Presentation on Horizon 2020 at the Launching event for Horizon 2020

Máire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN – Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

National Library/Bucharest


Ladies and gentlemen, today is a day of firsts.

This is my first visit to Romania as European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, and the first Member State event to launch Horizon 2020. I am delighted to be here, and congratulations to you on being so quick off the mark!

I would like to thank Prime Minister Ponta, who I met yesterday, and Minister Costoiu for their invitation. We have had very positive discussions on the importance of research and innovation for Europe’s future, and the contribution that EU programmes, and Horizon 2020 especially, can make for Romania.

Horizon 2020 is a totally new type of research programme for the EU, and it is designed to deliver results that make a difference in people’s lives.

With more than 70 billion euro over seven years, it is the biggest EU research programme yet, and one of the biggest worldwide. It is the only major programme in the EU’s new budget that sees an increase in resources.

Horizon 2020’s substantial budget is a great result for European science and innovation and a great result for all of the stakeholders who presented their case so effectively, from the beginning of our public consultation more than two years ago.

I am determined that this additional money – which represents a 25 per cent increase in real terms compared to FP7 – will be invested as wisely and efficiently as possible.

It will fund not just the best fundamental research, but applied also research and innovation, bringing in small and large companies. This is so vital because we know that research and innovation mean growth and jobs.

From the beginning of our discussions three years ago on the next EU research programme, I was determined to get better value for this public money. It would have been wrong to ask for a bigger budget without also undertaking radical reform of how research and innovation are financed at EU level.

The key words here are simplification and coherence.

Simplification first. From the very start of my mandate, it has been a top priority to make it easier for our scientists and business people to access EU funding. They kept telling me, and justifiably so, that unnecessary red tape meant they spent too much time on administration – time that could be better spent on research and innovation.

Simplification applies to all aspects of the programme.

While the current generation of programmes have lots of different rules, Horizon 2020 applies the same rules everywhere. That means it is much easier to apply and participate in projects.

The reimbursement of project costs will be much simpler with a single reimbursement rate for most projects. That means less paperwork and fewer audits.

And under Horizon 2020, the time between sending an application and receiving a grant will be much quicker. This means great projects will be able to get up and running many months earlier than under the current system.

So, we have reformed how Horizon 2020 will be administered. We have also reformed the overall design of the programme so that its approach is much more coherent, which brings me to my second point.

Horizon 2020 is designed from top-down and bottom-up to be coherent.

By bringing together all the EU-level funding for research and innovation under one roof, we can support you, in a seamless and joined-up fashion, at every step of the journey from excellent fundamental research all the way to innovative products, services and processes that we hope will conquer world markets.

Of course, this support takes different forms – it could be a European Research Council grant that enables a top scientist to stay in Europe to pursue her risky but promising research.

It could be support to industry to maintain Europe’s lead in a key technology like biotechnology. It can be a wide-scale collaborative effort tackling a societal challenge like climate change. Or it could be support for a project to demonstrate the feasibility and market potential of a technological innovation.

Horizon 2020 will take a challenge based approach. This is because the challenges facing Europe – whether food and energy security, clean transport, public health or security – cannot be solved by a single field of science or technology, let alone a single sector, or a single organisation.

These complex challenges will need solutions that draw upon many different areas of research and innovation. That’s why interdisciplinarity is such a crucial aspect of Horizon 2020.

We will encourage researchers to get out of their silos, and we expect that broader societal aspects are addressed by embedding the Socio-Economic Science and Humanities across the whole programme.

To mention one challenge in particular, Horizon 2020 will support the drive for sustainable agriculture, as well as research and innovation in food security and the bioeconomy.

Commissioner Cioloş and I are already working closely together in support of these goals in the European Innovation Partnership on Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability.

We will also be less prescriptive about what projects need to do. This will allow researchers and innovators to come up with innovative proposals to address the challenges. However, we will be more demanding about the impacts that projects must have, and this will be one of the key criteria for selecting which proposals get funding.

We are counting on Europe’s scientists to produce excellent research that will underpin both our search for solutions to societal challenges and our quest for innovation.

