the 14.3% of the total funding awarded by H2020 to date (€5.1bn) and counts the highest number of successful projects. These are all things that are very well taken into consideration in Europe as well and, although “A lot of people are thinking that ERC grants would become easier to win without the involvement of Cambridge and Oxford, [...] we need to defend the continent against the big money being spent on research in the US, Japan and China. We need our strongest team, so we should find a way to keep UK in the game.” (Olivier Küttel, EPFL head of European public affairs).