Martin Kern, Interim Director at the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, tells us about making innovation happen in Europe
The problems the world faces are well documented. Climate change, for example, will exacerbate the scarcity of resources. This influences food, water and energy supply and affects health and national security.
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) was set up to find solutions to such challenges and this is exactly what we deliver. We do this with tangible results, bridging innovation gaps among regions. The EIT is home to innovations that make the difference for this planet, the EU and its citizens. New cancer therapies and other treatments prolonging human life; cleaning toxic waste for reuse; navigation belts for the blind; and truly innovative methods of generating energy and clean water. Not science fiction, but cutting-edge innovations from EIT innovators.
Europe’s power to innovate is the lifeblood of Europe’s economy. Investing effectively in innovation is therefore critical to Europe’s future; we need to do much better at turning our research into new products and services to remain globally competitive. The EIT welcomes the European Commission’s proposal for Horizon Europe, the 2021-2027 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, as the right direction to achieve this.
By driving Europe’s power to innovate and tackle its structural weaknesses, the EIT is making innovation happen by bringing together the key ingredients – business, education and research. This is managed through the development of dynamic European partnerships that include leading universities, research organisations and large companies, as well as start-ups and investors in our Innovation Communities.
The EIT is the only EU body to fully integrate the entire innovation value chain: from student to entrepreneur, from idea to product, from lab to the customer – including the scaling-up of successful start-ups.
We have set up six innovation communities around the following global challenges: climate change, digitalisation, health, renewable energy, food and raw materials. Two new communities in urban mobility and manufacturing will join the EIT Community in December this year.
Since the EIT was set up 10 years ago, it has created the largest innovation community in and across Europe – from north to south and, most importantly, from east to west – with 40 innovation hubs and more than 1,000 partners. We have created more than 6,000 jobs, 400 new products and services, created 300 start-ups and supported 800 ventures. EIT-supported start-ups have raised more than €600 million in external capital, with €150 million in 2016 alone, and they are just getting started.
The EIT Community knows what it takes to support innovators and entrepreneurs. Innovation needs a pipeline of ideas and talent; innovators are not only those with products for the market, but those with ideas at a much earlier stage. If only established innovators are supported, great ideas formed earlier in this pipeline are going to be missed. Europe cannot afford this. At the EIT, we begin by teaching entrepreneurs to start and run successful ventures, equipping them with robust entrepreneurial skills to thrive. Our education programmes work: more than 1,200 students have graduated from EIT entrepreneurial education programmes and we project 5,000 more by 2020, who will become job creators. In other words, empowering innovation is more than simply financing innovators, it is about giving them what they need to succeed; bespoke support and access to Europe’s largest innovation network.
By working with leading innovation stakeholders on the ground, the EIT is strengthening Europe’s ability to innovate. With our 40 innovation hubs, strongly anchored in local innovation ecosystems, we bridge the existing gaps in innovation performance across Europe in a structured manner. Our EIT Regional Innovation Scheme for countries in Europe with more modest innovation capacity, works through local champions that cooperate closely with the EIT Community.
In Horizon Europe, the EIT wants to build on its strong base to continue to generate ground-breaking products and services, start revolutionary companies and train a generation of entrepreneurs. We want to form visionary leaders through unique entrepreneurial education programmes.
We also want to tackle new areas of Europe’s key challenges and set up new Innovation Communities. Do you wonder where our water will come from? Do you think about the future of European culture and creative industries, security and migration? We do too and believe our model could make a difference. We also propose to roll out our model to new countries and regions, and to expand our entrepreneurial education model, because education is at the heart of innovation and our future.
Europe needs to scale what works and what delivers – that is very clear.
This is how venture capitalists invest in successful businesses and the same principle should apply to how Europe invests in Horizon Europe.
As a body of the European Union, the EIT is Europe’s most effective innovation powerhouse. It is Europe’s largest innovation network. It will continue to focus on its unique ecosystem and bringing systemic change to European entrepreneurial culture. At the same time, the EIT delivers solutions to humanity’s greatest challenges today.
The European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT)
Tel: +36 14 819 300