A couple of months ago I posted a piece about the Climate KIC Transitions Summer School which I attended in Frankfurt. The prize for winning the competition at the end of that Summer School was to attend the Open Platform event of the Climate-KIC Making Transitions Happen (MTH) platform and a subsequent PhD workshop with the Climate-KIC PhD students.
The Open Platform event focussed on the funding programme that the EU is developing under the leadership of the new President, Jean-Claude Juncker. There is scepticism over how effective the so-called Juncker Package will be. The Economist accuses him of attempting alchemy, given that much of his promised €315 billion spend will have to come from private investors. But putting aside the debate as to how much of this will ultimately be realised, the fact remains that his package includes the ring-fencing of some significant investment into low carbon transitions and specifically recognises the importance of involving and empowering different regions.
One of the challenges that was frequently raised in the discussions at the MTH Open Platform was how to access these funds. It was recognised that this requires strategic alignment with the aims, objectives and requirements of the fund. For individual research organisations there is a major challenge of scale to be overcome in order to leverage these funds. The promised investment represents a great opportunity for those in research institutions with a low carbon focus. However the EU isn’t interested in providing grants to individual researchers or projects, they want to fund major national and regional initiatives and this requires collaboration between multiple partners. Furthermore, there is a clear desire from Europe that much of these funds should go to support businesses, particularly at the SME level, to improve competitiveness.
So it seems there is a real need for people with the skills, knowledge and networking ability to draw together the critical mass required to make successful bids for these new funds. Perhaps this is something that Universities should be training and equipping their doctoral students in?
The strength of initiatives like Climate-KIC is that they already have the necessary scale and partnerships with business and different regions across Europe which puts them in a strong position to leverage the sorts of funds that the EU is releasing.
So for doctoral students, linking up with Climate-KIC is a good strategic move. The network gives access to policy makers, business leaders and entrepreneurs in a wide variety of climate change related fields. Starting to move in these sorts of circles is particularly useful for those with their sights set on a career outside of academia. There a numerous opportunities to engage but the summer schools are a great way to forge these links whilst also expanding your experience of tackling real world challenges.
The University of Reading is an affiliate partner of Climate-KIC and hosts various events as well as a number of Climate-KIC PhD students.
For more details on the summer schools, see the individual websites below or look at the Climate-KIC website for more general information about the other ways to engage with the network.