Expanding Academia-Enterprise Collaborations (HORIZON-EIE-2024-CONNECT-02-01)

HORIZON-CSA HORIZON Coordination and Support Actions
2024-09-19 17:00






Projects results are expected to contribute to four (4) or more of the following expected outcomes:

  • Improved integration of research institutions, Higher Education Institutions, vocational schools, and similar organisations into Europe’s innovation ecosystems by establishing better links with start-ups and start-up networks, accelerators and incubators, business angels and investor communities;
  • Improved flows of knowledge, skills, and talents between educational institutions and other innovation ecosystem actors at various levels of development, including in the deep tech[1] field in line with the New European Innovation Agenda[2];
  • Improved skills of all involved ecosystem actors to increase innovation potential, inter-sectoral mobility, and market uptake of new technologies; Targeted are skills necessary and responsive to innovation and labour market needs on digital, green, and entrepreneurial skills, networking skills, risk taking, and in particular in the deep tech field;
  • Improved connections of educational institutions to high-quality remote testing, validation, and up-scaling of innovations delivered by research and technology infrastructures across the EU;
  • Improved competence of students, graduates, researchers, and workforce to launch, run, and lead successful and profitable start-ups, including in the deep tech field;
  • Enhanced availability of local talents equipped with skills to support business acceleration and digitalisation[3];
  • Enhanced entrepreneurial activity in developing innovation ecosystems and their upscaling and interconnectedness across the EU supported by citizens and local initiatives in order to build innovative solutions to current and future challenges;
  • Increased engagement and connectedness with other ecosystem actors (e.g. other educational institutions, Technology Transfer Offices, Research and Technology Organisations, local and regional enterprises, private companies, start-ups, early-stage companies, accelerators, incubators, etc.) within and between regions;
  • Increased youth (self) employability and gender balance in collaborations.

Target group(s): Research and innovation ( related actors such as vocational schools, higher education institutions, public authorities in the field of education and employment, innovation agencies, SMEs, deep tech companies, the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) start-ups and industry, research performing organisations, knowledge and technology transfer offices and associations, students and researchers.

Educational and research institutions are considered key places for knowledge production and innovation, and should be well connected within and beyond their respective regional innovation ecosystems. By increasing the connectedness of educational and research institutions, host regions will be able to increase their competitive advantage by fostering and possibly attracting talent, high-tech companies, and boosting innovation output in the area;

However, due to the diverse innovation landscape in Europe, educational and research institutions from better-connected innovation ecosystems benefit from more local accelerators with greater funding opportunities and more qualified business support services compared to their counterparts in other areas, including rural or peripheral areas.

The action should foster the creation of innovation ecosystems with educational and research institutions, or strengthen their existing links. Proposals should outline activities for supporting educational and research institutions to take a greater entrepreneurial role, e.g. through boosting innovation and entrepreneurship within their activities. The action should also ensure that educational and research institutions’ assets and vision are articulated clearly and in line with respective regional specialisations (such as smart specialisation strategies), so they can easily be integrated into innovation ecosystems and economic value chains.

The proposals should leverage best practices of the private and public sector in the EU’s well performing innovation hubs and enhance collaborations between businesses with R&I actors in educational and research institutions. The proposals should build on the educational and research institutions’ focus areas and relationship to innovation, matching regional and business interests (and where relevant complement smart specialisation strategies), in order to maximize each stakeholders’ strengths and accelerate progress. The proposals should outline activities that will foster connectedness of the innovation ecosystems while preventing brain drain and encourage talent to stay in emerging regions, including rural areas. Only by providing local talents, including female talents, with knowledge and opportunities to contribute to the local private sector or develop their own businesses, local innovation ecosystems can expand based on sustainable and inclusive growth. The proposals should valorise high levels of technical skills, including in deep tech, in developing innovation ecosystems with hands-on knowledge and experiences in business management and international scale-up processes.

The action supports co-designed programmes of activities of at least two (2) years, proposed jointly by educational institutions, research institutions, and other R&I actors from ‘emerging’ and ‘moderate’ innovation ecosystems and the private sector from innovation hubs (‘strong innovators’ and ‘innovation leaders’), to ensure better connectedness between higher education institutions and research organisation with other actors of innovation ecosystems, for example:

  • Engagement of business experts into the implementation of networking activities and building innovation ecosystem around the university/research institution;
  • Engagement of students, graduates, researchers and workforce from various disciplines and departments into the innovation ecosystem, with a focus on networking and building networks around educational and research institutions as centres of gravity, and engaging in companies’ structures and business processes;
  • Engagement of students and researchers in start-ups from both their immediate local environment and beyond (regional, national, transnational) working with various actors from the innovation ecosystem to experience what starting and running a venture entails, such as raising funds, pitching events, creating, editing, and adapting business models in the creation process from idea to market, etc.;
  • Creation of synergies between students, graduates, researchers, innovators, education institutes, research performing organisations, and business partners, locally, at EU level, and globally targeting the creation of networks and communities of practices in the field of deep tech to stimulate the market uptake of results and new technologies, as well as their co-creation.

The proposed programmes of activities should ensure gender-balanced participation opportunities.

To ensure that the impact of the action goes beyond consortium members and their respective countries, it is encouraged that the selected consortia work closely with innovation agencies from their respective territories and beyond, and seek synergies with relevant EU initiatives in the field of university-business cooperation, such as knowledge and innovation alliances under the Erasmus+ programme or the EIT Knowledge Innovation Communities (KICs) to allow for complementarities and possible use of already existing EIT KICs’ knowledge, expertise, networks, communities or platforms such as those developed under the EIT Initiative on Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education[4]that focuses on strengthening partnerships between higher education and businesses including developing innovation and business support services.

