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Characteristics of KETs

Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) are central to strengthening Europe's capacity for industrial renewal and innovation.  KETs underpin the global competitiveness of the European economy; they are a means to address grand societal challenges; they facilitate a route to new products and services leading to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The KETs form part of the EU 2020 Strategy and are highlighted under two EU flagship initiatives.

The European Commission selected six KETs for Europe:

  1. nanotechnology,
  2. micro- and nanoelectronics, including semiconductors,
  3. advanced materials,
  4. photonics,
  5. industrial biotechnology,
  6. advanced manufacturing systems.

These indispensable technologies contribute to the restructuring of industrial processes that accelerate the transition to a knowledge-based, low carbon economy. They enable applications required for improving resource efficiency, boosting the fight against the climate change, or allowing for healthy ageing. In other words, the role of KETs is 'enabling', 'horizontal' and 'ubiquous' in both new and traditional products.  Moreover, they possess high economic potential in terms of the value added and systemic relevance.

KETs play an important role in the research, innovation and cluster strategies of many industries.  Automotive, aeronautics, energy and health sectors can be cited as examples of typical KETs application areas.

To put it succinctly, KETs are applied to the following fields, among others:

  • Transport: lighter, safer and energy efficient vehicles
  • Energy: renewables, biofuels, solar power
  • Medicine: gene therapy, gene testing
  • Manufacturing: reduced material and process rates
  • Chemistry: green processing
  • Environment: sensors for monitoring
  • ICT: chips for nomadic multimedia convergence, cloud computing, mobile phones

Regional KETs Perspective

The European Commission prompts regions to integrate KETs into their research and innovation strategies for Smart Specialisation (S3). Regions are encouraged to invest in KETs as part of their S3 policy mix in order to support spillover effects of KETs-based solutions and to enhance industrial value chains in Europe. A preliminary study on KETs priorities encoded in the Eye@RIS3 database suggests that the entire range of regions have chosen an area linked to KETs as their RIS3 priority.

Although KETs are technology and research intensive, all types of regions – even those with fewer resources – are able to participate in KETs-activities in different roles. The S3 framework, paralleled with interregional connectivity, can give rise to cooperation in deployment, diffusion or even co-innovation of applications. Such dynamics may be distributed between regions specialised in the basic inventions and regions investing in specific application domains.

An integrated KETs policy at EU level requires a three-pillar bridge to cross the so-called 'valley of death'. This very prerequisite opens up subsequent opportunities for different types of players since solutions are to be delivered to three successive stages:

  1. Technological research transforms the ideas from fundamental research into globally competitive technologies. It rests on scientific excellence.
  2. Product demonstration requires pilot lines and prototyping facilities in the first place. The prototype product validation, in turn, necessitates demonstration and deployment operations.
  3. Competitive manufacturing needs strong ecosystems and attractive business environments. In those KETs where economics of scale are of importance, only the latest technologies based on advanced manufacturing are up to the contemporary requirements.    

Synergetic Project Funding for KETs

In the KETs context, it is possible – or even advisable – to combine different public funding sources within an industrial RDI project or a group of such projects.  This principle holds for the financial instruments of the EU, as well.  For instance, Horizon 2020 funding for multi-country consortia projects can be combined to European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) support through sequential, parallel or joint projects:

A. Simultaneous, additional or parallel use of funds for the same industrial project:

  • e.g. H2020 and ESIF are used together to fund different cost items within a single industrial project

B. Sequential use of different funding sources in separate successive sub-projects of the same umbrella project:

  • e.g. first ESIF for RDI infrastructure, then H2020 for innovation activities
  • e.g. RDI activities using H2020, followed by industrial investments

The purpose of these financing arrangements is to stimulate synergies, complementarities and transnational learning through interregional cooperation.

KETs in Smart Specialisation

The Commission's in-house science service JRC undertakes significant work on KETs areas. Some of this work contributes to the development of the technology itself. Other parts of the work support the deployment of KETs to various industries in the EU regions, for instance, via smart specialisation. The latter stream of JRC activities is centralised at the S3 Platform of the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies in Seville, Spain. The S3 Platform supports the implementation of the EU's KETs strategy in encouraging and monitoring the industrial deployment of KETs along the value chain. Respectively, it fosters diffusion by catalysing transregional cooperation on KETS. The contribution of the S3 Platform can be summarised as follows:

  • Promote KETs-related cluster-specific actions in KETs-related domains (e.g. training of cluster managers, visits, matchmaking events).
  • Map regions with KETs related priorities in their S3 strategies. This involves completion of a comprehensive mapping on KETs based on S3 strategies received from the regions, which was initiated with a preliminary report on KETs in 2013.
  • Launch a study on national KETs policies to promote the exchange of good practices in this area.
  • Collect bottom-up information on the use of KETs in regional innovation systems and identify the main potential and obstacles linked to KETs as perceived by regional policy-makers. Such stakeholder consultations could be also introduced to transnational collaboration agendas of the macro regions.
  • Encourage member states to make use of ESIF to depict complementarities between regional S3 strategies through transnational, multi-disciplinary cooperation.

In addition to analytical work, the S3 Platform organises a variety of thematic activities and events in cooperation with interested regions. One precondition for providing assistance to thematic initiatives is that they are proposed by several member states and regions. The S3 Platform can further support such event by sharing its methodologies and helping in partner identification.

Events Events

KETs for Regional Growth: Synergies between Horizon 2020 and ESIF

Synergies with other EU, national or regional programmes are encouraged in Horizon 2020 in order to stimulate the use of the new opportunities to bring...

RIM Plus Workshop - "Developing new industrial value chains through open innovation collaboration spaces"

The RIM Plus organised in cooperation with DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs of the European Commission and Emilia-Romagna Region, a...

Thematic workshop on RIS3 and Fuel Cells & Hydrogen

This was a thematic workshop aimed at technology developers, appliers, end-users, and regional governments is organised by the European Joint Undertaking...

Joining forces through S3: Synergies between ESIF and H2020 for KETs

This info day raised awareness on Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) as drivers for industrial competitiveness in regions.

Regions, Industry & Advanced Manufacturing

This workshop was organised by the Regional Innovation Monitor Plus Partners (Technopolis Group, ERRIN, Fraunhofer ISI and UNU-MERIT) and Greater...
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