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European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

"Horizon 2020: a boost for research and innovation in Austria"

Horizon 2020 Conference

Vienna, 24 April 2012

Good morning everyone,

I am delighted to be in Vienna to welcome you to this conference on Horizon 2020, the new European funding instrument for research and innovation. I would like to express my thanks to Minister Töchterle and the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research for organising this event.

I am very pleased that so many different stakeholders and actors are here today. You are the people around whom Horizon 2020 has been designed. It has been conceived to meet your needs, so that you can carry out top quality research and produce the innovations that will provide growth and jobs in Europe.

Stakeholders such as you have been heavily involved in shaping Horizon 2020, right from the start. We launched a major public consultation to get a wide range of opinions before we put together our proposal.

We received over 2000 responses to our Green Paper on the future of EU-level financing for research and innovation, including 59 replies from a wide range of Austrian stakeholders.

Your views were important because Austria has an excellent research base and ranks above the EU average in the Innovation Scoreboard rankings. Over the years, Austria has produced many scientists, inventors and innovators who have made a remarkable contribution to the modern world.

Everyone knows Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. The mathematician and physicist Christian Doppler gave his name to the Doppler Effect, while Erwin Schrödinger won the Nobel Prize for physics and is also famous for his Schrödinger's Cat thought experiment.

But my own personal favourite is Vienna-born Hedy Lamarr. She is famous among film buffs as a Hollywood siren of the 1940s and 50s, but is less well-known as the co-inventor of an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency-hopping that was key in developing wireless communications – including the mobile phones we now take for granted.

But let's come back to the topic of today's conference, Horizon 2020.

Horizon 2020 represents a real break from the past. After analysing the many contributions received in the public consultation, we knew that we could not afford "business as usual". We went back to the drawing board to radically rethink how we invest in research and innovation at a European level.

The programme focuses on supporting the best research and innovation ideas that provide major business opportunities and change people’s lives for the better. In short, Horizon 2020 will contribute to improving our economy and improving society.

Horizon 2020 will provide a seamless and coherent package of support from idea to market, from excellent research to innovative products and services.

Horizon 2020 means simplification. We are bringing all the European-level funding for research and innovation under one umbrella for the first time. There will be one set of participation rules for the whole programme.

Horizon 2020 means more research and less bureaucracy. We are slashing red-tape so that our scientists and innovators spend more time in the laboratory or workshop and less time filling in forms. We will provide a one-stop-shop for all information and applications.

I already introduced several simplification measures last year for the current 7th Framework Programme for Research, but Horizon 2020 will go much further.

First, Horizon 2020 provides a simplified overall structure with an architecture based on three strategic policy objectives – or Pillars - making it easier for applicants to find their way around the programme and to identify appropriate funding opportunities.

Second, simpler funding rules, applicable across the whole programme, take into account the preference expressed by stakeholders for a reimbursement of actual costs. These rules include: a simpler reimbursement of direct costs, with a broader acceptance of beneficiaries' usual accounting practices; overheads covered by a single flat-rate; and one single reimbursement rate for all participants and activities in the same project.

Third, we are improving checks and oversight. We will achieve a better balance between trust and control, and between risk taking and risk avoidance, as requested by Member States in the European Council in February 2011.

And we want successful applicants to get their money faster so they can get working more quickly. We aim to reduce the average "time to grant" by 100 days under Horizon 2020, compared to the current average of around 350 days under FP7.

Simplification is not just a matter of fewer and less complicated rules. It also means a simpler overall blueprint for the programme. Horizon 2020's simplified structure is composed of three distinct, yet mutually reinforcing priorities.

Innovation starts with excellent research, and Horizon 2020's first pillar is aimed at boosting excellence in Europe's science base. A proposed investment of over 24 billion Euro will enable the most talented scientists to carry out cutting edge research of the highest quality.

Fundamental research is fundamental to our science base and fundamental to our economy. So we are proposing to double to more than 13 billion Euro our support to the very successful European Research Council. The ERC gives world-class scientists of any nationality the chance to conduct excellent research in Europe. We want Europe to be the home of the best basic research that leads to the greatest technological breakthroughs and innovations.

I was delighted to attend the ERC Gala last night with Minister Töchterle and Prof. Novotny to celebrate the achievements of Austria's many ERC grantees. Much of the credit for the ERC's success must go to its President, Helga Nowotny, a native of this city.

We also propose to increase to 5.75 billion Euro the funding for the Marie Sklodowska Curie actions on researcher training, mobility and careers. Under FP7, there are currently 257 Austrian grant holders receiving nearly 62 million Euro of funding from Marie Curie.

The first pillar also includes dedicated support to research infrastructures because providing world-class facilities goes hand in hand with our drive to attract and retain the best researchers. Horizon 2020's investment in research infrastructures will focus on networking and access, and on maximising the innovation potential of these infrastructures.

