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Speech: 'Horizon 2020 - The new EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation - a focus on mobility and transport'

European Commission - SPEECH/13/304   11/04/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

Máire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

'Horizon 2020 - The new EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation - a focus on mobility and transport'

Hannover Messe Trade Fair / Hannover

11 April 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted and honoured to have the opportunity to talk to you about Horizon 2020, the European Union's new programme for research and innovation.

Horizon 2020 will provide huge scope for the transport sector to boost its research and innovation capacity, so I would also like to highlight some of the opportunities in this area.

In June 2010, Europe's leaders endorsed the Europe 2020 strategy, our roadmap to get the European economy back on track.

At its heart is the idea that we cannot build long-term sustainable growth without improving our research and innovation performance in Europe. That is what Horizon 2020 is all about.

Horizon 2020 represents a big change from the previous Research Framework Programmes because for the first time it brings together all of the EU's funding for research and innovation in one place.

With Horizon 2020, we want to make it easier to participate in EU-funded research and innovation actions, to increase scientific and economic impact, and give the taxpayer better results and better value for money – this is particularly important today when every euro counts.

Horizon 2020 strikes the right balance between supporting excellent science, boosting the competitiveness of our industries and tackling societal challenges. It is structured around three distinct, but mutually reinforcing pillars.

The first pillar, 'Excellence in the science base' will support frontier or basic research, the bedrock of economic growth and the wellbeing of our society. This is obviously good for researchers, to whom we offer opportunities to work together and develop ideas. We have proposed a significant increase in support to the extremely successful European Research Council, which in six years has already become a gold standard for excellence in research.

Secondly, with Horizon 2020 we're boosting competitiveness. The second pillar, 'Creating industrial leadership and competitive frameworks', will support business research and innovation, including investment in Key Enabling Technologies – such as ICT, nanotechnology and biotechnology - and support for innovation in SMEs.

This is good for the transport sector, which represents 6.3% of the EU's GDP and employs nearly 13 million people in Europe. This whole industry is a key driver for Europe's economy.

The third pillar, 'Tackling societal challenges', will address the major challenges in our society, such as: health, demographic change and well-being; food security and the bio-based economy; secure, clean and efficient energy, and resource efficiency and climate action.

One of the challenges is to develop a smart, green, integrated transport system.

The other societal challenges are also very relevant to transport. For example, Europe wants to achieve a 60% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050. Transport accounts for as much as a quarter of current emissions.

We also want to halve the use of conventionally-fuelled cars in cities and achieve virtually CO2-free city logistics in major urban centres by 2030.

We cannot achieve these goals without radical changes in the transport sector - and that is why transport is one of the six main societal challenges tackled under Horizon 2020.

I have just described the basic structure of Horizon 2020 - I want to tell you a little more about the ethos behind Horizon 2020 and how it will support both research and innovation, and then discuss the opportunities for the transport sector in particular.

Horizon 2020 means simplification. Since we want our scientists and innovators to spend more time on research and business and less time filling in forms, we are drastically cutting red-tape to make it easier to take part in the programme.

Compared to the previous research framework programmes, Horizon 2020 has a simpler structure with simpler rules. We estimate that the average "time to grant" will be reduced by 100 days so that successful applicants can get working more quickly.

One of the most important new developments is that Horizon 2020 will integrate research and innovation by providing seamless and coherent funding at every step from idea to market, so that businesses can turn their technological breakthroughs into viable products with real commercial potential.

This means more funding under Horizon 2020 for testing, prototyping, demonstration and pilot type activities; for business-driven R&D; and promoting entrepreneurship and risk-taking.

And, while tackling societal challenges under the third pillar is an important policy goal in itself, there is at the same time a strong focus on creating business opportunities out of the solutions to the problems that concern people in Europe.

To make life easier for SMEs in particular, there will be a dedicated instrument adapted to their needs, inspired by the SBIR programme in the US. Our strategy also aims to fill gaps in funding for early-stage, high-risk research and innovation by SMEs as well as stimulating breakthrough innovations.

