Representation in United Kingdom

UK institutions and researchers top recipients of EU innovation funding



The UK is the top recipient of EU innovation funding in the latest rounds of two different programmes: the European Research Council's (ERC) proof of concept grant which supports ERC-funded researchers in bringing their ideas to market and Horizon 2020's Fast Track to Innovation scheme which does the same mainly for SMEs.


Ten UK researchers and 13 projects including 24 UK partners and coordinators are to receive EU innovation funding.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “Supporting innovation that opens new market opportunities and thus helps create jobs and growth is at the core of Horizon 2020. UK institutions are by far the top recipients of EU funding for innovation in two important funding rounds announced this week – the proof of concept ERC grants and the Fast Track to Innovation funding. These grants will support them in their work with European partners on projects that provide solutions to real life problems like distinguishing between viral and bacterial infections, the health of bee colonies or better ways of recycling materials."

Each of the 13 above-mentioned projects will receive around €2 million (£1.7m) under the sixth and last round of the Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) pilot scheme run since January 2015 under the EU's research and innovation programme Horizon 2020.

30% of the recipients in this round of the FTI are from the UK and 5 UK participants are coordinators: Renewable Advice, IMSPEX Diagnostics Ltd, OPUS, Luxus Technical Centre and Tecvac. The range of projects include a self-cleaning coating for solar panels, an application to fight mortality in honey bee colonies, a new type of colorant that will allow to sort black and coloured polymers in mixed waste, and a device that analyses a person's breath to quickly diagnose whether infections are bacterial or viral.

In total, 17 projects are being funded in this round.

The UK has by far been the biggest recipient of this scheme since it was launched in January 2015, with 86 UK recipients receiving funding to date. Germany is the second biggest recipient, with 58 German institutions supported since the launch.

On the other hand, the 10 UK researchers – which come from eight UK universities – will receive €150,000 (£128,000) each in top-up funding to explore the innovation potential of their ERC-funded discoveries. Germany and Spain are the second and third biggest recipients with respectively 6 and 5 researchers receiving this proof of concept grant. In total, 44 researchers are receiving the grant which can be used for example to establish intellectual property rights, investigate business opportunities or conduct technical validation. The scheme is open to ERC grant holders only. The grantees can apply for funding in one of the three rounds of the yearly call.

In total, 28 UK researchers received proof of concept grants in 2016 – which puts the UK top of the table and well ahead of Germany with 18 proof of concept recipients.

The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the first European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It offers three core grant schemes: starting, consolidator and advanced. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age to run projects based in Europe.

The FTI pilot scheme supports mature innovation concepts which are close to full marketability, providing investment in the final stages of testing, piloting and validation.

Discussions are underway on the FTI scheme's future as part of a wider debate on the 2018-2020 Work Programme for Horizon 2020. The Commission is considering continuing the FTI in 2018-20 as part of the preparatory actions for a potential European Innovation Council.