Brussels, 7 November 2012
FAQ - European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
What is the EIT?
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) was set up in 2008 at the initiative of the European Commission and is an autonomous EU body stimulating world-class innovation, sustainable growth and competitiveness. It brings together excellent higher education institutions, research centres and businesses and aims to achieve its objectives through a pioneering concept of cross-border public-private-partnerships known as Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). The EIT has its administrative headquarters in Budapest while the KICs operate from 17 co-location centres throughout Europe, from Barcelona to Stockholm and London to Kraków. To date, three KICs have been created, focusing on sustainable energy (KIC InnoEnergy), climate change (Climate KIC) and information and communication society (EIT ICT Labs).
What is the Commission's vision for the EIT?
The aim is for the EIT to boost Europe's innovation capacity by creating the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and by ensuring that the European 'knowledge triangle' is a match for the world's best. Its KICs focus on major societal challenges and the Institute acts as a catalyst for the take-up and exploitation of new technologies and research.
The EIT and its KICs are set up in a way which ensures that red-tape is kept to the minimum and that they have the flexibility to adapt quickly to new or emerging needs and opportunities, so that they can deliver effective results. The Commission wants the EIT to be a model for simplification.
Students, researchers and entrepreneurs are at the heart of its innovation drive. Its education dimension creates new opportunities for career development and pathways between academia and the private sector.
Its first KICs have been operating for a relatively short period but have already demonstrated their impact. Since the launch of the KICs, 27 start-up companies have been created and 35 patents are in the pipeline; more than 800 graduate students have or are presently enrolled on KIC Master/PhD programmes and summer schools. In addition, the first three KICs have brought together more than 280 partners from the worlds of education, research and business.
By 2020, the Commission expects the EIT to provide an impetus for the creation of up to 600 start-up companies and to support 10 000 Master's students and 10 000 PhDs, focused on science and entrepreneurship.
What are the next steps?
The Commission has proposed a Strategic Innovation Agenda which sets the EIT's priorities for 2014-2020. These are: consolidating the existing KICs, establishing six new ones and enhancing the impact of the EIT across Europe. This foresees sharing the knowledge gained from the KICs with the widest possible audience through, for example, fellowship schemes, an alumni network and a stakeholder forum. These measures would be complemented by efforts to make the governance of the EIT more efficient and by putting in place a new monitoring system to assess the performance of the EIT and the KICs. The monitoring system will enable the EIT to benchmark its performance against its own objectives and best practices at European and global level.
How were the themes for the six new KICs selected? What criteria were used to define their scope?
The Commission has proposed that the EIT should set up three new KICs in 2014, on innovation for healthy living and active ageing; raw materials - sustainable exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution; and food for the future – a sustainable supply chain from resources to consumers. It will set up three more in 2018, on urban mobility, added value manufacturing, and smart secure societies. The selected themes focus on economic and societal challenges. The new KICs will also contribute to the goals of Horizon 2020 and the Europe 2020 agenda for jobs and sustainable growth.
The draft Strategic Innovation Agenda submitted to the Commission by the EIT governing board in June 2011 was the basis for selecting the themes for the new KICs. In parallel, criteria were developed to ensure an objective assessment of the innovation potential of each proposed theme. These criteria were assessed with the wider innovation community through a public consultation.
How much funding is the Commission proposing that the EIT will receive in 2014-2020?
The EIT has received €308.7 million from the EU budget since 2008 for its start-up phase. As part of its Horizon 2020 proposal, the Commission envisages significantly stepping up its support for the EIT, with a budget of nearly €3.2 billion in 2014-2020.
The budget is being increased to enable the first three KICs to consolidate and grow, and to pave the way for the creation of the six new KICs by 2018. On average, the EIT contributes up to 25% of the global KIC budget. The amount distributed to each KIC may vary, since the budgetary needs of each differs and a portion of EIT funding is distributed to KICs on a competitive basis.
How will the EIT secure funding from other sources?
The EIT funding model builds on the strengths and resources of the partners involved in the KICs. Only 25% of the funding of the KICs is provided by the EIT; the remainder comes from other sources, including the KIC partners.
Initial experience has shown a very high level of commitment from industrial partners. The KICs have also received additional public funding from national and regional sources. The German government, for example, has allocated €50 million over a 5-year period for the "Software Campus" education initiative run by the ICT Labs KIC.
