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The EIT: Bridging the Innovation Gap

The European Union still lags behind South Korea, the United States and Japan in the global innovation performance, but the European Commission’s Innovation Scoreboard shows that the EU and its 28 Member States have become more innovative in recent years. As a result, the EU has closed half of the innovation gap towards the US.

And the biggest innovation increase is taking place in some of the EU’s Member States which joined in 2004 and thereafter, making them the EU’s biggest innovation potential. “There is great untapped potential for innovation in the Central and Eastern European Member States! We should use it to further enhance Europe’s competitiveness and our position in the global innovation performance.” says Martin Kern, the EIT Interim Director.

Biggest innovation increase in EU Member States which joined in 2004 and thereafter

The overall innovation ranking within the EU remains relatively stable, with Sweden at the top, followed by Denmark, Germany and Finland. But countries which have improved most over the last years are Portugal, Estonia and Latvia.

Currently, the EIT Community brings together more than 60 partners from the EU Member States which joined in 2004 and after, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania. And we aim for more. “We are focusing on fostering greater impact. Part of the impact is to increase the reach of the EIT’s Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) to a wider area, particularly those regions that are not taking full advantage of their innovation potential. We are hoping to capitalise more on the work of the EIT Regional Innovation Scheme (EIT RIS) that is part of our Strategic Innovation Agenda 2014-2020. We are actively encouraging and incentivising our KICs to work with new excellent partners and to increase the dissemination of results. We are committed to step up the EIT Community’s outreach activities to stakeholders across all of Europe.” says Peter Olesen, Chairman of the EIT Governing Board.

EIT projects in Central-Eastern Europe

The EIT has been grounded in excellence and the Institute was set up to boost the innovation capacity of the EU and its Member States. It had been found that one of the main reasons the EU lags behind its competitors is the fragmentation of the European innovation landscape. Cooperation among business, research and higher education is not sufficient and this is where the EIT comes in. The Institute has the unique objective of fully integrating business, research and higher education to boost the EU and its 28 Member States’ innovation capacity and global competitiveness. EIT Community activities take place also in EU Member States which joined in 2004 and thereafter. Not because there are new, but because there is excellence!

Ground-breaking agreement with Lower Silesia

The EIT’s Climate-KIC has a ground-breaking agreement with the Lower Silesia region in Poland to coordinate their multi-million Euro investment programmes to support the transition to a low-carbon economy. Both parties will be making substantial investments in the period running up to 2020. The Lower Silesia region is proposing to spend more than 600 million Euro of its European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI) funds to support its regional low-carbon economy over the next seven years.

Climate KIC’s Regional Implementation and Innovation Centre (RIC) in Poland is a real driver of change and the most important opinion leader in the area of climate change in Poland. Having the EIT’s KIC in Poland is very beneficial. Among others, it gives us access to the best research centres in Europe”, says Cezary Lejkowski, Director of Climate and Energy Department, Wroclaw Research Center EIT+, Climate-KIC RIC.

Hung(a)ry for Innovation

The Budapest Associate Partner Group's (BAPG) mission is to give a boost to the development of an innovative ICT eco-system in Hungary and in Central and Eastern Europe at large, being the EIT ICT Labs’ node in this region. Among others, a R&D carrier programme with nearly 20 ICT research projects has been running between January 2013 and June 2014.

Two of Hungary’s leading universities, Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) and Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) are also part of the EIT ICT Labs Master School. This unique school provides students with an excellent theoretical education whilst giving them the opportunity to work with European top research facilities and leading business partners. Dorottya Maksay, now a graduate from the EIT ICT Labs Master School went on to win the EIT CHANGE Awards in 2013, vowing the jury with her innovative and social idea for a start-up.

Central Hungary is also an important region for Climate-KIC activities: “We are active and the number of start-ups is growing every year! In upcoming years these numbers will grow, and in five years we will reach the level of Holland, which is a role-model for us.” says Zoltán Kovács, CEO of the Incubator in Budapest affiliated with Climate-KIC.

