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Expert Group Advises the European Commission on Innovation, Technology Transfer

ECE’s Keromytis Part of Europe-U.S. Group Providing Guidance

Atlanta, GA
Angelos Keromytis

Angelos Keromytis

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The European Commission, which is the executive branch of the European Union, has introduced a European Innovation Council (EIC) to support high-risk, high-impact ideas, turning science into new business and accelerating the scale-up of innovators shaping the future. 

As part of this effort, the Commission created a team of ten high-level experts from the United States and Europe to provide advice and assistance on the development of proactive program management in the EIC pilot phase 2018-2020 and for the launch of the fully-fledged EIC in Horizon Europe from 2021-2027. They have provided guidance on how to strengthen the EIC in the areas of innovation ecosystems and management, technology transfer, and investment in ways that are similar to how the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) operate in the United States. Their recommendations are in a report entitled “Implementing the pro-active management of the EIC pathfinder for breakthrough technologies and innovations.”

This expert group includes Angelos Keromytis, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He joined ECE in 2019 as the John H. Weitnauer Technology Transfer Endowed Chair Professor and is a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. Prior to joining ECE and while on academic leave, Keromytis served for four years as a program manager in the DARPA Information Innovation Office and for one year as a program director for the Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Prior to joining Georgia Tech, he was also on the faculty of Columbia University for 17 years with the Department of Computer Science.

Keromytis was asked to join this group for his experience in creating, launching, and managing cybersecurity research programs at both DARPA and NSF and for his experience both in academia and in founding four startup companies focused on cybersecurity and network security. He led the subgroup that developed the recommendations on how new programs should be created and structured, and what the role of program managers should be. He also contributed to the subgroup that developed recommendations on how impactful transition should be planned for and pursued by the EIC.

His colleagues who serve with him in this expert group are Lars Frølund, research director of the MIT Innovation Initiative and a visiting fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management; Jes Broeng, a serial high-tech entrepreneur, photonics scientist, and professor at the Technical University of Denmark; Julien Chiaroni, director of the Great Challenges in the French Innovation Council; Carsten Dreher, professor of innovation management at the Feien Universität Berlin; Franz-Werner Haas, chief corporate officer at CureVac, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Germany; Cheryl Martin, acting director of the ARPA-E Initiative, housed in the U.S. Department of Energy; Fiona Murray, associate dean of innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management; Marie-Elisabeth Rusling, a business and organizational consultant based in Belgium; and Spela Stres, head of the Innovation and Technology Transfer Center for the Jozef Stefan Institute at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.  

With the overall objective of achieving maximum impact of EU funding, Keromytis and his colleagues in the expert group made the following recommendations: 

  • Use a ‘challenge-driven’ approach, where program managers bring together projects across the Pathfinder portfolio, actively guiding them to solve specific societal challenges
  • Develop novel tools allowing for more effective monitoring and communication between program managers and projects 
  • Empower program managers to reorient projects and/or give additional funding to cover the costs of unforeseen barriers 
  • Provide hands-on support of program managers to help transition from lab to market and facilitate development of network building and connections 

Currently in its pilot phase, the EIC will be fully implemented starting in 2021 under Horizon Europe, an initiative that will help support European global competitiveness by helping its best innovators develop and scale their groundbreaking ideas. The EIC currently has four program managers who specialize in biomedicine, biotechnology, biomedical engineering, brain-related technologies, materials for energy and environmental sustainability, innovation management, clean energy technologies, energy systems integration, and biosystems engineering. 

While the EIC will be mainly bottom up without predefined topics, funding will be provided for strategic technology development, startups, and small to medium-sized enterprises. Additional programmatic areas and program managers will be added in future years by the EC and its member states.

Last revised November 30, 2020