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Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
Research and innovation – simpler funding and roadmap towards the new programme
Opening remarks at the Commission midday press conference
Brussels, BERL Press Room, 24th January 2011
I pledged on my first day in office to cut the red tape which hinders our Research Framework Programmes and holds back Europe's research and innovation capacity. Today, with my colleagues, I am delivering the first steps.
The Framework Programmes have been a big success, as the recent independent evaluation confirmed.
But the report also said we need more simplification.
Let me put it more starkly. We need to replace Kafka with common sense. We need to send red tape to the shredder. We need simple and clear rules, consistently and rigorously applied.
The three changes we are announcing today will save millions of euro and deliver better value for taxpayers' money. They will feed into better research results and lead to new products and services. So it is a big contribution to the Innovation Union and to the Europe 2020 Strategy.
First, we are removing rules requiring many participants to set up entire parallel accounting systems purely to deal with claiming back the costs for staff working on FP7 projects. They will now be able to use their usual accounting practices and systems and make simpler claims. And they will no longer need to pay thousands of euro to provide certificates setting out how they calculate staff costs.
Second, we want more SMEs taking part. We have made good progress. SMEs now account for 14.7 per cent of participants in the parts of the programme for which they are eligible.
But the rules have disqualified SME owner/managers from claiming for the time they spend on FP7 projects, because they do not take formal salaries against which payments can be calculated. We are changing that. There will now be flat-rate payments. This will open up FP7 to many more young and dynamic SMEs.
Nobody set out to make the Framework Programme complex. But the programmes have expanded with success. New elements have been added, on an ad-hoc basis, with different rules. Different Commission Directorates-general and agencies run different parts of the programme, and practices have diverged.
So the third thing we are doing today is setting up a steering group at Director-general level to ensure consistency.
None of these changes will jeopardise control of EU funds. Indeed, it has always been a principle in the Court of Auditors, where I spent ten years, that simpler rules are better respected and abuses easier to detect.
We can make today's changes under the Commission's own prerogatives, although we have consulted the European Parliament and Member States.
But this is only the start. I set out in April some more radical measures. Things like replacing reimbursements of detailed costs with one-off payments.
The Commission alone does not have the legal power to make changes as far –reaching as those. They require changes to rules that govern all EU spending.
So we have already put on the table the necessary amendments to the financial regulation. It is now for the Council and Parliament to approve them.
I believe they will.
Those changes would in turn allow more radical simplification in the successor to the current Framework Programme post-2013.
We need to focus research and innovation on the grand challenges like climate change, energy, food security, health and an ageing population.
Our funding must help give Europe an edge in the global markets of tomorrow. We must strive to create the maximum number of jobs.
Because the Innovation Union is not just a science policy. It is an economic policy. It is an employment policy.
So I will be here in a few weeks' time to explain our ideas on the future of European research and innovation funding. We will publish a Green Paper. We will invite views from all stakeholders. And before the end of the year, we will make a legislative proposal.
Meanwhile, on 1 February, Vice-President Tajani and I will be here to present to you our latest Scoreboard comparing Member States' innovation performance and comparing the EU with our main competitors. This Scoreboard will be a new and improved one, as we promised in the Innovation Union policy we set out in October.
It will be an analytical instrument which feeds into the Europe 2020 process and helps Member States to remedy weaknesses. The Commission explained in the Annual Growth Survey how we see that working.
And, of course, on 4 February we expect EU leaders at the European Council to pledge their personal and political backing for the Innovation Union.
So it is a busy time and a crucial time in terms of putting research and innovation right at the centre of European and national policy-making.
If Europe wants to put our economies firmly back on track and improve our quality of life, we need to be world-beaters in research and innovation. There is no other way.
So you'll be seeing more of me over the next few weeks!