Shaping the world's largest research programme

The EU research and innovation ministers discussed the EU’s new and ambitious Framework Programme (EU Horizon 2020) in their meeting in Copenhagen last week. With EUR 80 billion invested, research and innovation has become an essential component of the EU's cure for high unemployment. The discussions in Copenhagen give rise to optimism that the project will lead to a paradigm shift in the EU's overall research focus.
Shaping the world's largest research programme

Photo: Bjarke Ørsted, EU

Transforming ideas into market value

EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn characterised the crisis in Europe as an innovation crisis, and stated that it was essential for the work of Horizon 2020 to focus on innovation-based research and greater interaction between the research sector and industry.  An important discussion in the two-day workshop at the Bella Centre in Copenhagen was therefore how to lay the best foundation for good industrial leadership and innovation capability. At the seminar, the Minister emphasised that it is important not to lose sight of the long-term perspective especially since the situation in Europe is so unpredictable.

“We must keep in mind that the main issue in Europe now is about creating jobs for young people in tomorrow’s Europe,” said Danish Minister for Innovation and Higher Education, Morten Østergaard. The challenge is finding ways to translate research results into job opportunities.

Cutting red tape

The EU research programmes have long been criticised for being too rigid and bureaucratic.  As a result, many researchers have been reluctant to apply because the process is so complicated. EU Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn is troubled by the fact that so many European researchers are heading to the US to pursue their careers. She is seeking to stop the brain drain by making research in Europe more attractive.  “With Horizon 2020, we are taking a big leap towards reducing the bureaucracy that has posed obstacles that prevent many businesses from applying for funding under the programmes. This will be one of the main challenges the group must deal with,” says Mr Østergaard. Many of the participants agreed that simplification of the application process under the research programmes will be a very beneficial in terms of promoting increased research and innovation.

The initial meeting in Copenhagen has set the stage for a productive process towards ratification in 2014. Much hard work remains, however. “I hope the ministers will continue in the same spirit of constructive cooperation they have demonstrated these past few days. It will also be necessary to maintain considerable political focus on these issues if we are to succeed,” concludes Minister Østergaard. The Danish EU Presidency aims to reach agreement on the final substance of the programme in late May.

Read more about Horizon 2020 here

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