Saturday, 9 July 2011

What the FET's it All About?

Now here’s a hidden gem. At a time when funders are increasingly risk averse and focused on established academics, the EU is providing funding for technology projects undertaken by anyone at any stage of their career that are inherently uncertain. The Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) scheme funds research that seeks fundamental understanding, but that is inspired by everyday problems. Think Louis Pasteur.

There are three schemes within FET:
  • FET-Open: bottom up funding for small scale, novel and fragile ideas. It has a light 2 step assessment process, and an open deadline.
  • FET-Proactive: top down ‘managed’ funding that focuses on transformative, thematic research and emerging communities. It’s targeted and is aimed at developing a critical mass. There are fixed deadlines.
  • FET-Flagships: One step up from the ‘FET-Proactive’ are these large, roadmap-driven research initiatives.
Now if you’re still with me then you must still be interested. So stick with me and we’ll drill down for more detail on the first of these, the FET-Open. The deadlines are open, but applications are batched in 6 month groups. There are five different streams within the scheme:
  • Challenging Current Thinking (€75m): Provides funding for 3-6 partners, with each award of about €1.5 – 3m. They’re looking for new and alternative ideas that are risky and unconventional. They don’t want research that just provides incremental improvements. It’s all about foundational breakthroughs, ambitious proofs of concept, and new, interdisciplinary collaborations.The success rates initially appear low: 4%. But that’s the total number of outline applications divided by the total number of projects finally funded. If you use the more realistic number of full applications divided by the number of awards, it’s a much more respectable 35%.
  • High Tech Research Intensive SMEs in FET Research (€9m): This provides funding for research outside large labs. Like the ‘Research for the Benefit of SMEs’, this is intended for SMEs who are willing to take the driving role in research, and get the primary benefit from it. The EC is not interested in projects that seek short term commercial outcomes.
  • FET Young Explorers (€6m): This is aimed at catching the creativity, potential, and openness of young researchers, and to develop their leadership, empowering them to be independent. By ‘young’ they mean less than 6 years from the submission of their PhD.
  • International Cooperation Top up Call (€3m): This provides funding to extend existing FET projects with complementary research activities that develop collaborations with new non-EU research partners. It’s restricted to on-going FET projects, and there must be 18 months left of the award.
  • Science of Global Systems (€3.5m): Here, they are seeking IT projects that are developing models that will be used to understand global systems – eg ecological, socio-economic – and improve their ability to respond to changes. There’s a deadline 17 Jan 2012.

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