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POLICY FORUM 2017: A LOT OF USEFUL INFORMATION CONCERNING THE TIME PERIOD AFTER 2020 WAS PROVIDED AT THE RIGHT MOMENT

The Policy Forum of the European Network of Innovation Agencies (TAFTIE) is one of paramount TAFTIE annual events. It typically takes place in Brussels and is always organized by the chairing agency, which this year was the Technology Agency of the CR (TA  CR). The Policy Forum provided a lot of useful information concerning the time period after 2020 at the right moment since the volume of money from structural funds shall be significantly cut back after 2020.

It is very important to pick topics that the participants shall find interesting, and good speakers, too, but it is not exactly easy to do in the city where everybody is so busy. This year, live topics were easy to pick: considering the date – 22 November 2017, TA CR logically chose the preparation of the 9th EU Framework Programme and the foundation of the European Innovation Council. 

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Key note speaker Keith Sequiera, a member of the cabinet of Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, pointed out that public consultations shall be held during the first quarter of 2018. All EU Member States shall be able to comment on the support proposal. The Czech Republic shall seize this opportunity as well. In the summer, the Commission shall present the draft of the 9th Framework Programme as part of a multiannual financial framework, i.e. the EU budget for the time period after 2020, and the proposal of programmes, too.

It was obvious from his presentation that the Commission takes very seriously all 11 recommendations of Pascal Lamy’s High Level Group, e.g.:

  • To considerably increase the research and innovations budget from 80 billion EUR to 120−160 billion EUR;
  • To meet the objective of 3 % of the budgets of EU Member States for research and innovations, to increase the percentage of success rate from 11 % to 15−20 % and to simplify the administration of R&D projects;
  • Projects of the 9th Framework Programme should not be selected only based on the aims described in project proposals, but based on a personal meeting and an interview with the research team and the quality and ability of the team to meet the objectives.

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Keith Sequiera, a member of the cabinet of Carlos Moedas, Comissioner for Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

Lucyna Wozniak, a member of Pascal Lamy’s High Level Group, emphasized in particular the need to rationally take advantage of the large R&D infrastructures. Richard van Keulen from Netherlands Enterprise Agency had a very interesting presentation on administration simplification – a proposal called “Justified trust.” Projects up to 25,000 EUR would be a subject of direct approval, projects up to 125,000 EUR would be accountable for performance/results and projects over 125,000 EUR would be accountable for costs and performance/results. Even in the case of the biggest projects a lump sum for costs calculation can be used. Stephane Oaki from the European Commission opened the block dedicated to the establishment of the European Innovation Council and said that 2.7 billion EUR had been allocated to the pilot phase in 2018–2020 within the framework of Horizon 2020. It is based on a “bottom up” approach, with no predefined topics and it supports new, breakthrough , services, processes or business models of the firms that establish themselves on world markets as unicorns. According to Stephane Oaki, one half of these successful and rapidly growing firms is placed in the UK and shall leave the EU because of Brexit! He also pointed out the need to interconnect European and national funds.

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From the left: Christian DUBARRY, Bruno MASTANTUONO, Heikki Uusi-HONKO, Lucyna WOZNIAK and Richard van KEULEN

Jan Bambas from BusinessEurope realistically reminded everybody that “while it is nice chasing unicorns and gazelles, important is the economic impact. That is crucial for European firms.” This is why he pointed out the importance of activities shadowing the market and a collaborative approach of researchers and firms. All partners must join to speed up the innovation chain.

Bernd Reichert, who is responsible for the implementation of the SME instrument as part of Horizon 2020, introduced the new scheme of evaluation of projects in the SME programme. Each of 2,000 projects that are expected each year shall be evaluated by four evaluators per proposal. The highest scoring proposals will be invited to the interview with a jury of one of six panels comprising of five to six experts. They shall evaluate not only the project but also a short, maximum 10 minutes pitch and a discussion of the project leader with the jury. The most successful teams shall receive 1.4 billion EUR during 2018–2020. Health, clean technology and power supply firms have so far been the most successful in the programme.

Ana Ponte from the Portuguese agency ANI introduced the Task Force called SoftPower. A total of 11 TAFTIE agencies, including TACR, joined this Task Force. The goal is to provide innovation agencies with skills that shall prepare them for major changes in innovation support after the foundation of the European Innovation Council.

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A big thank-you goes to the Prague House headed by Director Lucie Čadilová

At the end, TAFTIE 2017 and TACR Chairman Petr Očko said the following in front of a packed room of the Prague House in Brussels: “It is obvious that privileging  impact of projects on the life of EU citizens over the process is crucial”. He pointed out that although TAFTIE member agencies were not policymakers, they could considerably contribute to debates on a new ecosystem for research and innovations because of their experience with fulfilling support programmes and their contacts with researchers and firms.