[Theme in Focus] ICT Research & Innovation, WBC-RTI.info Newsletter Oct/Nov 2016

The ICT sector represents 4.8% of the European economy. It generates 25% of total business expenditure in Research and Development (R&D), and investments in ICT account for 50% of all European productivity growth. EU investments in ICTs are due to increase by about 25% under Horizon 2020 compared to FP7. This EU investment will support the whole chain from basic research to innovation that can deliver new business breakthroughs, often on the basis of emerging technologies. Information and Communication Technologies underpin innovation and competitiveness across private and public sectors and enable scientific progress in all disciplines. (EC) Thus in H2020, ICT-related topics can be found in all priorities, from 'Excellence Science' to 'Industrial Leadership', to 'Societal Challenges'. Please check the updated version (as of July 2016) of the Guide to ICT-related activities in WP 2016-17 which is designed to help potential proposers find ICT-related topics across the different parts of H2020. The European Commission is also organising an Horizon 2020 Calls Info Day on 2 December 2016 in Brussels that is relevant for potential proposers from the Western Balkans as well.

Transforming Science through ICT tools

Open Science in Horizon 2020 “means a radical transformation of the nature of science and innovation due to the integration of ICT in the research process and the internet culture of openness and sharing.” Information and Communication Technologies can speed the innovation process and facilitate the production and the exchange of scientific results also by creating virtual collaborative environments where results are more accessible and multidisciplinary research is encouraged.

ICT as a cross-cutting issue in Horizon 2020 contributes to opening science through e-infrastructure calls, which aims at producing high quality catalogue of services, supporting existing e-infrastructures and prototyping new ones for research and education communities. Two of the calls currently open under this specific topic and might be of interest to potential proposers are “Data and Distributed Computing e-infrastructures for Open Science”, which aims at make research data discoverable, accessible, assessable, intelligible, useable, and “Platform-driven e-infrastructure innovation”, that has the objective of preparing the capacity required to future generations of e-infrastructure.

Regional developments

... a growing prioritization of ICT structural reforms

During the Steering Platform meeting (see Conclusions of the 18th Steering Platform on Research for Western Balkans) held in Sarajevo in June 2016, the Dutch presidency representative encouraged the countries from the region to activate in order to promote the importance of Open Science and to become familiar with the concept of Open Research Data (ORD) since applying this principle will be more and more decisive for obtaining fund in Horizon 2020 from 2017. As of  October 6-7, 2016 Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Serbia and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, joined the European Open Science Agenda that aims at improving access to research results for business use and innovation, as well as quality and impact of research results. “The Open Access policies promote competitiveness and therefore promote the importance of quality and impact of research results which are currently very low in the Western Balkans”, said Vanja Ivošević, RCC’s Senior Expert on Smart Growth.

In this context, a Horizon 2020 funded project “VRE for regional Interdisciplinary communities in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean – VI-SEEM”, should be mentioned which involves partner from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and FYR of Macedonia. The main goal of this project is reducing the digital divide within Europe by facilitating regional interdisciplinary collaboration thanks to a Virtual Research Environment (VRE) that will help to strengthen the research capacities of the users and to better spread the research results from (and within) the region. The VI-SEEM project is also currently providing the opportunity to apply to its 1st Call for proposals for projects accessing VI-SEEM Services, that will give the opportunity to the selected applicants active in the specific fields of Life Sciences, Climate research, and Digital Cultural Heritage to access the resources and services it offers.

The South East Europe 2020: 2016 Annual Report on Implementation shows that R&D investment across the Western Balkans is still insufficient and that the impact of research produced in the region is still low. Related to Information and Communication Technologies the annual report further states:  

“The prevalence of new information and communication technologies in all activities means that all economies, regardless of the level of development, have to create capabilities to use these technologies. All Western Balkans economies have made progress regarding the ITU's ICT development index, but the fact that they still populate the lowest part of the ranking table for Europe confirms the wide digital divide and the urgent need for more resolute actions, reforms and investments in the ICT sphere. Particular gaps are observed regarding the penetration for fixed broadband. The statistical data gathered from the statistical offices of the SEE region likewise confirm low e-commerce usage.” (p.35)

“The Economic and Reform Programmes 2016–2018 show a growing prioritisation of ICT structural reforms and an acknowledgment of the significant growth potential of the ICT sector. In this respect, an increasing number of ERPs prominently prioritise broadband development, in particular the ERPs of Albania (focus on legislative alignment with the Cost Reduction Directive and a coordinated spectrum policy), Kosovo* (focus on the deployment of a high speed broadband infrastructure/expanding ICT infrastructure through the existing dark fibre infrastructure of the energy company currently not in use, ICT skills development and support to digital businesses) and Serbia (focus on legislative alignment with the Cost Reduction Directive, consolidation of the broadband network owned by the public sector, connection of public institutions to the national network, development of programmes to stimulate and support investments in a broadband communications infrastructure with access networks in settlements, particularly in less populated areas).” (p.35)

The report concludes that a growing prioritization of ICT structural reforms and the acknowledgment of the significant growth potential of the ICT sector in the Economic Reform Programmes 2016–19 by all economies is a welcome development, having in mind that “the development of information and communication technologies, ICT infrastructure and skills, are a prerequisite to the development of technology-intensive industries and new service sectors and to making the region attractive to foreign direct investments.”  (p.40)

Once again, the report underlines the necessity of the “(…) increased investment in research and development coupled with incentives to develop research skills in innovative ways, which open not only institutional cooperation channels between universities and businesses, but also research career movement between business and universities, is necessary for the region to recover and grow.” (p.40)

We would like to draw your attention also to the upcoming EEN organised event “Go International – Open innovation in ICT” that will take place on 17 and 18 November in Skopje and will bring together interested companies, research organizations, education institutions and innovators of ICT-enabled products and services interested in presenting their innovative ideas and keen to initiative new partnerships. This initiative as well as the recently held events KosICT held in Pristina, Infofest - XXIII Festival of Information Technology Achievements, held in Budva, Internet of Things Forum 2016, held in Belgrade - to name just few or the upcoming KATANA Info Day in Novi Sad where the first Open Call of the KATANA accelerator* will be presented in detail, show that the region is committed in the ICT field and willing to enhance its role and capacities.

*KATANA accelerator will identify innovations with the greatest development potential in agro and ICT sectors, as well as the new, fast-growing industries such as GPS, drones, Internet of Things, Big Data, and will create unique business and financing models. To the selected start-ups and SMEs the KATANA accelerator will provide access to knowledge, technology, capital and markets, with the overall aim of enabling competitiveness on a global scale and to foster cross-border and cross-sector cooperation. The top 10 most successful applicants will receive financial support of 100,000 €. In the first phase, all interested are invited to send a two-minute video pitch through www.katanaproject.eu and present their ideas. The Open Call will be launched on 1 December 2016 that will bring a wave of financial support with total budget of 1,2 Million euros.

A selection of topic related events, news, calls, documents, organisations, links etc. is available here.


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Entry created by Ines Marinkovic on December 5, 2016
Modified on December 5, 2016