Horizon 2020 opportunities for local innovations

Horizon 2020, the EU program for funding research & development and innovation (RDI) was launched last year and entered the implementation period in January 2014. It already offers interesting opportunities for local development projects.

What is some of the reasoning behind Horizon 2020?

Unlike FP7, the new Horizon 2020 program  has a stronger focus on financing investment aimed at solving some major challenges of the European society. Following previous EU-level decisions such as the adoption of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the establishment of  flagship initiatives such as “Innovation Union”, all EU programs have been mainstreamed towards achieving the development goals of “smart, sustainable and inclusive” growth. In essence, those targets are found at the core of any EU initiative and announce the transition to a new way of thinking development: one based on a systemic approach to the economic, social and environmental aspects, and an emphasis on the role of not only generating knowledge, but also using the RDI results in promoting development. In addition to universities and research institutions, Horizon 2020 centers on the role of companies, public administration, civic organizations and citizens to the shape desired benefits from innovation.

Horizon 2020 funds were allocated to three main objectives: Excellence in science, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges (ase set in the EU 2020 Strategy). In addition, there are several other horizontal objectives such as the “Science with and for society” approach, promoting “responsible” research and innovation, and a broad involvement of the public and those who are to use the results of the RDI process as such.

H2020 finances the entire innovation cycle, from basic and applied research, testing and protyping, to large scale or real-scale demonstrations of technological or non-technological developments, encouraging commercialization of products in pre-commercial status, plus much wider diffusion of innovations. Thus, Horizon 2020 does not only fund basic research, but much wider applications of it.

Opportunities for more local “action” and application of RDI results
Horizon 2020 provides even more flexibility to introduce “action” in the process of research and innovation, to help develop iterations of the different steps needed to refine the RDI results, even in multidisciplinary areas such as local development. The Horizon 2020 stream of calls that would be very interesting for local development projects within the objective of “Societal Challenge 6: Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective Societies” – work program call sites in 2014-2015 can be accessed here.

We already found some interesting recent calls for proposals as potential sources of funding for research projects in the fields of social sciences (including in the areas of urban development, or cultural heritage), as well as for “action-research” projects promoting innovation in local development, for which proposals may be submitted by 2015:

REFLECTIVE-2-2015: Emergence and transmission of European cultural heritage and Europeanisation

REFLECTIVE-3-2015: European cohesion, regional and urban policies and the perceptions of Europe

REFLECTIVE-6-2015: Innovation ecosystems of digital cultural assets

INSO-1-2015: ICT-enabled open government

INSO-4-2015: Innovative schemes for open innovation and science 2.0

INSO-5-2015: Social innovation Community

It’s interesting to take a look for example at the accompanying call INSO-4-2015: Innovative schemes for open innovation and science 2.0, which provides a very exciting opportunity for the development of the innovation capacity of the public administration. Activities are targeted to create training and leadership schemes in driving in innovation in public administrations at national, regional or local level, for example through online platforms for training, testing curriculum for establishing innovation processes, and the “deep dive” of people trained in solving local problems.

Another example of innovative actions that can be financed by Horizon in 2020 (and the Structural Funds) are the Living Labs. The concept was initiated by MIT in the US and began to be increasingly adopted in many organizations, cities and regions in Europe , thanks to the labs’ underlying interactivity that naturally encourages fluidity and innovation processes.

By definition, Living Labs are “open ecosystem of innovation focused on users / beneficiaries of innovations, based on a systematic approach of “co -creation” / direct involvement of beneficiaries in the process of innovation by integrating these processes in living communities or real-life environments.” Another name for living labs is given by the Public-Private-People Partnerships.  See more on this in a factsheet on the RIS3 platform, plus the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL).

Living Labs are focused particularly on adapting new ICT solutions to the specific needs of diverse communities with different capabilities and local contexts. The concept can totally be applied to the local innovation where we can see clearly the importance of including civil society and citizens in the design and development of public services . There are already many examples of such initiatives on ENoLL:

  • Amsterdam Living Lab, which focuses on creating a sustainable organization that will include city / private sector / citizens in the generation and use of ICT solutions for measuring and improving urban mobility, energy efficiency, etc..
  • CitiLab in Barcelona that combines qualities training center and incubator of ideas of social innovation in urban applications.
  • Another example, also from Barcelona, where UpSocial, together with the local government has launched a project to test and adapt to local social innovation solutions already occurred in other cities, which aim to improve social problems like unemployment among young . Details here.
  • Another Living Lab formula can be found in the United States. It was adopted by  GovLab that opened at the University of New York, which introduced a very dynamic and interactive process of solution generation and testing to improve national and local public policies and open up the government.

Networks of networks

There are many other new tools that come along with Horizon 2020, many of them based on the formation of  international networks of local communities, researchers and innovators, universities, private and public sector actors, and civil society. If FP6 and FP7 have been pioneering in this regard, Horizon 2020 puts even more focus on promoting these new types of partnerships between actors in innovation systems and on better connecting the current supply of and demand for innovations in solving societal problems. Below are two other new initiatives that we could participate in in the future:

  • Although operating at European level as a sum of European neteworks of local initiatives, the European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) are focused on the European-wide coordination of research and innovation on specific thematic areas corresponding to identified societal challenges at EU level (ageing population, sustainable agriculture, water, raw materials, smart cities). For example, EIP on Smart Cities has already established a stakeholder platform open to the public, in order to disseminate innovations through European networks and make synergies between these projects. EIPs are not yet direct financing mechanisms, and participating initiatives should seek separate financing  (from Horizon 2020, Structural Funds or other national and/ or private sources).
  • Another Horizon 2020 priority is the European Institute of Technology (EIT). An interesting EIT tool is the Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC), which is an entity (private, public or non -profit ) that coordinates the actors of the so-called “Knowledge triangle”: the research sector, the education and the private sector. The organizational formulas of these KICs are worth investigating, as they have the potential to create an environment of cross-sectoral collaboration that can accelerate the process of obtaining the results of research and the dissemination of knowledge. There are 17 such EIT KICs at European level. They were established as co-location centers promoting innovation in thematic areas such as climate change, sustainable energy and ICT. In 2014 EIT will launch two more calls for the formation of such joint innovation projects in areas such as healthy ageing and raw materials (resource efficiency), based on the model of the existing KICs.
On February 1st, 2014, posted in: Blog posts by Tags: , , , ,

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