Wednesday, 18 January 2017

SusChem responds to Horizon 2020 Interim Consultation

SusChem has submitted a position paper and a completed questionnaire to the Horizon 2020 Interim consultation. The results of the consultation will feed into planning for Horizon 2020’s successor programme (currently with the working title ‘FP9’) for 2021 and beyond. The Commission will publish a summary of views from the consultation by mid-2017.

The SusChem position paper has three key messages for the Commission:

PPPs are important for impact
The paper states one of the main aspects in Horizon 2020 is the drive for Innovation. It notes that Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), such as SPIRE and BBI, are important instruments that promote competitiveness, participation of partners along the value chain and foster a networking balance between SMEs and large industries. SusChem believes that this combination of SMEs, public partners and large companies is critical to cross the “technology valley of death” and this combination should be targeted as a long term committed initiative for Horizon 2020 and its successors.
Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) are key
The chemical industry provides sustainable and innovative solutions (KETs) that address the Societal Challenges identified by the European Commission under Horizon 2020. SusChem believes that innovative technologies and processes are the way to overcome the growth stagnation of European Industry. The platform thinks that National Technology Platforms (NTPs) have a fundamental role positioning their geographical strengths and needs to build a strong European technological and political network.
Project Success Rates can be improved
SusChem notes the almost halving of the success rate for project proposals in Horizon 2020 compared to FP7. SusChem believes this can be improved by more accurate call definitions with funding focused on a short list of major breakthrough innovation topics, with higher funding for more high quality projects. More precise call definitions will also enable better quality reviews of proposals.  
In addition the SusChem Position Paper highlights support for the two-stage call approach in Horizon 2020 and but highlights intellectual property (IP) concerns with the move to an Open Science approach as too hasty publications may hinder IP protection and therefore value creation.

The paper also stresses the importance of attracting a mix of SMEs and large industries to participate in Horizon 2020 and its successors seeking a continuation of the balance of public funding for SMEs and large chemical companies that is crucial to improve competitiveness in Europe.  

The paper argues that Improved Time to Grant for project funding is critical to maintain and increase industrial participation in Horizon 2020. In addition appropriate funding levels for projects is required with higher funding needed in particular to bridge upfront technologies and processes over the ‘valley of death’. Higher funding for innovation projects (TRL 6-8), demonstration and flagship actions is necessary. The paper also highlights that administrative costs for project consortia formation have increased in Horizon 2020.

SusChem recommends
SusChem’s position paper includes with the following specific recommendations:

  • A substantial coverage of topics in lower TRLs (Technical Readiness Level 3 – 5) and few topics at demonstration and pilot levels (TRL > 7) with appropriate levels of funding is required.
  • Strengthen the Public Private Partnership concept as a long term committed initiative; increase their attractiveness for large industry by higher funding for more flagship-oriented projects.
  • Focus the Horizon 2020 programme on fewer/bigger topics related to Europe’s strengths that can receive more funding to enable mission focused Flagship Project(s) for the chemical industry.
  • Focus on fewer topics but fund at least four high quality proposals, allowing a holistic approach for a specific scientific challenge.
  • To achieve a better participation balance in Horizon 2020 between large industries, SMEs, academia, and Member States (EU-13 and new Member States) an improvement of call topic selection is strongly required.
  • Earlier publication of call topics allowing possible partners to align themselves with their business planning is desirable
  • All the calls for proposals should be based on a two-stage process: this would allow a simplification of the workload of the involved consortia. Criteria: (i) the time for evaluation of the first stage should be faster with a shorter deadline between stages one and two; (ii) the coherence between the evaluations in both phases can be improved.
  • Better and more precise feedback for rejected projects is highly desirable.
  • Horizon 2020 is an important R&I funding mechanism, but overall may represent only a portion of total R&I funding/support available in the EU through other programmes and/or member state instruments. A better integration between different funding mechanisms is highly desirable.
  • High-level support in the Member States and the European Parliament is required to achieve the rejuvenation of the process industry in Europe.

SusChem impact
The SusChem Position Paper concludes by discussing the preliminary impact of selected FP7 and Horizon 2020 projects by highlighting a range of SusChem inspired projects in five relevant fields covering sustainable chemistry contributions in process industries, circular economy, and energy efficiency amongst others. The fields highlighted are:

  • Water Management 
  • Catalysis and Processes
  • ICT/Digitisation and Processes
  • Sustainable Bioeconomy
  • Materials for Energy

You can download the full SusChem Position Paper here and SusChem’s completed questionnaire here. For more information on SusChem activities visit the SusChem website or email the SusChem secretariat.

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