Monthly Archives: October 2017

EU Disruptive Innovation Agency suggested by President Macron

Category : Uncategorized

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for the creation of a new EU funding agency for disruptive innovation, to encourage the emergence of “champions” in digital technology.

“Let us create within two years a European agency for innovation, to be in the position of innovator and not of follower,” Macron said in a major speech Tuesday at Paris’ Sorbonne University that set out a sweeping vision to revamp the EU, with the aid of stronger education, science and technology.

Explaining the need for the new innovation agency, Macron said the “the challenge is to make Europe a champion in digital, artificial intelligence and biotech [fields]. If we can do this, we will become a reference model [for the world],” he said.

A new funding agency can help Europe keep up with the pace of technological discovery in China and the US, he added.

His comments give a big political boost to an earlier proposal by EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas to create a European Innovation Council, a new body that has been the subject of much debate and anticipation in Brussels over the past two years.

A boost for EIC

In an interview with Science|Business, Moedas said he “was super happy to see the agency in the speech.”

“I’m glad we are talking about the same kind of ideas. It’s a big boost for us in Brussels because it’s the first time a head of state has come out and publicly called for it, and the support of France is essential for doing this,” Moedas added. He said he will be discussing the proposal further at a meeting Wednesday of G-7 science ministers.

Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission director general for research and innovation also welcomed Macron’s speech and noticed that “an increasing number of Member States are recognising the importance of the development of a disruptive market creating innovation mechanism at European level in the form of an EIC.”

The animating idea for the EIC is that risky technologies do not get sufficient backing in Europe. First proposed by Moedas in 2015, and partially influenced by the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the EIC proposes to group together four existing competitions found in the EU Horizon 2020 research programme: the SME Instrument, Fast Track to Innovation, FET Open and innovation prizes. It will also support the scale-up of fast-growing SMEs by blending grants with loans and/or equity finance. The aim is to simplify, speed up and target support for fast-growing tech companies – or, as Moedas often puts it, to create more ‘unicorn’ companies worth more than $1 billion in Europe.

There was no immediate suggestion of deliberate coordination between Brussels and Paris on the issue – but the two men met a few times when Macron was economy minister and discussed the EIC idea. The men are of similar age and background from the financial sector.

Macron took power as France’s president in May promising to deepen EU integration as the bloc prepares for Britain’s departure in 2019.

A European diploma

In a closely watched address, the fiercely pro-European President also proposed opening up the Erasmus student-exchange programme to non-students.

“By 2024, at least half of all young people in Europe should spend six months in another EU country – student or not,” the President said.  Since its launch in 1987, nine million students have taken part in the Erasmus scheme – including Moedas, who did an exchange in Paris, where he met his future wife. A study by the Commission in 2014 estimates that a million babies have been born to these Erasmus couples.

Macron also said he wanted a joint EU defence force, “less bureaucratic” EU agricultural spending, a single, EU-wide tax on financial transactions, a eurozone budget, parliament and finance minister and the establishment of a European intelligence academy.

The President wants 20 new “European universities” by 2024, which would be formed by creating networks of existing universities that offer new EU-wide diplomas. The European university would require students to sit lessons in at least two languages and spend part of their time studying abroad. “I care very much about this idea,” said Moedas, “I think it is paramount”.

Macron’s comments on agriculture are particularly significant, as France has long been the strongest – indeed, implacable – advocate of farm subsidies that eat up nearly half the current Commission budget. A separate movement has been building in Brussels to boost research and innovation spending – currently about 8 per cent of EU spending; but that could only come if agricultural spending were to decline or be earmarked for innovation in some fashion.

‘Very European’

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted his delight at Macron’s “very European” speech.

“Europe needs courage. Thank you for your support for the work of the EU institutions,” Juncker added.

Juncker’s chief-of-staff Martin Selmayr added his own thoughts on Twitter, saying: “Rarely Europe saw such convergence of views between a French president a Commission president.”

Macron’s broad vision faces hurdles, however, after Sunday’s German election saw the rise of eurosceptic Alternative for Germany, which rode into Parliament with promises to check power in Brussels.

But not everybody was enthusiastic about the speech. Members of the Eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament said Macron’s vision for the EU did not align with the one held by voters in Europe.

