The EU’s European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) on Friday said it had cancelled plans to launch a new manufacturing cluster.
The proposal for the new Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) – the title EIT gives to its innovation groups – had been in the works for years, and a competition to select interested universities and companies ran between January and July.
But on 18 November it announced a change in plans.
“After a thorough evaluation procedure and hearings with the EIT governing board, it was unanimously decided a Knowledge and Innovation Community could not be designated in this area,” a statement on the EIT’s website read.
The EIT’s Twitter account was promoting the new KIC as recently as yesterday, suggesting a move to abandon it was made last minute.
A lack of quality and competition influenced the decision, the EIT indicated.
“Excellence is the overarching criteria for selecting EIT’s innovation communities – that’s what innovation needs and we cannot settle for less,” EIT spokeswoman Magdalena Gryszko said in an email. Only one consortia put in an application, she added.
There is the option of relaunching the competition, but a decision has not been made, added Martin Kern, EIT interim director. "It's too early to say what will happen," he said.
Meanwhile, the launch of the EIT’s new food cluster went ahead as planned, with the Technical University of Munich selected to lead a consortium made up of 50 partners, including PepsiCo, Fraunhofer, the University of Cambridge, the Polish Academy of Science, Robert Bosch, the Autonomous University of Madrid and Sodexo.
The group is charged with driving new commercial ideas in the food sector, with particular focus on issues such as sustainability and consumers’ trust. It will receive a seed grant of around €4 million from the European Commission’s science budget, Horizon 2020.
"It's a really strong group," said Kern. "Noone has connected the full value chain yet, with the consumer in the centre. They have the potential to make a big difference and bring some market share in food back to Europe."
EIT Food could receive a further €400 million from the Commission in the next seven years, provided it hits an ambitious target to support the creation of 350 start-ups and draws in extra funding from the private sector.
* This article was updated on 22/11 to include quotes from EIT director Martin Kern