Providing thought leadership

Continuing from last month’s seminar on the SME Instrument in Horizon 2020 we were very happy to welcome Jill Leonard, Enterprise Ireland’s National Contact Point for SMEs in Innovation.

The theme this month was to look at different ways SMEs can engage with aspects of the pan European Horizon 2020 research programme, either to gain business or to apply for funding to fund innovation projects. Horizon 2020 (H2020) is the largest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with in excess of €80 billion available over the next seven years. One of the most significant changes in H2020 from previous initiatives is the commitment to involve industry and specifically SMEs.

The seminar was very lively and created a lot of interest among the members in attendance, the follow up from the meeting is to engage with Jill directly and her business card was in high demand at the end.

I took away from the session that there are four distinct opportunities for SMEs to engage with H2020 and a fifth directly from Enterprise Ireland.

1. Get involved in collaborative projects where you can participate as a provider. Academic institutions will lead the majority of H2020 projects but most of them will have a requirement for commercial services to deliver on their project, and corporate involvement is actively encouraged.
To explore opportunities the portal site has a partner search where SMEs can submit the services they offer and also search for projects where they might be able to bring value through their services. Jill also told us that there are events hosted around Europe where interested companies can meet and potentially get involved with projects. The research projects fall under three main pillars of research; Excellent Science, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges. Do not let the pillars be a distraction, any initiative in any of these areas can have a teaching and learning aspect and require digital technologies to assist. The main site for getting involved is http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/home.html

2. Fast Track to Innovation is a new initiative launching in January 2015. The initiative is H2020 pushing the industry agenda even further. The project has no pillars of research and allows industry to decide the direction of innovation with a focus on expected economic impact. The call looks to match industry partners, again SMEs are encouraged to get involved, from a minimum of three EC countries. Funding is expected to be in the region of €2 million per project.
http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/wp/2014_2015/main/h2020-wp1415-fast-track_en.pdf

3. The third is the SME Instrument which is a fund targeting SMEs to carry out their own innovation projects and is detailed in last month’s lunchtime session. http://www.learnovatecentre.org/sme_instrument/

4. The final H2020 opportunity is an easy way to start and get familiar with the H2020 environment and process. You can put yourself forward as an expert, in this role you will be tasked with evaluating proposal submissions from other organisations or to monitor the progress of on-going projects. You will be paid a modest amount for participating but it is an invaluable way of gaining experience and familiarising yourself with people and processes within H2020.

5. As I mentioned the final initiative is from Enterprise Ireland and is an Innovation Voucher focused on H2020. The value is the familiar €5,000 Innovation Voucher sum. It is a pilot scheme running from September 2014 for six months. Eligible activities include:
• Analysis of how similar companies have benefited from participation in collaborative R&D programmes such as Framework Programme 7
• Proposal preparation
• Partner search and due diligence
Companies that have participated in European Framework Programme (FP7) projects are not eligible to apply for an Innovation Voucher. Companies can only apply for one of these standard €5,000 vouchers during the pilot call.

Note all H2020 projects do carry an element of matched funding, for example 70/30, but at least some of the matched can be made up in kind.

If you are interested in any or all of the above initiatives Jill says there is a small step to be taken on-line taking just a few minutes. You need to create an account with the European Commission Authentication Service (ECAS), http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/organisations/register.html
Following registration you will receive a Participant Identification Code (PIC). The PIC code is required in all submissions to the Commission.

Jill is also happy to talk to any member who is interested in pursuing opportunities in H2020, you can contact her at:
jill.leonard@enterprise-ireland.com