“We want to see an EU that goes in a new direction, does less but does it better,” said British MEP Syed Kamall in a news release. “Sadly what President Macron talked about was more Europe, further integration, more agencies. That’s not what the EU needs or what voters across the EU want.”


Eanna Kelly and Ivo Alho, Science|Business

Minister Halligan launches Ireland’s response to Horizon 2020 work programme 2018-2020

Category : Uncategorized

• €30 Billion in research and innovation funding available from Europe
• Significant changes to include ‘new ways of addressing innovation’

John Halligan T.D., Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development has called on Ireland’s researchers and companies to seize the opportunities presented in the €30 Billion final work programme of Horizon 2020 at the national launch in Dublin today (Wednesday 18th October 2017).

Over 700 people from Irish companies and research performing organisations packed the O’Reilly Hall, UCD in Dublin for the national launch of the Horizon 2020 work programme 2018-2020, hosted by Enterprise Ireland and co-sponsored by InterTrade Ireland.

Speaking before the event Minister Halligan said, “To date, Ireland has won €475 million in competitive funding and is now poised to capitalise on the opportunity of the Horizon 2020 work programme for 2018-2020 with its budget of €30 billion. Ireland is already a winner in Horizon 2020 but we cannot be complacent. As we enter the final work programme of Horizon 2020, I encourage all researchers – in companies, Higher Education Institutes and public bodies – to be ambitious in the next stage of Horizon 2020. These are the entities which are already competing at the highest levels of European research, I urge them to engage with the National Support Network for Horizon 2020 to seize this opportunity.”

Dr. Imelda Lambkin, National Director for Horizon 2020, added, “The launch of the final work programme also provides the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Ireland’s researchers and companies. More than 1,100 applications have been successful so far, 536 to higher education researchers and 430 to companies, with Ireland’s success rate above the EU average. We now have an opportunity to make bold progress to the end of Horizon 2020. The National Support Network for Horizon 2020, led by Enterprise Ireland, offers unrivalled expertise and is a hugely beneficial resource for both new and seasoned applicants to Horizon 2020 so my advice is to engage with this network as soon as possible.”

Guest speaker Dr. Brendan Hawdon, Advisor at the Directorate General for Research & Innovation in the European Commission outlined details of the changes to the final programme including the introduction of mission-oriented activities, new ways of addressing innovation and new areas of focus which will include; Building a low-carbon, climate resilient future; Connecting economic and environmental gains – the Circular Economy; Digitising and transforming European industry and services and, Boosting the effectiveness of the Security Union.

Panellists at the event included; Professor Orla Feely, Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact, University College Dublin; Prof. Mark Ferguson, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Irish Government and Director General, Science Foundation Ireland; Sean O’Reagain, Deputy Head of Unit, Advanced Manufacturing Systems and Biotechnologies, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission; Prof. Valeria Nicolosi, European Research Council Research Professor, Trinity College Dublin and Dr. Michaela Black, coordinator of the MIDAS project, University of Ulster.

The focus of the panel discussion and the afternoon workshops was Ireland’s success in Horizon 2020 to date, how to maximise participation in the final period 2018-2020 and how to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the successor programme which will commence in 2021.
To engage with the National Support Network for Horizon 2020 in Ireland visit


Happy Scribe!

Category : Innovation


An excellent product – simple and easy to use, it’s not very often that an assignment in college can lead to a successful commercial product, but for 2 students André Bastié (DCU) and Marc Assens (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) the need to transcribe 12 interviews for an academic Research project on Social Entrepreneurship has led to just that. They developed Scribe, an on-line transcription service, which has helped over 4000 researchers and journalists easily transcribe interviews. The Service is an automatic transcribing tool that helps you to save time you upload your file and get your automatic transcription directly in your mailbox in less than 30 minutes at a cost of €0.09 per minute of audiofile.

So how useful is the product? I tested it out recently with a 17 minute technical interview in the area of Pharmaceutical Quality Assurance. This was quite a challenge for the tool as the topic was a very technical one – the results were not perfect; the transcription of the abbreviation QbD (Quality by Design) as potato made me smile but was easily remedied in the editable script that was sent back to
me in under 30 minutes. If like me your ability to transcribe interviews is limited – then this may just be the product for you. The cost point it is pitched would certainly make it worth a trial.

For more Information, please click here



Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)