Throughout the Transport challenge, particular emphasis will be put on strengthening the participation of SMEs with the objective of consolidating their position in the supply chain and in services, by making research activities more attractive to them and by eliminating barriers to the market take up of results.

There will also be new financing instruments in Horizon 2020 aimed at innovative, high-growth companies. Finance for riskier projects has all but dried up in Europe, so we need to provide other sources.

A Debt Facility and an Equity Facility will also help overcome problems arising from the major market gaps in the provision of finance. The Debt facility is more relevant for the Transport challenge. It will provide debt finance for research and innovation activities requiring risky investments in order to come to fruition. Its demand-driven component will respond to the steady and continuing growth seen in the volume of RSFF lending, which is demand-led. The Risk Sharing Finance Facility, or RSFF, has already generated extra lending worth 15 times what we put into it under the Research Framework Programme. The Equity facility will provide equity finance for research and innovation, helping to overcome deficiencies in the European venture capital market and provide equity and quasi-equity to cover the development and financing needs of innovating enterprises from the seed stage through to growth and expansion.

Horizon 2020's focus on excellence will be complemented by measures to ensure that the programme is open to the widest possible range of participants, including newcomers. Talent will be nurtured to grow into excellence, so that innovators and researchers from all over Europe can benefit.

We are proposing actions to close the innovation divide in Europe, for example by twinning existing and emerging centres of excellence, and by supporting smart specialisation and international networking.

We have also made sure to forge strong links between the research and cohesion programmes, with greater harmonisation of financial rules, and it will be possible to combine funding from Horizon 2020 and the cohesion funds for the same project.

As you can see, Horizon 2020 is all about helping a wide range of different research and innovation actors to make a difference to our economy and society.

I have been determined from the outset that a bigger role and bigger budget for research and innovation at the European level should be accompanied by reform of how we invest this money - hence the drive for simplification and a focus on the entire value chain from initial research to innovative products.

I want the transport industry to be a leading player in Horizon 2020. As the backbone of an integrated, mobile economy, and with a major role to play in tackling many of our societal challenges, I would not settle for anything less!

Horizon 2020 will address transport as an integrated system. But it will not ignore the specifics of the different modes of transport, particularly where we need to achieve technological breakthroughs.

  • Actions will focus on four areas:

  • Resource-efficient transport;

  • Better mobility, less congestion, more safety and security (this is where we expect a cross-over between transport modes);

  • Global leadership for the European transport industry; and,

  • Forward-looking activities to feed into future policy making.

With the demand for mobility increasing world wide – the number of cars in the world will almost double by 2030, for example – these priorities respond to a global need for greater sustainability.

Just look at China, which has set a target of increasing the number of green vehicles from 100,000 to 5 million by 2020 in order to reduce pollution and reliance on oil imports.

As a result, investing in innovation in the field of sustainable transport offers European companies a huge commercial opportunity: products and services related to sustainable mobility will represent a global market of 300 billion Euro in 2020.

We simply cannot afford to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.

The good news is that Europe already leads in many areas, including high speed rail, efficient trains and intelligent transport systems. But we're lagging behind our competitors in other crucial areas.

Japanese manufacturers are leading the field in hybrid cars, for example, and Asia is also ahead of us in the development of batteries. It is important that we stay strong in the areas where we are leading and catch up where needed.

This is why market uptake actions and large scale research and demonstration projects will be an important feature of Horizon 2020.

Transport provides an excellent example of the advantages of a challenge based approach where R&D and innovation – in vehicles, infrastructures and operations – all contribute to addressing the challenges facing the transport sector in Europe today.

This approach also allows us to reach a number of policy goals in other fields besides transport, including the environment, climate, energy, resources and industrial competitiveness.

We will ensure that there are strong links between Smart, Green and Integrated Transport and the other challenges, in particular Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy, for example in the development of alternative transport fuels and energy sources and storage, including batteries and fuel cells, and Climate action and resource efficiency, including raw materials, for example on assessing the environmental impacts of transport, to name just two relevant areas.

The transport sector can help mitigate the impacts of climate change, reduce environmental pollution, increase resource efficiency, reduce our dependence on oil, improve economic performance and create growth and jobs.

