Strengthening Research and Innovation (R&I) cooperation between the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) is a key priority of the EU Communication Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa, in which the role of R&I is recognised as a driver for sustainable and inclusive economic growth and job generation, thereby reducing poverty and inequalities. The first R&I Ministerial meeting of the AU-EU High-Level Policy Dialogue on Science, Technology and Innovation (HLPD on STI) agreed to focus cooperation in four priority areas: Public Health, Green Transition, Innovation & Technology, and Capacities for Science, and also agreed to the development of a joint AU-EU Innovation Agenda, which is currently under preparation, and expected to be adopted at the second AU-EU R&I Ministerial in early 2023.
This topic contributes to the priority areas of action (number 9) listed in the Council Conclusions on the Future Governance European Research Area with regard to launching a pilot initiative on the Team Europe approach for a specific world region and/or topic.
This topic is also in support of the key actions mentioned in the Council Conclusions on the Global approach to Research and Innovation – the EU’s strategy for international cooperation in changing world, in particular at point twenty-nine related to the AU-EU Partnership, aiming at developing a joint EU-AU Research and Innovation Agenda in support of building research capacities and translating research outputs, including those from the ‘Africa Initiative’ under the Horizon Europe Work Programmes 2021-2022, into socio-economic and environmental benefits, in line with the agreement reached at the 2020 EU-AU R&I Ministerial meeting.
The action funded under this topic will have the objective of supporting the implementation of the AU-EU Innovation Agenda. The action is expected to bring together a mix of EU and AU innovation stakeholders, from academia and business, including higher education establishments, public and private research entities, non-governmental organisations, international finance institutions, incubators and accelerators, technology transfer and capacity building and higher learning organisations.
The aim of the topic will be to foster the links and networks between innovation stakeholders from the AU and EU innovation ecosystems, also including the social innovation dimension.
Proposals addressing this topic should in particular contribute to the following outcomes:
Support the implementation of the AU-EU Innovation Agenda by providing for a convening platform enabling the elaboration and proposal of implementation modalities of specific actions already included in the current AU-EU Innovation Agenda. In particular and in practice, this action would enable the attainment of several short-term actions foreseen in the working document of the Innovation Agenda for two thematic areas (e.g. “Cross-cutting issues” and “Capacities for science”), aiming to:
Foster the establishment of links and networks among stakeholders across the innovation value chains, from the generation of ideas to development and implementation of innovations, including private and public sectors, higher education and research organisations, financial institutions, and civil society organisations;
Involve citizens in the innovation ecosystems, to improve societal uptake of innovation outputs, and valorise creative and collective intelligence, ensuring also gender equality and active participation of youths;
Strengthen coordination and cooperation between AU and EU innovation programmes and various implementing institutions, ensuring knowledge transfer, capacity building and mobility opportunities, consistent with the socio-economic needs of the concerned AU and EU countries or regions.
Facilitate, conceptually and logistically, the organisation of annual or bi-annual meetings with key innovation stakeholders from the EU and the AU. By doing so, provide a forum for discussion and planning of the implementation of other short-, medium- and long-term actions of the AU-EU Innovation Agenda;
Provide further de-risking support to Eureka-funded small and medium sized-enterprises (SMEs), that have previously benefitted from Viability Assessment Projects (VAPs) under Eureka’s Innowwide, by shortening the time-to-market of their innovative solutions and enhancing the uptake of innovations in European and African countries.
Target group(s):Networks of start-ups, innovators, incubators, accelerators, academia, research and technology organisations (public and private sector), think tanks, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations, private and financial actors.
With the objective of guaranteeing a multidisciplinary approach, the selected consortium should be composed of diverse stakeholders (e.g. networks of start-ups, innovators, incubators, accelerators, academia, research and technology organisations, think tanks, NGOs, private and financial sectors, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s (EIT) Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), etc.).
Following the end of the project, this platform is expected to continue operations without funding from Horizon Europe. Therefore, the development of a sustainability plan is requested.
Today’s urgent challenges are inherently complex and systemic and will not be solved by individual actors or territories in isolation. Fostering enabling innovation ecosystems across the European Union (EU) requires a systemic approach that is inclusive and collaborative, involves diverse actors, institutions and places, maximises the value of innovation to all, and ensures equitable diffusion of its benefits.
