More synergies and global cooperation in Eureka

Interview with Eureka Chairman Ulrich Schuh

On 1st July, Austria took over the Eureka Chairmanship for one year – already for the second time in the 35-year history of Eureka. The ambitious motto of the Austrian Chairmanship is ‘‘Towards a New Eureka’’. CELTIC News editor Milon Gupta asked Eureka Chairman Ulrich Schuh from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), which hosts the Chairmanship on behalf of the Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, about the am­bitions and plans behind this motto.

Which challenges and opportunities do you see for Eureka today and tomorrow?

U. Schuh: Since the foundation of Eureka, the world has changed fundamentally and also the conditions for international cooperation in the field of innovation. Eureka faces the challenge that member countries currently have a wide set of opportunities at hand that allow the support of innovative companies at European and global level. So Eureka has to prove its added value. At the same time, the model of Eureka that is based on the principle of variable geometry and a decentralised ­organisation is more modern than ever. This has allowed Eureka to become a truly global organisation with 47 countries in its network.

What are the main priorities of the ­Austrian Eureka Chairmanship?

U. Schuh: The Austrian Chairmanship is guided by the slogan ‘New Eureka’, which is also the headline of the new Strategic Roadmap approved during the last Dutch Chairmanship. We have three priorities. First, new instruments will be launched during this year: the new Eurostars Partnership with the European Commission and especially the New Clusters Programme. Second, Austria will intensify and enlarge global cooperation within Eureka. We are proud to welcome Singapore to our network during our Chairmanship. Third, we will improve our services for our stakeholders and want to encourage all ­Eureka countries to be even more engaged
in the activities of our network.

Which enhanced roles do you anticipate for the current Eureka Clusters in the new Eureka Clusters Programme?

U. Schuh: The Clusters are a success story of Eureka, but we have also understood that the potential of the Clusters programme has not yet been fully exploited. In order to boost the impact of the Clusters, we want to increase their visibility to potential stakeholders and
to use synergies to improve efficiency and ­effectiveness. Visibility will be enhanced by synchronised thematic calls developed in cooperation with the existing Cluster communities. Synergies will be realised by the close cooperation of Cluster Communities through a multi-annual strategy and an annual work programme. The synchronised Call on Artificial Intelligence is a first successful pilot in this respect.

How is the involvement of non-Euro­pean countries like Canada and Korea enhancing the Eureka network?

U. Schuh: At its foundation, Eureka allowed Member States of the European Union to benefit from cooperation with EFTA countries in order to establish a Western European alternative in research, development and innovation to global competitors. Meanwhile, Eureka is a truly global organisation with 47 countries. The non-European Eureka countries have proven to be an essential asset of ­
Eureka. Korea became a partner country in 2017; Canada is also very active and has for example initiated the COVID-19 ECHO call in April this year. Also, our other associated countries – South Africa, Chile and Argentina – are reliable partners in the Eureka family.

How should the Eureka programmes add value in the evolving European and global innovation landscape?

U. Schuh: After 35 years the Eureka model of cooperation is more relevant than ever. The most pressing current challenges of countries in Europe and all over the world are the
COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. It is understood that these challenges cannot be solved at local, regional, national or even at European level. Here, global cooperation is ­inevitable, and this is true especially in the field of technology, where solutions have to be developed. Whenever two companies from two different countries are developing an R&D project, Eureka is the most suitable platform to support this initiative. We have the infrastructure in place, the available funding, efficient procedures, and via the Globalstars programme we reach out all around the world far beyond our current 47 countries.