Special Report on the SME Instrument

As the SME Instrument has been redesigned into the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator Pilot for 2021-2027, the European Court of Auditors was called upon creating a report in which the European auditors assessed whether this instrument has effectively supported innovation by SMEs; whether it has targeted the right type of SMEs; if it achieved wide geographic coverage; if the selection process and Commission support were effective, and if the Commission adequately monitored and followed up the instrument, in order to make improvements.

Overall, the special report concluded that the SME Instrument provides effective assistance to SMEs in developing their innovation projects and that having the EU branding helps companies to attract additional investment; however, the auditors also pointed out that the programme has shown a few short comings that, if assessed properly, would have been able to enhance the SME Instrument efficacy even further.

First of all, the frequent changes in the objectives and target groups have caused great confusion over the course of the programme and the late adaptation to the type of applicants (who progressively moved to a younger SMEs' audience) have slowed down the growth of the SME Instrument. Also, heavily relying upon local stakeholders (NCP; EEN) to promote the SME Instrument has proved to be an ineffective strategy and seriously lowered the otherwise enormous reach of the programme. In this regard, the report goes on remarking the fact that, whilst the impact of NCPs varied greatly between the Member States, scarce support from the Commission; no budget allocation to sustain dissemination activities and overlapping duties have been reported as the main causes for such shortcoming. Finally, other important matters such as failures in the online submission system; shortage of expert reviewers and no differentiation between resubmitted and new proposals have been highlighted as challenges to tackle in order to improve the impact of the SME Instrument

In conclusion, the Special Report provides a thorough list of recommendations that should be implement buy the start of the next Framework Programme, which include:
1.) Improve marketing and communication strategy from National Contact Points and the Enterprise Europe Network to SMEs by promoting peer-learning projects and the exchange of best practice and ensuring that targeted support to the network of National Contact Points for SMEs is operational at the beginning of Horizon Europe, in order to better raise awareness amongst SMEs.
2.) Provide remote evaluators with additional time to conduct their work by setting up a two-way information channel between remote evaluators and jury members to allow better access to the evaluation and provide with feedback on its quality;
3.) Develop purpose-built IT tools to reliably manage the submission and resubmission process, which should be kept separated and, especially with regards to the resubmission, limited, thus freeing up resources which are currently used to re-perform evaluations of the same proposal in multiple successive cut-offs;
4.) Collaborate with Member States and national promotional institutions to promote and advice on nationally backed financial scheme, similar to Phase 1, that might meet the financial needs of the SME-I beneficiaries.

Full version of the report and its recommendations is available here.
Source: https://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/DocItem.aspx?did=52862

Keep Calm and Carry On

After three and a half years since the "gamble of the Century", the UK Government has finally delivered Brexit and the UK's departure from the EU will become definite at the end of this year. This poses some important questions. What of all the European funding programmes the UK has so successfully taken part in? What of its participation in Horizon 2020? Will the UK participate in Horizon Europe?

In response to these question that have been worrying researchers, scientists and industry, both home and abroad, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) department has released a statement where it urges UK entities to "continue to participate in, bid for and lead projects in the European Union’s (EU) flagship programme Horizon 2020, as if the UK remained a Member State, even after the UK exits the EU on 31 January 2020."

This continued participation, at least for the remainder of 2020, is indeed great news for the UK's national framework which is the second highest recipient of Horizon 2020 funding for science and innovation. On top of that, the transition period, which started on 1st February 2020 will guarantee that researchers and businesses can continue to participate in ALL programmes financed by the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and receive EU grant funding for the lifetime of individual projects, including projects finishing after the transition period ends in 2020. 

So, does this mean that it is going to be "business as usual" until the end of the year? On the whole, yes it does; however, we do still recommend if you double check the eligibility criteria for any programme you are considering applying to as a very limited number of Horizon 2020 programmes, which involve access to security-related sensitive information restricted for EU Member States, may be restricted to UK applicants and experience relevant changes in those cases where the project has already started. In this regard, we strongly advise to wait for formal communication from the European Commission or, in case of urgency, to contact directly EUGrantsFunding@ukri.org.

RedKnight's priority remains to assist UK researchers and business to access the best available opportunity for their projects, continuing to invest in our capabilities to secure EU funding, whilst expanding our portfolio to provide our clients with the best possible environment for international collaboration.
For more information on our services, please visit www.redknightconsultancy.co.uk or contact us at info@redknightconsultancy.co.uk.

UK access to EU funding secured during transition period

Will UK entities be able to apply for Horizon 2020 funding during the transition period? This has certainly become one of our most FAQs since the December vote to agree the withdrawal agreement.

We are still awaiting official confirmation from the UK Government at this point, but expect that guidance will be updated in the next week or so.

