Europe’s ‘MIT’ wants to accelerate innovation and support creativity

"This is one of the EU's contributions to innovation; if the EU is to remain competitive, we must do more,"said EIT Director-General Martin Kern.

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology, often referred to as “Europe’s MIT”, is a little over ten years old and has already supported more than 900 projects. It is now preparing to launch a branch to promote culture and the creative industries. EURACTIV France reports.

The Swedish group NorthVolt, also branded as one of Europe’s “unicorns”, has been working on the first green and fully recyclable batteries near the Arctic region.

The company, which was only created two years ago, is already valued at €1.6 billion after raising €1 billion last June.

And the company is the source of great pride for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). For ten years, the EIT has been attempting to accelerate innovation in Europe by supporting start-ups in promising sectors.

Northvolt has been one of the 900 projects supported so far.

“It’s not only financial support. We also obtained valuable follow-up regarding our business model and suggestions on how to make our idea profitable,” said Northvolt’s chief environmental officer, Emma Nehrenheim, at the EIT forum in Budapest.

Budget increase?

This one example among others shows that “we have validated the model, and now the Commission is proposing to increase our budget by 25%”, said EIT Director-General Martin Kern.

If EU member states and the European Parliament would agree on the next multi-annual budget, the resources of the Budapest-based organisation represented in all EU member states should reach €3 billion for the 2021-27 period.

“This is one of the EU’s contributions to innovation; if the EU is to remain competitive, we must do more,” Kern added.

Among the specific features recognised by the European executive, the EIT’s expertise in education and training makes it a unique structure, with “alumni” from all over Europe who meet regularly. This week, for instance, they met to discuss their projects and encourage new ones.

“Innovation today comes mainly from ‘cross-fertilisation’: collaboration between several sectors,” explained Anna Valtonen, the vice president of Art and Creative Practices at the Aalto University in Finland.

To further support potential transversal collaborations, the EIT is also launching a new department. After climate, energy, mobility, food or raw materials, culture is one of the institute’s new priorities.

Culture in the spotlight

“This is an up-and-coming sector in terms of employment and growth, whose business potential deserves to be developed,” according to Elisabetta Lazzaro, a professor in the Netherlands and co-author of a European report on cultural and creative industries.

To illustrate the potential of this sector, the EIT presented a choreography composed of a dancer and a drone, showing the extent of potential collaborations between art and technology.

“Digital technology can be applied in many potential ways to accelerate the development of other sectors such as publishing, journalism and fashion,” Lazzaro insisted.

For instance, KIC, a young Hungarian software company, has developed a project that puts online video recordings of traditional Hungarian songs. The EIT appears to be interested in better promoting this kind of cultural heritage.

“Our business approach makes it possible to professionalise marketing and distribution, which play key roles in raising awareness among the population to appreciate different, European values. The European cultural scene can be an anchor point towards a Europe for citizens”, Lazzaro added.

EU bets on innovation to secure energy transition

Breakthrough climate-change-busting technologies are set to benefit from €10 billion in EU funding over the next decade, as the European Commission confirmed its punt on a major new innovation fund.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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