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Jason Edwards


Horizon 2020 Projects


elcome to this edition of Portal, the definitive, independent,

quarterly guide to the EU’s latest research and innovation

framework programme – Horizon 2020. The year 2015

sees the celebration of the nanomaterial graphene, making it ten years

since fundamental breakthroughs at the University of Manchester, UK.

As the city hosted the Commercial Graphene Show Europe in April and

this year’s Graphene Week in June, it was seen as a homecoming for

the so-called ‘wonder material’.

In our special materials feature, we have an exclusive interview with

Professor Andrea C Ferrari, chairman of the Graphene Flagship executive

board and director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre, who provides his

thoughts on the importance of EU funding for the nanomaterial and the

latest developments of the Graphene Flagship. We also carry the thoughts

of Andrew Houghton, deputy head of the flagships unit, DG CONNECT,

on the background to the graphene FET project, as well as Terrance

Barkan, executive director of the Graphene Council, who provides an

insight into some hurdles regarding standards and regulation.

The importance of innovation cannot be underestimated as Europe

seeks to both regain international competitiveness and encourage

economic growth. In May, Portal travelled to Budapest to attend

INNOVEIT 2015, a major conference of the European Institute of

Innovation and Technology. The three-day event highlighted the work of

the organisation’s Knowledge and Innovation Communities, showcased

the entrepreneurs of tomorrow, and celebrated winning innovations with

the presentation of the annual EIT Awards.

Opening the journal, European Education Commissioner Tibor Navracsics

reviews the important work of the EIT. Highlighted in both a special

feature on INNOVEIT 2015 and throughout the journal, we have exclusive

interviews with the leaders of the KICs, as well as Martin Kern, interim

director of the EIT; and Peter Olesen, chairman of the EIT Governing

Board. Speaking to Kern and Olesen on the sidelines of the conference,

they reflect on the impact of the European Fund for Strategic Investments,

provide an insight into the creation of the new KICs, and thoughts on the

EIT Awards.

Portal also talks to EIT Digital’s Professor Willem Jonker, who highlights

to the KIC’s ‘blended life’ strategic innovation agenda; KIC

InnoEnergy’s Diego Pavía, who expresses how the KIC is mobilising

the entire energy supply chain to contribute to innovation; and

Climate-KIC’s Bertrand van Ee provides his thoughts as he looks to

the COP21 talks in Paris later this year.

Meanwhile, June also saw the publication of the European Commission’s

official response to the Stop Vivisection European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).

The EU institution said that whilst it shares the conviction that animal

testing should be phased out in Europe, its approach for achieving that

objective differs from the one proposed in the Citizens’ Initiative. In a

special feature on animal ethics, Portal provides an overview of the ECI

and the demands of the initiative organisers, and also speaks to Professor

Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of the League of European Research

Universities, who explains why he thinks the ECI is a “fantastic mistake”.

The EU is placing more emphasis than ever on safeguarding our natural

environment, both on land and in the ocean. The theme of this year’s

Green Week, attended by Portal in June, was Nature and biodiversity and

the EU institution emphasised the importance of realising the circular

economy, ahead of publishing its ambitious strategy later this year.

With this backdrop, we hear from Robert-Jan Smits, director general of

DG Research and Innovation in European Commission, on the importance

of Nature-based solutions as well as providing an insight into the latest

developments regarding Horizon 2020. We also present coverage of the

address of European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who

sets out how to appropriately reap the benefits of the ‘blue planet’; speak

to Dirk Holemans from the Oikos think tank, who discusses the circular

economy and the role of the citizen; and also to the University of Lisbon’s

Professor Francisco Castro Rego, who sets out how Nature-based

solutions can help to tackle climate change.

To open the latest edition of this publication is a great privilege and I

hope you find this issue as interesting and informative a read as I have

found in its creation. As ever, I welcome any comments you may have.


H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L