17 December 2013 17:32 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
LONDON (ICIS)--Collaborative research in the EU was given a boost this month with the launch of the EU’s largest research and innovation programme to date, Horizon 2020.
Europe’s chemical producers are expecting to benefit from the programme, which has a 2014-2020 funding budget of €79bn ($108bn), and more closely targeted funding priorities, many of which are directly applicable to the sector.
“Innovation is essential for the European chemical industry to remain competitive and maintain its position as a global leader," said Cefic executive director for research and innovation, Gernot Klotz, on 11 December as the first calls by the European Commission made its first call for proposals for Horizon 2020 projects.
“This is especially important in light of the fierce competition on the global stage and offers a huge opportunity to boost jobs and growth and increase the competitiveness of the European Union,” he added
Horizon 2020 replaces earlier so-called ‘Framework’ research programmes, which funded a considerable amount of collaborative and pre-competitive industrial research, but suffered at times from not helping projects to get to the application stage.
The EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) was criticised for focusing mostly on research and not enough on application or development.
Three years ago, for instance, Klotz criticised the FP7 approach to innovation, claiming there was too much duplication of effort and a lack of coordination between member states.
FP7 ran from 2007 to 2013 with a budget of €54bn. FP6 ran from 2004 to 2007.
Horizon 2020 is expected to be different. The funds will be worth more than €15bn over the first two years.
Calls for projects have already been made in the chemicals and related sectors, and a funding portal launched on Tuesday is expected to be of help in the funding process, particularly for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Industry participants are already putting forward project proposals, and there appears to be greater enthusiasm in the industry for this round of research and innovation funding from the EU.
The programme has industry as one of its primary targets and is expected to support research in areas such as nanotechnology, advanced materials, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing and processing.
A ‘Fast Track to Innovation’ (FTI) pilot action scheme will be launched in 2015, the Commission says, to support specific innovations. It is expected to fund 100 proposals over a three to five year period.
Debt and equity financing will be available with two thirds expected to be for SMEs.
“A key feature of Horizon 2020 is that it has been constructed from the outset around a radical simplification of current rules and procedures to attract more top researchers and a broader range of innovative enterprises,” the Commission says.
Rules for participation and for funding have been simplified. There will be fewer controls and audits. The Commission is aiming to keep the time between the project call deadline and the signing of a grant application to eight months. Public private partnerships (PPPs) will continue to be supported.
Eight industry sectors launched the SPIRE PPP, or the Sustainable Process Industry PPP, on Tuesday, signing a contractual agreement with the Commission.
This is a seven-year €1bn initiative designed to increase Europe’s industrial competitiveness.
The cement, ceramics, chemicals, engineering, minerals, non-ferrous metals, steel and water sectors want to rejuvenate the EU’s process industries by targeting efficiency - energy efficiency particularly - and the environmental impact of technologies employed.
“This unique co-operation will enable massive leveraging of costs and faster implementation of technologies through closer connection and integration of innovations in industry and their value chains,” said Klaus Sommer, board chairman of the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem), representing the process industries.
“SPIRE is an ambitious PPP that takes the best out of eight process industries and aims at integrating, demonstrating and validating systems and technologies across sectors,” he added.
Related to the chemicals sector under FP7 are the Chemical Regions for Resource Efficiency (R4R) project which is looking into how a move to bio-feedstocks might also reduce raw materials and energy consumption, and the Industrial Biotech Research and Innovation Platforms Centre, Bio – Tic. They are expected to be aligned with the SPIRE PPP initiative and to the Bio-based Industries Initiative which will continue under Horizon 2020.
SusChem on Tuesday launched the web site Grant-it to help SusChem companies and institutions fast-track their grant applications under Horizon 2020 and other EU sustainable chemistry funding programmes. Cefic participates in SusChem.
($1 = €0.73)
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