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FET_TRACES Report Summary

Project ID: 665083
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.2.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FET_TRACES (Tracing impacts of the FET programme)

Reporting period: 2015-07-15 to 2016-07-14

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The aim of the FET_TRACES-project is to characterize and analyse the impacts of the research funding programme “Future and Emerging Technologies (FET)” of the European Commission. We will trace the impacts of 224 FET-projects in the FET-schemes “FET-Open” and “FET-Proactive”. For this exercise we will use bibliometric data to trace academic impacts as well as survey-data to find out about impacts in more applied, company R&D surroundings.

Research funding is one of the main tasks of the European Union and a field in which the European integration has successfully been promoted over the last years. Whereas research funding can be realized in many different ways, the Future Emerging Technologies (FET) programme of the European Commission has a special focus. It is designed to promote a certain kind of research which is described as high risk, novel, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and technology-oriented. The idea is to promote research with the potential to trigger breakthroughs with high technological or societal impacts.

Our impact assessment analyses three dimensions which are of central importance of the FET-programme:

1. Novelty: At the centre of FET are novel ideas, concepts, approaches which may lead to radical new technologies.

2. Multi-disciplinarity: Multi-discipinary collaboration is another central element of FET. This includes collaborations of disciplines which are not closely related to each other at first sight (cross- or trans-disciplinarity).

3. Innovation eco-systems: FET-projects ideally start new economic activities based on new technol-ogies or new scientific concepts. Apart from the scientific uptake this includes industrial activities of any kind (company R&D, spin-offs, patent applications, etc.).

The outcomes of FET-TRACES will contribute to a better understanding of this kind of research funding and it will help to identify mechanisms to situate FET-research vis-à-vis other funding programmes like the European Research Council (ERC) or funding schemes by national research funding agencies.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

As foreseen in the work programme for year 1, the FET_TRACES-project has finished four work pack-ages (WPs) which deal with the conceptual basics of FET-like research (WP1), the analysis of similar research funding schemes on national levels (WP2), the development of a set of suitable indicators for the assessment (WP3) and a basic analysis of the 224 FET-Open and FET-proactive projects in our sample (WP4). Next steps will be a bibliometric analysis, an assessment of the novelty level, a survey of project coordinators asking about major impacts in the more applied, R&D-area, and case studies concerning success factors for FET-projects.

Mayor findings of the conceptual phase (WP1) are that FET projects are at a very early stage in the development-cycle of a new technology. As effects need time to materialize we expect stronger im-pacts from earlier FET-projects than from more recent FET-projects. Concerning the level of novely, we expect to find cases where the FET programme has triggered original, basic research but also cases where already known concepts or approaches were used to start new innovation ecosystems.

The consideration of scientific literature on interdisciplinary research has resulted in a 3-level-scale we will use for our impact assessment: Pipeline collaboration (low), narrow interdisciplinarity (middle), and wide interdisciplinarity (high). A fourth level “synergistic collaboration” might be used to describe certain projects. However, since “synergistic collaboration” is an assessment in itself, an adequate use of the term requires a qualitative assessment, which will be done in a later stage of the project (case studies).

Concerning innovation ecosystems, current research analyses strategies to transform scientific insights into new technologies and emphasizes the ability of the respective researchers to get in contact with industry R&D. Co-publications with researchers from industry, conference contributions and patent applications are indicators for follow-up activities which are important for a new idea to spread into the scientific and technology development community. Consequently our assessment will focus on how active FET project coordinators or partners have been in spreading their idea, in further developing, refining and concretely applying their idea originally developed in the context of a FET project.

In WP2 we have identified 11 research funding schemes on national levels which are similar to the FET-programme. These range from DFG´s Koselleck-projects, Finland´s Centres of Excellence and the IDEAS factory in the UK to the Synergia-programme of the Swiss National Science Foundation. We have contacted experts in these institutions and asked them about their ways of doing impact assessments of their programmes to inform our own analysis. One major finding of this work package is that most funders use established methods of bibliometric analysis to trace the impacts of their programmes or use self-assessments of the funded researchers.

Using inputs from the conceptual analysis and the empirical study of FET-like funders on national levels we have put together our own list of indicators to be applied to the FET-projects (WP3). The list of indicators comprises many different aspects and requires a mix of bibliometric and survey-methods as well as insights from case studies.

In WP4 we have identified the relevant set of FET-projects for our impact analysis. Using different sources, we have identified altogether 224 FET Open and FET Proactive projects which were finished between 2007 and 2014. Following our conceptual discussions in WP1 we have determined two time slots: Projects finished between 2007 and 2010 (n=100) and Projects finished between 2011 and 2014 (n=124).
Using these 4-year-timeslots we are able to define “early” projects and “more recent” projects. This differentiation is important because early projects have had more time for impacts to develop than more recent projects.

In our level-1-analysis we provide a first characterization of the sample according to the following dimensions: Number of FET Open or FET Proactive, “early projects” or “quite recent” projects, running time, budget, nationality of coordinator, number of partners, country distribution, unique partners, organisations with more than one FET-project and more. As such, the level-1-analysis builds the groundwork for a series of more sophisticated analysis which will follow in later workpackages (LDA-analysis, bibliometrics and project families, survey and case studies). Originally it was planned to include results from more sophisticated methods already into this deliverable (like number of publications originating from each project, network of authors or disciplinary stretch of the consortium). However, a lengthy field work with the requirement to incorporate results from different sources had to be done first. We now have the basic information available to carry on with the more sophisticated bibliometric methods and some network analysis in the next work packages.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Concerning the expected potential impact, the FET_Traces-project will contribute to the strategy of the European Commission to turn Europe´s excellent science base into a competitive advantage by uncovering radically new technological possibilities, which is the main aim of the FET programme. In fact, our impact assessment has impacts of its own. These will be:

- We will provide a concepts-based, coherent and reliable impact assessment framework which will support programme makers in their attempt to calibrate and justify their expectations concerning the impacts of the FET programme.

- The FET-TRACES-project will try to collect information that can be used to position the FET programme in the context of other research funding programmes and institutions like the European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and other funding instruments.

- We will examine a selection of FET-projects in more detail and try illustrate what can be reached with FET.

- On the other hand, the impact assessment will also show which limitations exist, especially concerning time expectations, multi-disciplinary work as a career pacemaker or transfer ca-pabilities from science to technology. Based on evidence from science research and building on the analogy between venture capital success rates and scientific high-risk projects, we expect only about 10 % of FET projects to be successful.

- The impact assessment of FET_Traces will also have an impact on the overall visibility and awareness of the FET programme in the scientific and industrial R&D areas as it will com-municate its activities extensively.

- In addition, the FET-TRACES-project will have a networking impact with other FET-like funders in Europe. Currently it seems that there is little communication between experts in the respective programmes. The FET_Traces project will contribute to an exchange of ideas and experiences among FET-like funders on the European FET-programme.

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