Horizon 2020 champions excellent science, with increased funding for the European Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions on researcher training, mobility and careers.

Horizon 2020 is also very good for business. I was determined from the outset to get more companies participating in European research and innovation projects.

Simplification has certainly helped, as has the guiding ethos of support from “lab to market”: private companies will have greater scope to get involved in close-to-market actions.

More money will be available for testing, prototyping, demonstration and pilot type activities, for business-driven R&D, for promoting entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and for shaping demand for innovative products and services.

In short, Horizon 2020 helps the business sector to reap full commercial rewards from in-house innovation.

The programme will promote even greater industry involvement and leverage of investment, including dedicated support for ICT, nanotechnology, materials and production technology, more public-private partnerships, and reinforced support for demand-driven innovation like innovation procurement.

Horizon 2020 is joining forces with the private sector and with Member States on an unprecedented scale in key research areas to achieve results that one country or company would find difficult to achieve alone.

Five Public/Private Partnerships – dealing with innovative medicines; fuel cells and hydrogen; aeronautics; bio-based industries; and electronics – are expected to mobilise up to around 22 billion euro of investments, with 8 billion coming from the EU. These Partnerships offer huge opportunities for companies and researchers right across Europe, including SMEs.

So we’re not just focusing on the biggest players.

Research and innovation for SMEs are promoted across Horizon 2020 as a whole, but we are also introducing a new instrument that is adapted to their specific needs. This will allow single SMEs to receive small, simple grants for highly innovative projects.

Romania has a higher than average rate of SME participation in FP7, so I want the news about this new instrument to get out to Romanian SMEs. I think they will also be very interested in the new financing options in the form of risk-sharing (through guarantees) or risk finance (through loans and equity) to support research-driven and innovative companies.

The opportunities are there, but make no mistake; competition for Horizon 2020 funding will be fierce, especially since there is still such pressure on national research budgets.

One of my goals for Horizon 2020 is that there is a wider participation and that all countries and regions can build the level of excellence that will be needed to be successful in the Programme.

I have been working closely with Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy, to make sure that new Structural and Investment Funds will work hand in hand with Horizon 2020 to build excellence.

There is a huge opportunity under the new Structural and Investment Funds to increase Romania’s investment in research and innovation, which is currently very low. Without this national investment, it will be difficult to compete effectively in Horizon 2020.

But increasing research investment must be accompanied by reforms to simplify the funding, focus on excellence, and stimulate innovation.

This is exactly what I have done in Horizon 2020 and this also needs to be implemented in Member States. As with
other Member States, Romania will need to introduce reforms to ensure that your researchers and innovators are ready to compete and collaborate with the best in Europe.

Under the new Cohesion policy, each Member State and region should develop smart specialisation strategies that build on their respective strengths. It means that they will be betting on their most likely winners.

In fact, such a strategy will be a precondition to research and innovation funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds.

Excellent scientists need excellent facilities. Upgrading research infrastructure and equipment will come within the scope of EU Cohesion Policy.

This means everything from laboratories and equipment to supercomputers and high-speed data networks. The ELI facility at Magurele, which I will be visiting later today, is a perfect example.

Horizon 2020 will also introduce a dedicated set of measures to spread excellence and complement the Structural and Investment Funds.

Since Horizon 2020 aims to fund the very best research and innovation, it will of course continue to allocate funding on a competitive basis – promoting excellent standards demands as much.

But Horizon 2020 contains a number of new measures to ensure that the programme is open to a wide range of participants, from all the Member States and from all the regions. We want to help bridge Europe’s innovation divide.

Most research and innovation indicators, whether it is the Regional Innovation Scoreboard, Government expenditure on Research (GERD) or, for instance, participation in the ERC, clearly show that some countries, mainly in central, eastern and southern Europe are not yet fully exploiting their research and innovation potential. Romania is one of them.

By its very definition, not every university or research institute can be the very best in its field. Excellence cannot be everywhere – but I firmly believe that excellence can spring up anywhere.

