Imprensa It’s essential to increase EU research and innovation funding

Artigos de Opinião | 29-09-2011 in Science and Bussiness

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This is a particularly crucial moment for Europe's scientific community as the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission are preparing the future European Research and Innovation programme - Horizon 2020 - the successor to the Seventh Framework Programme.

The European Institutions have also begun negotiations around the future EU budget, post - 2013.

The report on the Green Paper: "From Challenges to opportunities: towards a common strategic framework for EU Research and innovation funding" was voted on this week in the plenary at the European Parliament.

The European People's Party  (EPP) group was pleased to see its main proposals - as detailed below - in the report.

The EPP is calling for:

  • An increase in the budget for the next Framework Programme for research and innovation;
  • Coordination of the next Framework Programme (to be called Horizon 2020) with the Structural Funds;
  • The inclusion of the concept "stairway to excellence" - by which we mean giving those member states with less developed scientific infrastructures the chance to catch up;
  • Creation of the conditions for greater involvement of industry, particularly SMEs;Promotion of the participation of young researchers;
  • Simplifying the rules for accessing and administering grants

Research and innovation are two central pillars in economic development and job creation in Europe. It is therefore essential to increase the portion of the funding that is allocated to research and innovation within the overall EU budget.  This involves substantially increasing the budget of the Framework Programme and the earmarking of the structural funds to be dedicated to this sector.

At the moment, we, in the European Parliament, are struggling to achieve a doubling of the budget for the next European Programme for Research and Innovation as compared with the present programme. Hopefully, this will represent an increase from €50 billion to €100 billion.

R&D should not only be funded by Framework   

Since then, the European Commission has advanced an alternative figure of €80 billion as part of the post- 2013 seven-year budget package. The next step will involve tough negotiations between the main three European Institutions, Parliament, Council and the Commission.

But it is not only a question of simply doubling the budget for the Framework Programme.  It is also necessary to increase the share of the funding that is devoted to research and innovation within the overall EU budget. 

This can be done by a combination of an increase in funding for the Framework Programme and by increasing the share of the structural funds devoted to research and innovation.

Given this, it is important to coordinate and to enhance synergy between these instruments.

A larger budget will enable us to promote excellence at a European level. But it is equally important that we encourage the first sprouts of excellence within the new programme.  To achieve this, the EPP has proposed the concept of a "Stairway to Excellence" to create the conditions for the participation of small units of excellence that can provide the foundations for wider improvements, such as small research groups and highly innovative start-ups.

Recognising the essential role of business in economic development and job creation, the EPP welcomes the importance attached to SMEs in this report.

Youth unemployment - including amongst the highly qualified - is a scourge in many EU countries. Getting these young people involved in research projects will bring double benefits: the dynamism and innovative spirit of youth will galvanise the projects whilst the Framework Programme will provide a route for qualified young people to get into the labour market.

Finally, it is urgent to simplify access to funds for research and to develop a culture of trust among all stakeholders if we are to strengthen research and innovation in Europe. The Horizon 2020 programme is a comprehensive and carefully thought out programme.  But for it to deliver in practice, we need more trust, simplicity, flexibility, and excellence-based criteria. 

Maria Da Graça Carvalho, is a Member of the European Parliament in the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and sits on the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE).

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