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Talent, technology and unicorn farms… A conversation with EIT’s Adam Rottenbacher – Euractiv

Talent, technology and unicorn farms… A conversation with EIT’s Adam Rottenbacher – Euractiv


EURACTIV spoke to Adam Rottenbacher, Head of Operations at the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT), to find out more about Europe's largest innovation network. From trying to recreate past successes to finding solutions to Europe's latest challenges.

Unfortunately, the list of names Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg does not include any nationals of the EU-27 member states. Have you had any major successes in the nearly 20 years you've been doing EIT?

Yes, definitely. Add her one name to your list. I'm Peter Carlson, founder and CEO of Northvolt. We are very proud of Northvolt, which is currently Europe's largest battery manufacturer. They are decacorns worth over 10 billion.

The two co-founders started this project about seven years ago with nothing but a piece of paper and a dream to create the world's cleanest, greenest battery. EIT InnoEnergy, one of his members of the Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC), met them and helped them realize their ideas. And today they are massive.

The company already has three factories in Europe and employs nearly 5,000 people. I am 100% sure that this would not have happened without the help and support of EIT InnoEnergy.

You have the difficult task of meeting people with ideas about napkins and predicting the future. What does your crystal ball tell you about your happiness over the next five years?

Over the past 14 years, we have built Europe's largest innovation ecosystem and we are very proud of it. He also founded three highly successful and sustainable innovation communities. No other EU initiative has this level of ambition to create an innovation ecosystem that becomes a self-sustaining engine.

We have over 2,000 partners and 50 hubs across Europe. Our goal over the next five years is to leverage this influence and network to increase the impact of his EIT. To further support companies like Northvolt that solve social challenges, increase KIC's impact, and strategically guide the network in the direction it needs the most support.

We believe we can contribute to narrowing the skills gap in Europe, and we have succeeded in targeting Europe's innovation gap and much untapped potential.

Are there any areas in which Europe is leading that we have managed to develop?

Deep technology! It is an area where startup business models are built on high-tech innovation and engineering. We believe this is an area where Europe can lead, as it has great technological talent and research carried out in its universities and research centres. There may be unrealized potential that you can unleash.

We started the Deep Tech Talent Initiative because a company's growth is often limited by access to talent, not access to funding. For example, his website for Northvolt has about 400 job openings posted. Companies are finding it difficult to recruit talented people. The Deep Technology Initiative aims to train 1 million talents in the field of deep technology in three years.

After just a few questions, Europe's untapped potential has already been mentioned twice. How do we unlock this potential? What should I do?

So one way is to meet future industry needs through programs like the Deep Tech Talent Initiative.

Another initiative is the EIT Regional Innovation Scheme. This is a dedicated outreach scheme, establishing physical hubs in countries of medium or emerging innovators. The aim is to raise awareness on how to participate in EIT KIC and we will provide targeted support to startups, helping them to become more competitive at European and global level. We don't just provide grants, we also provide access to talent and a powerful network.

Let's go back to the euro for a moment. You say that's not necessarily the biggest issue, but some people think EIT is unnecessarily complicated for innovation funding. Is changing this perception on your to-do list?

We have many stakeholders because our work spans the entire innovation effort and we listen to all stakeholders to continually improve our models. I disagree that EIT is unnecessarily complex.

EIT serves all stakeholders: students, professionals, start-ups, companies and universities.

It is also the only company with a local presence in all member states. It is very important for innovators to have an office where they can go to seek support from EIT.

EIT Digital, EIT Climate-KIC and EIT InnoEnergy are already starting to become self-sustaining. Can we expect a new KIC to replace these and lead us into the future?

We don't necessarily use the word “replace”. But let's say the EIT community becomes even richer. According to Horizon Europe's seven-year strategy, another KIC needs to be established, and that is EIT Water. He has not yet received full confirmation from the commission to proceed with the KIC, but expects to get the green light within the next few months.

Your team is also planning a summit in Brussels this month. What is the purpose of holding this type of event in 2024?

That's why we organize this summit every two years, bringing together the EIT community, which today is Europe's largest innovation ecosystem. On the one hand, the purpose is to showcase our achievements and for people to meet his EIT community.

The summit will also host the EIT Awards, which I think is the most interesting part of the summit. In various categories, the best teams from the EIT community will compete against each other for cash prizes. There will also be several panel discussions explaining how EIT innovation works.

What are the key takeaways you'd like people to take away from the room or livestream at this year's summit?

Those attending the summit will be able to learn more about how the EIT model works. Whether in a particular country, region or thematic area he can see how he can benefit from the EIT model. We also want to bring new organizations and people on board.

Innovation is not just about technology. However, the EU and other countries are now focusing on AI. How does EIT position itself in the short and long term to address how this will impact our society and culture?

I completely agree that it is definitely a big challenge. From the EIT community, EIT Digital is driving development and innovation in AI, but this technology is clearly cross-sector, and what we've done is we've established what's called the EIT AI community. We also have a dedicated website So this is an EIT community initiative in which all KICs participate. And they are doing some very interesting activities.

We also match companies with AI problems with startups offering AI solutions. And no doubt there will be more to come.

Regarding your second question about culture, our latest KIC is EIT Culture & Creativity. They were set up over a year ago. They are now starting their first efforts and will no doubt play a key role in addressing this challenge.

It seems like a unique organization. If you don't have a playbook or many other role models to emulate, what motivates you and where do you get new ideas?

I joined EIT about 12 years ago and am still fully motivated to work for EIT. So let me tell you what motivates me. I think this is probably true for most of my colleagues as well. And that is our mission. EIT's mission is what we exist for. It wasn't just about supporting innovation for economic growth. We have a mission to pursue and address the social challenges for which KIC was founded.

Here I would also like to return to a summit where I can be really proud of our community. I think this is a great confirmation that we are doing something important and valuable for Europe.

More than 5,000 venture companies supported it. Eight unicorns were born. What’s next for EIT?

Partially linked to previous question. We would like to help other EIT innovation communities other than the first three become self-reliant. At least towards the same level of success.

It was truly unique. So we're experimenting with a new approach. Maybe you can give an example. The company has already established a European Battery Academy to train 800,000 people across the battery industry value chain and is now starting a second round of recruitment for a similar academy, called the European Solar Academy.

And because this is one of the big challenges, we are very much looking forward to working with other European Commission services and other programs and with KIC to address these skills gaps in Europe. Masu.

The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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