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SME Instrument increases a company's innovation capacity

The European Commission (EC) published the ‘Accelerating innovation in Europe: Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Impact’ report.

According to the report, participating in the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument leads to a growth of the innovation capacity of companies and attracts investment. Regarding attracting private investment, companies that benefited from the SME Instrument manage to obtain their next investment 18 months faster than non-SME Instrument beneficiaries do. The SME Instrument support already resulted in two stock market launches and several prizes. Unfortunately, due to the Swiss former partial association in Horizon 2020, the report does not make mention of Swiss companies participating in and benefiting from the SME Instrument.

The SME Instrument funded 2'457 companies and attracts small companies of all sizes, ages, profiles and sectors. It attracts both young, market challenging start-ups aiming for fast scale-up as well as family businesses existing since many years, where the new generation of owners bet on innovation to remain competitive. In addition, university spin-offs use the SME Instrument, especially Phase 1, to test the market feasibility of their technologies. SMEs from Spain and Italy account for one third of both applicants and funded companies. Together with the UK, these three countries represent almost half (47%) of all funded SMEs. However, the highest success rates are achieved in Iceland (20%), Austria (13%), Denmark (13%), Ireland (13%) and Sweden (12%). Moreover, there is a strong correlation between geographical distribution and innovation hubs across Europe: The SME Instrument's geographical distribution matches the main innovation hubs in Europe, including London, Berlin, Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam and Munich. These hubs bring together innovative companies, like accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces, investors and highly skilled individuals, but also friendly tax regimes and requirements for setting up a business.

In the first three years, more than 31'000 applications were handed in and approximately 2'500 companies received funding. Until 2020, the EC will invest three billion Euros in companies. The SME Instrument itself will be revamped in the Horizon 2020 work programme 2018-2020, making it fully bottom-up, focusing on breakthrough innovations, thus attempting to attract more young, market challenging start-ups aiming for fast scale-up.

Sources: Swisscore, EC

H2020 interim evaluation

Halfway down the Horizon 2020 road, the European Commission (EC) has taken stock of the implementation of Horizon 2020 so far. The EC published the Staff Working Document (SWD) on the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020 and aims to make adjustments in such a way that it will contribute to improving the implementation of Horizon 2020 in its last Work Programme 2018-2020.

Areas which have been indentified where Horizon 2020 and its successor would need to increase their efforts include:
  
- Underfunding, which has led to massive oversubscription across the board in the whole of Horizon 2020. In addition, it resulted in an enormous waste of resources for applicants and of good proposals for Europe. 
- Better support for breakthrough, market-creating innovation is needed. To this aim, a European Innovation Council (EIC) shall be created in the next Framework Programme.

- Greater outreach to civil society in terms of better explaining results and impacts, but also in involving them better in the programme co-design (agenda-setting) and its implementation (co-creation).

More information can be found on the Swisscore website and the European Commission's news ticker. 

Source: Swisscore, EC

Future IMI topics

We are pleased to inform you about the future IMI topics as just received from the IMI Office.

These topics are:

  • Development and validation of technology enabled, quantitative and sensitive measures of functional decline in people with early stage Alzheimer’s disease (RADAR-AD) 
  • Fairification of IMI and EFPIA data 
  • Development of sensitive and validated clinical endpoints in primary Sjögren’s syndrome (PSS) 
  • European screening centre: unique library for attractive biology 
  • Exploitation of IMI project results  (updated version of February 2017)

Recommendations for future FET-Flagships

The European Commission (EC) published the interim evaluation report of the Future & Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships.

The objective was to evaluate the strategic relevance of the instrument and to provide recommendations based on the lessons learned so far from their implementation (Human Brain Project and Graphene). Overall, the evaluation stresses that FET-Flagships are relevant as part of the European Research Area: “they are raising the profile of Europe’s leading edge research, while also moving towards innovation outcomes in the longer term.

