Brussels, 12 March 2008 – “Europe’s outstanding research results in the renewable energy sector need to be exploited more systematically and at a greater success rate” says Katharina Krell, Secretary General of the European Association of Renewable Energy Research Centres EUREC Agency and co-founder of Greenovate! Europe.
As co-ordinator of the FP6 support action ProRETT looking into the commercial potential of 63 technology proposals coming out of publicly co-funded renewable energy research, she has come to a conclusion: R&D research teams need integrated exploitation support earlier in the research process, tailor-made for their specific R&D project and from specialised outsiders that can provide the necessary analysis of the business potential of the given R&D research result.
According to the spirit of FP7, a thorough commercial evaluation of the R&D results towards the end of EC funded projects is expected to become an integral part of each FP7 project. If done properly, this is likely to reduce the potential short-comings of the project’s compulsary exploitation plan and increase the chances of successfully commercialising those FP7 research results that are mature enough for it.
Krell suggests that consortia should be entitled to look for external professional advice on their exploitation plans, not only to ensure impartiality, but also to allow bringing into this evaluation the expertise and experience needed to arrive at a meaningful judgment respected by further funding agencies or potential investors.
Such an external exploitation plan check should take place at least 6 months before the end of the project, so that the consortium would have time to test and/or implement the findings from the external evaluation.
The ProRETT-team proposes that FP7 consortia should be able to charge the costs of this check to the contract as part of eligible expenses. It should be 100% refundable. The EC could establish an upper limit to such costs.
And indeed, all contracts negotiated by the renewable energy unit of DG Research for the first FP7 call do contain the following new paragraph:
“At any appropriate stage of the implementation, the consortium will endeavor to make best use of the exploitable results of the project, in particular those with a commercial potential, through its own resources, CORDIS or other external services.”
This may include proof of concept outside the laboratory; the identification of market potential and opportunities; the evaluation of competing technologies; the assessment of the cost for upscaling from lab scale to industrial application; the development of a business plan; protection of intellectual property rights; etc.
A provision to cover the cost of these activities, which may require subcontracting, is included in the budgetary planning of the project, under “Other costs”.”
“We are very pleased to see this development that makes external advice an eligible cost for all FP7 renewables projects, and we congratulate Head of Unit Mr Schmitz for the non-bureaucratic implementation of this facilitating measure”, comments Serge Galant, President of Greenovate! Europe and partner in ProRETT. “Hopefully, other Units will follow this example.”