Nearly 200 people attended the Horizon Europe Day webinar on 26 January 2022. The event was organised with a dual objective: to present the funding opportunities of the Horizon Europe framework programme and to highlight testimonials from companies that have carried out concrete projects.

The twin digital/green transition was the subject of the main panel at the opening of the event.

“The signing of the 2022-2025 multi-annual agreements between the State and the University of Luxembourg, the public research centres and the National Research Fund involves more than €1.6 billion,” Robert Kerger, Advisor at the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, reminded the audience. “Digitalisation and sustainable development/energy are two of the main pillars of this investment. Another important consideration is that Luxembourg is a small open economy, which means that a programme such as Horizon Europe becomes important for the internationalisation of public research. This concerns both technological and non-technological developments.”

Hakan Lucius, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Civil Society Division at the European Investment Bank, stressed the importance of the digital transition for the economy, competitiveness, well-being and sustainability. “These are indispensable elements for the future,” he said. “We are proud to be European and to be at the forefront of the world in becoming sustainable without carbon emissions by 2050, but we cannot do it alone. That is why all EU initiatives are needed.”

Research, the main ingredient of innovation

The national innovation agency, Luxinnovation, is also working in this direction. Supporting innovation in a digital and sustainable environment for the benefit of companies, but also for the economy as a whole, is one of its recently presented strategic objectives.

“Achieving and implementing this dual transition is not possible without R&D activities, which are supported at the national level,” said Benjamin Questier, Director R&D & Innovation Support at Luxinnovation. “We have a whole portfolio of services to guide companies, starting with a 360° analysis of their situation, needs and objectives. But in any case, research remains the main ingredient of innovation.”

The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) is also another major player in this dual transition. “We have an important role to play in achieving the Green Deal objectives. We work directly with companies and civil society organisations,” explained Christina Ehlert, Policy Officer working for the management at LIST. “We have been involved in more than 30 ‘Horizon’ projects over the last 3 years, which demonstrates our strong scientific excellence in a number of areas, from environmental research to materials, informatics and the European Space Resource and Innovation Centre. Not to mention that we can rely on a solid network of partners.”

Relive the round table

Valuable advice

Another panel, moderated by Charles Betz, Senior Advisor – European R&D and Innovation Support at Luxinnovation, provided an opportunity to hear about successful experience and participations in European projects.

The discussion focused on operational issues, how to find the right partners for international projects and the differences compared national funding.

“Given the number of organisations involved and their strategic relationships, European projects are more intense and complex,” said Sabine Kessler, Research and Development at the Institut fir biologësch Landwirtschaft an Agrarkultur Luxemburg (IBLA).

“There are so many EU-funded programmes that at the end of the day, it is always possible to find one to fund an idea,” added Tommaso Serchi, Senior Researcher at LIST. “National funding is much more restrictive and has a more limited scope.”

Involving citizens in European projects is one of the challenges that the Horizon Europe programme is keen to address. “Ideally, we should be able to show them how their participation can be a key element for the future,” observed Carla Jellema, Project Manager of the City of Differdange. “The ongoing FUSILI project, for example, shows them the importance of local sourcing to achieve greater autonomy and self-sufficiency.”

Before joining a European project, it is also useful to capitalise on the experience of companies that have already gone through the process, so as not to make certain mistakes. “You don’t want to aim too high right away,” said Tommaso Serchi. “It is important to start slowly and take your time to grow.”

Sabine Kessler recommended that “we should try to understand certain key aspects that often escape the minds of researchers, such as gender equality and the dissemination of results.”

Pascal Bouvry (University of Luxembourg), CEO of LuxProvide, underlined the importance as well as the difficulty of coordinating a consortium. “It is a big challenge and you need a dedicated team to do it properly.”

Parallel sessions

The 2022 edition of Horizon Europe Day was complemented by information sessions held in parallel, which detailed, by topic, the funding and development opportunities made possible by Horizon Europe:

“More than ever before in European research and innovation funding schemes, Horizon Europe legitimises, broadens and operationalises the circular economy,” said Rebecca Damotte, Advisor – European R&D and Innovation Support at Luxinnovation.

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