#EUvsVirus, the European Commission’s hackathon to promote innovation

Camilla Palla

The common management of the crisis resulting from the spread of the coronavirus has involved multi-dimensional efforts at all levels of governance in Europe and worldwide. Healthcare facilities are experiencing difficulties in sourcing medical materials and devices, businesses are being put to the test by restrictions imposed to ensure lockdown measures, and schools and universities are facing an unprecedented transition in terms of technology, education methods and distance learning.

Although the economic aspect is undoubtedly the one that the EU debate is focusing on in identifying the various exit strategies, this is also linked to a further major aspect. That is, research, which can potentially respond to the crisis through multi-sectoral solutions.

The need to create a framework that fosters research and development of innovative solutions to manage the crisis has generated several initiatives at a global level. In this context, the European Commission has launched the #EUvsVirus hackathon, which offers a common organisational and technical framework with the aim of collectively developing solutions in the six identified target areas: health and life, business continuity, social and political cohesion, remote working and education, digital finance and other. Each of the areas is then internally structured into sub-categories, for a total of 37 possible areas of intervention.

The initiative is coordinated by the European Commission, in particular the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, in cooperation with the European Innovation Council. It also brings together civil society, innovators, partners and buyers from the 27 EU Member States as well as Norway, Israel, Switzerland, Turkey, the Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

The Commission, in close cooperation with all the Member States and Horizon 2020 associated countries, will therefore identify the best projects from the hackathon, which will then be presented on the European Innovation Council’s (EIC) platform entirely dedicated to the Covid emergency. This is a comprehensive forum that will make communication with end users, first and foremost, healthcare providers, more immediate and provide a point of contact with investors, foundations and funding opportunities already foreseen in European programmes. A special jury will evaluate the projects submitted in terms of potential impact, technical complexity, completion of the prototype and development of the business model.

The hackathon will allow for the submission of ideas and the creation of teams in all the Union languages. Projects can be individual or team-based and participants will have 48 hours to collaborate through different online platforms on a project proposal for one of the challenge areas. The hackathon will take place online and will be accompanied by live-streaming, webinars and Q&A sessions, fully accessible to the public via the webpage specifically created by the Commission.

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