Paving the route to successful exploitation, intellectual property (IP) takes an essential role in the entire life cycle of R&D projects funded through Horizon 2020, the new framework programme of the European Union (EU) for research and innovation for the period 2014-2020. With Horizon 2020, the EU aims at strengthening the European scientific and technological base and fostering benefits for society as well as better exploitation of the economic and industrial potential of policies of innovation, research and technological development. In fact, it is essential that the public resources and efforts used in research are converted into socio-economic benefits to the EU. For this reason Horizon 2020 establishes commitments from the participants in terms of exploitation of the projects’ results, including their protection through IP. Proper IP management should therefore be carefully considered from the very beginning of a project. Major issues to be considered in this context are:
- How will results be protected? How will Joint Ownership be treated?
- How will the exchange of existing knowledge and know-how (i.e. “background”) and results among partners and external stakeholders be managed? What are the best conditions to grant access rights?
- What are the best and most viable routes for exploitation of Horizon 2020 results?
Horizon 2020 is a very attractive and flexible programme to develop creative solutions to incorporate intellectual assets into proper business strategies. Horizon 2020 is very open for Business. More than any of the former EU RTD framework programme initiatives it is calling for ideas and strategies to identify proper exploitation routes. There are great opportunities and there are not many limits to design the most suitable exploitation strategy at consortium and/or individual participant level.
Exploitation channels may encompass a wide range of different paths to bring research results to the marketplace such as:
- Improving existing/developing new products and services to be more competitive in existing and/or emerging new markets
- Creating new businesses for further exploitation, i.e. Spin-offs or Joint Ventures among project partners or involving third parties outside of the project
- Taking advantage of licensing opportunities by negotiating the right type of licence to be granted, e.g. exclusive, non-exclusive or sole licence, and whether it should be limited by the field of use and/or territory. By nature, licensing is a viable and the most common approach to create business opportunities out of research results.
It’s all about IP – the key to sustainable success
Horizon 2020 collaborative projects differ in their innovation dimension, but as a common principle, they bring partners with different business mind-sets and interests around a table. Expectations and strategies regarding the commercial use of project results are driven by the value and exploitability of IP generated in the project on the one hand and the overall business orientation of the participating institution on the other hand. An IP exploitation strategy at project level can only be successful if institutional IP policies are carefully incorporated and respected in the overall approach.
Usually, most of the institutions involved in Horizon 2020 projects have preferred or established IP exploitation tools and channels, and it is a recommended practice to exchange information within the consortium about those strategies at a very early stage of the project. Obviously, a sustainable and successful IP exploitation strategy at project level has to derive from, and be embedded in, the overall business development strategy of the individual consortium institutions. In the case of small and medium sized-enterprises (SMEs), for which Horizon 2020 has reserved a driving seat to stimulate innovation in Europe, it is not obvious to find proper internal management structures and capacities to turn IP into business. Therefore, specific support measures (i.e. Enterprise Europe Network, European IPR Helpdesk) are available at European, national and regional level to enhance the innovation capacity of SMEs.
Besides the risk of IP conflicts among consortium partners that might hinder the smooth implementation of a project, a lack of expertise in IP management and knowledge transfer also poses a threat to the successful exploitation of project results. Far too often the full potential of commercialising research results remains unrecognised and thus not fully tapped due to inadequate experience and expertise in IP management. This insufficient exploitation of research results contrasts with the rising importance and demand of professional exploitation strategies, which are already an inherent component of collaborative research projects at the proposal stage.
Therefore, with the start of Horizon 2020, the European IPR Helpdesk has implemented an extended focus on IP aspects of downstream activities. Based on an increasingly market-driven approach, more emphasis is placed on turning research outcomes and technological developments into value-creating products and/or services.
For more information, please visit the EU IPR Helpdesk’s website.
Jörg Scherer is Chief Executive Officer of the European Research and Project Office GmbH (Eurice) and consortium member of the European IPR Helpdesk, the official IP service initiative of the European Commission providing free-of-charge, professional first-line advice and information on Intellectual Property (IP) and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to researchers and SMEs. For the European IPR Helpdesk he is coordinating a comprehensive capacity building programme for academics and entrepreneurs with over 50 training sessions a year in the field of IP & Innovation.