Horizon 2020's Second Pillar aims to boost industrial leadership, with actions to make Europe a more attractive place for businesses to invest in R&D and innovation. The budget will be nearly 18 billion Euro.

We propose 13.7 billion Euro in targeted support for the key enabling and industrial technologies that underpin innovation across different industries and sectors. This includes ICT, nanotechnologies, advanced materials, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing processes and space.

We also propose a major strengthening of our support to venture capital and loans for innovative companies with a budget of 3.5 billion euro.

The Third Pillar of Horizon 2020, with nearly 32 billion Euro of funding, is aimed at Tacking Societal Challenges. It is proposed to focus on the following six major areas:

  • Health, demographic change and wellbeing;

  • Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine research and the bio- economy;

  • Secure, clean and efficient energy

  • Smart, green and integrated transport;

  • Climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials; and,

  • Inclusive, innovative and secure societies.

New solutions to these societal challenges will only come from groundbreaking research and innovation which brings together the best minds from across Europe: from universities, companies, the public sector and civil society. At the same time, finding solutions to these challenges will offer massive opportunities for European businesses to create growth and jobs.

These priorities will also be supported by the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) which provides policy relevant research, and by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

There will be a strong accent on inter-disciplinarity in Horizon 2020. To solve these complex societal challenges, we have to work beyond the "silos" of different disciplines. We need to get the best researchers working together, bringing different kinds of understanding and expertise to solve these complex problems.

And this is why Horizon 2020 is also designed to support the European Research Area, or ERA, a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation – principally through actions to promote researcher's careers and mobility; the networking of large-scale infrastructures; and, coordination with national research and innovation funding.

Horizon 2020 will of course fund projects on the basis of excellence. It is true that some regions in Europe have not done as well as they could under existing programmes, but we want to close this gap, and it is the combination of EU research funding and structural funds that will do the trick.

Under Horizon 2020 we want to create better links between scientists and companies across Europe, including twinning, staff exchanges, and expert advice and assistance. We will also seek to bring outstanding academics to institutions in high-potential regions, by offering them so-called “ERA Chairs”.

Austria already has a very good record in accessing funding under the 7th Framework Programme. As of February this year, there are 2,073 Austrian participants under FP7, drawing down a total of 672 million Euro of European funding. Austria ranks ninth in the share of the FP7 budget, a very good position for a country that is not one of the biggest Member States.

I am keen to ensure that many more Austrian researchers and innovators take part in the final tranche of FP7 calls for proposals this summer, and in Horizon 2020.

Horizon 2020 will be a very attractive proposition whether you are an SME, a university researcher, a large multinational company, or an innovator with a great idea and the drive to implement it.

We are keen to increase the participation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. A dedicated SME Instrument will fill the gaps in funding for the market-driven, high-risk research and innovation projects of SMEs.

This new scheme, inspired by the SBIR scheme in the US, is also a response to the request made by Member States last year to explore how best to meet the needs of fast-growing innovative companies through a market-based approach. A crucial element of the scheme will be a support network offering mentoring and coaching for beneficiary SMEs. Austrian SMEs are already successful in FP7. 22.3 per cent of Austrian participants are SMEs, which is higher than the EU average of 18 per cent.

In all areas of Horizon 2020, we will make public money work better. We will get more research and innovation for every Euro invested by leveraging as much money as possible from other public and private sources, building on the outstanding success of the Risk-Sharing Finance facility that we have co-funded and managed with the European Investment Bank.

Because, fundamentally, support through Horizon 2020 for research, innovation and science is an economic policy.

Prioritising investment in these areas now is the recipe for ensuring growth and jobs in the future. A world class science base requires sufficient - and efficient - investment from both the public and private sectors.

The European Commission's proposal to increase support for research and innovation under Horizon 2020 to 80 billion Euro is certainly ambitious, but it is also very realistic and very necessary to deliver on the ambitions of Europe 2020 and Innovation Union.

It fits with the approach being taken by many Member States to prioritise investment in R&D now in support of jobs and growth in the future. 23 Member States have registered real growth in public and private R&D investment between 2007 and 2010.

And don't forget that Horizon 2020 will also support our most innovative, research-driven businesses. The vast bulk of the money invested by Horizon 2020 will be spent in Member States – helping to create or safeguard jobs in research centres, universities, companies and SMEs in Austria and across Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our proposal for Horizon 2020 is being discussed with the Member States in the European Council and with the European Parliament. I am committed to working with these institutions, with Austria and with the other Member States to ensure that we get the best possible funding programme for research and innovation for Europe.

So, I am counting on your support to ensure that Europe's researchers and innovators get the European-level support they need and deserve.

Horizon 2020 will offer Austria's researchers, companies, SMEs and innovators many, many opportunities to excel. Who knows, the work of the next Freud, Doppler, Schrödinger – or Lamarr! - could be financed by Horizon 2020.

Thank you very much.

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