Digital Innovation Initiatives based on European Networks of Competence Centres in H2020

Starting in FP7 and more broadly applied in Horizon 2020, the European Commission is supporting a group of innovation initiatives supporting SMEs and mid-caps across the economy in digital value creation. The formula for success is the collaboration of industrial actors across the complete value chain in a large number of small experiments facilitated by Europe’s leading competence centres. By going broad both in terms of applications and in terms of actors (e.g. SMEs and mid-caps both on provider and user side), this scheme is an important means for putting Europe’s industrial renaissance on a more solid foundation. The major initiatives are “ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs” (I4MS), supporting largely process innovation, and “Smart Anything Everywhere” (SAE), supporting product and service innovation:

  • ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs (I4MS) is addressing process innovation through digital technologies such as simulation, modelling and data-analytics; robotics; advanced lasers and smart sensors; cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things (IoT). Launched in July 2013 in the context of the Factories of the Future contractual Public-Private Partnership (FoF cPPP), with 7 large innovation projects and an initial budget of 77M€, I4MS has proven to be on the right track towards helping SMEs and mid-caps step ahead in digital technologies. Currently 40 competence centres in 17 Member States, 150 experiments and 150 SMEs or mid-caps are participating in I4MS.
  • Smart Anything Everywhere (SAE) is supporting product and service innovation through digital technologies. Clustered in four projects with a total budget of 25M€, 23 of Europe’s leading competence centres in the components and systems value chain across 11 Member States will start from January 2015 to support 100 user-supplier experiments with 200 SMEs and mid-caps. Currently, Smart Anything Everywhere constitutes projects selected under ICT1 and ICT2 of Work Programme 2014/15.

The picture below illustrates the position of the targets of the I4MS and SAE initiatives in the technology adoption lifecycle.

SAE Diagram

The innovation actions called for in 2015 under topics ICT4 (customised and low power computing) and FoF9 (I4MS phase 2) are also foreseen to be part respectively of the Smart Anything Everywhere (SAE) and the ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs (I4MS) initiatives.

These innovation actions aim at stimulating broad adoption of novel embedded and cyber-physical systems technologies and their enablers in industrial and societal applications important for Europe. In the context of FoF9 they also aim at the uptake of advanced ICT technologies like simulation and cloud computing by manufacturing SMEs. Experiments should bring together all actors of the value chain and experts necessary to equip new users with novel products or services. With special emphasis on SMEs, the focus of these experiments is on the adoption of emerging innovative technologies and processes, which are customised, integrated, tested and validated in the experiments before being able to compete on the market.

The picture below illustrates a potential structure of how projects could be set-up1. The core of the project clusters knowledge and access to specific technology and platforms which can be used in experiments. The experiments are usually driven by a neutral research organisation, not focused on one competence or specific technology, in order to avoid that such a competence centre becomes a marketing outlet for one single company, or that user SMEs will be locked into one particular brand. In one project, several of such competence centres are networked together leading to a European network of competence centres.

SAE Diagram

Innovation Actions in Call topic ICT4-2015: Customised and low power computing

For the topic ICT 4-2015 “Customised and low power computing” of advanced computing, the innovation actions called for under “Connecting innovators across value chains” may be linked to the Smart Anything Everywhere Initiative.

As mentioned in the call text, these innovation actions should be driven by the requirements of users, application, experiments are expected to be clustered experiments must bring together all actors along the value chain to customise and use advanced low power computing systems in cyber-physical systems. With special emphasis on SMEs and mid-caps in large scale projects driven by networks of European centres of excellence to achieve critical mass and to better exploit EU-added value.

Proposals requesting a large contribution are expected. The action may involve financial support to third parties in line with the conditions set out in Part K of the General Annexes (see below for further explanations) The consortium will define the selection process of additional users and suppliers running the experiments for which financial support will be granted (typically in the order of EUR 50.000 – 150.000 per party). Maximum 50% of the EU funding requested by the proposal should be allocated to this purpose.

Innovation Actions in Call topic FoF9-2015: ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs (I4MS, phase 2)

For the topic FoF 9-2015 “ICT Innovation for Manufacturing SMEs (I4MS)” of Factories of the Future, the innovation actions are foreseen to be part of the second phase of the I4MS initiative. Two types of innovation experiments are supported: Driven by the requirements of first-time users, Application Experiments bring together all actors of the value chain and experts necessary to equip new users with novel products or services and assist them in customising and applying these in their respective environments. In Equipment Assessment Experiments, suppliers of innovative high-tech equipment install and assess their prototypes or products in production-like environments and validate them in a manufacturing line or in an industrial environment that is very close to manufacturing conditions.

Activities are expected to be clustered in larger projects to achieve critical mass and to better exploit EU-added value. Common tasks include: targeted dissemination; management of calls for new actions; exploitation of synergies across actions.

The action may involve financial support to third parties, in line with the conditions set out in part K of the General Annexes (see below for further explanations). The consortium will define the selection process of additional users and suppliers running the experiments for which financial support will be granted (typically in the order of EUR 50 000 – 150 000 per party). Maximum 50% of the EU funding should be allocated to this purpose.

Three areas of technologies are targeted for the Innovation actions:

  • Highly flexible and near-autonomous robotics systems (application experiments).
  • HPC Cloud-based modelling, simulation and analytics services for modelling multiple interconnected phenomena; for integrating multiple tools across the process chain; for exploiting the dynamic availability of “big data”; for integrating novel mobile interfaces for data management and decision support; for achieving real-time response (application experiments), and addressing comprehensively security and privacy issues at all levels.
  • Integration of Cyber-Physical-System modules in manufacturing processes and process chains (application or assessment experiments) to increase sophistication and automation in production SMEs and to create novel value added services linked to process surveillance and maintenance.

Consortia are encouraged with support actions to link to the Smart Specialisation strategies of Europe’s regions to allow for less developed regions to participate in value creation. This could be supported through the ESIF Programmes, or through the innovation voucher scheme introduced by CNECT.

How does financial support to 3rd parties work?

Although the I4MS phase 1 (ICT for Manufacturing SMEs, http://i4ms.eu/) and the ECHORD (European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development, http://www.echord.eu) FP7 projects have been presented as good example of the structure and principles envisaged to be applied in the implementation scheme, it is important to understand that the procedure to provide financial support to third parties under H2020 is significantly different than in FP7.

The two new innovation actions EUROCPS and CPSELABS recently selected under topic ICT1-2014 “Smart Cyber-Physical Systems” of the first ICT call of H2020 are good examples of the implementation of the new scheme of H2020 to provide financial support to third parties. These two innovation actions would cluster together more than 50 experiments initiated mainly by SMEs selected through 3 open calls between 2015 and 2018. Together with GATEONE and SMARTER-SI, two other innovation actions selected under topic ICT2-2014 , they form the basis of the “Smart Anything Everywhere” initiative.

Please refer to the FAQ published on the DAE website for more explanations.

Reference:
WP Annex K: Financial support to third parties; General annexes p.34

How to get more information?

The European Commission is organising an “information day” in Brussels on 17/12/2014, where it will be possible to present your organisation to other potential proposers and to ask questions to EC staff. Please note that under Horizon 2020 the European Commission cannot provide anymore the “pre-proposal check” service.

Reference:
Horizon 2020 Calls Info Day: Low Power Computing, Internet of Things and platforms for smart objects, ICT in Factories of the Future.
FAQs on H2020 calls on Customised and Low-power Computing (ICT 4) and ICT in Factories of the Future (FoF 8 and FoF 9)