From the beginning, the INJECT project has mainly been about helping the NCE Smart Energy Markets cluster members with the application process in connection with calls in the EU's Horizon 2020 programme. In addition, INJECT has assisted with finding relevant partners, involvement in research and innovation initiatives, as well as promotion at international level. This time the project is at level 2, "EU advisers in EU performance clusters".
- Now Innovation Norway sees us as a mature cluster , which has done a lot in the research and innovation programs from the European Commission. They therefore want us to share our knowledge and expertise with other innovation actors and business clusters, particularly in the Viken region, says Qazi Sohail Ahmad, international project manager in the department for Research & Innovation at Smart Innovation Norway. The company leads the business cluster NCE Smart Energy Markets and Ahmad is the cluster's EU advisor.
The difference is sharing culture
The EU's ninth framework program for research and innovation is called Horizon Europe , and is a continuation of Horizon 2020. The program started on 1 January 2021 with a proposed total budget of 94 billion euros.
Norwegian actors can apply for funds in the same way as companies, public enterprises and research institutions in EU member states. This is where Smart Innovation Norway's INJECT project comes in.
- We want to bring a culture of sharing into the region and help other clusters with applications for the Horizon Europe programme. We will have collaborative discussions and joint activities with other innovation actors in Viken. It is this culture of sharing that is the difference from before, when we only offered help to our own cluster members in connection with Horizon 2020, says Ahmad.
"Team Viken" in Europe
He believes the new INJECT project can mean a lot, primarily for the Viken region as a whole, but also for Smart Innovation Norway and the company's NCE Smart Energy Markets cluster members:
- What is happening is that through collaboration with the other clusters we will also gain insight into and be able to benefit from their knowledge and technologies. Then we can build even closer relationships with the other innovation actors and environments in Viken, which will mean that we can build a strong "Team Viken" in the context of Horizon Europe.
In addition to Horizon Europe, Norway participates in the programs COSME and Digital Europe , both under the auspices of the European Commission. The former is aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and helps them gain access to various markets, while the latter will build up the digital capacity in Europe with a focus on cyber security, artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data, among other things.
- This makes it even more important that the actors in the Viken region have a common strategy and a common understanding, so that we can work together to make the best possible use of the programmes, Ahmad points out. He adds:
- When it comes to our cluster members, it is important that they know what additional opportunities are now open to them. For example, both the COSME program and Horizon Europe's third pillar "Open Innovation" target SMEs.
Success criteria in system
Smart Innovation Norway and the company's partners experienced great success with the Horizon 2020 program and landed several large research projects. Ahmad says that his team is already in the process of collecting all success criteria from Horizon 2020 and developing a strategy for how the company can help the cluster partners in the best way in the future.
- INJECT formally started in January 2021, and we have set up a working group with participants from all of Smart Innovation Norway's departments who work to map the needs of our partners, as well as their expertise, so that we can come up with joint activities and programs as well as involve them in relevant Horizon Europe initiatives, says Ahmad.
He encourages all cluster partners to contact either him or their contact person in Smart Innovation Norway if they have questions about Horizon Europe, COSME or Digital Europe, want to get involved in initiatives or calls for proposals, wonder if their technology is "right" for funding from the European Commission or other inquiries about INJECT.
Cascade Funding Mechanism
Cascade funding is a simple, direct and less administrative mechanism promoted by the European Commission to support smaller players in the innovation arena.