As highlighted in the European Commission Communication on a New European Innovation Agenda[[A New European Innovation Agenda, COM(2022) 332 final]], by increasing the inclusion and interconnection of less represented regions and actors into a more strongly integrated European ecosystem, the EU can capitalise on the experience, needs, visions, and perceptions of an increasingly diverse range of people, companies and places. In doing so, it can also take forward a uniquely inclusive European innovation model that is sustainable, guards against substantial labour market and wage gaps, and associated threats to territorial and social cohesion.
Moreover, such well-connected and diverse ecosystems provide innovative companies with the necessary support and conditions to thrive, i.e. through additional capabilities, data, customers, knowledge, and talents. Network connectivity within and between innovation ecosystems greatly contributes to sustainable business growth with high societal value. Therefore, the actions of this destination aim at strengthening and expanding cooperation between innovation players to better support the next generation of innovative companies whose solutions will lead the shift towards a more competitive EU and a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient world.
Besides stronger innovation performance, increased competitive sustainability, and more rapid transitions to a green and digital society, ecosystem integration can provide ecosystem actors and companies with access to new resource, markets, customers, and contribute to disruptive strategies and innovative solutions. By being actively engaged in their local, regional, national, and European networks, companies can increase their overall growth potential.
This destination offers a holistic package of actions that:
Strengthen innovation ecosystems across the EU through fostering more efficient, inclusive, gender diverse, and connected innovation ecosystems, by accelerating the development and deployment of innovation, including deep tech[[Deep tech innovation aims to provide concrete solutions to our societal problems by finding its source in a deep interaction with the most recent scientific and technological advances and by seeking to produce a profound impact in the targeted application areas.]] innovation and encouraging co-planning, co-implementation, and co-investments around European strategic priority areas;
Ensure the inclusion of all key innovation players from across the quadruple helix,[[A model of cooperation between industry, academia, civil society and public authorities, with a strong emphasis on citizens and their needs.]], and all EU territories, including rural areas[[Long-term vision for the EU’s Rural areas (COM(2021)345 final.]];
Mobilise policies, funding instruments (EU, national, regional) and fostering synergies between them;
Improve public and private buyers’ capacity to procure innovative solutions and enhance coordination on innovation procurement initiatives within Member States and Associated Countries;
Improve the connection of individual innovators with other ecosystem actors and innovation support providers;
Ensure openness and cross-fertilisation of the innovation ecosystem within and beyond the EU’s borders.
In particular, the actions under this destination should promote the creation of links:
Between all key innovation stakeholders, including the private sector, in particular between SMEs, start-ups and other innovators, including social innovators with investors, industry and public and/or private buyers for faster access to funds and markets and the public sector including authorities in charge of national, regional or local innovation policies and programmes and bodies responsible for smart specialisation strategies; also between SMEs, start-ups and foundations, civil society organisations, citizens, and individual inventors; with universities and research and technology organisations (RTOs) as sources of innovation and talent, to ensure that innovations match existing needs, values, and expectations of society, thereby accelerating deployment and up-take towards tackling societal challenges, and, if applicable, with innovation actors from peripheral or rural innovation ecosystems (such as start-up villages[[More information under “Start-up villages: a commitment to a long-term vision for rural areas.”]]);
With networks such as National Contact Points, Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRIs[[More information under “Partnerships for Regional Innovation.”]]), the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), and European Innovation Council (EIC) communities, the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), clusters and Euroclusters, European university alliances, Missions, pan-European platforms such as Startup Europe, public and private regional or local innovation actors, in particular incubators and innovation hubs (e.g. European Research Area hubs and Digital Innovation Hubs), that could be interconnected to favour partnering among innovators.
Where appropriate, the applicants should consider and actively seek synergies with possibilities for further funding from other relevant EU, national and/or regional innovation programmes, including Cohesion Policy funds, the Recovery and Resilience Fund, the EU’s External Action instruments, the Economic and Investment Plans for the Western Balkans, Eastern and Southern Neighbourhoods, and other public and private funds or financial instruments.
New project idea for: The African Union-European Union Innovation Platform (HORIZON-EIE-2024-CONNECT-01-02)
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