What we learned at the Horizon 2020 Info Days – Brussels
The Horizon 2020 Space Information Days are something of a highlight in the calendar of European space research and innovation communities, marking the opening (10th of November) of most of the space-related calls and offering a unique opportunity to build up partnerships and consortia. In this post, we provide a short overview of the things that stood out for us during the two days of presentations and networking events.
Networking: “beyond the coffee break”
The Brussels event played host to some 400 participants from across Europe, and since one of the main aims of this event is to support the formation of partnerships or the purpose of forming consortia, the networking aspect was particularly strong. Understandably, most of the participants came from Belgium and around Europe, a healthy mix of what some might call the “usual suspects” as well as new arrivals on the scene. The “long tail” of international participants shows the global interest which this programme attracts. This mix provided a good basis for both the strengthening of existing partnerships, as well as for sowing the seeds of future potential collaborations.
Some 60 organisations gave short (3-minute) presentations in an “elevator pitch” style, including Evenflow. This was an excellent opportunity to showcase our expertise and capabilities to an audience of potential partners and collaborators.
The event’s two brokerage sessions provided scope for high-octane networking in a “speed-dating” style, in two different configurations: pre-booked meetings and “on-the-fly” bookings made in response to the short presentations. These slightly non-standard networking approaches go “beyond the coffee break”, and in our opinion worked rather well, thanks in large part to the smooth execution by the organising team.
New instruments and calls
Under Horizon 2020, the calls on space topics are distributed across the programme, and the situation for 2016-17 is as follows:
- “Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies” (LEIT) covering satellite navigation (Galileo/EGNOS) and Copernicus (EO)
- Societal Challenge 2 (Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry, Marine, Maritime and Inland Water Research and the Bioeconomy) covering topics linked to blue growth and food security,
- Societal Challenge 5 (Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials), covering GEO, in-situ data and citizen’s observatories.
As well as an overview of the Horizon 2020 Work Programme for 2016-2017, and the lessons learned from last year’s calls, the agenda included briefings on some of the newer funding instruments aimed at supporting the commercialisation of innovative research, including:
- The Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) Pilot– an EASME scheme, which started in January of this year, seeking to speed up the last mile on the journey to the marketplace for high-tech applications. FTI proposals can be submitted at any time to its continuously open call, with cut-off dates for ranking in April, September and December each year. It appears that up to now there have been no explicitly space-related proposals submitted under the FTI Pilot.
- The InnovFin initiative, a joint effort of the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund, which is the reincarnation of FP7’s Risk-Sharing Finance Facility. InnovFin aims to facilitate and accelerate access to finance for innovative European businesses of all sizes, through the provision of a series of debt and equity products, as well as advisory services.
- The year-old SME Instrument, a three-phase programme (only the first two are funded) aimed at supporting SMEs in nurturing concepts through technical feasibility, demonstration and prototyping on the way to commercial exploitation. Like last year, there are number of calls specifically dedicated to space.
This year’s crop of EO calls also includes two interesting cases worthy of comment:
- EO-2-2016: Downstream applications for public sector users: This call is implemented as a pre-commercial procurement (PCP). It is the first time this type of action is being used in the EO topic, which is usually fulfilled through Research and Innovation Actions (RIA) or – as was the case for EO-1-2015 – Innovation Actions (IA). PCPs are funded at 90% from this year onwards (compared to 70% previously), and although not a new instrument (they were first introduced into FP7 in 2007), they have yet to enjoy widespread awareness and understanding. The use of a PCP within the EO topic is another indication of the maturing Copernicus programme and its nascent downstream applications market.
This Thursday the 3rd of December, EARSC and BHO Legal are holding a dedicated workshop on the subject of PCP and PPI in Horizon 2020.
- EO-3-2016: Evolution of Copernicus services. This call is aimed at the longer-term evolution of the Copernicus programme, and is accompanied by a guidance document laying out a synthesis of the priorities as expressed by users. This forward-looking call is expected to generate some interesting and no doubt highly competitive proposals.
And so, the real work (and the real fun) commences in earnest, as work programmes are scoured, consortia emerge and proposals take shape. The countdown to the various submission deadlines has begun.