Citizens to decide which challenge to be tackled with the first €2 million Social Innovation Horizon Prize

Citizens to decide which challenge to be tackled with the first €2 million Social Innovation Horizon Prize

The European Commission in cooperation with the European Investment Bank Institute will award a prize of €2 million to whoever can offer the best breakthrough that will help meet a problem facing the society. And which particular problem this will be is yet to be decided - by popular vote.

 

Starting today16 September 2015 and until 21 October, citizens will be able to choose among five different challenges facing our society that they would like to see tackled in the coming years:

  • Childhood obesity. So that more children can live better and more fulfilled lives and grow up as healthier adults while saving high costs for European health systems;
  • Aging population. So that aging would no longer hinder a healthy, active and socially engaged life, and elderly people would feel valued by their communities;
  • Integration of immigrants in the labour market. So that legal immigrants in the EU are effectively integrated in the labour market, thereby contributing to European competitiveness and improving people's lives;
  • Women entrepreneurship and women-led enterprises. So that barriers that prevent women from choosing entrepreneurial careers are lifted and women's skills more fully contribute to a stronger European economy and society;
  • Citizens for clean energy. So that citizens are put in the driving seat to change the way energy is supplied and make it more sustainable, clean and safe.

 

Childhood obesity 

The problem. In most European countries, child obesity is on the increase, with over 10% of 15-year-olds in the EU reportedly overweight. Over 60% of children who are overweight before puberty will probably be overweight in early adulthood - dramatically increasing the risk of cardiovascular and orthopaedic diseases. In fact, obesity is one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century, reducing labour force participation, productivity and overall quality of life. Moreover, it generates high costs and future liabilities for European health systems.

The challenge. Changing diet and declining physical activity are believed to be the two main causes of the recent increase in childhood obesity. Children in low- and middle-income countries are more likely to eat food which is not very nutritious. The European Union would like to launch this Horizon prize to create broad awareness of the problem across society, and mobilise the people and organisations involved with children to work together to create new solutions to end obesity in children. We need to enable children to live active lives and eat balanced diets, so they can grow into healthy adults with a good self-image.

Aging population

The problem. Europeans are living longer than ever before, but longer lives do not necessarily translate into more healthy years of life. The average European will live with persistent health problems and limitations for almost 20 years. Healthcare costs keep rising and the ageing EU population needs more and more care. At the same time, fewer people are available to provide that care, or to cover its rising costs. Chronic diseases already account for 80% of the overall impact of health problems, and 70% of total healthcare costs. More importantly, they hinder people from living active and socially engaged lives.

The challenge. Faced with the challenges of an ageing population, we would like to encourage innovative solutions that transform this challenge into an opportunity by responding to the needs of older Europeans and making active ageing a reality, keeping older people healthy, independent, socially engaged and fulfilled as valued contributors to society. The European Union would like to launch this prize to tackle ageing-related issues, and thereby improve the well-being of the elderly, including high quality of life, fulfilment and social activities.

Integration of immigrants in the labour market

The problem. Europe needs to unleash the full labour-market potential of immigrants to be able to stay competitive in a European society with a declining working-age population. Immigrants born outside the OECD countries represent 7% of their population, and a further 5% of the native-born population has at least one immigrant parent. However, existing barriers to integrating immigrants into the labour market – which vary according to educational level and family environment - mean their potential remains underutilised. In addition to the disadvantages suffered by immigrants and their children, this is bad for the European economy.

The challenge. The challenge is to overcome well-known barriers to the effective labour-market integration of immigrants such as insufficient skills (e.g. language skills), lack of experience for available jobs, unrecognized qualifications, difficulties in navigating local labour markets, and formal and informal obstacles to employment. The European Union would like to launch this prize to tackle this issue by encouraging solutions to stimulate the integration of immigrants. Europe needs innovative and creative approaches to promoting integration that include good cooperation and coordination among local and national authorities, businesses, and interest groups and organisations (including both the native population and immigrants).

Women entrepreneurship and women-led enterprises

The problem. Too few women embark on entrepreneurial careers. There are more than 33 million entrepreneurs in the EU but only 31% are women, and the growth rate is stagnating. Entrepreneurial activities are still hampered by gender-specific constraints, such as cultural norms, unequal employment opportunities, and restricted access to finance and business networks. Relatively few companies are headed by women, despite their positive impact on the quality of a company’s working environment and its financial performance. Factors such as the support available to entrepreneurship, family issues and social security conditions play a role here.

The challenge. Europe needs to mobilise all its resources to drive entrepreneurship, including women's talents, skills, knowledge and capacity for innovation – yet there are relatively few female entrepreneurs. How can we ensure that women are not deterred from business careers, but embrace entrepreneurship as a career option? The European Union would like to launch this prize to stimulate women entrepreneurship by addressing the obstacles to women-led enterprises and entrepreneurial activities, and improving women’s access to support and finance.

Citizens for clean energy

The problem. We urgently need to change how we generate and use energy, according to global organisations including the International Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency. Increasingly scarce resources, growing energy needs and climate change present critical challenges for Europe. The pressures of fluctuating energy prices, supply insecurity, the need to reduce carbon emissions, and increasing demand for energy require that we make the necessary transition to a reliable, sustainable, competitive energy system.

The challenge. Increasingly, members of the public are coming forward with the development of community-level, renewable energy generation and supply. However, there is still great unrealised potential in community energy supply, creating new opportunities for grass-roots participation. The European Union would like to launch this prize to stimulate innovative solutions which can bring about breakthroughs in the effectiveness and spread of community-led, renewable-energy generating facilities, for a more sustainable, clean and safe energy in Europe.

 

Based on the outcome of the online voting, the Commission, in cooperation with the European Investment Bank Institute, will launch a Horizon Prize – an inducement prize that rewards whoever comes up with the best solution – on the challenge that received the most votes. The prize contest is expected to be launched in early 2016. The team that best meets the challenge will receive €2 million from Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation funding programme.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "Horizon 2020 is a flexible programme that adapts to the fast-developing, urgent problems that our society faces. Horizon Prizes ultimately aim to engage with everyone in Europe and be open to all innovators. With this public vote we want everyone in Europe to engage in the design of the first ever Horizon Prize on Social Innovation."

Innovations are new or significantly improved goods, services, processes and methods; they are social if they are designed to benefit society rather than the indiv idual. Very often social challenges cannot be met with traditional recipes and approaches. 

Horizon Prizes are inducement prizes that offer a reward to whoever can most effectively meet a defined challenge. The aim is to engage communities to work towards a common goal, spur interest in a particular issue, attract new, dynamic innovators to an area, mobilise additional private investment for research and innovation, and stimulate novel, replicable solutions to the grand challenges, for the benefit of European citizens.

Cast your vote now and help decide which challenge will become the first ever Horizon Prize for Social Innovation! 

 

Source: DG Research & Innovation official website