Fast Track to Innovation will remain active during 2015 and 2016 with a total budget of 200 million Euros. It is a new pilot scheme which promotes, in particular, the development of innovative technologies and activities already available at an advanced stage of experimentation, “close to market”, in other words, nearly at the point of being marketed. There is an obligation to start marketing within three years from the start of the project.
Fast Track to Innovation, FTI, is a new public European funding scheme within the Horizon 2020 programme, in effect since January 2015 and continuing for the whole of 2016, as a pilot scheme. It calls for the financing of project proposals purely with a bottom-up approach, that is, innovation proposals on topics freely suggested by interested parties. The projects, in effect, can be presented in all the subject areas of the two mainstays of Horizon 2020, named as Industrial Leadership (LEIT – Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technology) and Social Challenges.
The innovations or solutions proposed must already be available at an advanced stage which, in Horizon 2020, is measured using a classification of the development of a technology in nine levels (Technology Readiness Level, TRL). The starting level of the technology required by FTI is approximately equivalent to TRL6, that is the level of a technology already at the demonstration stage on an industrial level or in another relevant environment.
The object of the scheme is the development, within a short space of time, of the innovative technology to the maximum level of TRL9. In other words it must be shown to be functioning in an operating and productive environment, with penetration into the market and assessment of the commercial success and economic impact.
There are also incentives and a positive assessment given for trans-disciplinary and cross-sector cooperation, which can supply new networking opportunities between various stakeholders.
FTI has a total available budget of 200 million Euros and, like other innovation schemes, the EU financing rate is 70% of the eligible costs. The indicative EU contribution for an individual project is between 1 and 2 million Euros, although in duly justified cases a Community contribution of up to 3 million Euros can be considered.
FTI will be implemented via an ever open call which allows a project proposal to be presented at any time this year or next.
With regard to 2015 there are three dates when the proposals received will be assessed, 29th April, 1st September and 1st December. There will also be three assessment windows in 2016, the dates of which will be announced later.
Implementation time frame for 2015
- 6th January 2015
Opening of the scheme, start of collection of project proposals
- 29th April 2015
Deadline for the first call, proposals collected up to this date
- End of July 2015
First results of the assessment
- 1st September 2015
Deadline for the second call
- End of October 2015
Signing of the first finance agreement
- 1st December 2015
Deadline for the third call Result of the second call of September 2015
FTI is a simpler and faster tool compared with other similar Horizon 2020 schemes, for example SME Instrument, or schemes from the preceding 7th Framework Programme. At the end of each of the three proposal assessments each year, an almost immediate response will be supplied if the project is ruled out because it has an assessment score which is lower than the minimum required. If the proposal is judged as having more than the minimum points required, a ranking list is made and a detailed assessment is done. The estimated time until the signing of the finance agreement from the start of the assessment of the projects is six months. The clear and quick timing is particularly important in view of the advanced stage of the technology or innovation which needs to be promoted and with the aim of introducing it into the market within a short space of time.
The requirements to take part in Fast Track to Innovation
The proposals for obtaining finance must be presented by consortia made up of three to five legal entities established in at least three different EU member states or countries associated with Horizon 2020. The substantial involvement of industry and SMEs in the consortia will be essential in order to ensure a rapid spread in the market:
- At least two industries in a consortium of three/four partners, or
- three industries in a consortium of five partners, or
- 60% of the proposal’s budget (total of eligible costs) allocated to the industrial partners.
Furthermore, the aim is to stimulate the participation of first-time applicants for EU research finance, in other words, First time industry applicants (private ‘for profit’ legal entities which have obtained a PIC for the first time, or else which have registered in the Beneficiary Register of the Participant Portal for the presentation of the FTI proposal).
Other actors who can play a key role in the marketing process are also invited to take part, for example, cluster organisations, end-users, industrial associations, incubators, investors or the public sector.
The involvement of industry and SMEs within partnerships will be obligatory.
The FTI pilot scheme in 2015 and 2016 will serve to test the efficacy of this new type of approach in terms of effective support in promoting the placing on the market of the best technological innovations. Therefore the impact that such innovations can have on society and the economy of the European Union will be evaluated and if it is a good outcome the scheme could be repeated in subsequent years.