Mr. Scherer has been working as a research manager in both the academic and industrial sector for the past fifteen years, and has a strong track record in research and innovation management issues within EU RTD Framework Programmes.Read More
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Richard Seeber, MEP and President of the first Intergroup on Water of the European Parliament[/quote]
Why did you found the Intergroup Water? What were your ambitions and expectations for it?
My commitment to water began with the Bathing Water Directive, where I was a Shadow rapporteur. Subsequently, I was rapporteur to the Commission’s Communication on Floods and Droughts in 2006. At that point I realised that water was of crucial importance to our citizens and the economy. I therefore decided to found the Parliamentary Intergroup on Water, today’s “EP Water Group”, in order to put water higher on the political agenda.
Were your expectations fulfilled?
The EP Water Group is today a very recognised inter-institutional platform in the European water sector. In every meeting, we had between 50 and 150 visitors from the Parliament, other EU Institutions, national and regional representatives, industry, environmental organisations and other stakeholders. In over 20 very fruitful meetings, we have discussed issues of great significance to water in general – energy, agriculture, concessions, financing, innovation, water reuse etc. I can proudly say today that the EP Water Group had its fair share in shaping EU water policy.
More generally, if you reflect on your activity on water issues in the EP, to what degree do you think they were efficient?
Apart from the legislation mentioned above, I was also responsible for the Implementation Report on Water ahead of the Commission’s Blueprint. In this report, I called upon the Commission to work on three objectives: firstly, improving the implementation of current legislation, secondly taking regional criteria better into account and thirdly, mainstreaming water policy into all other relevant EU policies. This has been included in the Blueprint and will be implemented accordingly.
Also, I was rapporteur on the “Priority Substances” dossier, i.e. the Environment Quality Standards Directive. Today, our waters contain an alarming number of harmful chemical substances which need to be monitored and, potentially, phased out. Together with the Commission and the Council, we elaborated a satisfactory compromise to establish a watch list, where Member States could place suspicious substances. We further achieved that pharmaceutical products of concern for water will in the future be analysed through a General Pharmaceutical Strategy.
How do you see the opportunities of the water sector for the European economy?
The European water sector is already a global leader in terms of service provision and technology development. Its growth potential is huge – the annual global turnover in the water sector amounts to 375 billion euros. The water sector further contributes considerably to job creation. In order to secure these achievements, we need to boost innovation and R&D. Only by promoting these drivers we can address infrastructure, efficiency and recycling needs in water management. Several water-related societal challenges, such as the water/energy nexus, will only be met by promoting innovative technologies and research. This might require substantial investment at first – but will inevitably solve key issues in water management while maintaining the competitiveness of the European water sector. Initiatives such as the European Innovation Partnership on Water are therefore highly appreciated, also at the EU Parliament.
What are your plans after the European elections?
Looking back at the past ten years in the European Parliament, I am first of all proud to have been a member of this institution, especially an EPP Coordinator in the ENVI Committee, thus contributing to improve and facilitate life for the European citizens and the raise the environmental performance of the EU. In all, I would like to say that my time in the European Parliament was extremely rewarding. I hope to also be able to serve the European citizens with my activities for the environment in the future, possibly as Director of the Euregio office Tyrol – South Tyrol – Trentino.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]
Peter Gammeltoft: Head of Unit for Water, DG ENVIRONMENT[/quote]
What do you consider to have been the most remarkable change in water management in the EU Member States since you started in this position?
In the first place, a major development has been the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) through the River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs). The tools which the WFD offers for water management have been largely implemented by most Member States, although there remain significant gaps in achieving the WFD objectives. Still, I would consider the glass to be half full considering the steps that have been made. The remaining gaps will now be addressed in the second cycle of RBMPs. Another major development I have noticed is the shift in the awareness of the general public about the need to treat water as a precious resource that needs to be managed wisely and efficiently.
What do you see as the key challenge for the future to reach the objectives of the WFD?
The key challenge for the coming years will be the implementation of the programmes of measures by the Member States, using cost efficient solutions that will address the key pressures. Funding will need to be made available for this, which is becoming increasingly difficult in times of economic downturn, but the long term benefits should not be ignored because of short term vested interests. Another important issue is that in many places ageing water infrastructure needs to be upgraded, adapted to the changing climate and new standards of resource and water efficiency.
