HORIZON 2020: Innovative market-driven actions

The new European Framework European Programme for research and innovation aims at providing companies with all instruments supporting them in the difficult phases that bring an idea to the market, promoting innovative projects, experimentation activities and new business forms.

h2020 OKConveying a business idea or a new product and having more and more concrete outlets on the market is one of the important targets of the new Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, which for the next seven years aims at a revival of the European economic system and at a strengthening of the micro and small-medium enterprises that operate in it. According to what provided for by the European Union, this target arises from the need of integrating, in more and more complete and strategic manner, research activities with innovation ones and from the attempt of promoting and supporting increasingly market oriented projects, providing enterprises, and in particular SME, with all the necessary instruments to implement and to develop them. Among these projects, the possibility of making use of external support structures, operating according to the typical models of venture capitalists, able to support also the smallest realities during radical changes of technologies and operational models. Secondly, unlike the past, Horizon 2020, besides dictating new regulations and new procedures for the starting up of calls that operate in this direction, makes also available more funds for the fulfilment of tests, prototyping activities, demo actions and pilot plants, in order to grant a more and more direct and fruitful economic and development boost to the involved companies.
As well known, the funding lines provided for by Horizon 2020 have been simplified in comparison with what previously established by the 7th  Framework Programme and are mainly subdivided into Research and Innovation Actions, Innovative Actions, Coordination Actions and specific funds for research. Let us see with what characteristics and modalities they can back the European and Italian entrepreneurial world.

Experimentation for innovating
RIA or Research and Innovation Actions are actions that aim at establishing new knowledge and at experimenting the feasibility of a new technology or a new technical solution that has been improved in comparison with the past. In whatever industrial sector we operate, no matter whether we are dealing with a product, a process or a specific service for the market. In RIA, companies can include base and applied research activities, the development of their own technologies and their integration, thanks to the execution of tests and validation actions on a prototype, produced in small batch, carried out in lab or in virtual working environment. Such activities can be funded by up to 100%.

From demo to market
Together with the previous RIA, Horizon 2020 has also provided for the allocation of targeted funds for what it has defined IA or Innovative Actions. In other words, activities that set the target of directly producing projects, product designs or plans for the implementation of processes and services, new, modified or improved in comparison with the past. IA can therefore include prototyping and testing actions, demonstrations, pilot projects and all the necessary operations for the validation of a product, volume manufactured, or market replication actions, that is to say all those forms of innovation that contribute in diminishing environmental impacts and in optimizing the use of resources available on the market for the effective accomplishment of a project. These provisions can also provide for limited research and development activities and operate through a UE 70% co-funding, with the exception of no-profit organizations that receive a 100% investment coverage.

A concrete help to development …
All that leads to favour support measures to enterprises, in their operational and sales projects, is instead included in CSA or Coordination and Development Actions. In the specific case, they are standardization, dissemination, awareness and communication services, or networking activities, support and coordination services to entrepreneurial activities, policy dialogues and mutual learning exercises. A funding up to 100% is provided for these measures. This course is folIowed also by the so called SMEs, that is to say all those instruments expressly conceived and created to support the most innovative SME that pursue the goal of growing, innovating and internationalising their activity on the market. As already explained in the article “Il Bello di essere Pmi” (The good of being SME) (Stampi, April 2014), Horizon 2020 has dedicated a specific instrument to European small and medium enterprises, organized according to an ‘innovation cycle’ in three phases, with the addition of targeted and free-of-charge coaching and tutoring activities. Mission of the initiative is to strengthen the managerial skills of these enterprises, to help them more and more concretely in the development of their real growth opportunities as well as, naturally, to share in the transformation of a project into products and services that have a concrete commercial outlet.

… and to research
Among Horizon 2020’s innovation and technological development targets, there are anyway also interesting provisions intended for boosting research, in industrial and non-industrial ambit. In particular, PCP or Pre-Commercial procurements are contracts for the implementation of a range of R&D activities aimed at the design, production and testing of product or service prototypes, not suitable for the commercial use, yet, but with the possibility of doing that, if effectively refined and industrialized. This is certainly an interesting economic support for all those industrial realities that intend to invest in the improvement of their productive offer, launching on the market new ideas that need a concrete development. Still concerning this, Horizon 2020 has baptized Public procurement of innovative solutions (PPI), all those procurements in which public authorities, possibly in cooperation with private buyers, can act as ‘pilot customers’ (called also ‘early adopters’ or ‘launching customers’) for the acquisition of innovative solutions to be marketed but not available in large scale on the market, yet. Thanks, instead, to the Programme CO-FUNDING Actions, the European Union tries to support programmes in favour of organizations that manage research and innovation activities able to open new ways of entrepreneurial growth on the market. Finally, in their turn ERC Grants provide a support to excellent researchers and to their teams to carry out research activities in new sectors and for rising applications, able to give birth to innovative and non-conventional approaches in manifold working sectors. 

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