– The Union will establish a European Innovation Council: it will create one institution that will comprehensively support breakthrough technologies with high potential and innovative companies, which will help the Community become a leader in market-driven innovations – says Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science in a conversation with Adam Sofulo and Jacek Ziarno.
– Commisioner, you see the large EU undertaking "Horizon 2020" among the biggest European success stories. Let's assume that we are writing a comprehensive, problematic text to prove this thesis in detail. What – according to you – should be found in the outline of this work?
In fact, such a text already exists: it's the mid-term evaluation of "Horizon 2020", based on independent expert reports, European Commission's analyses and public consultations.
The facts and figures contained therein speak for themselves. They show how the program contributes to the creation of jobs and economic growth, how it deals with the greatest social challenges and promotes quality of life.
– What are the examples?
A lot of great projects that will bring tangible results in the future. For example, the construction of a pilot plant for the production of better nanomedicines that will help in the treatment of serious diseases. Another project: innovative vehicle safety systems relating to pedestrian and cyclist protection.
Thanks to "Horizon 2020", Europe is also becoming greener – we are trying to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate; it's about funding the "Clean Sky" project (public and private partnerships) – so that airplanes could cause less noise and pollution.
Horizon 2020 is flexible, responds to new and urgent needs, such as alarms related to Ebola and Zika viruses. Due to the rapid response from Horizon 2020, over 1.6 million vaccines against Ebola virus disease have been gathered... And these are just a few examples of projects involving the strongest minds of Europe and other parts of the world.
– What is the scale of Horizon 2020?
"Horizon 2020" has proven to be extremely attractive. Those interested in this programme come from over 130 countries, and over half of them did not take part in the previous programme - i.e. the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7). The number of applications compared to FP7 increased by 65 percent annually, to a total of 100 000 applications. However, the surge in the need for EU funds caused an excess of applications and, unfortunately, an increase in the number of rejected applications.
The programme creates the European "added value" and generates visible benefits – also in terms of support at the national and regional level. 83 percent of funded projects would not have been carried out without financial assistance from the EU.
According to data from this month, 9500 projects were supported with a total of EUR 33 billion under the "Horizon 2020" programme. Over 1000 of these projects concern Polish participants who are currently applying for more than EUR 313 million from the said programme.
– It is possible that research and development will receive more than EUR 100 billion from the "Horizon Europe" programme – it would probably be the largest fund of this type in the world. To what extent is this the continuation of "Horizon 2020", and to what extent will this project follow new paths?
Our proposal for "Horizon Europe" is based on the success of "Horizon 2020"; the Union will continue to be among the leaders of global research and innovation. With the proposed budget of EUR 100 billion, "Horizon Europe" will become the most ambitious programme in the field of research and innovation in human history.
To a great extent, this will be a continuation of the previous programme: improvement of three pillars (excellent scientific base, leading position in industry, social challenges – ed.) – with minor changes in the rules and procedures of participation. We will improve the new programme to maximize its impact, importance for society and the potential to create breakthrough innovations.
The most important initiatives of our programme include the European Innovation Council (EIC) which will help the Union become a leader in market-driven innovations, and new EU missions in research and innovation, focusing on social challenges and industrial competitiveness.
We also propose to redouble efforts to support Member States, such as Poland, which may still fall behind in the development of research and innovation capacities.
The "Horizon Europe" programme will also contribute to freedom and greater openness in access to publications and data, which will be the basic modus operandi.
We also propose a "new generation" of European partnerships and more intensive cooperation with other EU programmes, such as structural funds, which are so important for Poland.
– Also in Poland we can see that more scientists and business people promote the idea that our continent is not keeping up with the United States and the most dynamic Asian countries in the transmission of research works from science to business. What's next?
The funds allocated for research and innovation are investments in the future of our continent. They help us compete in the world markets and preserve our unique social model. They also help solve the biggest challenges, and thus improve the lives of millions of people in Europe and in the world.
Europe has world-class research – it's the place where 1/3 of high-quality scientific publications are created – and strong industry. It creates the most open area of research and innovation across the globe. It is also true that in some areas Europe is ahead of China and the US (including the level of investment in modern technologies that will dominate the future industry). That is why we must strive to "turn excellence into success".
Europe must focus its efforts on three levels. First of all: we need significant investments in research and technology, focusing on major social and industrial challenges such as security, climate change and the effects of an ageing population. Second of all: the business environment must become more open to innovation and less sensitive to risk. And finally, third of all: the citizens of the European Union must get support in the process of rapid and – for some – stormy change.
