Secure, clean and efficient energy is one of the seven priority challenges identified by the EU in Horizon 2020 the biggest research and innovation program ever. For this reason € 5.9 billion have been allocated over 7 years (2014-2020) to support different energy related topics.
The focus on smart cities technologies (one of the three focus topic together with Energy efficiency and Low Carbon technologies) is expected to result in commercial-scale solutions with a high market potential: urban areas will benefit from new, efficient, and user-friendly technologies and services, in particular in the areas of energy (Smart grids), transport and ICT. The keyword is integration: integration among different technologies, among different partners, between public and private bodies. EU funds will be dedicated to develop large demonstrators which are expected to prove the feasibility of innovative approaches and technologies helping to mobilize private investments.
Not only leading technologies will come out from funded projects but also winning partnerships: lighthouse projects are meant to be replicated across Europe and economies of scale mechanism will reduce the payback time of the required investments. Furthermore National Governments often address National funds or European structural funds according to European policies in order to foster public and private investments improving regional competiveness.
Examples of National call addressing this target are the National Technology Clusters call and the Smart Cities and Communities call published in 2012 meant to support the cooperation between companies in specific areas and to promote initiatives to improve the quality of life in urban areas. Talking about future the Italian University and Research Ministry (MIUR) is promoting a public online consultation about the 2014-2020 Research and Innovation Operative National Plan (PON) involving citizens in the definition of the plan itself. The plan aims at mobilizing almost € 1.7 billion dedicated to less developed regions and transition regions. Energy is one of the 12 topics addressed.
During the VII Framework Program (2007-2013) the net balance between the Italian contribution to the European budget and the funds collected by Italian entities is -3.94%. In order to increase its capability to exploit the opportunities offered by the EU, Italian companies and public bodies should increase their capability to gather European funds.
Orienting in the background of European and National calls is not so easy: consulting companies and non-profit associations such as the Italian APRE were born to support companies to benefit from public funds. However some companies built specific competencies on that: Loccioni Group has developed a growing capability to benefit from European and National funds through the Research for Innovation Lab, a multidisciplinary team working on long term projects together with leading Universities, Research Centers and Industrial partners. Loccioni Group is involved in several running projects addressing different topics such as robotics, advanced sensing, innovation model, artificial intelligence and energy efficiency. From past and running projects Loccioni Group has not only received a contribution for its research activities (crucial for developing new businesses) but has also gained on intangible assets such as: contacts with Universities and Research centers, patents, publications, reinforced relationships with customers and suppliers. Examples of active projects in the energy field are Green@Hospital (Energy efficiency in healthcare facilities through ICT) and RenewIT (Tool for renewable energy supply in data centers).