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Posted: April 21, 2009
Simplicity key for European innovation institute
(Nanowerk News) Applications to host the first Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) chosen by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) will be rejected if they exceed 40 pages, according to Martin Schuurmans, who chairs the institute's board.
The move is part of Schuurmans's efforts to inject speed and a businesslike approach into the EIT which, he also revealed, may look to focus on healthcare and other key societal issues as part of the EIT's next batch of KICs in "three or four years' time".
Speaking at an 'Interfacing Innovation' event in Brussels hosted by the European Journalism Centre, he said the EIT should be a dynamic organisation and would seek "to cut through bureaucracy". He said it had taken "five years of talking" to establish the institute, but just six months to produce the first call for proposals. It will have selected the first KICs by the end of the year, he added.
The KICs will have a minimum lifecycle of seven years but can run for up to 15 years. Schuurmans said up to €100 million per year would be made available for KICs, with 25% of funding coming from the EIT and the remainder being drawn from existing funding programmes, and university and industrial sponsorship.
"We're going to give them freedom, we're not going to tell them how to do things. And we're not looking to overburden them with paperwork. Proposals that are longer than 40 pages will be automatically rejected by our website," he said.
He also stressed the need for professional leadership within each KIC, insisting that the EIT was keen to avoid simply creating networks of existing European projects.
"A small number of centres will have to take the lead on each project. For example if there are 20 universities, two will have to take the lead. Industry is pleased with this, as they don't want to see investment dispersed across several centres," Schuurmans said.
He said plenty of funding has been invested in innovation but Europe needs to see a greater return on this investment. However, bureaucracy has held back entrepreneurial activity, the EIT chief added. "Simplicity is key. We want the spirit of what we're doing to be different to existing European programmes," he said.
The EIT is currently recruiting a director who will be based at its headquarters in Budapest. He added that the EIT would move into its HQ by November.
The centrepiece of the European Commission's efforts to develop greater research cooperation across the EU is the European Institute of Technology, originally modelled on the US-based MIT.
The proposal was first floated by Commission President José Manuel Barroso in February 2005, as part of the revamped Lisbon Agenda. A total of six Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) are to be created by 2013 in an effort to integrate the EU's fragmented research infrastructure by bringing together university departments, companies and research institutes to focus on key strategic areas.
The primary focus for the first KICs is expected to be on climate change, renewable energy and the next generation of information and communication technologies. It launched its first call for "two or three" KICs in April, and expects to select these by January 2010.