Which role do you think innovation can play in the implementation of water policy objectives, have you already seen the benefits of innovations in the implementation in the past years ?
The WFD is innovative in itself, through the implementation of the river basin management approach, international coordination and stakeholder involvement. Furthermore, as the Blueprint to safeguard Europe’s water resources indicated, innovation is recognized as a key tool to support the implementation of water policy. The EIP Water is an important driver in this respect. It does not only refer to technological innovations, but also innovations in the field of governance or water management. And innovations are not only needed in the water sector itself, but also in connected sectors, such as agriculture, where innovations can play a very important part in reducing the pressures on water quality and quantity.
What do you consider to be the role of stakeholders in the development of policy and in the implementation?
Stakeholders have a direct interest in our waters being well managed. This places them in a position to have very valuable information about specific aspects of water management that is needed to develop sound policy. For example, the WssTP is a much valued organization as it can support in delivering the technical solutions and innovations that are needed to deal with our water challenges. Furthermore, we do not only need cooperation between the authorities and the stakeholders, but also between stakeholders themselves to support the development of holistic policy and its implementation.
How do you see the state of EU waters in 2027 after three full cycles of WFD implementation, do you expect strong improvements or even being close to having reached the objectives?
We need to remain ambitious and keep the goal of meeting the objectives of healthy water ecosystems and resources that we have set together. It may not be realistic to expect that the objectives have been fully met everywhere, but I prefer to focus on the achievements that have been made and will be made by 2027 and the opportunities they will bring.Read More
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″] Frank de Winne, Astronaut and Head of the European Astronaut Centre of ESA[/quote]
What is the importance of water recycling technologies for Space Exploration? Where are we today and where are we headed?
Water is, in time, after oxygen, the second consumable needed by a crew to stay alive aboard a spacecraft and from far, the most critical with regards to mass. So far, since the beginning of human space flight, water has always been brought to space from Earth, and very little has been recycled on-board; today, aboard ISS, water recycling is limited to water recovery from cabin condensate and urine. Recovered water is typically recycled up to potable water quality. In the context of future long-term manned space exploration on a planetary/lunar base, the frequency of crew rotation and re-supply will drastically decrease. Therefore, the Life Support System will probably offer additional hygiene equipment to the crew, such as a shower and/or a washing machine. These additional equipment will generate grey water, of which the daily amount is estimated to be three times superior to both urine and condensate. In this context, high efficiency water recycling systems becomes a critical, mission enabling technology.
What has the technology programme of the European Space Agency demonstrated so far in terms of water recycling? What technologies are used? Does Europe has operational systems?
Anticipating long-term manned exploration mission, the European Space Agency (ESA) developed a high efficiency, membrane based water recycling unit. This unit, known as Grey Water Treatment Unit (GWTU) comprises a series of membrane filters: one stage of Nanofiltration and two stages of Reverse Osmosis, and is able to recover water for hygiene purposes. GWTU has been extensively and successfully tested in real life conditions. Validation tests was run over a six-month period using real shower water.
The test results showed that more than 93% of incoming grey water was recovered and that the quality was always compliant with water quality standards for hygiene water, despite two simulations of microbial incidents. Based on these promising results, the development of a similar water treatment unit for the Condordia station (French-Italian Antarctic base), which is considered a representative analogue for long term Moon/planetary manned habitat was initiated. This unit has been sized to meet the needs of the Concordia crew (15 – 70 persons) and comprises a series of ultrafiltration, nanofiltration and two reverse osmosis stages. It is in operation since March 2005 and has been remotely monitored by ESA with support of the Concordia crew for the first four years of operation. Monitoring proved the technology to be extremely robust and to constantly produce water within specification for hygiene water. This unit is still operational today and helps limiting the ecological impact of the Concordia station on the Antarctic environment.
What are the next steps? How can space technology help the water resource problem we are facing this century?
ESA will continue to invest in research and technology of closed loop life support systems. The MELiSSA programme is currently the ESA flagship in this area. We also need to look how these technologies developed for long term human space exploration missions to the Moon and to Mars can best service the European and world citizens. An operational testbed could be installed at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) to demonstrate the capabilities of these new systems. In this respect, the EAC is interested to work together with the WssTP. It could function as a highly visible showcase for the much needed technological solutions offered by the WssTP partners and ESA to the growing water problem.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Current Trends in the Water Industry.
