7.000 Million Euros for R&D

September 29th, 2011 by jacobo

The EU opens 51 calls till May 2012 for the presentation of proposals.

Companies, Universities and Spanish Research Centers face the challenge of further improving the overall 380 Million Euros funding which have been allocated to date to 1.400 Spanish beneficiaries.

Within the “7th Framework Programme for R&D” (or more commonly referred to as FP7), the European Commission has recently published several calls for proposals to finance R&D projects carried out by European institutions and researchers. There are 51 calls for proposals in the following areas: Health, Biotechnology, Information and Communication Technology, Nanomaterials, Energy, Environment, Transport, Social Sciences, Space, Security, Researches mobility, and SME promotion. These calls will start closing from October onwards, up to May 2012.

FP7 was set up in 2007 with a duration of 7 years so to meet the needs of European organizations in terms of research and competitiveness and help them consolidate their competitiveness in this area with respect to the knowledge-based global economy. The estimated funding amounts cover several areas. The majority of the funding available is attributed to Cooperation Projects which seek to promote collaborative pan-European research (also allowing for the participation of non-European countries in many cases) through transnational collaborative projects between Industrial and Academic institutions. The Ideas Program, the second most important in terms of funding, supports cutting-edge research with a very strong focus on scientific excellence. Research can be undertaken in any Science, Technology, Engineering, Socio-economic sciences and Humanities area. Unlike the Cooperation program, transnational collaboration is not compulsory.

Need for Cooperation

Javier Calvet co-founder of Econet Consultants, a leading European consulting firm in the area of Innovation Management with a primary focus on European R&D projects, feels that: “the main difficulties in building a good project consist in identifying the topic within the call which better fits the R&D project of the applicant, and finding the appropriate European organizations to form the consortium”.
To him, “a good European R&D project should have between 7 and 30 members, who must work together for 2 or 3 years, in a 2-4 million Euros project, while taking into account that all preparation, coordination and teamwork activities will also be essential to the project’s success”.

Capacity of improvement

Since the beginning of FP7, about 1.400 Spanish organizations have benefited from these grants, receiving approximately 380 Million Euros. This number could have been higher, given Spain’s potential for research as the rate at which its contributes to the EU’s R&D budget (around 8%). However, given the competitiveness of FP7 and the level of requirement in terms of content both from a scientific / technological (innovativeness of the project idea) and financial point of view (costs related to the project and the consortium ), the overall success rate in Spain is around 20%. In the case of the projects managed by Econet, this success rate is success double (35%). “This is due to the fact that we are very strict in selecting the projects, and that we have also been in the market for 20 years. Econet’s international orientation with personnel in Brussels and offices 6 other EU countries has allowed us to develop a strong R&D network and develop the well-balanced consortiums for our clients, which is one of the keys to succeed in FP7”, says Calvet.

Grants for grants

Both national and regional governments encourage Spanish entities to take part in FP7, so to boost R&D in the country, as well as increase the returns of FP7 with respect to Spain in order for it to match national expenditure in the EU R&D budget. As a result, various financial support mechanisms (known as grants for grants) are provided, mainly by CDTI (Center for the Development of Industrial Technology) in order to help applicants to build a successful FP7 project proposal.

Econet is a consulting firm which offers support services in terms of project idea formulation (from a technology perspective), proposal drafting (technical, financial, organizational) as well as consortium creation. It often uses Grants for Grants in order to helps its clients cover their cost. With offices in 7 EU countries, collaboration patterns with many other Innovation consultancies and Research Centres, Econet is also involved in several projects in Latin America.

Coffee Break with Sanyu Karani

June 6th, 2011 by jacobo

See our new video: Coffee Break with Sanyu Karani at MadridEmprende (May the 5th 2011)

The Start-Up Experience

May 23rd, 2011 by jacobo

Sanyu Karani intervention , President and Founder of Econet Consultants, at the III Committee Debate AECA “Entrepreneurship and Job Creation” held on 28 February in Madrid.

