The European Commission has called for a European effort to boost key enabling technologies (KETs). The global market in KETs, which comprises micro- and nanoelectronics, advanced materials, industrial biotechnology, photonics, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing systems, is forecast to grow from €646 billion to over €1 trillion between 2008 and 2015; this is a jump of over 54%, or more than 8% of the EU’s GDP. Rapid growth in jobs is expected, too. In nanotechnology industries alone, the number of jobs in the EU is expected to increase from 160 000 in 2008, to around 400 000 by 2015. Full story
Robot preps for space – in Spain
The European Commission is promoting future space exploration with the Planetary Robotics Vision Scout project, or PRoViScout. As a collaborative EU project, PRoViScout unites major European groups working to create robotic vision for planetary space exploration. The result is futuristic technology – today.
It wasn’t Mars – but it will be someday.
In September, a robot called Idris took part in field trials on the Canary Islands as part of the Planetary Robotics Vision Scout project, or PRoViScout. The trials were held at the El Teide National Park in Tenerife, a destination that shares many of the same characteristics found on the surface of Mars: flat landscape, fine volcanic sand, pebbles and rocky outcrops.
PRoViScout, a collaborative EU project funded under the Seventh Framework Programme, or FP7, brings together major European groups working on robotic vision for planetary space exploration. To that end, the Idris robot was taken to the Canaries by the Aberystwyth University (UK) Department of Computer Science, one of numerous universities and research groups taking part in PRoViScout.
The September tests helped advance PRoViScout’s mission to develop better computer vision-based techniques for identifying navigational hazards and spotting points of scientific intrigue for further study. These tasks – which were executed with no human intervention – are crucial to future long-range scouting and exploration missions on other planets.
This groundwork is integral for space missions, which are becoming more ambitious and, by extension, longer. Such missions will need to be more self-reliant than current ones, with robots making their own decisions about navigating, selecting important science samples and possibly even collecting samples for return to Earth.
Mobile systems like the ones tested at El Teide are critical to space missions. With rapid and robust on-site processing and preparation of scientific data, operations become more efficient and are enabled to make maximum use of their limited lifetime. ProViScout will provide the robotic vision building blocks for these types of autonomous exploration systems.
Professor Dave Barnes, of the Space and Planetary Robotics Group at the University’s Department of Computer Science, said: ‘In 2011, there was a Tenerife field test as part of the PRoViSG project, using the Astrium Bridget rover developed by EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space). This past September, it was an Aberystwyth rover that identified science targets and navigated to these targets using new sophisticated software developed during the PRoViScout project’.
Space debris poses a risk to our space infrastructure and to the space services we rely on in our daily lives. European satellite operators lose roughly €140 million per year due to collisions, and that total will rise to about €210 million within the next decade. Therefore, the European Commission has introduced measures to help EU Member States combine their space surveillance and tracking (SST) technology. The proposed European SST service will allow Member States to locate and monitor satellites and dangerous debris, alert satellite operators of collision risks and notify public administrations of so-called uncontrolled re-entries. Full story
The European Mobile and Mobility Industries Alliance (EMMIA), which brings together regional and national policymakers and practitioners at European level, is helping European tourists make the most of their excursions. By taking advantage of cutting-edge mobile technologies, the EMMIA is making remote destinations accessible, bolstering local economies and creating unforgettable trips. Full story
The European Commission is promoting future space exploration with the Planetary Robotics Vision Scout project, or PRoViScout. As a collaborative EU project, PRoViScout unites major European groups working to create robotic vision for planetary space exploration. The result is futuristic technology – today. Full story
Europe is facing a unique set of challenges, ranging from an ageing population’s battle against chronic disease to young people’s inability to find suitable employment. To that end, the European Commission is dedicated to finding solutions that meet both our social and economic needs. Through the European Social Innovation Competition, the Commission is identifying new sources for jobs created by today’s most pressing challenges. Full story
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) need to be better integrated into automated electronic data interchange (EDI) to be successful in global markets. EDI allows companies to exchange data between their own ICT systems and the systems of customers and suppliers. In recent years EDI has greatly benefited large companies, whilst SMEs could not fully participate due to the high costs of such systems. Pilot projects supported by the European Commission demonstrate that common ICT systems for the supply chain of the automotive industry (auto-gration) as well as for the transport and logistics sector (DiSCwise) enable SMEs to profit from global digital supply chains. Full story
Can public sector innovation generate growth? This question is of major significance given the current economic situation, where effective ways of creating growth are being explored. A recent survey provides interesting data from the business perspective on this topic, with many respondents putting improvements in public services for business down to innovation. There is also a high demand for public sector innovation and later this year the European Commission will pilot a Public Sector Innovation Scoreboard to help Member States exchange good practices. Full story
