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Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Opening speech by Commisisoner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Conference closing the consultation on the future Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation

Brussels, 10 June 2011

Distinguished Speakers, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning,

I am delighted to welcome you all to today's conference on the Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation Funding.

First I would like to thank you for participating in this event. Your contribution and your opinions are very important to our work here in the European Commission on the future of research and innovation in Europe.

You are taking part in a vitally important discussion. Much is at stake. Since we launched the 7th Framework Programme in 2007, the game has changed. FP7 is funding excellent research – the findings of the mid-term evaluation confirm this – and we must continue to strengthen our excellent research base. However, it has also become clear that Europe is facing an innovation emergency – we must prioritise innovation to ensure that we don't fall behind our competitors and to ensure a better quality of life for people in Europe.

Research and innovation are at the very top of Europe's political and economic agenda. In June last year, Europe's leaders endorsed the Europe 2020 strategy, our roadmap to get the European economy back on track. At its heart is the conviction that we need research and innovation to get Europe out of the current economic crisis and to build long-term sustainable growth.

So, last October, as the European Commissioner responsible for Science, Research and Innovation, I launched the Innovation Union Flagship initiative, one of the central pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy.

It underlines that research and innovation are critical to Europe's economic recovery and to tackling the issues of greatest concern to people, including energy, food security, climate change and our ageing population. The challenges and opportunities are so great that we need to combine forces at the European level, and for this we need a funding programme that is fit for purpose, that encourages excellent research and boosts our capacity to innovate.

That is what our proposal for a Common Strategic Framework for research and innovation funding is all about.  The proposed Common Strategic Framework will, from 2014, cover all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programme for Research, the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

It aims to make participation in EU-funded research and innovation programmes easier, increase scientific and economic impact and improve value for money.

So I am looking forward to our discussions today, which will feed into major changes in the way we fund research and innovation.

In February last, when I launched the Green Paper on the Common Strategic Framework, I promised that this public consultation would not be a cosmetic exercise. I wanted it to be an innovative and fully transparent consultation, a real exchange of ideas.

I have taken every opportunity to personally hear the views of stakeholders in Brussels and in Member States. My Director-General, Robert-Jan Smits, and our services have also been very active in debating with stakeholders and research actors from Member States, European and International organisations.

And we have listened and learned.

In February, I said that we wanted as many contributions as possible from as wide a range of stakeholders as possible.

I am very pleased to report that we received many more contributions than expected - more than 2000 responses, including an impressive 775 position papers. In addition there were nearly 90,000 visits to the consultation website, from visitors in 152 countries.

So I would like to express our thanks to everyone who took the time to read the Green Paper, to discuss the issues with colleagues, to formulate their ideas and send us their contribution.

Contributions were received from a wide range of stakeholders from all Member States with many contributions coming from countries outside the European Union. It is no exaggeration to say that our consultation on the Common Strategic Framework provoked interest among researchers, innovators and policymakers worldwide – the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology even linked to it on their main website!

The volume and richness of the responses required a major effort to synthesise the main findings and European Commission experts are evaluating in more detail the opinions received. Nevertheless, a number of clear messages emerge from the consultation.

First, there is a remarkable degree of consensus in support of the idea of a Common Strategic Framework. This is very welcome. It shows that we are on the right track.

Second, most stakeholders agree that we can achieve even better results if we go for radical simplification. This is an issue close to my own heart – I want to ensure that our scientists and innovators spend more time in the lab and at the drawing board than having to deal with unnecessary bureaucracy.

Third, there are also strong calls to maintain continuity as regards those elements of the current programmes that are working most successfully - notably the European Research Council and Marie Curie fellowships- along with recurring messages on keeping collaborative research as the core element of the future funding programme. It is clear that innovation will continue to rely on excellent research.

Fourth, most stakeholders believe that if we are to be successful we also need to be less prescriptive and more open in our funding opportunities as this will give people the freedom to innovate.

In addition, in terms of creating more innovation, the main message is that the EU should support all stages in the innovation chain. This message dovetails perfectly with the approach we are taking with the Innovation Union Flagship initiative that aims to boost innovation at all stages on the innovation chain, from blue-sky research to the marketplace.

Last but not least, there is also a widespread view that the Common Strategic Framework will need both curiosity-driven and policy-driven activities, working in tandem. In the context of innovation, there is strong support for more bottom-up approaches.

Many of these points will be discussed today during the three round table discussions. Debate will focus on the distinct but mutually reinforcing blocks of the Common Strategic Framework: strengthening Europe's science base, tackling societal challenges and strengthening competiveness.

Today's discussions, together with the results of the Green Paper consultation, will feed into our preparation of the legislative proposal that we will make this autumn on the Common Strategic Framework. And by "our" I mean not only those of my colleagues that are responsible for the different parts of the future CSF, such as Vice President Tajani who is responsible for the competitiveness and SMEs part, or Vice President Kroes, Commissioners Vassiliou, Oettinger and Kallas but also those colleagues for which research and innovation, in particular addressing the societal challenges in their policy area, is vital.

I encourage you to participate actively in today's debates. I have no doubt that, thanks to the richness and diversity of your expertise and opinions, this conference will provide us with extremely valuable input and help us to design a programme that will benefit EU citizens, improve lives and create jobs over the coming years.

I would like to close now by welcoming our first speakers: Mr. Olli Rehn; the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, who will make the keynote speech, Ms. Marisa Matias, Member of the European Parliament and the rapporteur on the Common Strategic Framework; and Minister Zoltan Csefalvay, on behalf of the Hungarian Presidency.

The European Commission is very grateful to the European Parliament, to the Hungarian Presidency and to the Member States for their commitment to ensuring that with the Common Strategic Framework, Europe gets the support for research and innovation that it needs and deserves.

Finally, I would like to encourage everyone to stay until the end of the conference, since I will announce the shortlist of the names of the You-name-it competition in my closing remarks.

Thank you. I hope that you will have a very enjoyable and productive conference.

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