Welcome to Poland Valley

May 17th, 2011 by jacobo

Hundred start-up incubators located in universities and business parks in less than three years. Twenty venture capital public funds with 180 million euros for start ups and entrepreneurs. 350 consultants approved by the development agency of SMBs to help entrepreneurs and businessmen. 239 new companies  in the Stock Exchange in the last three years including the secondary technological market… Silicon Valley? Not, wrong answer. We are talking about Poland Valley.

Poland is the only Member state of the European Union (EU) that has not entered recession during the  financial crisis. And that, which is never a matter of luck, has been achieved it with a model of balanced growth based among others on the Spanish experience (something that can turn out to be paradoxical seen the current moment of the Spanish economy).

In the years before joining the European Union, the Poles were travelling in delegation every week to our country. Spain was their model. They studied scrupulously both our process of integration and the later phases of negotiation, reception and application of the European funds. They were like Spain twenty years earlier. And they were right: Poland is a catholic country that comes from an agricultural economy as ours then, with a similar development and almost the same inhabitants.

They wanted to become the new Spain and, certainly, they have achieved it in terms of reception of structural funds from the EU. They used parts of our model, but they took good note of our mistakes. They did not just invest in highways. They put aside a good part of their budget  to support to his business sector and started an operative program of Innovative Economy with funds of the EU but co-financed by their central Administration.

If you are an entrepreneur, in Poland they start supporting you from the very moment in which you feel the motivation to start something. In the university they “pre-incubate” you; they do not even require you to have an idea at that stage. They help you to look for your own idea. Once you finish your high education and you already have the idea, you can go to an incubator that in addition to training, consultancy, mentoring, space and computer teams almost free, offers you finance for up to 200.000 euros to invest in your company.

And the most amazing thing is that the best incubators in Poland are private. In the last years, a good number of private foundations have supported the entrepreneur, with a positive result.

On top of the private initiative, the public one does not stay behind: if the start of your company has been fine and you need capital to consolidate and to expand your business, for every euro that you obtain of private capital, the Administration grants another euro of public venture capital. And they still have a good percentage of available capital of 180 million euros for next two years.

The Poles have been a fast learner. From Spain but  also from other countries. But they are not done. They want to make it better. And they look again at Spain. They feel comfortable with our reference. And the fact is that in Spain, we do not lack support for entrepreneurs in the initial phases. What we lack is bank financing and entrepreneurial spirit. What we need to get rid of is bureaucracy.

Between the good practices of Spain that attract attention again of the Poles there is the impressive network of start up incubators from Incyde, an NGO from the  Chambers of Commerce supporting entrepreneurs.
Next to a hundred of incubators and more than six thousand companies created in only ten years of work. In Incyde they support the entrepreneur even if it fails. Their motto: ” It does not always work fine the first time“.

Perhaps we are learning finally that one of the bases of an enterprising culture is the tolerance to failure. I hope our children could one day start up their companies in Spain Valley.

Sanyu Karani is a founder of Econet in Poland and specialist in public financing. (News published in El País 15/05/2011)

Islandia (casi) cien por cien sostenible

October 17th, 2010 by Sanyu Karani

Rosa de los vientos

En Islandia, tu nombre es tu identidad, tu apellido es “solo” el nombre de tu padre; puedes buscar todos tus antepasados hasta 800 años atrás a un golpe de clic en Internet; la gente se divierte hasta altas horas de la madrugada, pero los locales cierran escalonadamente para que todo el mundo encuentre taxi… En Islandia, el 80% del consumo energético procede de fuentes renovables, pero están preocupados en cómo llegar al 100% de sostenibilidad en menos de 10 años: aunque están en bancarrota, encuentran fondos suficientes para incentivar la sostenibilidad.

