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Estonia: the new European research funding programme should take needs of smaller countries into account

17. July 2018 - 7:38

The informal meeting of EU Ministers for Research will take place in Vienna today to discuss European Horizon - the new framework programme for research and innovation which, compared to the current programme, will focus more on innovation, increasing the social impact of research, and simplifying the framework in place for funding and partnerships.

The meeting will be attended by Secretary General of the Ministry of Education and Research Tea Varrak who noted that Estonia supports the European Horizon’s general priorities, for instance, increasing the impact of research and simplifying partnerships. “It is certainly in Estonia’s interests that the characteristics and needs of small countries are given greater consideration in developing the new programme,” said Varrak. “Funding schemes should not rely on criteria like high membership fees or the presence of a major industry as these are inappropriate for smaller countries. The framework programme increasingly supports large-scale projects but there should be more small and medium-sized projects that smaller universities, research institutions and businesses would be capable of managing.”

Also, the framework programme should support the establishment and development of many strong centres of excellence across Europe. Estonia finds that measures for extending participation should be continued to ensure greater involvement of EU-13 or the younger EU Member States in the networks as they are at a disadvantage due to historical, economic and geographic factors.

Estonia recognises the new framework programme’s greater focus on increasing the impact of research in view of societal and economic needs. To this end, it is essential to foster cooperation between researchers and businesses as well as between researchers and public and third sector organisations. The framework programme plays an important role in encouraging intersectoral and cross-border cooperation as do structural funds that Estonia has used for improving the capacity of businesses and ministries to commission applied research which in turn has strengthened the research institutions’ partnerships with the government and businesses.

The meeting participants will provide best examples of reforms in their countries that have contributed to creating a single European Research Area. The cornerstones of Estonia’s success story are the development of the strategic framework for participating in EU research and innovation partnerships, and the sectoral research and development programme RITA aimed at strengthening the government’s role in providing strategic guidance for research. These have contributed to Estonia’s participation in European research and development partnerships which seek to tackle major common challenges.

At the beginning of June, the European Commission published the draft of the 9th EU research and innovation framework programme European Horizon which provides for channelling 94.1 billion euros into research and innovation in 2021-2027. The current programme Horizon 2020 covers the period 2014-2020 and features a budget of 77 billion euros.


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