Essentially, if the withdrawal agreement is voted through, it means the UK move into the transition period during which it will continue to contribute to the EU budget and therefore remain in EU programmes (as if a member state). This means UK entities CAN STILL APPLY as they did before and the EU will pay out the grant as currently the case.

So It should be ok to continue to submit bids to the Horizon 2020 programme, but clearly this is dependent on the withdrawal agreement being ratified.


RedKnight awarded again Best Grants & Funding Specialists

The best way to conclude 2019 is with another award acknowledging our efforts in supporting innovation and technological development in Wales. Just like last year, RedKnight is proud to announce that it has been awarded as Best Grants & Funding Specialist at the 2019 Finance Awards hosted by SME News (the international provider of corporate news and information, part of the AI Global Media Group).

The award draws on an UK-wide network of industry insiders to reward only the best in their fields, as well as the latest cutting edge features and latest deals from across the UK SME landscape. It is an important recognition to all those UK Based CEOs, entrepreneurs, leaders and decision makers always looking to keep their finger on the pulse and stay ahead on the competition.

Of course, everybody at RedKnight is over the moon to receive another award in recognition of our services. RedKnight's Project Manager & Bid-writer, Mr Matteo Radice, said, "This is a most welcomed prize, which rewards us for all the great effort the team has put in over 2019 in maintaining the highest standard this company has set and our clients are accustomed to. This acknowledgement will make us look back at what we have achieved with great satisfaction and will also push us to set even higher standards for the future."

A new report to set up UK's agenda for Research and Innovation after Brexit

The announcement of a further delay on Brexit, and the issuing of a General election that might even turn the entire table, has brought the whole epopee into deeper levels of uncertainty, with some relevant impacts on the growth of many strategic sectors, amongst which the research and development sector stands out by importance.
Stirred by the fact that the EU currently makes for one-seventh of the overall research funding, many UK. researchers are still hoping for a ‘u turn’ on Brexit —or at least a deal good enough – and have urged the government to keep close ties to Horizon 2020 (which provides for the 11% of funding for UK universities), and its successor, Horizon Europe. In the case of a no- deal Brexit, the fear is that missing EU funds could trigger a ‘brain drain’ that would put UK’s competitiveness in danger
Partly in response to those fears, last March 2019, the U.K. science minister, Chris Skidmore, asked for independent advice about how the government should act if the United Kingdom decides to sever the ties with EU’s main funding programmes. The report, delivered at the beginning of November by the director of the Alan Turing Institute, Adrian Smith, and the UCL policy expert Graeme Reid, presents the eventuality of Brexit as an ‘unprecedented opportunity to promote an exciting, well-resourced vision for international collaboration’. Based on the assumption that the UK will be capable to replace the level of funding currently received from EU programmes – around £1.5bn per annum – with public investment, the report sketches out a strategy which advocates for a nationwide increase in spending for R&D, a new research fellowship program, and larger chunks of money for universities to quickly target research opportunities.
According to the report, spending in R&D should aim at meeting the Government’s set target of at least 2.4% of gross domestic product. To achieve this, Smith and Reid suggest four steps that underpin a vision which is even more ambitious than EU programmes such as Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships and European Research Council grants: an “international version of the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (RPIF)”; “A coherent Global Talent Strategy, combining reforms to immigration policy”; “Substantial additional funding for basic research” and create a “flagship programme of research fellowships, offering large awards over long periods of time for exceptional researchers in all disciplines.”.
Additionally, the report points out that Brexit my also provide the government with the opportunity to redesign the national research funding landscape, promoting a more evenly spread across all regions of the UK. The current situation is dominated by a so-called “golden triangle” consisting of London, Oxford, and Cambridge, which have been grossly monopolising EU research funds. Smith and Reid suggest that the Government could better administer the geographical reach a post-Brexit funding vision by creating regional research centres, that focus on grand challenges such as reaching a zero-carbon economy.
Finally, the report suggests that in a post-Brexit scenario, Universities should get an increase in unrestricted block grants from the government, a type of funding resembling the EU Horizon Prizes, that would supposedly facilitate scientists to build consortia in a faster and easier way, without the constraints of a project-specific grant.
In conclusion, it is absolutely true that this report delineates a rather broad; ambitious and very optimistic vision for a post-Brexit research and innovation strategy; however, the work of Smith and Reid does not cover all the structural issues that a loss of EU funding would inevitably bring to the table and it leaves some important questions open to answers. For example, it is suggested that Government ministers should have a pot of money for creating policy-specific international partnerships, yet it is not specified specify how big these should be. Nor it is specified whether a completely new agency should be needed to replace the action from Brussels and give out these new funds mentioned: Smith and Reid do warn that replacing the £1.5bn from the EU could indeed over encumber the capacity of the UKRI, yet the ultimate decision on creating an entirely new funding agency to specialize in international partnerships looks like is going to fall on whatever majority will come out of the polls next December 12, 2019.
Source AAAS Science: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/11/report-sketches-vision-uk-research-after-brexit

A plea for more support to Professional project management in Horizon Europe

Last 24 September, fifteen consultants in Innovation Management from six European countries gathered together in Brussels during the R&I Days, to discuss over the issue concerning the management of European R&I projects and the role of professional project management in the upcoming Horizon Europe.