The first recommendation of the report is to continue with the FET-Flagships instrument, as it represents good value for money in terms of the quality of the research and its potential for innovation. 

The other seven recommendations are the following:
  • increase clarity of purpose and differentiation between the Flagships and other research instruments;
  • establish a standard means of assessing the Flagships based on Key Performance Indicators that fully reflect purpose;
  • improve operational management to enhance the budget flexibility and reduce administrative overhead;
  • improve strategic management to enhance openness of the Flagships towards adopting new directions;
  • improve coherence with other Horizon 2020 activities;
  • improve the process of selecting Flagships;
  • improve engagement with national initiatives. 
This report will feed into the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020 and will serve as a basis to improve future FET-Flagships, like the Quantum Technology one that is currently being set-up. One to two other FET-Flagships should also see the light in the areas of 'ICT for connected society', 'health and life science' and/or 'environment, climate and energy'.

Source: Swisscore

Swiss researchers can now also fully participate in the IMI programme

Swiss researchers and organisations can now fully participate in the whole Horizon 2020 programme, including IMI, on equal terms with entities from EU Member States and other associated countries.

Switzerland became fully associated to Horizon 2020 on 1 January 2017 following the country’s ratification, on 16 December 2016, of the Protocol extending the EU-Switzerland Free Movement of Persons agreement to Croatia. From December 2014 to December 2016, Swiss scientists could only receive funding under parts of Horizon 2020 (not including IMI).

‘Switzerland has now fulfilled the EU's condition on free movement of people and can be fully associated to Horizon 2020,’ said Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation. ‘This is good news for Switzerland, and good news for the EU. It will further strengthen our scientific communities and our very substantial cooperation in research and innovation.’

The Swiss have already nominated an IMI States Representatives Group (SRG) member – Isabella Beretta. Among other things, SRG members can provide advice to local researchers on applying for IMI funding and help them to find partners.

For more information, please refer to the EC's fact sheet. 

Sources: Euresearch, SERI

Updated Information on Submission of Horizon 2020 Proposals

The Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) provides an updated factsheet on the participation in Horizon 2020 by Swiss research entities.

Since 01 January 2017, Switzerland is fully associated to the entire Horizon 2020 programme. In accordance with the latest information published by the European Commission, researchers in Switzerland must prepare and submit their project proposals for all calls as participants from associated countries using the ‘Participant Portal’ for Horizon 2020.

For more information on the participation of Swiss research entities in Horizon 2020 please see the updated factsheet by SERI.

For frequently asked questions (FAQ) to the new status of Switzerland as associated country in Horizon 2020 please visit the Euresearch Website.

Source: Euresearch

IMI2 Call 10 open now

IMI2 has launched its 10th Call for proposals under the IMI2 programme, with 8 topics:

Topic 1: Understanding hypoglycaemia: the underlying mechanisms and addressing clinical determinants as well as consequences for people with diabetes by combining databases from clinical trials

Topic 2: How big data could support better diagnosis and treatment outcomes for prostate cancer (part of the Big Data for Better Outcomes programme)

Topic 3: Improving the care of patients suffering from acute or chronic pain (this topic includes three subtopics on patient reported outcomes; biomarkers; and chronic pelvic pain)

Topic 4: Creation of a pan-European paediatric clinical trials network

Topic 5: Biomanufacturing 2020: development of innovative high throughput analytical tools and methods to characterize cell culture fluid during development and commercial cell culture processes

Topic 6: Unlocking the solute carrier gene-family for effective new therapies (unlock SLCs)

Topic 7: Patient perspectives in medicines lifecycle

Topic 8: Personalised medicine approaches in autism spectrum disorders

The deadline for short proposals is 28 March 2017. Details of all topics and information on how to apply can be found on the IMI website..

Horizon 2020: Switzerland fully associated from 1 Jan 2017 on

Switzerland has ratified the protocol that extends the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons to Croatia, thus opening the door for Switzerland's full association to Horizon 2020.