Fuel of the future

The EIT’s KIC InnoEnergy activities in Poland, include clean coal technologies. Development of clean coal technologies is a great opportunity for Poland. And it is all about the development of various technologies that make coal the fuel of the future, environmentally friendly for many years. In Poland coal is the primarily source of energy, which is used both in industry and households. Meanwhile, it is also the fuel that gives a lot more opportunities, like underground coal gasification. This new technology might have a significant contribution to the development of the Polish energy sector. “We should be the leader of clean coal technologies in Europe” - emphasized Jerzy Buzek, former President of the European Parliament, during the 6th European Economic Congress. Supported by the EIT’s KIC InnoEnergy innovative projects in this area include: WasteHeat Waste Heat Recovery for PC Boilers; SECoal Multi-fuel energy generation for Sustainable and Efficient use of Coal and; NewMat New Materials for Energy Systems.

Hygen (Latvia)

The EIT’s KIC InnoEnergy was attracted to the Latvian’s start up Hygen - a disruptive technology providing a solution for a home-based CNG refueling station. Technology currently successfully adopted and implemented on larger vehicles allowing old diesel buses become pollution-friendly and cost-effective. The strong points of the project were: Good team, already entrepreneurs; technologically applicable and scalable; big market potential, especially with bi-fuel vehicles becoming a focus (GM, Honda, Renault).

Smart lighting

The EIT’s KIC InnoEnergy immediately saw the environmental value and commercial potential of an idea that was advanced by a team of scientists from the AGH University of Science and Techonology in Krakow, Poland. The idea was - Smart Lighting, innovative solutions that would lead to energy savings in cities. What makes GRADIS solution innovative is the functionality and adaptability of their software solution - currently unrivalled on the market. This has been confirmed on discussions with the major market players, including Philips, Schreder and General Electric. Tests run in Belgium have shown that a solution based on this technology, enhanced by an optimised installation design, and an advanced control system, can lead to a 60 per cent reduction in power consumption.

Leszek Kotulski from GRADIS: “First of all, much credit goes to our Business Creation Officer at KIC InnoEnergy who spotted the commercial potential of our ideas. Were it not for the acceleration services offered to us by KIC InnoEnergy, GRADIS may not exist at all. They took care of some 80 per cent of the formalities and administration details during the evolution process, allowing us to focus on our idea and on developing the project itself. At the moment we’re in talks with a municipality near Krakow about developing a project. We hope to implement a smart lighting system there that will utilise LED lamps.”

EIT Regional Innovation Scheme (EIT RIS)

The EIT and the KICs actively share and exchange information, results and lessons learned from their activities with external stakeholders across the European innovation landscape through outreach and dissemination activities. Stakeholders not yet involved in EIT Community activities can benefit from the exchange of good practices, tools and methods developed by the EIT’s KICs as well as the EIT Regional Innovation Scheme (EIT RIS). This structured outreach scheme aims to support the integration of business, research and higher education and to increase the innovation capacity in regions where the EIT’s KICs are not yet present. Currently the EIT RIS’s activities take place in most of the EU Member States which joined in 2004 and after. Through the EIT’s outreach programme, all innovation players can benefit from the exchange of information and knowledge. Innovation can be boosted thanks to networking and collaboration between excellent researchers, business and higher education organisations from different EU countries.

Horizon 2020 and beyond

As an integral part of Horizon2020, the EIT will consolidate and further develop its first three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) and launch five new KICs by 2018: for healthy living and active ageing; for raw materials; food for future; added-value manufacturing, and urban mobility. Another key goal is to increase the scope of its outreach activities ensuring wide participation in all of the Institute’s activities, in particular through the EIT Regional Innovation Scheme (EIT RIS). We are very much looking forward to co-operating with new excellent partners from all over Europe and particularly from the EU Member States which joined in 2004 and thereafter.