Para encontrar los fondos (y la voluntad política) suficientes para echar a andar, saben que hace falta sumar muchas fuerzas en el empeño. En un evento celebrado en Reikiavik hace unas semanas (www.drivingsustainability.org) se reunieron cerca de 200 representantes de empresas energéticas, fabricantes de coches (eléctricos y de recursos fósiles), Gobiernos nacionales, la agencia nórdica de desarrollo energético, representantes de la Unión Europea, universidades, consultores, ingenieros, periodistas, pymes y emprendedores de tres continentes. El reto, diseñar la sostenibilidad total en un caso concreto: coches eléctricos como vertebradores de la ciudad ecológica. El campo de batalla parece centrarse en las diferentes tecnologías para las baterías aunque los visionarios del hidrógeno insisten en su apuesta.

Todos coinciden en que se acerca el momento de madurez de la tecnología: los híbridos que se lanzarán en 2011 tendrán autonomía suficiente para el 90% de nuestras necesidades (trayectos de menos de 50 kilómetros) con solo la carga nocturna con adaptadores estandarizados. En todos los países avanzados se trabaja ya en soluciones para esta nueva tecnología. En España, la eléctrica Endesa participa en el proyecto más ambicioso de estandarización de adaptadores rápidos (www.chademo.com).

Son dos los elementos que faltan por alinear: el liderazgo y la financiación. Para ambos, va a ser clave que sigan con el modelo colaborativo: partenariados público-privados que encuentren el mix de financiación óptimo. La oferta financiera privada y los incentivos públicos van a ser claves en la adaptación de infraestructuras y la evolución de hábitos sociales inherentes a todo cambio de paradigma. Hay ya decenas de ejemplos de que esta es la forma más viable de abordar una revolución tecnológica de esta magnitud.

Una iniciativa europea, el proyecto SMART (www.smartransport.eu) ayuda a pymes europeas (en España con el apoyo del CDTI) a encontrar socios y financiación para sus innovaciones en el transporte por carretera. Los islandeses han sido los primeros en beneficiarse de este programa y una docena de proyectos de pymes han identificado ya subvenciones de la Unión Europea y de los países nórdicos. Media docena de emprendedores están en conversaciones con inversores para la captación de capital riesgo.

Que los islandeses sean pioneros en esta gran transformación no es casualidad. Autoconfianza, respeto por los ancestros, optimismo, convivencia modélica, apasionamiento y compromiso son sus señas de identidad como pueblo. Tienen una enorme capacidad de motivarse en sus proyectos, de involucrar a los demás y de sumar fuerzas. Se sienten tan reconfirmados por su pasado de vikingos asambleístas milenarios que viven el presente inmediato a corto plazo como su base de éxito para el futuro.

Mientras, en España, según Eurostat, generamos ya casi un 40% de nuestro consumo a través de fuentes renovables. Tenemos la tecnología, las ayudas, las infraestructuras básicas y hasta producimos coches. Tenemos ciudades que necesitan soluciones inminentes. Todo a favor para lanzarnos en un proyecto tan tremendamente ambicioso como este. Quizá nos falte solo un poco del talante islandés y una buena colaboración público-privada.

¿Nos disfrazamos de vikingos?

This article was originally published in the printed edition of El País on Sunday, October 17th, 2010.

Tourism, quo vadis?

September 28th, 2010 by Javier Calvet

Rosa de los vientos
The European Tourism Day (27th September) brings us to a reflection about this key sector in our economy  (and in our lives, since almost all of us have been or will be tourists at least once in our lives…).

Tourism can be considered, in terms of turnover, job generation, development, impact and promotion, as one of the most powerful industries in the world, especially in Western European countries. Specifically in Spain, tourism has played a key role in opening up the country (in the late 1960’s) and in fostering the economy (in the late 1980’s). This was based on a simple business model: let’s attract our visitors (as many visitors as possible!!) by promoting our natural resources (the sun, the beach) at a very affordable price. Which has inevitably led to the destruction of great parts of our coast, which is now full of terrible skyscrapers… that are empty for at least 6 months of the year!!

