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Special task force to lead new European Innovation Council

In creating a new innovation council, the European Commission is experimenting not just in policy but also in management – running it with a special task force to involve staff members from two agencies dealing with research and SME affairs, according to Science|Business sources.

The European Innovation Council, to launch soon as a pilot programme, is an initiative to scale up little tech companies into world-class “unicorns,” or start-ups valued at more than $1 billion each. It is a signature project of EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas, and will use a novel mix of grants, loans and equity.

And it will be run by staff from the Commission’s executive agencies for research and small business, merged into a special “Task Force EIC.” The Research Executive Agency staffers involved currently work on a programme, Future Emerging Technologies-Open, currently overseen by the Commission’s digital department, DG Connect. The SME Executive Agency staff work on a separate programme, the SME Instrument, currently overseen by DG Research.

The combined structure – yet to be approved formally by the Commission – is part of a broader effort by the director general for research, Jean-Eric Paquet, to increase cooperation between his department and other parts of the Commission. Rivalry between DGs Research and Connect, in particular, has been a source of frequent complaints from companies and universities that have to deal with both for policy or funding. While not unusual in Brussels, multi-agency task forces are usually created for special problems, such as the Greek debt crisis.

The task force is widely expected be headed by Jean-David Malo, a French Eurocrat who has been working for the past few years inside DG Research on new ways to finance innovation in Europe. Under the plan developed so far, he would report to Paquet. But an oversight structure would also include Roberto Viola, director general for Connect.  The task force could eventually be spun off into a separate executive agency.

Since becoming director general last year, Paquet has been planning a major reorganisation of his department. Plans for that reorganisation are nearing completion and are expected to be submitted in late March for formal Commission adoption, and to take effect by May 1st. So far, most managers – directors and unit heads – have been selected to fill out the new departmental organigram. Work is now focusing on selecting deputy unit heads, clarifying each unit’s specific missions, and ironing out operational details.

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