Innovation management in Horizon 2020

“Technology is bringing the international community together. The business sector functions globally, collecting and assembling inputs from factories and employees around the world, and distributing products and services to a global consumer. Scientists and academics exchange ideas over the Internet and at international conferences where national identity plays a modest role. Social networking sites change the way individuals and communities are interacting locally and globally. Diseases show limited regard for national borders as pandemic and threats of pandemic challenge the global public health system. We collectively share a planetary environment that requires multilateral attention”.

Abbott, Cottier, Gurry (2011). International Intellectual property in an integrated world economy. New York, NY: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.

Research and innovation projects under Horizon 2020 require the participation of at least three organizations from three different EU member states or Horizon 2020 associated countries. Researchers and developers must “establish new knowledge or explore the feasibility of a new or improved technology, product, process, service or solution” – Research and Innovation Action (RIA) – or conduct “innovation activities directly aiming at producing plans and arrangements or designs for new, altered or improved products, processes or services” – Innovation Action (IA). More details on Horizon 2020 eligibility criteria also available here.

However, bringing together people from different backgrounds and countries to work towards a common goal should never be considered an easy thing to do. As in any creative process, developing a research and innovation project requires the leadership of a determined coordinator, aligning partners’ expectations.

Confidentiality and intellectual property issues, the selection of funding opportunities available, partner’s technological backgrounds and potential business opportunities are some of the most important aspects that require the special attention of the future coordinator.

For example, discussing a research and innovation idea with potential partners without a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) leaves a lot of questions open regarding the use of the information disclosed. Can anybody use the information disclosed to develop another project? Who is the owner of the research/innovation “idea” after defining it in the proposal?. The coordinator should be aware of intellectual property issues to facilitate the proper disclosure of sensitive information (i.e. commercial and industrial) that might be required to define a project.

There are also many issues around the selection of the most appropriate funding instrument, such as the technology readiness level (TRL) required and the background contribution of each project partner. For instance, the Innovation Action (IA) scheme requires a plan to deliver the results of the Horizon 2020 project to the market. In consequence, it is expected that background contributions have a higher TRL at the project starting point to pave the way for market launch by project completion. This process must be credibly described in the proposal phase and diligently implemented within the project.

Leading up to the launch of Horizon 2020, the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, Mr. Neelie Kroes, said:

“…Good research and innovation should, eventually, translate into real products, real services, and real jobs. But it’s not the Commission who will actually take that final step: it’s the private sector.

So let’s get the private sector more involved, right from the start. Let’s have more of a relationship between those researching and those who might invest in their ideas. More private sector financing involved. More business and investment experts involved in selecting and monitoring the projects closer to market. And more industrial players from across the value chain taking part.

And one more thing. Remember: who’s the real engine of innovation in our economy? Who is it who uses innovation to create jobs? Well, it’s not the Commission. And it’s often not the big, established companies, the ones used to participating in EU programmes. In fact, it’s small businesses and start-ups who innovate best. So let’s help them!”

Speech: Research and Innovation in ICT: Time for radical change? at Open Forum Europe in Brussels the 25th September 2012.

Vienna, 28.4.2017

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