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European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
FP7 Final calls
9 July 2012
Knowledge is the currency of the global economy.
A swing in the euro, dollar or yen exchange rate might bring momentary respite to some. Labour, land use and other costs can be an important factor.
But the key to competitiveness for just about any economy in the world right now is knowledge, and that means research and innovation.
For Europe, research and innovation are critical. We have seen that those EU member states that have invested in research have largely weathered the current crisis better. Our research-intensive companies tend to be our most resilient and retain their staff.
If Europe wants to continue to compete in the 21st century, we must support the research and innovation that will generate growth and jobs, now and in the future.
So I am proud that today we are announcing 8.1 billion euro for new EU research projects, just ten days after EU leaders decided on the Compact for Growth and Jobs.
That is because the thread running through the Compact is knowledge. Whether it's the digital single market, green energy, transport infrastructure, or education and training – research and innovation tie them all together.
This set of calls is the final chance to gain access to the 55 billion euro of EU research funding under the current seven-year framework programme, FP7. The 8.1 billion of funding will go to all types of research organisations, individual researchers and innovative businesses, including SMEs.
We will be asking them to explore issues like safeguarding our oceans and our water, making our cities more resource efficient, or protecting human health with research on drug-resistant bacteria and brain disease.
We will also be allowing many individual researchers to simply follow their curiosity: the European Research Council will provide 1.7 billion euro to the best researchers from any discipline and any nationality to do their research in Europe. Nearly 1 billion euro will go to the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions to support researcher training and mobility.
If we went into all the themes and opportunities under this call we would be here all day – so I just want to highlight a few things that I think are particularly important.
Our future research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 will be an important break from the past, with funding grouped by societal challenges rather than the current themes. This will ensure flexibility and creativity as we tackle challenges in our ever-changing world.
These final FP7 calls build a bridge to Horizon 2020 by mirroring this challenge-based approach in a number of areas, such as Oceans of the future, Raw materials, Smart Cities and Secure clean and efficient energy.
We are intent on increasing industry participation in EU-funded research. This is important for our challenge-based approach and important for European competitiveness. Industry participation has fallen over successive programmes, and now stands at 29% of participants and 24% of funding.
This is not good enough. We are doing our part to raise these numbers. We have already simplified participation and put a big focus on SMEs and we are starting to see results. We are going to fund more close-to-market projects in this call and in the future. We are providing an additional 600 million euro for the Public Private Partnerships in green cars, future manufacturing and energy efficient buildings, where industry participation has already been over 50 percent.
So there can be no excuses from industry now – they need to get on board and participate.
There is a package for SMEs of up to 1.2 billion euro in this budget today. However, I want to actually mention something that we have already done in piloting an SME-focused programme that will be a part of Horizon 2020, in this case in the area of Health research.
In 2010 we were urged to do more to help small businesses in the health sector get through the so-called "valley of death" – where they run out of money before being able to get their good ideas to market.
In 2011 and 2012 we therefore increased the budgets available for SMEs and launched a dedicated pilot initiative, Innovation-2, modelled on the U.S. small business innovation research (SBIR) initiative, where the focus is on exploiting results. Here the themes were new therapies, infectious diseases and chronic illnesses.
The response to the call from SMEs was excellent. We had 112 proposals, of which 45 were selected for detailed evaluation and 19 were then shortlisted for funding. The first contracts were signed last month – less than six months after the end of the call, in line with our ambition to shorten "times to grant", a key concern of businesses.
The final thing I want to highlight today is our commitment to widening participation in EU research. We will continue to award competitive research funding on the basis of excellence, but I believe that excellence is needed right across Europe. So we are piloting an initiative that we have proposed as part of Horizon 2020. We will fund five European Research Area "Chairs" in five regions of five different countries whose universities or research organisations have the potential to be world class. This is about making sure all regions have pockets of excellence as their entry ticket to the global knowledge economy.
Most calls - over 50 - will be published tomorrow, July 10. Others will follow in the autumn, for example those related to the digital agenda and information and communication technologies.
This final call is a huge opportunity for researchers and businesses across Europe to secure some vital funding. This can be a real port in the economic storm, to keep research work going, to keep innovating when other public funds and private finance are hard to come by.