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On course: implementing Horizon 2020

On course: implementing Horizon 2020

2013-04-11 - Horizon 2020 Projects

Although member states, policy makers and the scientific community are preparing in earnest for Horizon 2020, the final legislation regarding governing the EU's next research and innovation framework programme is still to be formally passed.

The legislation governing Horizon 2020 is split into six proposals - the framework programme main regulation; the rules for participation; the specific programme implementing Horizon 2020; the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) regulation; the EIT Strategic Innovation Agenda; and the aspects of Horizon 2020 corresponding to the EURATOM treaty.

What is the current stage of the legislation regarding Horizon 2020?

The advanced negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission have been progressing well, focusing on the initial proposal from the Commission and the amendments from the Parliament and Council of the European Union. We are also looking at the budget breakdown for the different pillars and although there maybe some issues there, I don't imagine any major problems.

Maria da Graça Carvalho MEP is the rapporteur for the specific programme implementing Horizon 2020 and outlined her thoughts regarding the framework programme's budget and European Parliament's legislative amendments.

We have meetings booked until June and hope to vote as a plenary in the Parliament in September. The Commission will need approximately six months to prepare all the necessary work programmes, guides for applicants and implementation structures to launch the first calls in 2014.

We still don't know the overall final budget for Horizon 2020 - this depends on the parallel negotiations on the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). At the last plenary session in Strasbourg, we voted on a resolution on the Parliament's terms and conditions of negotiations regarding the overall EU budget. I requested more flexibility between the chapters, between the budgeting years and requiring a mid-term review, as well as asking for stronger investment in all the programmes that contribute to growth and jobs; we consider Horizon 2020 to be one of those programmes.

The Council has not devoted a budgetary figure to Horizon 2020. The Commission proposed an €80bn budget for Horizon 2020 whilst the Parliament planned €100bn. The European Council have attributed a figure of €141bn to 'Competiveness for Growth and Jobs', which includes Horizon 2020, ERASMUS, GMES, ITER and Galileo. However, a sentence in February's 'Conclusions of the European Council' states that Horizon 2020 budget will 'represent a real growth compared to 2013 level,' meaning that the framework programme should have a budget of at least €70bn.

I hope that those negotiations will not be delayed because we need to close these talks in order to agree the final proposal and budget for Horizon 2020; I don't foresee any other delays to the legislation. If we get the budget for Horizon 2020 on time, we will conclude on time.

How concerned should scientists and researchers be regarding the future of the Horizon 2020 budget?

The final budget will be agreed following negotiations between the three institutions and we hope Horizon 2020 will receive a budget as close to €80bn as possible. For the Parliament, €80bn was the meaningful amount to fulfil all Horizon 2020's ambitions so we hope that it will be as close to this figure as possible so we don't need to take anything out of Horizon 2020.

If the budget was much lower than €80bn, we could probably not keep all the ambitions and the wide scope that was intended. It would also lead to complications because the programme is very balanced and it would be disappointing to withdraw parts of the programme. We are putting a lot of pressure on the other EU funds managed by member states, e.g. regional funds, to encourage them to devote more to research and innovation.

I hope that in the end we have a good result for the research and innovation in Europe. Probably not as good as the Parliament would like, but the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

If the budget was cut to below €80bn, what areas could be lost from Horizon 2020?

If the budget for Horizon 2020 was cut drastically to around €60bn, the Parliament would not accept the budget. Following the Lisbon Treaty, the Parliament must now approve the MFF.

If we don't accept the MFF, we will work with the 2013 budget on an annual basis. The budget for FP7 this year is around €10bn, so Horizon 2020 will receive at least €70bn over seven years; we therefore didn't want to accept a value below €70bn. The Parliament has outlined this publically so I think it's very reassuring that the Council has also stated that it wants a higher figure for Horizon 2020.

If there is a small cut to the Horizon 2020 budget, we can do it proportionally across the board. Yet if the cut is big, some of the items would have such a small budget that it would not make sense to still have these aspects. A big emphasis in Horizon 2020 is covering the whole innovation cycle, from research and development, to demonstration and testing, to bringing products to market. The programme is much more ambitious than FP7 and this is why it needs adequate funding.

What amendments are being made to the Horizon 2020 legislation?

The Commission proposed a very good balance between the three pillars of Horizon 2020 and I think it would be a pity if we damaged that balance. I think we have improved what was already a very good original proposal from the Commission, though we have completed a package of amendments in the Parliament.

We hope to widen participation for small member states to take part in Horizon 2020, in addition to making it easier for institutions from new member states to participate and better access in established member states. The UK, for example, has a lot of disparity in terms of participation - involvement is concentrated around London, Cambridge, Oxford, yet there are excellent units outside of these regions that find it more difficult to participate. We are making sure that it will also be easy for these institutes, which are smaller in size and further away, to have better conditions to participate in Horizon 2020.

We also have included more scientific and horizontal co-ordination in Horizon 2020. So for example in the health sector, there would be  scientific co-ordination between the projects that are taking place between in the European Research Council, the Marie Curie Actions, the Industrial Leadership pillar and the Societal Challenges pillar.

In Societal Challenges, we have included more focus on marine and maritime research and have included micro-generation, centralised energy production and the storage of energy in the energy objective. We have also incorporated cultural heritage and divided the sixth societal challenges from 'Inclusive, innovative and secure societies' into 'Inclusive, innovative society' and 'Security'.

We have increased the involvement of SMEs and the funding budget for the SME Instrument. We have also improved funding for the energy Societal Challenge, but have consequently decreased the budget for transport. There are other EU programmes that have finance for these areas - transport is has one of the biggest EU investment programmes and there is also funding in this sector relating to energy, e.g. electric mobility.

I don't see many problems on agreeing on what we have suggested.

What role will the EIT play in Horizon 2020?

We have kept the budget and priorities of the EIT the same. However, the Parliament is asking for more flexibility in the definition of the next Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) as the Commission currently has a very precise definition. The Parliament wants the definitions to be more open as many developments could take place between now and 2020. We also want the same principles of widening participation in Horizon 2020 to apply to the EIT, as well as synergies in structural funds and increasing the regional dimension of the EIT.

We hope that the conclusions of the MFF will give us adequate funding to keep the same ambitions of Horizon 2020, to avoid cuts, and to allow our institutions to continue their research in a sustainable way.

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