The new twinning and teaming actions as well as the ERA chairs will strengthen the scientific excellence and innovation capacities of emerging institutions.

“Twinning” aims to significantly strengthen an emerging institution’s capacities in a specific field of research through co-operation with at least two internationally renowned counterparts in Europe.

“Teaming” actions aim to create new Centres of Excellence on greenfield sites or through major upgrades in partnership with leading research counterparts in Europe.

The ERA Chairs will bring outstanding academics to institutions in regions that may not have been so successful in securing EU funding, but have high potential for research excellence. They will help their host institutions to fully unlock this potential.

I think that overall, Horizon 2020 is a very good fit for Romania.

First, Horizon 2020 promotes excellence, innovation and economic impacts all of which Romania badly needs: I already mentioned that Romania is classified as a modest innovator on the Innovation Scoreboard index.

Second, the best way for Romania to accelerate the impact of its investment in R&D is through international cooperation. This is especially true for Romania’s private R&D investments, which are concentrated in particular sectors, such as automobiles, ICT, new production technologies and security.

International collaboration on research and innovation can spur economic growth, job creation and competitiveness. That’s what Horizon 2020 offers you.

Third, Horizon 2020 will fund research and innovation areas that align with Romania’s priorities. These include smart specialisation, tackling societal challenges, SME participation, synergies between research, innovation and industry, and a stronger focus on impact and results.

Under the current 7th Framework Programme, Romania has been most successful in the areas of ICT, transport, nanotechnologies and nanosciences – which are among the Key Enabling Technologies – environment, health and security, as well as research for the benefit of SMEs.

Capitalise on this and build on your S&T potential in these areas, while striving to maximise opportunities in new areas of research and innovation.

And given your strength in basic research, Romania certainly has scope to increase its participation in the ERC and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, where you have not been so active so far.

I am convinced that Romania will do well under Horizon 2020 because you will be building on a clear upward trend that can be traced from the 5th to the 7th Framework Programmes for Research.

The number of Romanian participations doubled between FP5 and FP7, while the EC funding received increased fourfold.

I am sure that your record will improve even more if you strengthen efforts at national level to improve your research and innovation capacity.

And you need to develop the much-needed synergies between research, innovation and industry by ensuring that the new national strategy contains actions that attract private R&D investment.

I am convinced that Romania will only be able to make the most of the opportunities under Horizon 2020 if it undertakes these kinds of reforms to its research and innovation system.

But Horizon 2020 is only one reason for improving the system.

I give a similar message wherever I go in Europe: we need to invest in research and innovation, reform and improve national systems and transform our industries and economies to create the growth and jobs we so desperately need in Europe. This is what our European Research Area and Innovation Union policy is all about.

We need to reform national systems because it is here that the vast bulk of research and innovation money is still invested. This money needs to be spent as efficiently as possible, getting the best possible results for the money. It is no use pouring research money into defunct systems.

Reform is not easy. Take it from someone who has been through the process with Horizon 2020!

But having steered a course of simplification in Horizon 2020, I encourage you to take an honest look at any rules in your national research and innovation system that could be simplified.

I know how difficult it is to simplify and become more efficient, but I am convinced that it is worth the effort. We owe it to our researchers and entrepreneurs to make their jobs as easy as possible.

In the long run, creating an efficient, outward looking and dynamic research and innovation system will ensure that your economy has a solid, long-lasting foundation.

It is a lesson that Ireland – the Member State that I know best – learned during its economic crisis.

I hope that Ireland’s transformation into an open knowledge economy during its 40 years of EU membership might serve as some inspiration for Romania on its path to a bright future in research and innovation.

Horizon 2020 can provide the spark.

So, today, I am calling on Romania’s researchers and universities, its businesses big and small, its academic and its innovators: get involved!

Find out how to participate, build on your contacts with your peers in the rest of Europe, and don’t be afraid to think big, because Horizon 2020 is about big opportunities and big results.

Step up to the challenge, find the opportunities and reap the rewards of Horizon 2020!

Thank you.


Source: European Commission Press Room