Why are the co-location centres so concentrated geographically?
Co-location centres, and – in the case of Climate KIC, regional implementation and innovation centres (RICs) – are located across Europe. In addition, the operations of the KICs and their partners are spread more widely than the sites of the co-location centres might suggest. For example, KIC InnoEnergy's co-location centre 'Iberia' has its seat in Barcelona, but its activities and partners cover other regions of Spain as well as Portugal.
The EIT has only recently started to function, and as its activities enlarge, it will expand further across Europe. Under the EIT umbrella, the Commission is determined to promote connections between excellent institutions wherever they are in Europe. This is one of the main priorities outlined in the Strategic Innovation Agenda.
What is being done to make the EIT more attractive for business, especially SMEs?
While preserving the EIT's necessary flexibility, the Commission has proposed measures to streamline the EIT's decision-making and implementing procedures. The themes for new KICs were selected according to their potential for creating new business opportunities.
Business involvement in the EIT and its KICs is already significant and increasing. To date, the KICs have more than 280 partners, of which 113 (nearly 40%) are business organisations. The Climate-KIC, for instance, involves a large number of regional SMEs. Industrial partners contribute around a third of the InnoEnergy KIC's budget, which totals €290 million. In the case of the EIT ICT Labs, the budget share from industrial partners is 20%.
Companies – both large multinationals and SMEs – are attracted by the EIT’s business-oriented and long-term approach to innovation, as well as its focus on flexibility and efforts to ensure simpler and clearer rules.
What is the role of the EIT within Horizon 2020?
Within Horizon 2020, the EIT will play a crucial role in fostering innovation by combining excellent education, research and business. The EIT puts education at the centre of innovation and the KICs will spur a Europe-wide network of 'eco-systems' which will allow entrepreneurs to turn new ideas into marketable products and services.
The EIT meets the Horizon 2020 "tackling societal challenges" objective, complementing other initiatives as part of the wider strategy. It will also contribute to "industrial leadership and competitive frameworks" by stimulating results-driven research and fostering the creation of innovative SMEs with high-growth potential. The EIT further contributes to the creation of an "excellent science base" by fostering mobility across disciplines, sectors and countries.
Horizon 2020 provides the necessary simplification and flexibility to ensure that the EIT can fully exploit its innovation potential, showcase new approaches and attract the business community. It encourages the EIT to make full use of its autonomy so that it can respond quickly to new or emerging needs.
What successes has the EIT achieved since its launch?
Climate KIC and Naked Energy
Naked Energy, a business start-up based in the UK, created a hybrid solar panel that generates electricity and heat. The Climate-KIC identified the product as an innovation in solar technology and worked with Naked Energy to present the technology to a selection of partners including hospitals, schools and retail estates. These meetings led to an agreement with a major supermarket retailer, Sainsbury’s, to start a pilot scheme. The company won the Climate-KIC venture competition in 2011 and the EIT Entrepreneurship Award in 2012.
EIT ICT Labs and Trifense
Trifense, a spin-off from the Technical University of Berlin, seeks to protect a company or organisation from cyber-security threats. Trifense won the EIT ICT Labs Award and is now working with the KIC on one of its thematic action lines, “Future media and content delivery”. The results are emerging in innovative security solutions. Cooperation with the KIC has helped Trifense to establish a wide range of new business and research connections.
KIC InnoEnergy and NOEM - Think Co2
NOEM - Think Co2 came up with a concept for an energy-efficient, pre-fabricated, modular house that can be erected in days, and at a price per square meter of less than €2000. The buildings can be dismantled even faster to be moved to another location, and can be expanded to meet greater demands for space. The company, located in Barcelona (Spain), won the EIT Entrepreneurship Award for Sustainable Energy and is now working hand-in-hand with KIC InnoEnergy to develop and market the product.
HULT Global Case Challenge
A team representing the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and KIC InnoEnergy won second prize in the final of one of the world's leading business competitions, the HULT Global Case Challenge, in April 2012.
The five-strong team, who presented a project aimed at boosting the use of solar power in Africa, were on a Master's course sponsored by the European Union and KIC InnoEnergy. Thousands of students, representing over 130 countries and six continents, competed across five cities and online to reach the final, which took place at New York Public Library in the presence of former US President Bill Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus.