Boosting exploitation
CategoriesResearch exploitation

What does a recent analysis of Common Exploitation Booster’s first year tell us about the challenges facing the exploitation of EC research results?

Three Questions, Three Answers

What is the Common Exploitation Booster?

Launched in April 2016, Common Exploitation Booster (CEB) was a pilot service to help participants in EC research programmes get the results of their research to market.

Projects could request support from a menu of CEB services, spanning from exploitation risk analysis through to brokerage and pitching events, where partners would present their results to peers, potential users and investors.

How was it received?

Feedback gathered(1) from the first 83 services delivered found the approach “demonstrably successful”: 90% of the respondents were satisfied with the experts’ skills and knowledge, for example, and 80% found their contribution good or better.

Tellingly, demand outstripped supply: projects were still requesting CEB services eleven months after the budget was exhausted.

What was learnt?

The report identifies many issues which need to be addressed to improve Project Impact, including:

Exploitation vs Dissemination: Even after several decades of EC research, there’s still widespread confusion about the difference between exploitation and dissemination:

  • only 9% of respondents considered themselves “very knowledgeable about exploitation”;
  • 88% wanted to learn more.

Training by organisations such as the Enterprise Europe Network and National Contact Points could help tackle this problem upstream of the project proposal stage.

Business experience in evaluation panels: many projects have ineffective exploitation workpackages. Moreover, they’re often stuck with them because of the difficulty of revising a project’s workpackages once it has been approved, undermining any support provided by projects such as CEB.

Exploitation workpackages must be designed to reflect the inherent unpredictability of both research and business. Evaluation panels need members who understand this, and can identify proposals with high-quality exploitation workpackages. These members are best sourced from business, as scientists and academics will naturally focus on the research aspects.

Focus mid-term reviews on exploitation, not ticking boxes: it is often unrealistic to expect an workpackage, written months before the project is first funded, to be still fit for purpose years later, once half the research has been achieved.

Moreover, as seen above, many participants don’t really understand exploitation. Finally, consortium partners usually have different priorities, and hence different levels of commitment.

The mid-term project review is an excellent opportunity to tackle these problems and focus the project’s second half on exploiting its expected results. It must evolve from what is frequently a box-ticking exercise to a critical moment in the project lifecycle, during which the consortia critically re-examines and updates their strategy, and uses it to structure and focus their work, up until and beyond the end of the project.

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