Case Studies

Knowledge Innovation Communities (KIC)

Scottish Enterprise, University of Edinburgh, Scotland Europa.

Scotland Europa played a crucial role in a highly scored strategic funding bid. Scotland Europa’s policy and funding expertise, intelligence-gathering, relationship with the Scottish Government, connections across the bid’s partner regions, and physical presence in Brussels contributed to several positive outcomes for Scotland. Although the bid ultimately finished in second place, it raised the profile of Scotland as an expert in health and as a partner of choice in EU funding applications, led to applications for more targeted projects within other EU programmes, and strengthened long-term relationships at Scotland.

The Knowledge Innovation Communities (KICs) are the operational arm of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and look to develop and test a new model of how innovation is undertaken in Europe.  The major aim of the KICs is to develop long term sustainable partnerships that bring together education, research and innovation. These are built around the establishment of physical hubs (‘Colocation Centres’) in the participating EU countries and regions, which would become centres of excellence in, for example, generating new start-ups and attracting investment.

Working collaboratively, universities and research institutes, industry and public sector support organisations speed up innovation through a KIC in areas of strategic importance for Europe including climate change, ICT and sustainable energy.  Only one KIC is selected under each call, and the bidding process is highly competitive. Preparing a serious bid requires a long lead-in time and is highly resource-intensive, with a structured consortium of partners within each country involved in the transnational partnership.

In 2014 the EIT launched a call for a KIC on ‘innovation for healthy living and active ageing’.  The overarching aim was to bring about significant new innovations that would ultimately enable EU citizens to gain an additional two healthy life years. Recognising the strategic importance and opportunity for transformational change that this call represented, Scotland agreed to work in partnership with Denmark, Germany, Italy and Spain on an application. The University of Edinburgh both coordinated the overall bid and led the Scottish hub which included NHS 24, the Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise, the University of Glasgow and the University of the Highlands and Islands.

A KIC offers a much greater scale of opportunity than other types of EU-funded projects, with funding from the EIT to the Scottish Colocation Centre in the event of a successful bid estimated at around €45 million until 2020 and a return on investment many times this amount projected to be leveraged from the KIC’s activities.  This call also offered a unique opportunity to position Scotland as a true European leader in the healthy ageing and personalised care field.   


The ‘LifeKIC’ bid was a close strategic fit with key Scottish Enterprise sectoral priorities in Life Sciences and in Innovation, and Scotland Europa acted as the liaison for SE participation. Scotland Europa staff, as well as leading on the Communications strand of the application, were able to actively contribute to the bid writing process throughout. Scotland Europa brought expertise in policy input, along with intelligence/connections across the other European regions involved. 

Scotland Europa were able to use their expertise to bring together information on numerous activities and projects in the innovation field, including ERDF and the Innovation Centres, to ensure that existing strengths could be joined up and brought together in support of the bid.  This also harnessed effectively the strongly coordinated approach to innovation support in Scotland, and enabled the group working on the bid to be fully aware of the ‘big picture’ both in terms of existing activity in Scotland and as regards EU policy. Scotland Europa also played a vital role in ensuring that the bid had the full backing of the Scottish Government, which included a financial contribution towards the partnership. 

With a base in Brussels, Scotland Europa were able to offer the Scotland House facilities as a meeting location for co-ordination meetings and also utilise their proximity to and trusted relationships with key partner organisations to network with and learn from others with relevant experience.  A good example is the South Denmark regional office, with whom intensive collaboration on communication aspects of the bid took place, and this enabled a key Brussels relationship to be very much strengthened. Finally, Scotland Europa used their knowledge of EU policy during the writing process to ensure the bid was convincingly connected to EU policy goals. This included Smart Specialisation, an EU concept designed to ensure regions play to their strengths in research and innovation and a key criteria used by the EU in judging project applications

Lessons Learned

The Life-KIC application was not selected as the winning bid, finishing in second place, however it scored highly and many aspects of the bid were praised by the evaluators. For example, the combined strength of the partners received very good feedback, as did the highly complementary nature of the Colocation Centres and the impressive range of expertise in different health-related areas.  

The application process has resulted in a number of positive outcomes that are likely to benefit Scotland.  Firstly, the interaction of the various partners has raised the profile of Scotland as an expert in health and has now led to applications for 3 smaller-scale, more targeted projects in healthy ageing and personalised care within other EU programmes, whilst long-term relationships at both Scottish and EU level have been strengthened. A second key benefit has been to visibly increase the readiness and appetite of partners involved in the Life-KIC to mobilise and join up with Scotland in an EU funding application.

Relationships continue to develop both nationally, between the various Scottish partners, and internationally with those organisations in the proposed node countries. Building on these experiences, Scotland is now scoping out opportunities under the ‘Food4Future’ KIC call which will be awarded in late 2016. The main aim of this KIC is to contribute to ensuring a resilient and sustainable food system while meeting the challenge of increasing food demand.  Key learning from the LifeKIC bid, both positive and negative - such as evaluators’ criticisms on the lack of industry in lead roles or not having enough core partners with clearly tried and tested entrepreneurial skills - is being incorporated into this new application and discussions have taken place with two of the other European regions originally involved with the LifeKIC bid.

In addition, building on this positive previous engagement in KICs, discussions have already taken place between key Scottish partners in advance of a planned Urban Mobility KIC in 2018. So the learning under the Life-KIC represents a valuable source of inspiration and solid knowledge base which will help Scottish organisations to investigate specific opportunities under the Food and Urban Mobility KICs, and should help to increase the chances of success for successful Scottish engagement in these calls.

People are living for longer, but this often means they experience illness late in life. We must plan effectively to manage the demand this places on healthcare resources, to ensure adequate care for all. Scotland is well placed to tackle this challenge, and winning support for our bid could help us deliver effective results for citizens across Europe. Professor Mark Parsons Co-ordinator of the LifeKIC bid, University of Edinburgh
  • Status
  • Completed
  • Project Launch
  • 01 January 2001
  • Project completed
  • 09 September 2010

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