According to what came out the discussion, 35% of the organisations that submitted a proposal for the Horizon 2020 programme have relied on consulting companies to prepare the bid. Also, it has been highlighted the fact that efficient project management has a great impact on a project's performance and results.

However, regardless the importance that project management and implementation challenges have been acknowledged with, the European Commission is still adopting a restrictive approach on the use of professional project management within project consortia, thus limiting significantly beneficiary support options.

In light of these issues, then, the group of European Consultants issued a Manifesto, with the ambition to bring together future project stakeholders of Horizon Europe to maximise the success of the projects by taking into account professional project management in the new Horizon Europe. Amongst the various point, the text includes:

  1. Recognising the impact of management expertise by allowing the participation of other partners, not just the coordinator; and allowing the subcontracting of management tasks;
  2. Promoting good project management practices such  as the early delivery of a project management plan; the dedication of the management activities to a skilled workforce; the use of collaborative project management tools; and the preparation of the impact assessment and the project results exploitation.

If you wish to know more about the Manifesto or you would like to support the initiative, you can do so by clicking here.

Source: Zabala.eu 

A new castle for RedKnight...

We are thrilled to announce that RedKnight has relocated to James William House on Museum Place in Cardiff, right in the heart of the city’s professional services district. After 3 and a half successful years at Tŷ Menter in Navigation Park (Abercynon), where we experienced so many wonderful memories, we felt the time was right to make the move into Cardiff city centre as RedKnight begins its 5th year in operation. We will be forever grateful for all the help and support the Venture Wales staff provided us during our time at Tŷ Menter – thank you very much!

As we enter this exciting next chapter in our story, we look forward to sharing the journey with you. Please note our new address: RedKnight Consultancy Ltd, James William House (2nd floor), 9 Museum Place, Cardiff, CF10 3BD.


Celebrating the end of a breath-taking project

After 27 months of hard work, we say farewell to one of our biggest achievements so far, the BreathSpec project, which has finally reached its end. To celebrate the successful conclusion of this collaborative project financed under the Fast Track to Innovation programme within the Horizon 2020 framework, the representatives of all the 5 members of the consortium reunited at the St David's hotel in July, for a two-day close down meeting.

The meeting aimed at compiling all the results achieved during the project, in order to produce the last pending deliverables in time for the deadline set on 31 July 2019. All in all, the project has been an amazing opportunity to set up one of the largest clinical studies in Europe involving breath analysis (with an outstanding recruitment of 1,229 patients); a fundamental step in the development of a device that could reduce the consumption of antibiotics worldwide.

RedKnight played a prominent role in securing the grant (€2.37m), as well as in the management of the whole action, making sure all the activities were implemented on time and within budget. The project might be finished, yet RedKnight's job is not, as our project management unit is preparing the final financial statements and technical report.

Whether you need help in securing a grant, or in managing your project, RedKnight can provide the service you need. Visit our website, www.redknightconsultancy.co.uk, to find out more.

Public consultations on Horizon Europe now open.

The European Commission has launched a public survey on the upcoming Horizon Europe framework, the upcoming funding programme for research and innovation with the biggest and most ambitious budget ever allocated (€100 billion). In its attempt to shape the future of European R&I investment by an "intense co-design process", the Commission has invited everyone who is interested in the future of the priorities in innovation and research in the European Union to take up an online survey which will be open until September 8 2019, accessing from the following link: JOIN THE SURVEY.

The results of the survey will be discussed during the European Research and Innovation Days, which will be held in Brussels from 24 to 26 September 2019; a key event in the strategic planning process that will eventually produce the work programmes and calls for proposals for the first 4 years of the programme (2021-2024). This process, focused mainly on Horizon Europe’s second pillar: 'Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness', is expected to identify major policy drivers, strategic policy priorities, and targeted impacts to be achieved, in time to be endorsed by the Commission towards the end of 2019, subject to agreement between the European Parliament and Council on the EU’s long-term budget (2021-2027).

In this respect, the aim of the European Innovation Days is to engage and collaborate with all the European stakeholders in finding the right strategic priorities to face the sustainability dilemma in the next great transition of our economy, society and environment, by working through policies, setting the direction, stimulating innovation and generating investment.

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."