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."


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.