The European Commission has put forward an ambitious European Innovation Partnership for raw materials whose objective is to establish Europe as the vanguard of raw material exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution technologies by 2020. Central aims include ensuring a sustainable supply of raw materials for the European industry, as well as helping EU companies put innovative technologies onto the market along the entire value chain. Full story
This year's Innovation Union Scoreboard shows that most Member States have improved their innovation performance. This allows the European Union to maintain a clear lead over the emerging economies of China, Brazil, India, Russia, and South Africa, but not to close the existing gap with innovation leaders such as the United States, Japan and South Korea. More efforts are therefore needed so as to address the EU's weaknesses. One area in the spotlight is related to firms' innovation activities. Full story
While social innovation can help Europe respond to challenges where the boundary between the 'social' and the 'economic' blurs, it can only do so through adequate funding. A new report provides recommendations to showcase the funding opportunities that public funding programs, private funds and charitable foundations provide to support social innovation in Europe. The report also gives a number of practical recommendations for future funding programs, emphasizing that social innovation needs a family of funds, that range from funding ideas to large scale roll out in for example care, education and mobility. Full story
The final evaluation of the EU’s Lead Market Initiative, which aims to create and develop marketplaces for innovative products and services, has concluded that this approach has not only delivered concrete results in various sectors but needs to be scaled up in order to boost Europe’s competitiveness. Full story
Through public procurement, European governments and public authorities can play an important role in promoting the uptake of innovative solutions and developing new markets, while simultaneously improving the quality of public services. The European Commission has launched several initiatives with a view to maximising the innovative potential of public procurement across the EU. A recent call for proposals under the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme focuses on areas related to major societal challenges. Full story
The EU has identified social innovation as crucial in helping Europe meet the challenges of the 21st century, and a number of initiatives have recently been put forward to spread awareness of social innovation and encourage the private sector to get involved. Central to this strategy was the recent launch of the Social Innovation Europe initiative. In addition, changes in society create new business opportunities to develop new services and products in sectors such as care, transport and education. Full story
Service innovation can play an important role in industrial policy because it has the potential to transform Europe’s businesses, thus making a strong contribution to the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. These are among the key conclusions of a report from the Expert Panel on Service Innovation in the EU presenting recommendations in five areas to achieve this objective. Full story
According to the new Innovation Union Scoreboard, the European Union is making progress in the innovation stakes but is losing ground to some of its rivals. This shows that EU Member States need to step up their efforts to boost their innovation potential so as to turn ideas into new jobs and sustainable growth. By joining forces under the umbrella of the Innovation Union flagship initiative, Europe should be able to achieve this. Full story
While electronic invoicing promises significant time and cost savings to customers and businesses alike, some obstacles still hinder its full take-up. The European Commission has recently put forward a plan to help Europe to exploit fully the benefits e-invoicing can offer. Full story
The European Commission has unveiled an ambitious plan to boost Europe's innovative potential with the aim of turning ideas into jobs and green growth. The strategic approach streamlines efforts on key challenges, such as climate change, energy and food security, health and an ageing population. In addition, it seeks to improve co-operation between the public and private sectors, while removing bottlenecks which prevent ideas from getting to market. Full story
Business clusters have become one of the engines driving economic development and innovation in the EU today. However, a recent conference in Brussels concluded that to compete internationally, greater emphasis must be placed on excellence and quality. A series of EU initiatives seeks to achieve this, for instance, by strengthening the link between research and industry. Full story
The European fashion industry faces fierce global competition and a more effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT) can help the sector meet this challenge, by boosting its innovation capacity and competitiveness. Towards this goal, the European Commission has supported a pan-European initiative that seeks to promote seamless 'digital supply chains' for various industry and services sectors. The textile, clothing and footwear businesses have been among the first to benefit from this initiative. Full story
Innovation plays a vitally important role in Europe's service sector, which is increasingly using research and development, patenting and new modes of operating to become more efficient and effective. Many in the sector, however, are still not innovating to their full potential and find that the innovation support they are offered does not correspond well to their needs. The Europe INNOVA annual partnering event looked at how innovation in services can best be supported. Full story
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