This model is no longer sustainable in the long-term, and the different actors in the sector (private companies like airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc. and public entities at national, regional and local level) need to overcome their short-term interests and work out together a new strategy.

How is it possible that in Spain we do not have a specific Ministry for Tourism and not even a Secretary of State? Why are there so many obsolete touristic infrastructures? Why is the solution in times of crisis to keep on pushing the prices down, instead of taking the opportunity to look out for new market niches (like e.g., the organisation of congresses)? Why isn’t there a bigger support for the development of new technologies which are specific for tourism and are developed by the leading companies in this field (which happen to be Spanish)? Where is the sector heading to?

Tourism in Spain has got an incredible potential, not only in terms of visitors or jobs, but also in terms of contribution to the development of our country. It can be the test field for new ICT solutions for Internet (just remember how you booked and organised your vacations 10 years ago, and how you do it now), but also for a more efficient use of energy (have you ever thought how much energy is needed for example in a hotel: heating, air conditioning, kitchen, laundry, swimming pool, spa, etc.?), just to name a few.

In fact, it can have a terrific impact in contributing to reach the goals of the recently approved “Europe 2020 strategy”, which aims to develop a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, by reducing unemployment of women and younger people, reducing CO2 emissions and increase the use of alternative energies, fostering innovation and R&D, and improve education.

We just need a clear strategy and a specific plan, alligned at all levels, to foster tourism. A plan that devotes specific budgets, funding, financing tools and grants to support the development of specific innovations for tourism (in ICT, in energy, in mobility), which can then also be used further in other sectors of activity.

Hopefully we do not miss this opportunity!!

Entrepreneurship, a pending subject

June 2nd, 2010 by Sanyu Karani

In 1990, as an entrepreneur you could get some money from public bodies to develop your idea into an excel business plan but the banks would not lend you money to start your business unless your friends & family would back you up with their personal guarantee.

In the year 2000, as an entrepreneur you could get enough money to develop your idea into a power point business plan from public bodies. If you were able to have fake screenshots in your power point business plan and you were looking for millions euros, venture capitalists would give several of those millions of euros in equity. Banks, however, would still only lend you money to start your business provided your friends (fools) & family would back you up with their personal guarantee.

In 2010, as an entrepreneur you will get a lot of money to develop your idea into a 2.0 social network business without even having to write a business plan as long as you could show a fake screenshot that fits your mobile screen. Venture Capitalists have now understood that is better to give one guy 20.000 euros to subsist the first 6 months to develop a real application than 2 million to spend in more fake screenshots for your mobile while you prepare the next round of fundraising. Banks will still not loan money to entrepreneurs unless the parents are the VP of a large multinational willing to get the payroll paid in their bank. In 2010, banks are better off taking the stimulus money at 0 % cost and buying state bonds with 2 % interests.

Entrepreneurs keep changing the world, banks keep denying them loans.

Banks keep denying loans to entrepreneurs and the public bodies keep giving money to develop business plans (in xls, in powerpoint or on-line) instead of solving the problem of the banks not providing loans.

In the recent Microsoft BizSpark European Summits, several experts such as Guy Kawasaki and Chris Shipley debated about Entrepreneurship in Europe. They concluded that European Entrepreneurs might not be as numerous as Americans, but they are quite a few of them. They agreed that what really sucks in Europe is the ecosystem to support them: Parents that will rather have their children get (safer?) jobs at multinationals, Banks which don’t support Entrepreneurs and Public Bodies that only support Business Plans.

Entrepreneurship remains a pending subject, THE pending subject to really change our economic model based on risk assessment instead of value creation.

In the US, venture capitalists love Entrepreneurs that have already failed and come with a second project: they learnt the lesson with somebody else’s money. In Europe, if you fail as an entrepreneur, they include you in a database so that banks don’t give you loans.

Maybe, we just need to treat entrepreneurs in the western world as an emerging segment and give them microloans as entrepreneurs get in emerging regions of the world.