The EU Ministers for Research meeting in Brussels yesterday agreed on the fundamental principles of funding research and innovation as from 2021.
“Smart solutions have become a part of our daily lives but we rarely think about ID cards, smartphones or parcel terminals as the outcomes of research. We need to continue our work so that people would understand how science can simplify routine tasks. I am glad that during the Estonian presidency the Ministers for Research agreed on the main guidelines of the EU’s next research funding programme. This will give rise to new revolutionary solutions of which we have no idea today. It is essential that the programme is open for participation to top researchers and businesses,” said the Estonian Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps.
Compared to previous framework programmes, Horizon 2020 has notably increased the share of international projects as well as joint public & private sector projects. Such partnerships are vital for supranational research and development cooperation to tackle problems that individual countries are unable to solve - like climate change issues. Likewise, partnerships support private sector research towards developing novel technologies like new medicines or a new generation of fuel-saving aircraft.
The ministers agreed on specific guidelines for structuring the complex framework in place for partnerships. Participation in research partnerships should be simplified and barriers that currently prevent researchers from some countries and institutions from participating in joint projects and give rise to the “participation gap” should be eliminated. The fragmentation of various funding facilities that also impedes cooperation should be reduced. To this end, a working group was set up who will be making recommendations to the Research Ministers for addressing these issues.
Further, ministers started a debate on the mission-based approach to enhancing the impact of research as suggested in the July report issued by the high-level expert group led by Pascal Lamy. This means channelling research and innovation funding to tackle cross-cutting issues that involve a high risk of failure and that allow clear measurement of impact and outcomes over a specific period. This approach will encourage more researchers, scientists, investors and innovators from various sectors to combine their efforts for achieving a common goal. The changes aim to increase the social impact of research and involve more citizens in the development and implementation of research programmes. There is no agreement on specific missions yet. However, there are some ideas guided by the sustainable development objectives of the UN - plastic-free Europe, introduction of revolutionary energy storage equipment, production of steel without carbon dioxide, etc. Future talks between the ministers should yield details about such missions.
- Horizon 2020 is the largest EU research and innovation funding programme ever with a total budget of 77 billion euros for the period 2014-2020.
- During the Estonian presidency, the European Commission published the Horizon 2020 interim evaluation report that served as input for discussions concerning the programme’s future.
- The 72.7 million euros awarded to a total of 272 research and innovation projects is proof of Estonia’s successful participation in the programme. The University of Tartu has attracted the highest amount of funding among individual organisations - over 16 million euros. Skeleton Technologies with 2.5 million euros has been the most successful SME.