This transformation will require a common goal and a different attitude to innovation and science in Europe. A joint programme for regions, Member States and the European Commission will be of significant importance. Let's use strength of the continent and set a new direction, a new impulse for Europe to become a true global leader in innovation.
- How can we achieve that?
The EU should promote innovation and financing-friendly regulations by adopting a long-term EU budget for 2021-27, including the proposed increased investment in research and innovation for the "Horizon Europe" programme. Other tools include VentureEU – stimulating venture capital investments in start-ups, as well as further simplification of the rules of assistance in public financing of innovative projects from EU member countries. These regulations also include strengthening of smart specialization strategies – so that all European regions could take advantage from innovations that benefit EU structural and investment funds.
The EU will also establish a European Innovation Council: it will create one institution that will comprehensively support breakthrough technologies with high potential and innovative companies, which will help the Community become a leader in market-driven innovations.
We will finally launch EU missions with ambitious, measurable and time-bound goals that concern every day issues. They will be defined in close cooperation with Member States, stakeholders and citizens.
They may include, among others, projects relating to the fight against cancer, clean transport or oceans free of plastic waste. These missions will encourage investment and participation in all sectors or academic disciplines to face challenges together. They should create synergies with research and innovation strategies in the Member States, at regional and local level.
– How will the European Innovation Council work in practice and how can it help in achieving the objectives of Horizon Europe?
EIC – as part of the "Horizon Europe" programme – will combine all EU support, directed at the needs of breakthrough market innovations – for example, Instrument for SME, Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) and EIC Horizon awards – two financing instruments: Pathfinder (supporting the early stage before commercialization) and Accelerator (supporting mature innovations). Both instruments will be active and open to risk, and will focus on breakthrough innovations and the needs of innovators.
There are many links between EIC and the "Horizon Europe" programme – in particular with specialized pillar clusters that focus on global challenges and industrial competitiveness. Within the framework of the Horizon Europe programme, we propose the implementation of EU research and innovation missions – with emphasis on social challenges and industrial competitiveness; EIC will combine these missions. (…)
- How can the European Innovation Council contribute to the effective implementation of the objectives of "Horizon Europe"? Is it possible that the Council will form a bureaucratic body composed of officials rather than practitioners?
From the very beginning, we have engaged experienced entrepreneurs and innovators to work with EIC. They are part of the EIC Expert Group, which provided advises while constructing the European Innovation Council. The EIC pilot study, conducted in the final years of the Horizon 2020 programme, aims to choose various proposals for financing (under the SME Instrument) – after direct discussions with a jury composed of innovators, entrepreneurs and venture capital funds.
The Commission will also appoint temporary EIC programme managers to support technology-based visions and operational guidelines. They will come from companies, universities, national laboratories and research centres. The EIC Council will also include people with comprehensive experience in innovation and expert knowledge. Therefore, one can see that we do not build a bureaucratic body with officials...
– It is difficult to treat "Horizon Europe" as an isolated EU undertaking – it will surely be among other big EU programmes in the new budget perspective. Where will these synergies appear most frequently – which of the other EU projects should be consistent with it?
We wanted to achieve what you are talking about by preparing the proposal for "Horizon Europe". The EU funding programmes will be more efficient, more effective and will have more impact on everyday life if they are better linked. We want "Horizon Europe" to be complementary to other EU programmes. It provided – for example – research and innovative solutions for sustainable transport, which can be quickly implemented through the "Connecting Europe" Facility. It will also be interesting to support innovative training programmes in skills needed in future workplaces, which can then be taken by the European Social Fund (ESF).
Synergies will also be visible between the "Horizon Europe" programme and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – to set an example for regional authorities when they decide to transfer some of the funds to the "Horizon Europe" programme. This means that the funds will be allocated to, for example, small enterprises in this region, but in accordance with the principles of the "Horizon Europe" programme. The state rules for granting assistance will make it possible to finance high-quality proposals, which have received the "Seal of Excellence" from the "Horizon Europe" programme, at national or regional level.
– In practice – we think especially here of strategic discussions between commissioners regarding programme arrangements, but also the size of proposed funds for individual programmes... Are these discussions going smoothly, or are there any disagreements?
These discussions are very constructive – both at the political level (for example with my colleague Phil Hogan, who manages the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union), and between Commission departments.
We all agree that stronger links between EU programmes are needed. Possible synergies for each programme were described for the first time in the proposal for the "Horizon Europe" programme – and in many cases this has been reflected in the proposals for other EU programmes after 2020.
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