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European Commission


European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Launch event for Horizon 2020 in Finland

Conference / Helsinki

11 October 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here today in the impressive and beautiful Finlandia Hall, designed by the great Alvar Aalto.

His name, along with names like Iittala, Marimekko, Rovio and Nokia, are synonymous across with world with Finland's genius for design and innovation.

And as the country with one of Europe's best records in research and innovation, I know that you will be keen to take advantage of the opportunities offered by Horizon 2020, the EU's new programme for research and innovation.

You are also thought leaders when it comes to research and innovation. Indeed, for many years Finland has been the "poster-child' for using R&D and innovation as an economic stimulus. Your recipe for reversing economic stagnation in the 1990s by pumping investment into research and innovation has since served as an example for many other countries.

You are still in first place in the EU in terms of public investment in research, though this is declining slightly, and number one in terms of business R&D intensity. The number of researchers as a percentage of the population is more than double the EU average.

In terms of scientific quality, Finnish research excels in many fields, including ICT; food agriculture and biotechnology; health; the environment, energy and security.

So, Finland has a very strong research and innovation performance overall. You have a very skilled workforce, high levels of both public and private investment in R&D, and a high rate of patent applications.

In fact, you rank number one for R&D intensity in the EU, fourth in the Innovation Union Scoreboard index and sixth on the innovation output indicator.

You really have to be congratulated on these achievements.

However, although Finland is an innovation leader showing an above-EU average innovation performance, its capacity to generate high-growth innovative enterprises, that replace older firms, is weaker than many other Member States.

In 2012, and again in 2013, as part of the European Semester exercise, the Council of Ministers issued a country-specific recommendation to Finland to continue its efforts to diversify its business structure and boost its capacity to deliver innovative products and services in a rapidly changing environment.

I know that the Finnish government is taking steps to address these challenges, and Horizon 2020 can help too.

Horizon 2020 is a totally new type of research programme for the EU, and it is designed to deliver results that make a difference in people's lives.

With more than 70 billion euro over seven years, it is the biggest EU research programme yet, and one of the biggest publicly funded worldwide. It is the only major programme in the EU’s new budget that sees an increase in resources.

Horizon 2020’s substantial budget is a great result for European science and innovation and a great result for all of the stakeholders who presented their case so effectively, from the beginning of our public consultation more than two years ago.

I am determined that this additional money – which represents a 25 per cent increase in real terms compared to FP7 – will be invested as wisely and efficiently as possible.

From the beginning of the discussions on the programme, I was determined to get better value for this public money. It would have been wrong to ask for a bigger budget without also undertaking radical reform of how research and innovation are financed at EU level.

The key words here are simplification and coherence.

Simplification first. From the very start of my mandate, it has been my priority to make it easier for our scientists and business people to access EU funding. They kept telling me, and justifiably so, that unnecessary red tape meant they spent too much time on administration – time that could be better spent on research and innovation.

Simplification applies to all aspects of the programme.

While the current generation of programmes have lots of different rules, Horizon 2020 applies the same rules everywhere. That means it is much easier to apply and participate in projects.

The reimbursement of project costs will be much simpler with a single reimbursement rate for most projects. That means less paperwork and fewer audits.

And under Horizon 2020, the time between sending an application and receiving a grant will be much quicker. This means great projects will be able to get up and running many months earlier than under the current system.

So, we have reformed how Horizon 2020 will be administered and reformed the overall design of the programme so that its approach is much more coherent, which brings me to my second point.

Horizon 2020 is designed from top-down and bottom-up to be coherent.

By bringing together all the EU-level funding for research and innovation under one roof, we can support you, in a seamless and joined-up fashion, at every step of the journey from excellent fundamental research all the way to innovative products, services and processes that we hope will conquer world markets.

Of course, this support takes different forms – it could be a European Research Council grant that enables a top scientist to stay in Europe to pursue her risky but promising research.

It could be support to industry to maintain Europe’s lead in a key technology like biotechnology. It can be a wide-scale collaborative effort tackling a societal challenge like climate change. Or it could be support for a project to demonstrate the feasibility and market potential of a technological innovation.

Horizon 2020 will take a challenge based approach. This is because the challenges facing Europe - whether food and energy security, clean transport, public health or security – cannot be solved by a single field of science or technology, let alone a single sector, or a single organisation.

These complex challenges will need solutions that draw upon many different areas of research and innovation. That’s why interdisciplinarity is such a crucial aspect of Horizon 2020.

We will encourage researchers to get out of their silos, and we expect that broader societal aspects are addressed by embedding the Socio-Economic Science and Humanities across the whole programme.

Horizon 2020 will also be less prescriptive about what projects need to do. This will allow researchers and innovators to come up with innovative proposals to address the challenges. However, we will be more demanding about the impacts that projects must have, and this will be one of the key criteria for selecting which proposals get funding.

We are counting on Europe’s scientists to produce excellent research that will underpin both our search for solutions to societal challenges and our quest for innovation.