On 16 December 2016, the Swiss Parliament adopted the application law for Art.121a of the Constitution, respecting the Bilateral Agreements with the EU in all aspects. On the same day, the Swiss Federal Council ratified the protocol extending the free movement of persons to Croatia, thus fulfilling the necessary condition for Switzerland’s full association to Horizon 2020 as of 2017. As a consequence the status of Switzerland for the EU Framework Programme "Horizon 2020" (2014-2020) will change from partial to full association.

The negotiations with the European Union on the association of Switzerland to Horizon 2020 had been suspended following the adoption of the popular vote against mass immigration on 9 February 2014. Meanwhile, an agreement with the European Commission (EC) providing a partial and provisory association to Horizon 2020 had been found. The agreement offered companies, researchers​ and institutions in Switzerland access to priorities 'Excellent Science' and 'Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation' as well as to activities falling under EURATOM and International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) until the end of 2016.

The condition to be fully associated to Horizon 2020 as of 1 January 2017 was the ratification of the protocol extending the free movement of persons to Croatia. With this condition fulfilled, Swiss researchers and institutions will as of 1 January 2017 be able to participate in all parts of Horizon 2020, under the same conditions as Member States of the EU and other Associated Countries.

For more information and updated fact sheets on Swiss participation in H2020, please refer to the related Euresearch news.

Sources: Swisscore, Euresearch

Unit costs for clinical studies: More flexibility now

The European Commission has just published a revised Decision On Unit Costs For Clinical Studies. 

Changes in the possibilities of using unit costs for clinical studies concern:

- The introduction of the possibility to use different reimbursement methods (actual or unit costs) for the different categories of eligible costs included in the Commission decision;
- The definition of the conditions under which the unit costs can be modified during the implementation of the action;
- An update of the scope of the decision by mentioning the new Clinical Trial Regulation EU No 536/2014 and more consistent use of the term 'clinical study';
- More consistent use of the term 'patient or study participant', thereby taking into account that healthy volunteers (in accordance with EU rules and international practice) take part in certain clinical studies;
- More consistent use of the terms 'beneficiaries and third parties'.

In particular the first two changes introduce significant additional flexibility into the use of these unit costs, which will facilitate the use of unit costs for clinical studies:

- Applicants can now decide for most cost items whether they want to be reimbursed on the basis of unit costs or actual costs. Only for the costs of personnel directly assigned to the conduct of clinical studies, each beneficiary may only choose one form - unit costs per patient or actual costs - with the exception of personnel costs for horizontal tasks, such as study monitoring or study coordination, which can always be charged as direct costs.

- The rules now specify that the unit costs can be amended (through a formal amendment) when changes in the protocol or errors occurred in the identification of costs recorded in the beneficiary's certified or auditable accounts for year N-1 or in the application of the methodology to calculate these unit costs.

Sources: EC, Euresearch

    ERC to re-launch Synergy Grants in 2018


    After a thorough assessment of the ongoing projects funded through the pilot calls in 2012 and 2013, the ERC Scientific Council decided to reinstate the Synergy Grant funding scheme in 2018. 

    The objective of the Synergy Grant is to enable a small group of principal investigators and their teams to bring together complementary skills, knowledge and resources in new ways, in order to jointly address research problems in free-spirited ways, potentially leading to major breakthroughs that scientists would not be able to achieve working alone. The funding scheme intends to promote substantial advances at the frontiers of knowledge, and to encourage new productive lines of enquiry and new methods and techniques, including unconventional approaches and investigations at the crossroads of established disciplines.

    In 2012 and 2013, the ERC opened two competitions for Synergy Grants on a pilot basis. An assessment of the 24 projects funded in these calls, including visits to the research teams by Scientific Council members, came to the conclusion that such grants would be a valuable addition to the main ERC funding schemes - part of the EU's Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation - which are targeted at individual researchers.

    Full ERC press release


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