10 improvements to Horizon 2020 funding

In the past two weeks I’ve been looking at plans for Horizon 2020, contributing to the consultation and sounding out experts from across Europe. We have plenty of time to look at it. It will launch only once the budget has been voted for. The earliest we can expect a launch will be at the end of 2014. But consultation is only possible now for 1 month to try and effect it’s construction.

Horizon 2020

In my experience of this consultation there is plenty for the Commission to work with. Here is my prescription for a successful funding scheme;

1) Make it properly SME friendly. If you’re small you don’t want your best chance of funding to be an enormous integrated project headed by one of the 5 typical system integrators in Europe ( or nearby). Most innovation comes from SMEs and often it comes from their own development. So quicker smaller solo or small group SME schemes please!

2) Some of the recent calls have been so heavily over subscribed that there is merely a 10 or 20% chance of success. This follows a very heavy application process. So please, let’s have a two stage process. A short and simple application, and more rigour demanded at the later stage of the application.

3) Less prescriptive calls. All projects are judged on their ability to advance the state of the art. Almost by definition this rules out the radical and can only accommodate the incremental innovations. Broad areas of societal challenge should be the limit of a call description.

4) More initiatives that encourage bottom-up innovation. The funding from the commission is already creating networks of excellence, but simple event led innovation incubators and networks would bring out much more innovation.

5) Broad trends like volunteer data need to be targeted and encouraged. The networked society is still an under utilised asset in Europe.

6) Initiatives to break the US dominance in social networks and the centralisation that happens to our data over there.

7) Initiatives that support growth markets where we used to be a world leader (mobile gaming, computer games etc.)… And those where we are… (Location Information for the growing context aware application market).

8) Initiatives that scale up the top class innovations from home countries rather than the default of selling out to non-European corporates. See Productiv in the UK. In this way we keep the essential skills and the greater part of the returns within Europe.

9) The EC needs to track the effectivity of these investments more effectively. How many businesses have prospered from post project activity? What contribution to the GDP? Actively engage the project community and use the dialogue to find “what happened next” and use this to quash the cynical.

10) Embrace the crowd funding trends. Why let a small group of experts vote when a large group can vote with their own funds?

These were my 10 for an improved funding structure in Europe. What are yours?

David

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