24 Mar 2014
At the heart of the innovation drive to create new jobs and growth in Europe, the Horizon 2020 program is the main financial thrust of the Innovation Union. It's about keeping Europe competitive in R & D with the rest of the world.
EPP Group members on the Industry Research and Energy Committee worked hard to steer a new budget, worth more than 70 billion Euros. It will improve research and innovation in a number of competitive industries --all for the first time consolidated in a single program.
It brings together the Competitiveness and Innovation Program and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.
Despite a new Horizon 2020 budget in excess of 70 billion Euros, European innovation has been described by some of its harsher critics as an endangered species.
Too much bureaucracy, far too much fragmentation hitched to national interests. In the area of research and development that assertion is now being challenged.
John off And perhaps nowhere is the challenge greater to get it right than in the area of education.
Long a source of national and continental pride, European higher education has suffered much of the same budgetary woes as other areas in the midst of the economic and financial crisis of the past few years.
John Smith is Deputy Secretary General of the European University Association –or EUA. Representing 850 universities from Oxford in the UK to small universities in the Czech Republic or Lithuania, he says the overall gains in Horizon 2020 leave him cautiously optimistic.
John Smith, Deputy Secretary General European University Association The package is one which is a growth package and the priority is still there, strongly stated by the Parliament, and indeed the Commission, that these are areas where there can be budgetary adjustments in the future. It's an important area for Europe's competitiveness. So general assessment-- positive. It could have been a lot worse.
John off In the drive to create a Single Market for research, Europe faces the reality of an overall decline in R & D since 2009. At around 1.5% of GDP it´s at its lowest levels since 2002.
A progress report by the Commission on the European Research Area, an area it hopes to have fully set up by 2014, shows Europe has fewer researchers employed in industry than its main competitors in the U.S., Japan and China.
In addition, EU trans-national cooperation is poorly represented at only 3.8% of total R & D budgets.
EPP Group member Maria Carvalho, a staunch supporter and shepherd of the programme through Parliament, hopes that Horizon 2020 has helped Europe turn the corner permanently on prioritising innovation and research.
Maria Carvalho, EPP Group member
It's very important for the scientists, the enterprises, the universities, the SMEs. One important feature that we had from European Parliament was to increase the participation of SMEs. We increased from 0.8 percent to 4.8 percent percentage.
Actually our flagship our important points from the Parliament and from the EPP were all accepted by the Commission and the Council.
John off Critics of past research and innovation policy say research job vacancies need to be better advertised around the EU.
More than 40% of researchers surveyed in the ERA progress report said they were dissatisfied with the state of affairs. But in terms of education and future job prospects for students there were some positives to take away, said John Smith of the EUA.
John Smith, EUA
This money does address some of the fundamental economic problems of unemployment. We're seeing much more investment at the European level which of course interests universities.
John PTC Bridge One place for Horizon 2020 could help level the global playing field is in European commercial vehicle
Research and development, an area of traditional strength.
John off Simon Godwin of the European Council for Automotive R & D, or EUCAR, whose group represents the largest private investors in R & D in Europe, says Horizon 2020 would keep Europe on eye level with its surging Asian rivals.
Simon Godwin, Director EUCAR
When we talk to people from other regions of the world we tell them the size of the Horizon 2020 programme and we tell them the billions figure under the figure they're always very impressed. So I think this programme and this budget will be sufficient to meet the priorities that we have .
With R & D and Education getting the lion's share of attention, the next big issue is where the money is going to come from to fund future projects.
EPP member Maria Carvalho says there will be some rough times ahead but the objectives can be met if political will in Europe remains strong.
It's a programme that covers the whole cycle of innovation from the fundamental research to technological development pilot scales industrial demonstrations and early stage of entrants in the market.
John off EUCAR's Simon Godwin also pointed to the power of the leveraging or multiplier effect of Horizon 2020 public funding on private me-too investment to meet his industry's objectives.
Simon Godwin EUCAR
The more money you put towards doing that on the public side it means the more that you can leverage the activities of the industry. So, if you put let's say 2 billion Euros of funding into the automotive sector over the next seven years that can leverage more than 100 billion Euros of funding in R & D that is privately invested by our sector.
John off John Smith of the EUA was also upbeat that the gains from Horizon 2020 will ultimately help students job prospects through a better focused and a more level playing field among European universities in terms of what they can offer.
John off Carvalho says the tough talks between Commission Council and Parliament yielded good compromises and messages still got through about what's absolutely important to preserve in Horizon 2020. Among those are energy and health.
It increases drastically the number of researchers of young researchers involved who will not need to go somewhere else outside Europe to work…
The EPP fought a lot for increase of the budget, for widening the participation for increasing the participation of enterprise, of industry and for SMEs, and all of that is there.
John PTC Close
This is one of only a number of battles for first place on the world stage, but the EU has taken a major step towards levelling the playing field in its traditional strong area of R & D expertise.
The next few years will be crucial to see if Horizon 2020 funding represents money well spent and if it brings wealth and new jobs to the EU´s citizens.
Find out more about the activities of Parliament's largest political force by going to eppgroup.eu. Thanks for looking in and see you again soon.
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