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https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2021/03/24/35-years-since-a-eureka-moment-enabling-global-rd-collaboration/

35 years since a Eureka moment – enabling global R&D collaboration

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In 1985, a group of leaders from 17 European countries and the European Commission gathered in Paris to agree to work together to support closer cooperation between businesses and research organisations in the field of ‘advanced technologies’.  It was the Eureka moment and saw the birth of what is today the world’s biggest public network for international cooperation in R&D and innovation.  The rest as they say is history!

But what of the history of Eureka and what prompted the idea in the first place?  It was really a response, a European response to the launch by Ronald Reagan of his Strategic Defence Initiative — popularly known as Star Wars.  Whilst the SDI had a military objective, it was clear that such significant expenditure would stimulate and rapidly accelerate technology development in the US.  Europe needed to keep pace and Eureka was the answer.

What is Eureka?

For those not familiar with Eureka, it is a thriving network to support international R&D and innovation projects.  Supported and funded by national ministries and innovation agencies, it is present in over 45 countries across Europe as well as countries such as South Korea, Canada and the latest member to join Singapore.

Since 1985, over 7,500 R&D projects have been supported through Eureka with a total investment from the public and private sectors of over £41 billion.   Over £940 million has been mobilised in the UK and involving over 5,000 business and research organisations with collaborations with 46 countries, including those outside of the Eureka membership.

How does Eureka support businesses?

Eureka has a number of ways in which R&D projects are supported - from Eurostars, the largest international funding programme for SMEs wishing to collaborate on R&D projects, to Globalstars forging collaborations with countries globally, to Clusters supporting larger collaborative R&D projects often bringing together corporates and small businesses building the value chains of the future.

The UK, through funding from Innovate UK, has supported Eurostars since its inception in 2008 through two calls for projects a year and more recently, as part of the UK Chairmanship of Eureka in 2018-19, Clusters and Globalstars, for the latter leading the first calls ever with Singapore and Japan opening up more opportunities.

As we look to help more UK businesses make global success a key part of their innovation-driven growth and scaling journey, Eureka has a key role to play.  A trusted network of public organisations working in collaboration rather than competition and with the desire to deliver mutual benefit for the businesses and research organisations we work with.

A changing environment

The original intent of Eureka was to ‘enable Europe to master and exploit the technologies that are important for its future, and to build up its capability in crucial areas’.  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of international supply chains and brought to the fore once again a focus on “technology sovereignty” and countries wanting more autonomy in key technology areas.

Whilst having guaranteed access to key technologies in some areas will undoubtedly be desirable, as the saying goes ‘two heads are better than one’ and countries, companies and other organisations working together can be more productive, more innovative and deliver exciting and game changing innovations.  Covid-19 has demonstrated the need and true value of sharing knowledge and international R&D and innovation collaboration and many people have benefitted as a result.

Celebrating 35 years and looking to the future

As we celebrate the 35th anniversary of Eureka it is as relevant today as it was in 1985 if not more so.  Business is now much more global and building international partnerships and collaborations a key way for success, opening markets and delivering future economic growth.  Global collaboration will also be vital in solving some of the major societal challenges we face such as climate change which no one country can solve working in isolation.

As we join in celebrating the 35th anniversary of Eureka we look back on the past and what has been achieved and look forward to the future and many more years of Eureka delivering  ‘innovation beyond borders’.

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