Practices

EU support for smart buildings under Horizon 2020

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How is Europe’s Horizon 2020 framework programme supporting research, innovation and market uptake of smart buildings?

 

This apparently straightforward question is, in fact, relatively difficult to answer partly because the term “smart buildings” is a frequently used but ill-defined term that cuts across several themes including ICT (Information and Communication Technologies), energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies, design and construction techniques, and the dynamic interaction of a building with its occupants. A simple answer to the question might be to express the amount of grant funding allocated to projects working on smart buildings or to count the overall number of projects supported.

However, statistics such as these would, in practice, be relatively difficult to obtain for several reasons. First, it would require projects across Horizon 2020 to apply a common and precisely defined understanding of the term “smart building”. Various perspectives on this were discussed at a public workshop of the EPBD Concerted Action, streamed live via BUILD UP. Secondly, it would depend on databases of projects being searchable using this commonly agreed indicator. The third reason why statistics would not be easy to come by, is that one aspect of a smart building might be investigated in a particular task or work package within a larger project which might not identify itself (for the purposes of a database search) as a “smart buildings” project. The research problem tackled in this article, presented at the Sustainable Places 2017 conference and published in a special issue of the journal "Buildings", is therefore to define the “smart building”, to search for and find projects that match this definition across the Horizon 2020 programme, and to analyse those results in a mapping exercise.

 

The research found that the Horizon 2020 programme has supported 42 different actions that relate to smart buildings, from its beginning in 2014 to early May 2017. About half of these are Innovation Actions. The total budget costs for these 42 actions add up to 367.9 million Euros, of which the EU grant contribution is 304.1 million Euros. The research found that no single project is comprehensively investigating every aspect of smart buildings. However, three projects contain tasks that relate to 14 out of the 16 aspects of smart buildings which were set out in this study.