Brussels, 21 April 2015 At the annual Science|Business Horizon 2020 conference, discussions revolved around the issue of funding for innovative research projects in Europe. One particular aspect debated was on what should be done with the extremely high competition for limited funding. This leads to a high cut-off point for winning projects, leaving thousands of high-quality innovative projects discarded and resulting a lot of wasted time, effort and budgets. Even though distinguished speakers hailed from a variety of leading universities and think-tanks as well as from the European Commission, EIT, EIB, CERN, Innovate UK and many other leading innovation-pushing organisations and corporations, no solution could be found to this problem. What was suggested however is that certain priority areas of research for the next several years could be identified that should secure funding and investment from other sources who may have strategic interest in any particular area.
Circular Economy, which is the main theme of the upcoming World Resources Forum in Davos, was one such priority area identified by the funding institutions, which included the European Investment Bank and European Institute of Innovation and Technology. Shiva Dustdar, Head of RDI Advisory of the European Investment Bank, particularly noted the need to stimulate more investment into projects that have a social value beside the monetary one. In this sense the leading European institutions share the same vision as World Resources Forum when it comes to funding enterprises and projects: they must bring social value, be it along the lines of poverty alleviation and living standards improvements, or environmental benefits emerging from their activities.
Further important subject of discussion was the austerity measures taken for the EU Budget for 2014-2020, which also affected investment into education and entrepreneurship: in particular, the budget for Horizon 2020 has been cut by 3.5% leading to yet bigger pressure to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions to propagate research and development amongst universities and businesses. Horizon 2020 aims to improve conditions for innovation by pushing for more public-private partnerships in Research and Development and urged both the public and private sector to develop adequate financing mechanisms for innovative enterprises to prevent the already significant problem of many startups and innovative projects moving to the USA at the earliest opportunity due to much bigger availability of funds and easier application process.
Thus the overall takeaway from the conference, which was held 24 March in Brussels, was that there is an abundance, or perhaps overabundance of innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe, which is not yet matched by either existing policies to manage them or adequate funding mechanisms. World Resources Forum, being at the forefront of innovation for natural resource management is investigating solutions for both its own research projects as well as enterprises from our networks that will ensure that harnessing creativity in mining, processing and recycling of materials translates into effective funding and measurable outcomes.