The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is a body of the European Union that was created in 2008. Its mission is to increase European sustainable growth and competitiveness and reinforce the innovation capacity of the EU. Through the funding it provides to KICs, or Knowledge and Innovation Communities (composed of large consortia), the EIT enables the transformation of education and research results into tangible commercial innovation opportunities. Ultimately, the goal of the EIT is to bridge the innovation gap between the EU and its major international competitors.
Following a competitive call in 2009, the EIT selected three thematic KICs in the areas of ICT, Climate Change, and Sustainable Energy. Each KIC is a network of businesses, research institutes, and education institutions (the knowledge triangle) working together on innovation projects and assisting or funding individual innovators and entrepreneurs all over Europe. Each KIC must be composed of at least 3 independent partner organisations established in at least 3 different EU Member States, but they are structured to extend beyond traditional networks of innovation actors in terms of scale, ambition and life-span (7-15 years). The EIT supports the KICs by funding so-called ‘added-value activities’ but this cannot exceed 25% of the total financing of the KIC.
Over the last two years, MCST has been exploring ways in which it could promote participation of local stakeholders in the three running KICs. As part of this initiative, an awareness–raising event on the EIT, the existing KICs, and the upcoming call for the second wave of KICs was held in November, 2013. While this meeting generated interest among local public and private stakeholders, it became evident that joining existing KICs would prove a challenge, since these mainly operate as pre-defined consortia. Nevertheless, some opportunities that were offered by the KICs, such as educational programmes and courses focusing on entrepreneurship, were identified as possible points of entry for Maltese participants. Apart from this, feedback from existing KICs showed that a broader and more concerted effort by local stakeholders may be more beneficial in securing participation than individual efforts by entities.
With this in mind, and seeing a great opportunity to pilot participation in a new KIC, MCST started working with a consortium called ‘Kenup’ that was planning to submit a bid under the 2014 call for a new KIC on Healthy Living and Active Ageing. The partner in this consortium was the Republic of Malta represented by the Malta Council for Science and Technology, creating the potential for all local entities, both public and private, to benefit from a successful application. Maltese participants also became active in another consortium applying to become the new KIC on Raw Materials. The designation of one consortium in each thematic area – Raw Materials and Healthy Living and Active Ageing – was announced in December 2014. Maltese players, including members from the public and private sector as well as MCST, are integrated into the winning consortium that will operate as the KIC Raw Materials over the next 7 to 15 years. Although ‘Kenup’ was not designated as the KIC on Healthy Living and Active Ageing, the consortium is planning a continuation of their activities with Malta pursuing an active role in this initiative.