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Horizon 2020: the next Framework Programme for research and innovation

Horizon 2020: the next Framework Programme for research and innovation

2012-06-11 - EPP Group website

Addressing the weaknesses in the European R&D market (see complete article here)

By Maria da Graça Carvalho MEP, EPP Group Rapporteur for the Specific Programme implementing Horizon 2020

The forthcoming Horizon 2020 programme - the next Framework Programme for research and innovation - will reinforce Europe's leading position in a domain in which Europe has lost ground in many areas. Achieving this entails accurately identifying the strengths that Europe possesses, but also recognising and correcting Europe's weaknesses.

When it comes to its strengths, Europe has world-leading researchers, entrepreneurs and companies; a set of deeply-embedded values and traditions, a dynamic culture of creativity and diversity and the largest internal market in the world. Finally, European civil society is actively engaged in emerging and developing economies across the globe.

However, at the same time, Europe has a number of weaknesses: under-investment in our knowledge base; unsatisfactory framework conditions (ranging from poor access to finance and the high costs of IPR (intellectual property rights) to slow standardisation and ineffective public procurement) and finally, too much fragmentation alongside excessive bureaucracy and red tape.

Horizon 2020 represents a real step forward in that it addresses these difficulties and seeks to supply a series of appropriate solutions. The programme strikes a balance between the three pillars of 'Excellent Science', 'Industrial Leadership' and 'Societal Challenges'.

Beyond this, the broad lines of Horizon 2020 might be summarised as follows:

  • Given the challenges with which Europe is currently faced, Horizon 2020 should be as simple and as well-structured as possible and it should be equipped with appropriate funding.
  • Excellence should be the main driver of Horizon 2020. This requires a definition of excellence that is independent of any geographical or other precondition. As Rapporteur for The Specific Programme for Horizon 2020, I am leading negotiations on the budget allocations for programmes under Horizon 2020 for the European Parliament. I have been particularly keen to promote the widening of participation including the concept of a 'stairway to excellence' which, by simplifying participation rules, should allow junior research talent or small organisations, who would normally find it difficult, to have easier access to funding. This is something that will further encourage the involvement of strong units of embryonic excellence such as small research groups and highly innovative start-ups.  
  • The ability to innovate but also to see innovation through to viable market solutions is central to competitiveness. The whole innovation cycle should be covered as this will lead to the enhanced participation of European industry. At the same time, industry participation should not be narrowly restricted to consideration under the Industrial Leadership pillar. I have actively sought to promote this in my report. Innovation flourishes best when it strives to attain excellence but also when it offers real solutions to existing societal challenges.
  • Greater synergy between Horizon 2020 and the structural funds is urgently required. Whilst the main driver of Horizon 2020 remains excellence, EU structural funds could be deployed both upstream and downstream from Horizon 2020 to enhance capacity building and to facilitate the passage from concept to market. My report places particular emphasis on the need for concrete actions that move in this direction.
  • Finally, Horizon 2020 should be deployed in such a way as to have a structural effect on the organisation of European research, giving rise to an accelerated, collaborative and stimulating research and innovation environment. Inside Horizon 2020, each research area should be equipped with robust governance mechanisms. Although the objective of this is to implement Horizon 2020, these mechanisms should also enhance communication, the exchange of data and good practice.

At a time when growth is essential in order to counteract the necessary austerity measures being made across Europe, Horizon 2020 represents a ready-made and rigorously conceived programme that should be used as a springboard to creating a dynamic, prosperous European economy.

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