Interview with Oded Distel, Director of ‘Israel New Tech’
Where is the world’s water industry headed? What are its most pressing needs, and what technologies, and companies, are most in demand?
We sat down with Oded Distel, Head of Israel’s national program for the promotion of Israel’s water and energy industries, to get his insight into the latest trends.
“The direction of the industry today is clearly maximizing resources,” says Distel. “Budgets are shrinking, or at least being very carefully watched, and those companies who can offer technologies that bring added value by being cost effective, will prevail. Today there is a growing understanding that all resources are precious – water, energy, even land. A company can offer amazing water technology, but if it requires a heavy budget, or high financial cost, or even a large amount of land to implement, it will find itself waging an uphill battle.” According to Distel, Israel is ideally placed in this arena, as resources (both natural and budgetary) have always been in scarce supply, and Israelis have had to be creative in developing not only effective, but efficient water solutions.
On a continuation of this theme, there is also growing awareness on the part of different industries that they must be efficient in their use of water resources. Industries like Mining, Oil & Gas, Food & Beverage and others, are massive consumers of water. Their growing interest in optimizing their use of water also creates opportunities for water technology companies. Israel NewTech has been working to bring Israeli water technology companies to these industries, through targeted business delegations, in Israel and abroad. Delegations from these and other industries, in search of innovative water technologies, will be visiting Israel in October for WATEC 2013, the international water exhibition and conference.
And which companies are raising most interest on the part of the water industry?
“Another growing trend in the water industry worldwide puts mathematical algorithms, and ‘big data’ to work in order to make water use efficient,” says Distel. Here too Israel is well-positioned, with a workforce highly skilled from Israel’s successful hi-tech arena, some of which is finding its way to cleantech. Distel points out Israeli companies including Arad, Bermad, Iosite, Peak Dynamic, Powercom and Takadu as some of the companies whichstand out in this arena. “There is a process of crossover happening between different industries: energy and water, hi-tech and cleantech…experience in one discipline lends to improving another. All of this makes for more effective, and more innovative, water solutions,” concludes Distel.
For more information on WATEC 2013, please click hereRead More
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Hans Seitinger, Minister for Agriculture and Foresty, Water and Waste Management, Government of Styria, Austria[/quote]
Within WssTP the stakeholders for water supply in urban and rural areas are playing an important role. How the governance of water supply is structured in Styria?
In Styria exclusively groundwater and springs are used for water supply. The Northern part of Styria represents the mountainous Alpine region with sufficient water resources. On the other hand in the Eastern and Southeastern region, which is a hilly area out of the Alps, water resources are sometimes scarce and therefore in some places the water supply must be provided by transregional pipelines from aquifers in the north. The operation of supply is structured through water boards and water corporations, which are organized on a strong economic basis, controlled by a supervisory committee with public background.
WssTP has been developed to an important advisory body on water issues for the European Commission. Could this constellation also be used for the benefit of Styria?
Definitely yes, Styria will merge its interests in the water sector from time to time and deliver to WssTP through the Austrian delegate, expecting that the interests will be adjusted with other European regions in order to become accepted easier by the Commission. Styria is in favor of an excellent geopolitical position with specific know how for high water related investments and for networking.
By the establishment of MSMG Secretariat in Graz, the Region of Styria will be upgraded. Could this step also extend the sphere of influence to neighboring regions in Southeast Europe?
This perception was one of the main reasons that Styria is strongly supporting the establishment andrunning of the MSMG secretariat. It should definitely increase the co-operation of Styria with the Member States and the Candidate Countries on public lines.
The “European Innovation Partnership on Water” as the new future oriented program of EU is reflecting deeply the governance instruments for a sustainable utilization of water resources. How this task can be implemented in Styria?
Styria as a whole has sufficient water resources for drinking purposes. Nevertheless we have to govern the distribution of the resources carefully and also to end users from the industry, the energy and theagriculture.
The private industry on European scale is undertaking a lot of efforts by R&D developments to adopt the operation of water supply systems. Which models could be applied for Styria expecting the most benefit for the state andits population?
The running models are still attractive and the co-operation with private providers for certain services might be successful, it should be based on innovative activities through research investments governed by public interests.Read More