Monday, October 02, 2006

Innovation and European R&D (IST) projects

In the past years (FP4, 5, 6), I have extensively participated in European IST Research projects. More and more I have seen a shift of the European Commission from basic research to commercial exploitation. The “Exploitation Plans” of the consortium are one of the most important topics during the final reviews. An exploitation plan lays out the plans of the consortium (members) of how to commercially exploit the R&D results obtained during the project. Take into account that, for private organizations, EU projects are co-financed between the EU and the private organization. Some return on investment would not be so strange …

How often do R&D results of European Projects hit the market successfully? Actually, I do not have figures or statistics on this, but would be very interested (anybody has an idea? Please let me know). It is my impression –both as researcher and as EC reviewer and evaluator- that there are very few R&D results that make it successfully to the market. And this is a pity. In the following writings I will analyse why –in my experience- this is the case, talking about factors such as:
• The relative budget allocation to “exploitation” of R&D results,
• The composition of consortia (people organizations),
• The ambition of proposals (the sky is the limit) versus the reality at project end,
• The speed at which things happen in large R&D projects versus the rapid changes in the market and technology landscape,
• The innovation funnel,
• The technology adoption lifecycle,
• Gartner’s Hype curves,
• European university education on creating companies,
• European entrepreneurial culture and mentality,
• Etc.

The EC goal (Lisbon Council) is/was to make Europe the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. That only can/could happen if innovation happens at a very rapid pace, bringing new technology to the market in record times. That is still an important goal for Europe, and something I feel as a personal mission related to Semantic Web technology. But it is very hard; success is more an exception than a rule.

Stay tuned.

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