Today’s urgent challenges are inherently complex and systemic and will not be solved by individual actors or territories in isolation. Fostering enabling innovation ecosystems across the European Union (EU) requires a systemic approach that is inclusive and collaborative, involves diverse actors, institutions and places, maximises the value of innovation to all, and ensures equitable diffusion of its benefits.

As highlighted in the European Commission Communication on a New European Innovation Agenda[[A New European Innovation Agenda, COM(2022) 332 final]], by increasing the inclusion and interconnection of less represented regions and actors into a more strongly integrated European ecosystem, the EU can capitalise on the experience, needs, visions, and perceptions of an increasingly diverse range of people, companies and places. In doing so, it can also take forward a uniquely inclusive European innovation model that is sustainable, guards against substantial labour market and wage gaps, and associated threats to territorial and social cohesion.

Moreover, such well-connected and diverse ecosystems provide innovative companies with the necessary support and conditions to thrive, i.e. through additional capabilities, data, customers, knowledge, and talents. Network connectivity within and between innovation ecosystems greatly contributes to sustainable business growth with high societal value. Therefore, the actions of this destination aim at strengthening and expanding cooperation between innovation players to better support the next generation of innovative companies whose solutions will lead the shift towards a more competitive EU and a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient world.

Besides stronger innovation performance, increased competitive sustainability, and more rapid transitions to a green and digital society, ecosystem integration can provide ecosystem actors and companies with access to new resource, markets, customers, and contribute to disruptive strategies and innovative solutions. By being actively engaged in their local, regional, national, and European networks, companies can increase their overall growth potential.

This destination offers a holistic package of actions that:

  • Strengthen innovation ecosystems across the EU through fostering more efficient, inclusive, gender diverse, and connected innovation ecosystems, by accelerating the development and deployment of innovation, including deep tech[[Deep tech innovation aims to provide concrete solutions to our societal problems by finding its source in a deep interaction with the most recent scientific and technological advances and by seeking to produce a profound impact in the targeted application areas.]] innovation and encouraging co-planning, co-implementation, and co-investments around European strategic priority areas;
  • Ensure the inclusion of all key innovation players from across the quadruple helix,[[A model of cooperation between industry, academia, civil society and public authorities, with a strong emphasis on citizens and their needs.]], and all EU territories, including rural areas[[Long-term vision for the EU’s Rural areas (COM(2021)345 final.]];
  • Mobilise policies, funding instruments (EU, national, regional) and fostering synergies between them;
  • Improve public and private buyers’ capacity to procure innovative solutions and enhance coordination on innovation procurement initiatives within Member States and Associated Countries;
  • Improve the connection of individual innovators with other ecosystem actors and innovation support providers;
  • Ensure openness and cross-fertilisation of the innovation ecosystem within and beyond the EU’s borders.

In particular, the actions under this destination should promote the creation of links:

  • Between all key innovation stakeholders, including the private sector, in particular between SMEs, start-ups and other innovators, including social innovators with investors, industry and public and/or private buyers for faster access to funds and markets and the public sector including authorities in charge of national, regional or local innovation policies and programmes and bodies responsible for smart specialisation strategies; also between SMEs, start-ups and foundations, civil society organisations, citizens, and individual inventors; with universities and research and technology organisations (RTOs) as sources of innovation and talent, to ensure that innovations match existing needs, values, and expectations of society, thereby accelerating deployment and up-take towards tackling societal challenges, and, if applicable, with innovation actors from peripheral or rural innovation ecosystems (such as start-up villages[[More information under “Start-up villages: a commitment to a long-term vision for rural areas.”]]);
  • Among ‘innovation leaders’ and ‘strong innovators’ with ‘moderate’ and ‘emerging innovators’[[References: Regional Innovation Scoreboard (RIS)European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS)Global Innovation Index (GII).]] across the EU and Associated Countries[[Associated countries are described in General Annex B.]] to increase innovation cohesion[[The work programme will act in complementarity with the “Widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area” work programme]];
  • With networks such as National Contact Points, Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRIs[[More information under “Partnerships for Regional Innovation.”]]), the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), and European Innovation Council (EIC) communities, the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), clusters and Euroclusters, European university alliances, Missions, pan-European platforms such as Startup Europe, public and private regional or local innovation actors, in particular incubators and innovation hubs (e.g. European Research Area hubs and Digital Innovation Hubs), that could be interconnected to favour partnering among innovators.

Where appropriate, the applicants should consider and actively seek synergies with possibilities for further funding from other relevant EU, national and/or regional innovation programmes, including Cohesion Policy funds, the Recovery and Resilience Fund, the EU’s External Action instruments, the Economic and Investment Plans for the Western Balkans, Eastern and Southern Neighbourhoods, and other public and private funds or financial instruments.

Expected impact

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to strengthening robust interconnected innovation ecosystems and creating a favourable environment to promote the scalability potential of businesses, including in the deep tech sector, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Interconnected, inclusive, and more efficient innovation ecosystems across the EU that draw on the existing strengths of European, national, regional, and local ecosystems and engage new, less well-represented stakeholders and less advanced innovation territories, including rural areas, to set, undertake, and achieve collective ambitions tackling challenges for the benefit of society, including green, digital, and social transitions, and advancing the European Research Area and the New European Innovation Agenda;
  • Enhance cross-border network connectivity and inter-regional collaboration of regional innovation valleys by reinforcing their capacity to create, reshore, and renew European value chains towards the sustainable green and digital transition and the EU’s open strategic autonomy in EU countries and/or regions;
  • Strengthen and expand cooperation between innovation ecosystems worldwide;
  • Foster more inclusive and gender equal innovation ecosystems;
  • Reducing territorial inequalities in access to innovation support.