Minister of Education and Research Jürgen Ligi participated in a high-level seminar in Brussels dedicated to finding solutions to reducing the innovation divide between European countries. Attendees also included representatives of the European Commission and members of the European Parliament.
“Every country must do its homework and use money from structural funds skilfully for research and development. We cannot be satisfied with the situation where most of the European Union’s research, development and innovation financing goes to certain regions,” said Minister Ligi. “An increase in the innovation divide between countries damages the competitiveness of Europe and hinders the use of its full potential. The interim assessment of the European Union Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020 next year should help smaller universities, research institutions and companies to participate in research and innovation projects. This would help to reduce the innovation divide in Europe.”
Member of European Parliament Marju Lauristin, who participated in the seminar’s panel discussion, said that both European and national innovation strategies must be more flexible in terms of their subject matters to support new technology sectors and market solutions. Information technology specialist and IT visionary Linnar Viik said that although the European Commission and Member States find that supporting small innovative companies is important, there are only a few funding options available for them at the European level. Both of them agreed that the subjects supported by Horizon 2020 are too inflexible and represent the ‘top to bottom’ approach. It’s more suitable for large universities and companies, but makes it difficult for innovative technology sectors and start-up companies, which are important for the competitiveness of Europe, to participate successfully in Horizon, especially in the case of newer and smaller Member States.
Member of European Parliament and rapporteur for the Horizon 2020 programme Dr Christian Ehler was critical about the Member States’ decision to cut the funding of Horizon 2020 by 2.2 billion euros due to the establishment of the European Fund for Strategic Investments. He said that reducing the innovation gap requires the Member States to reach an agreement for preservation of the budget of Horizon 2020 and more measures that support the expansion of participation.
The seminar was organised by the Estonian Research Council, the Ministry of Education and Research, and the Permanent Representation of Estonia to the European Union on 28th of May. Solutions to improving access to the Horizon 2020 programme were sought on the initiative of Estonia. The joint programme of the European Union, Horizon 2020, is the main tool for promoting transnational cooperation of European researchers and companies.
Minister Jürgen Ligi also attended the meeting of the European Union Competitiveness Council in Brussels on 29th of May, where the main subjects were the action plan of the European Research Area and the impact of digital technologies on the development of research.