So, the European transport sector has a lot to live up to. It must become more sustainable, improve its ability to respond effectively to the needs of its users, and remain competitive in the face of growing world competition.

These challenges are not contradictory. For example: "cleaner cars" means not just more liveable cities or greater energy efficiency, but also new market shares for European industries.

Although some of these challenges already figured prominently in the 7th Framework Programme that ends this year – notably the "greening" of transport and the competitiveness of the transport industries – in Horizon 2020 they are at the very heart of the programme and have determined the priorities.

The Transport theme of the 7th Framework Programme is already supporting action in areas such as maritime safety, alternative fuels, and the further harmonisation of rail transport.

Already, hundreds of projects are bringing together the expertise of SMEs and the capacity of large scale testing facilities; and matching the great ideas of academics to the needs of the transport manufacturing sector. And all of this across the borders of 27 Member States and further afield.

As a result, in the field of electric cars for example, we now see European competitors setting common goals for research and innovation. We also see Member States aligning their national research programmes. This avoids wasteful duplication of effort and simplifies the research landscape.

The integrated or holistic approach to the transport system as a whole will be more prominent in Horizon 2020. Consequently, the non-modal or cross-cutting components are more substantial and socio-economic and behavioural research will have a greater role to play.

The challenge-based rationale of the Transport chapter, in line with all the other "societal challenges" in Horizon 2020, calls for a systematic, holistic, integrated approach to the transport system as a whole. The problems to be addressed may stem from one mode of transport or another, but the solutions are often intermodal in nature and in any case must always be seen in the context of the functioning of the whole transport system.

That being said, the specificities of each mode are taken into consideration when defining the specific objectives of each of the four broad lines of action. For example, one of the objectives of "Resource efficient transport that respects the environment" is to make aircraft, trains, vehicles and vessels cleaner and quieter. The activities will focus on the end products, but will also address lean and ecological design and manufacturing processes, including recyclability.

Horizon 2020's funding of transport research and innovation will complement Member States' investment by focusing on activities with a clear European added-value. More specifically, emphasis will be placed on priority areas that match European policy objectives: where a critical mass of effort is necessary; where Europe-wide, interoperable transport solutions need to be pursued; or where pooling efforts trans-nationally can reduce research investment risks, pioneer common standards and shorten time-to-market of research results.

Before I finish, I'd like to mention the next steps for Horizon 2020.

Last November, the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee was almost unanimous in its approval of three reports on the Horizon 2020 package, dealing with the overarching Framework Programme Regulation; the Specific Programme Decision, and the Regulation on the detailed Rules for Participation. There was also a big majority for a fourth report on the Regulation for Euratom.

The European Council has also adopted what are called "Partial General Approaches", that is agreement between the Member States on issues besides the budget, on the Framework Programme, Specific Programme and Rules for Participation.

Now negotiations - known as "trilogues" - have started between the European institutions – the European Parliament, the Council (representing Member States) and the European Commission.

Our aim is to reach consensus on Horizon 2020 this year so that we can launch the first calls under the new programme.

And what about the budget?

Discussion on the EU's future budget, including for Horizon 2020, dominated the headlines at the beginning of the year.

It is encouraging, though, that at the Summit in February, Member States highlighted the particular contribution of Horizon 2020 to the Europe 2020 strategy.

Despite the fact that the budget levels agreed by the Heads of State and Government are below what the Commission considers desirable, the eventual deal can still be an important catalyst for growth and jobs.

As regards Horizon 2020, a successful outcome is crucial as we must offer solid, long term perspectives to researchers and investors worldwide that will convince them that working and investing in Europe now is the right choice.

With an appropriate Horizon 2020 budget, we can send a strong signal of our shared commitment to staying a world class player in research and innovation.

The transport sector in Europe – in all its diversity – has already proved that it is a world-beater and a world leader in research, innovation and technology.

Our motor cars are the most sought after in the biggest emerging markets; our passenger aircraft are reshaping the travel industry, and we have shown how hi-speed rail can shrink distances.

The transport industries have a bright future in Europe. Horizon 2020 will be there to support you every step of the way.

Thank you.


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