Horizon 2020 champions excellent science, with increased funding for the European Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions on researcher training, mobility and careers.

So far under the 7th Framework Programme, the ERC awarded Principal Investigator grants to 52 Finnish researchers, with a total value of 86 million Euro, and the same number of Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships to Finns, worth nearly 9 million Euro.

You will also see the influence of Finland's approach to innovation in some of the new elements of Horizon 2020.

Besides its expertise in technology-related R&D, Finland is also a leader in the most innovative aspects of innovation! I'm thinking here of social innovation, open innovation and public sector innovation. You don't just talk about these things, you get them done. Horizon 2020 will support the best projects in all these areas.

I very much enjoyed visiting Otaniemi Research and Innovation Hub yesterday where I saw Finnish Open Innovation in action. Otaniemi is a good example of knowledge circulation by bringing together both domestic and foreign innovation know-how in the form of researchers, academics and businesses

Speaking of which, Horizon 2020 is very good for business. I was determined from the outset to get more companies participating in European research and innovation projects.

Simplification has certainly helped, as has the guiding ethos of support from “lab to market”: private companies will have greater scope to get involved in close-to-market actions.

Horizon 2020 covers every link in the value creation chain from fundamental research through to market innovation in one single programme. So while the strong focus on excellent research remains, there is also a new emphasis on support to accelerate the market uptake of innovation.

More money will be available for testing, prototyping, demonstration and pilot type activities, for business-driven R&D, for promoting entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and for shaping demand for innovative products and services.

I'd like to highlight what the Industrial Leadership Pillar of Horizon 2020 can do to help generate innovative new businesses and a more international outlook.

The programme will promote even greater industry involvement and leverage of investment, including dedicated support for ICT, nanotechnology, materials and production technology, more public-private partnerships, and reinforced support for demand-driven innovation like innovation procurement. Finland is well positioned to seize opportunities in many of these areas.

Horizon 2020 is joining forces with the private sector and with Member States on an unprecedented scale in key research areas to achieve results that one country or company would find difficult to achieve alone.

Five Public/Private Partnerships - dealing with innovative medicines; fuel cells and hydrogen; aeronautics; bio-based industries; and electronics - are expected to mobilise up to around 22 billion euro of investments, with 8 billion coming from the EU. These Partnerships offer huge opportunities for companies and researchers right across Europe, including SMEs.

So we're not just focusing on the biggest players.

While all sizes and types of business can benefit from Horizon 2020, we're putting the spotlight on innovative SMEs that want to both develop nationally and spread their wings internationally.

Research and innovation for SMEs are promoted across Horizon 2020 as a whole, but we are also introducing a new instrument that is adapted to their specific needs. This will allow single SMEs to receive small, simple grants for highly innovative projects.

The new dedicated SME instrument will fill gaps in funding for early-stage, high-risk research and innovation by SMEs and help stimulate breakthrough innovations.

The opportunities are there, but make no mistake; competition for Horizon 2020 funding will be fierce, especially since there is still such pressure on national research budgets.

One of my goals for Horizon 2020 is that there is a wider participation and that all countries and regions can build the level of excellence that will be needed to be successful in the Programme.

I have been working closely with Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy, to make sure that new Structural and Investment Funds will work hand in hand with Horizon 2020 to build excellence.

Under the new Cohesion policy, each Member State and region should develop smart specialisation strategies that build on their respective strengths. It means that they will be betting on their most likely winners.

In fact, such a strategy will be a precondition to research and innovation funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds.

I was very interested to learn about the Innovative Cities programme, INKA, launched by the Finnish government to enhance the role of cities in the implementation of the national innovation strategy.

Your goal to create internationally attractive local innovation hubs and to help urban regions to focus on their strengths has good potential for synergy with strategies for smart specialisation. I encourage you to find out more about the European Commission's Capital of Innovation prize that I launched a few weeks ago. The prize of 500,000 Euro will help the winning city to scale up its ideas for innovation.

Under the current 7th Framework Programme, Finnish participants have so far drawn down 690 million Euro of funding. They have been most successful in the areas of ICT; Health; Nanosciences, materials and new production technologies; food, agriculture fisheries and biotechnology, and Energy.

Capitalise on this and build on your S&T potential in these areas, while striving to maximise opportunities in new areas of research and innovation.

In the long run, creating an efficient, outward looking and dynamic research and innovation system will ensure the economy is based on a solid, long-lasting foundation.

We want this for every country in Europe.

Horizon 2020 can provide the spark.

So, today, I am calling on Finland's researchers and universities, its businesses big and small, its academics and its innovators: get involved!

The first Horizon 2020 calls for proposals will be published in mid-December.

Find out how to participate, build on your contacts with your peers in the rest of Europe, and don't be afraid to think big, because Horizon 2020 is about big opportunities and big results.

Step up to the challenge, find the opportunities and reap the rewards of Horizon 2020!

Thank you.

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