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Interview to EASN Newsletter by Dr. Christos Vasilakos, Senior Policy Officer in Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking

EASN Association is pleased to host an interview of Dr. Christos Vasilakos, former Secretary General in General Secretariat for Research & Technology and Chairman of the European Competitiveness Council, Research and Space, during the Hellenic Presidency of the European Council in 2014. He was also the Head of the Research, Technology and Space Unit of the Greek Delegation in European Union and Director of Research in NCSR.   


Q1: What is the concept for the "Synergies with ESIF"?

The strategic priorities of EU research and innovation (R&I) policy for the current programming period (2014-2020) include actions aimed at boosting job creation, growth and competitiveness across Europe's diverse regions. To meet this target, more than 120 smart specialisation strategies (S3) have been developed by the Member States and regions, defining their strategic policy framework for the investments in research and innovation. These strategies have set out the priorities in order to build competitive advantage by developing and matching the Members States' and regions' own Research and Innovation strengths to business needs, to address emerging opportunities and market developments in a coherent manner. The synergies among programmes mean joint or coordinated efforts to achieve greater impact and efficiency and aim at maximising the quantity and quality of investments. Synergies can be achieved through bringing together Horizon 2020 and European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) funding support in the same project, or through successive projects that build on each other or parallel projects that complement each other. These synergies also offer remarkable opportunities to help the Public-Private Partnerships / Joint Undertakings that were launched under Horizon 2020, to optimise their Strategic Research Agenda and achieve their goals. Therefore, it will ultimately lead to a positive impact on jobs, growth and competitiveness across Europe's diverse regions.

Q2: What are the initiatives of Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking?

The Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking (CS2JU) is called by its founding Council Regulation no. 558/2014 of 6 May 2014 to develop closer interaction with European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) and to underpin smart specialisation efforts in the field of activities covered by the CS2JU. Therefore, I am pleased to say that Clean Sky 2 has been actively working with many Member States and regions to develop closer and more effective interaction with ESIF and to support smart specialisation strategies in the field of aviation. To meet this challenge, we have developed a coherent and comprehensive policy strategy and an action plan on synergies with Member States and regions which are interested in investing ESIF within the aeronautics R&I area and other related technologies.
A survey that has been carried out with the support of Clean Sky has identified that a high number of regions and Member States (almost sixty) have indicated aeronautics, aviation, aerospace and correlated areas among their research and innovation smart specialisation strategy (RIS3) priorities. This creates an opportunity for fostering synergies with the EU's largest aeronautics programme under H2020, the Clean Sky 2 Programme, managed by CS2JU. Therefore, in the context of its action plan, Clean Sky 2 encourages synergies with ESIF by allowing complementary activities to be proposed by applicants to the calls launched by CS2JU. Synergies with the Clean Sky programme and its technology roadmap can be achieved by broadening the scope, adding parallel activities or continuing Clean Sky co-funded projects / activities through ESIF support. Additionally, CS2JU encourages the use of ESIF to build and enhance local / regional capabilities and skills in related fields, aiming to stimulate the level of European competitiveness of stakeholders in this area.To make the cooperation with Member States and regions more effective, as well as to facilitate the synergies with ESIF, Clean Sky 2 promotes the signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), which sets out the framework of the cooperation and provides the Member State or region with incentives and tools to exploit the national / regional capabilities and RIS3.
In the context of a MoU, five identified scenarios outline the appropriate and possible mechanisms for cooperation and synergies. As an outcome of the existing MoU, several pilot projects are currently supported by ESIF. Additionally, the "Clean Sky Synergy Label" has been awarded to proposals that include complementary activities. This is a quality label which may be attributed to the complementary activities proposed by either a successful applicant in a Clean Sky call or by a Clean Sky beneficiary, over the course of implementation, via an independent evaluation process. I would say that the "Clean Sky Synergy Label" provides an incentive effect and a guarantee of success for MS / regions to invest in the projects, support actions, local capabilities and infrastructures of national and/or regional importance.
By September 2017, 13 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) have been put in place with Member States / regions (with 1 or 2 more MoU expected by the end of the year); several pilot projects are being supported by ESIF; and "Clean Sky Synergy Labels" have been awarded to complementary activities. 
On the Clean Sky website, we have a dedicated section for the cooperation of Member States/regions and the Synergies with ESIF (more information here), where the interested authorities/stakeholders can find a lot of information and other related links. Additionally, a special brochure has been recently published, in order to disseminate more about the cooperation with Member States/regions and the Synergies with ESIF (click here to find the brochure). I consider the above achievements a very good outcome for the current pilot phase on Synergies with ESIF. Taking also into account that Synergies with ESIF is one of the highlighted recommendations from the European Commission's High-Level Group, chaired by Pascal Lamy, Clean Sky 2 will continue to intensively dedicate its efforts towards this goal, beyond the implementation of its strategic research agenda.

Q3: What are you expecting from the synergies and cooperation with MS/regions?

Based on the current experience and the growing interest from national / regional stakeholders, there is no doubt that such synergies between ESIF and Clean Sky 2 could maximise the specific added value of Smart Specialisation Strategies investments, such as their impact to effectively support aeronautics capacity building and the exploitation of research results in raising the overall socio-economic impact of the European aeronautics sector.
We expect to successfully complete the pilot phase and the action plan for synergies and continue to work together with the interested Member States / regions, to foster the synergies and develop effective interaction with ESIF and to underpin smart specialisation strategies in the field of aviation. In this context, our efforts are dedicated to:

  • Bringing together more MS / regions which are interested in investing in aeronautics and other related technologies
  • A closer cooperation with MS/regional authorities in order to stimulate the launch of dedicated calls on aeronautics
  • Bringing together the SMEs and the national/regional Clean Sky Leaders, through complementary ESIF proposals to CSJU programmes
  • A more bottom-up approach and expansion of CSJU capability base through a complementary approach
  • Reinforcing CSJU's role as the EU aeronautics R&I body able to integrate TRL scales and to develop a strategy in order to coordinate investments in R&I
On top of that, I would say that the implementation of such synergies helps capitalise on the results of European aeronautical research and innovation, as well as creating the right ecosystem and bringing together companies, universities, research centres and regions.

Q4: What are the mid-term perspectives?

Firstly, we should manage the implementation of the thirteen existing MoU and support our stakeholders in their efforts for participation in the Clean Sky 2 calls and synergies with ESIF. Moreover, according to the growing interest for synergies with ESIF, more MoU at a national or regional level are expected and consequently more pilot projects will be supported by ESIF and more "Clean Sky Synergy Labels" will probably be awarded to complementary activities. At a strategic level, we also expect to further mobilise the interest of the regional Clean Sky 2 Leaders to cooperate with the ESIF beneficiaries (SMEs, universities, and research centres) and exploit the results of the complementary activities, and thus maximise the impact of these investments.

Date posted: September 13, 2017, 11:49 am

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