22 Feb 2021   |   15 pages

Breakthroughs 101: How to train the next generation of deeptech innovators

The EU-funded ATTRACT project is piloting a powerful way to train young innovators – and supply the talent that Europe will need for success in emerging technologies

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When the world emerges from the pandemic, it will be due to people who had the foresight and skills to spot the right vaccine technologies and bring them to the world. For climate change, security, social inequality and other challenges – a key will be having the people who know how to work with the right solutions, whether in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, gene editing or any other emerging, disruptive technologies.

That means tech-savvy entrepreneurs, market-focused researchers and engineers – in short, innovators. And Europe doesn’t have enough of them right now. What’s needed is a new approach to education in Europe that speeds up the supply of young innovators.

One group trying to address that need is ATTRACT, an EU-funded consortium of research infrastructures, universities and business. For the past few years it has been incubating 170 “deeptech” projects across the EU in cutting-edge monitoring, detection and imaging technologies.

But along the way, it has also piloted a programme in innovator-training: to bring students right into the labs of ATTRACT at CERN, Finland’s Aalto University and Spain’s Esade Business School to give them hands-on experience creating business cases and plans for emerging technologies. The result: bright young men and women with the hands-on experience to go out into the real world, and shepherd disruptive new technologies out of Europe’s labs and into the marketplace.

Now, ATTRACT – fresh from the completion of its first funding round under the EU’s Horizon 2020 R&D programme, and about to start its second – aims to scale up this educational idea.