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€2 billion to fast forward the creation of European Innovation Council

Ahead of the 21-22 March European Council discussion on innovation, industry and competitiveness, the Commission takes decisive steps to set up a European Innovation Council.

Global competition is intensifying and Europe needs to deepen its innovation and risk-taking capability to compete on a market increasingly defined by new technologies. That is why the Juncker Commission is introducing a European Innovation Council (EIC) to turn Europe’s scientific discoveries into businesses that can scale up faster. Currently in its pilot phase, the European Innovation Council will become a full-fledged reality from 2021 under the next EU research and innovation programme Horizon Europe.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation said: “With the European Innovation Council, we don’t simply put money on the table. We create a whole innovation system to place Europe at the forefront in strategic technologies and innovation that will shape our futures such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology and zero-emission energy. We must focus on the needs of the innovators, who are the ones who will generate jobs, strengthen our global competitiveness and improve our daily lives.”

The Commission launched in 2017 the pilot phase of the European Innovation Council, introducing open competitions and face-to-face interviews to identify and fund Europe’s most innovative start-ups and SMEs.Since then, 1276 highly innovative projects have already benefitted from an overall funding of over €730 million.

Today the Commission announces important steps that will ramp up the remaining two years of the pilot phase of the EIC:

Over €2 billion of funding in 2019-2020: covering the innovation chain: “pathfinder” projects to support advanced technologies from the research base (opens tomorrow); and “accelerator” funding to support startups and SMEs develop and scale up innovations to the stage where they can attract private investment (open in June). Under the “accelerator” funding companies will be able to access blended financing (grants and equity) of up to €15 million.

The Commission will appoint 15 to 20 innovation leaders to an EIC Advisory Board to oversee the EIC pilot, prepare the future EIC, and champion the EIC globally. Innovators from across the ecosystem are invited to come forward by 10 May.

The Commission will recruit a first set of “programme managers” with leading expertise in new technologies to provide full-time, hands-on support for projects. The call for recruitment will be published shortly.

Also today, the Commission announces 68 additional startups and SMEs selected for an overall funding of €120 million under the existing EIC pilot. The companies are for instance developing a blockchain-based online payment technology, new energy efficient screens and a solution to fight traffic noise (breakdown of beneficiaries per country and sector).

Given the growing economic importance of breakthrough and disruptive innovation, and based on the early success of the EIC pilot, the Commission has proposed to dedicate €10 billion to the EIC under Horizon Europe, the EU research and innovation funding programme for 2021-2027.

Background

With only 7% of the world’s population, Europe accounts for 20% of global R&D investment, produces one third of all high-quality scientific publications, and holds a world leading position in industrial sectors such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, mechanical engineering and fashion. But Europe needs to do better at turning that excellence into success, and generating global champions in new markets based on innovation. This is particularly the case for innovations based on radically new technologies (breakthrough) or markets (disruptive).

In June 2018, the Commission proposed the most ambitious Research and Innovation programme yet, Horizon Europe, with a proposed budget of €100 billion for 2021-2027. The proposal builds on the Commission’s contribution to the EU Leaders’ meeting on 16 May in Sofia “A renewed European Agenda for Research and Innovation – Europe’s chance to shape its future”, which highlighted the need to create a European Innovation Council and other steps to ensure Europe’s global competitiveness.

The conclusions of the European Council of 28 June 2018 endorsed the setting up of the EIC under the next long-term budget (2021-2027). EU leaders invited the Commission to launch a new pilot initiative on breakthrough innovation within the remaining period of Horizon 2020, in order to pave the way for a fully-fledged EIC in Horizon Europe.

The European Innovation Council is part of a wider ecosystem that the EU is putting in place to give Europe’s many entrepreneurs every opportunity to become world leading companies. Other initiatives include a Pan-European Venture Capital Funds-of-Funds programme (VentureEU), the Investment Plan for Europe (EFSI), the work of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology, the Capital Markets Union Action Plan to improve access to finance or the proposal for a Directive on business insolvency.

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Letitia James wins New York attorney general race

Letitia James won the race for New York attorney general on Tuesday, setting her up to become a key legal combatant to President Donald Trump’s administration.

James, the New York City public advocate, was part of a Democratic sweep of New York’s state-wide elected offices along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who all won re-election on Tuesday.

She defeated Republican Keith Wofford, a private attorney who was originally from Buffalo and now lives in Manhattan, and three third-party candidates. The Associated Press call the race at about 11 p.m.

James, 60, will become the first African American woman to be elected to a state-wide office in New York.

DiNapoli, meanwhile, thwarted a Republican challenge from Jonathan Trichter, a financial expert and former Democrat.

James was the favourite to win the seat that opened up when now-former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman abruptly resigned earlier this year after The New Yorker published accounts from multiple women who said Schneiderman physically abused them.

Barbara Underwood was appointed to finish Schneiderman’s term but did not run for a full term.

A former New York City councilwoman, James vowed to continue the Attorney General’s Office’s aggressive posture with the Trump administration, which has resulted in more than 100 legal actions challenging federal decisions or actions, including Trump’s policies on immigration and climate change

James won a four-way Democratic primary in September to advance to Tuesday’s general election.

Wofford, who specialises in bankruptcy law, had accused James of being too cosy with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other Democratic leaders, vowing to be an independent force in office.

James had about 63 percent of the vote with 87 percent of precincts reporting.

In a statement, Wofford thanked his supporters and wished James well.

“I wish Letitia James the best of luck as New York State attorney general and hope she will be an independent voice of law and order for the state of New York,” he said.

In the comptroller’s race, DiNapoli successfully won a third full term. He was first appointed to the position in 2007.

Trichter, a finance expert, challenged DiNapoli’s handling of the state’s $200 billion pension fund. He was a first-time candidate for office who struggled to raise money and air advertisements, leaving him unknown to most New York voters, according to public-opinion polls.

In a victory statement, DiNapoli thanked New Yorkers for electing him.

“With their renewed support, I will continue to guard the taxpayers of this state against waste and corruption and push to make government more accountable, efficient and transparent,” DiNapoli said.

With 87 percent of precincts reporting, DiNapoli had about 68 percent of the vote.