How the European Commission’s FET is funding tech innovation
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In Berlin, we tend to forget how much the EU is doing for tech research and innovation. With new global investments pouring into local startups every day, it’s often the private venture capital funds that are at the heart of Berlin’s startup hype.

But European funds from the iikes of the IBB Bank and the EFRE program have helped countless tech startups on their feet in Berlin and across Europe. 

Before her appearance at the RE.WORK tech summit in Berlin, Béatrice Marquez-Garrido of the European Commission explains what the Future & Emerging Technologies (FET) scheme is doing for tech innovation and funding.

WebMagazin: What is the FET programme all about?

Béatrice Marquez-Garrido: FET invests in frontier research on new technologies with a high potential for long-term impact on our economy and on society. Research funded by FET is by nature high risk, multidisciplinary and intended to lay the foundations of game-changing new technologies.

Such research typically ventures into uncharted territories at the cross-roads of different disciplines such as biology, chemistry, nano- and molecular science, neuro- and cognitive science, ethology, social science, economics, engineering and with the arts and humanities.

€2.7 billion until 2020

Research in future technologies is key for Europe’s future competitiveness. This is why €2.7 billion will be invested in FET under the EU’s new research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 (2014-2020). This represents a nearly threefold increase in budget compared to the previous framework programme (FP7).

FET consists of three complementary schemes:

  1. FET Open is an entirely bottom-up approach for exploring a wide range of novel and visionary ideas.
  2. FET Proactive organises critical mass around promising ideas through a set of focused thematic initiatives.
  3. FET Flagships are visionary, large-scale, science-driven initiatives that tackle grand scientific and technological challenges.

WebMagazin: Where did the idea come from?

Marquez-Garrido: FET was launched some 20 years ago to get novel breakthrough ideas into research on future information technologies. From the early stage, the scheme has been very popular in the scientific community and instrumental in exploring the potential of interdisciplinary research in pathfinding novel information technologies.

Today, the mandate of FET is still very much relevant and based on its success has been enlarged so as to become the main European research scheme for exploring future technologies.

WebMagazin: What kind of ‚frontier research‘ are you funding at the moment?

Marquez-Garrido: Being an exploratory programme, the scope of FET is by nature broad and open-ended.

It currently includes domains such as new forms of computing and networking, artificial intelligence and cognition, bio and neuro-information technologies, advanced robotics and cognitive systems, nano technologies, quantum and photonic technologies or research on complex systems such as large socio-technical systems that are becoming more and more vital to global economy and society.

320 research projects across Europe

FET has been funding some 320 research projects under the FP7 framework program (2007-2013) for a total of about €824M and launched two large scale flagship initiatives: Graphene and Human Brain Project. In the years to come, FET will grow and fund an even larger diversity of emerging domains for exploring future technologies.

At RE.WORK in Berlin, some research funded by FET will be presented like the PLANTOID project led by Barbara Mazzolai, Director of the Center for Micro-BioRobotics.

WebMagazin: Does this programme only benefit European citizens and research projects?

By nature, long term research and scientific progress can benefit to anyone in Europe and beyond. But FET funding is firstly dedicated to support European research actors so that Europe remains an attractive place for world class scientists to collaborate and explore novel ideas.

Taking the lead in the early stage exploration of new technologies is essential for Europe long term competitiveness and for creating a favourable ecosystem of knowledge and actors in Europe, including for start-ups, young entrepreneurs and innovative high-tech companies that may develop into the technological leaders of the future.

For more information about FET programme, check their webpages, newsletter or on Twitter.

You can hear Béatrice Marquez-Garrido speak at the RE.WORK tech summit in Berlin this week.

Feature image: EU flags in front of European Commission in Brussels via Shutterstock / copyright: Symbiot


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