11 Jul 2012   |   News

EIT to scale-up with larger budget

The EIT needs to do more to be seen as a global brand of excellence, say MEPs

Following its formation in 2008, with a mission to consolidate the knowledge triangle of higher education, research, and innovation under a single roof, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology has received €309 million from FP7. Under  Horizon 2020 the institute is slated to receive a total of €3 billion to further its work in closing the gap between research, education and entrepreneurial activities by creating Knowledge Innovation Communities ( KICs)  across Europe. As part of Science|Business’ analysis of ITRE’s reports on Horizon 2020, this article summarises the Parliament’s position on the Commission’s expectation for the EIT in Horizon 2020.

To date, the three KICs, Climate-KIC, EIT ICT Labs and the KIC InnoEnergy, operate in 12 EU countries and with around 200 partners from the three corners of the knowledge triangle. Under Horizon 2020, it is expected that the EIT will select three new KICs in 2014 and after an assessment, another three in 2017. The Parliament has offered a few more suggestions:

The Commission has put forward that the “EIT shall launch the selection and designation of KICs according to the priority fields and time schedule defined in the Strategic Innovation Agenda (SIA).The new KICs that are expected to be established are:  healthcare, food, raw materials, advanced manufacturing, security and urban mobility.

In their review of the Commission’s proposals, MEP Marisa Matias and MEP Philippe Lamberts have encouraged an alternative approach. While Matias and Lamberts acknowledge that the EIT should have the autonomy to organise future KICs based on general themes fitting with the grand challenges and that this list is neither closed in terms of theme selection, nor the number of KICs to be established within a certain timeframe, they suggest that the SIA is too rigid and that the proposed thematic areas have been selected prematurely.

The MEPs encourage the EIT to move beyond its current model of only selecting KICs once a certain level of critical mass already been achieved. They should designate as many KICs as financially feasible and whose scope falls within specific objectives of either the grand challenges or the "leadership in key industrial technologies" pillar of Horizon 2020, or are at the interface between those objectives. Furthermore, in the process of designating the KICs, the EIT should take into account that not all KICs would have the same financial needs, some being more capital-intensive than others.

In line with pushing the EIT to become a global brand of excellence, the draft reports from the Parliament also point towards a desire for an increased role for the Parliament and Council.  While it is agreed that “the SIA shall define the long-term strategy for the EIT within the EU innovation landscape and shall include an assessment of its impact and its capacity to generate innovation added-value for the Union “, the Rapporteurs believe that in order for an enhanced bottom-up approach and diversity linked with the grand challenges, it is necessary for the EIT and Commission to engage in a yearly dialogue with the Parliament and Council.

The MEPs want the EIT to be subject to a review procedure not just by the Commission, but also the Council and the Parliament. An aspect of this would involve the Director of the EIT giving an annual report to the Parliament.

The expectation of the EIT under Horizon 2020 is that it moves beyond simply being a sum of its parts, and establishes itself as a global brand of excellence in innovation. This needs to be done through long-term strategic planning and increasingly multi-disciplinary collaboration that serves to foster not just technological innovation, but systems and public sector innovations, to increase impact and reshape the European innovation landscape.  According to Matias, if the EIT is to truly become a European institute, it needs to scale up, adopt a more holistic approach within the grand challenges and exploit its flexibility to push for simplification.

Next steps

Shortly after the summer recess, the ITRE committee will meet again to discuss new amendments and are expected to bring the final reports up for a committee vote in the autumn. New proposals are expected to surface and some of the existing ones might be altered or could disappear altogether. Parliament will have to reach an agreement with its co-legislator, the Council of Ministers, in time for Horizon 2020 to go live on the 1st of January, 2014. It is expected that negotiations will last well into the summer of 2013. With a dramatically increased budget and the expectation of global excellence, everyone will have a strong opinion on how the EIT can maximize its efforts.

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