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European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
Horizon 2020 – A World of Opportunities
Launch of Horizon 2020 in the Czech Republic / Prague
18 October 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be in Prague today for the official launch of Horizon 2020 in the Czech Republic.
You have heard many details from colleagues who presented the different aspects of Horizon 2020 yesterday and earlier today.
I would therefore just like to highlight what I think are the most exciting opportunities offered by the new programme and what I expect the programme to deliver to you.
Your strong industrial tradition dates back to the early days of the industrial revolution when Bohemia and Moravia became an economic and industrial powerhouse. Your talent for manufacturing is exemplified in fine crystal and Škoda cars, and of course in quality pilsner beers!
This long-standing reputation, together with the quality of your people, has attracted many foreign investors and has put the national innovation system on a good path.
Your country is also rich in research opportunities. It has produced some of the best scientists, inventors and innovators, many of whom have made remarkable contributions.
People like Josef Ressel, the inventor of the ship propeller, Jaroslav Heyrovský , who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1959 or Jan Janský, who was the first to classify blood into four types. Or, indeed, Otto Wichterle who, among many other achievements, produced the first soft contact lenses on home-made equipment.
So, a thirst for knowledge and innovation is in your blood. And I am happy that this tradition continues: Czech applicants are significant players in the current 7th Framework programme for research that ends in a couple of months.
And that's when Horizon 2020 will hit the ground running.
With a budget of more than 70 billion euro over seven years, 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.
It will fund not just the best fundamental research, but also applied research and innovation, bringing in small and large companies. This is so vital because we know that research and innovation mean growth and jobs.
From the beginning of our discussions three years ago on the next EU research 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 for me are simplification and coherence.
Simplification first. From the very start of my mandate, it has been a top 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 across the whole programme.
While the current generation of programmes have lots of different rules, Horizon 2020 applies the same rules everywhere. That means it is now 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. We have also 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.
You will have already heard that one of the biggest changes is Horizon 2020's 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.
That is where 'European added value' makes the crucial difference: making a bigger impact and getting better results from taxpayers' money by helping the best researchers work together irrespective of borders.
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.
We will also be less prescriptive about what projects need to do. This will allow researchers and innovators to come up with the bright ideas 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.
But Horizon 2020 is also very good for business. I was determined from the outset to get more companies participating in European research and innovation projects. I hope that many more Czech companies will take the bait!
Simplification will certainly help sell Horizon 2020 to businesses, as will the guiding ethos of support from “lab to market” which will offer private companies greater scope to get involved in close-to-market actions.
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.
In short, Horizon 2020 helps the business sector to reap the full commercial rewards from in-house innovation.
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.
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.
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.
I want the news to get out to Czech SMEs: I think they will be very interested in the new financing options in the form of risk-sharing (through guarantees) or risk finance (through loans and equity) to support research-driven and innovative companies.
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.
Excellent scientists need excellent facilities. Upgrading research infrastructure and equipment will come within the scope of EU Cohesion Policy.
This means everything from laboratories and equipment to supercomputers and high-speed data networks. The EU-funded ELI facility on the outskirts of Prague and the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) in Brno are perfect examples.
Horizon 2020 will also introduce a dedicated set of measures to spread excellence and complement the Structural and Investment Funds.
Since Horizon 2020 aims to fund the very best research and innovation, it will of course continue to allocate funding on a competitive basis - promoting excellent standards demands as much.
But Horizon 2020 contains a number of new measures to ensure that the programme is open to a wide range of participants, from all the Member States and from all the regions. We want to help bridge Europe's innovation divide.
Most research and innovation indicators, whether it is the Innovation Scoreboard, Government expenditure on Research (GERD) or, for instance, participation in the ERC, clearly show that some countries, mainly in central, eastern and southern Europe are not yet fully exploiting their research and innovation potential.
By its very definition, not every university or research institute can be the very best in its field. Excellence cannot be everywhere – but I firmly believe that excellence can spring up anywhere.
The new twinning and teaming actions as well as the ERA chairs will strengthen the scientific excellence and innovation capacities of emerging institutions.
I think that overall, Horizon 2020 is a very good fit for the Czech Republic.
First, you have an excellent starting position. As I mentioned at the beginning, your manufacturing skills, linked to your proximity to other leading manufacturing centres and the quality of your people, has attracted many foreign investors and has put the national innovation system on a good path.
Second, Horizon 2020 promotes innovation and the Czech Republic needs more innovation. Your country is classified as a moderate innovator on the Innovation Scoreboard index. It is also a medium to low performer in the European innovation output indicator, ranking 16th out of the EU28. I want you to improve on this, and Horizon 2020 is there to help.
Third, Horizon 2020 will help you address the urgent need to increase cooperation between research, innovation and industry – a problem shared by some other Member States - and allow Czech innovation to really take-off, as it clearly has the potential to do.
SMEs, in particular knowledge-based SMEs that are active in innovative sectors, need to rely on strong and willing partners in the academic world. Almost everywhere in Europe, this is a prerequisite to the development of innovation activities by domestic firms.
Fourth, Horizon 2020 will fund research and innovation in areas where you have competitive advantages. These include smart specialisation, tackling societal challenges, SME participation, synergies between research, innovation and industry, and a stronger focus on impact and results.
Under FP7, Czech participants have so far drawn more than 220 million Euro of funding. They have been most successful in the areas of ICT, transport, nanotechnologies and nano sciences – among the Key Enabling Technologies – and health. These are all areas that will receive increased funding under Horizon 2020, so the Czech Republic has much to gain!
Capitalise on this experience and build on your S&T potential in these areas, while striving to maximise opportunities in new areas of research and innovation.
And given your strength in basic research, the Czech Republic certainly has scope to increase its participation in the European Research Council.
But greater success in Horizon 2020 relies on a number of factors.
I give a similar message wherever I go in Europe: we need to invest in research and innovation, reform and improve national systems and transform our industries and economies to create the growth and jobs we so desperately need in Europe. This is what our European Research Area and Innovation Union policy is all about.
We need to reform national systems because it is here that the vast bulk of research and innovation money is still invested. This money needs to be spent as efficiently as possible, getting the best possible results for the money. It is no use pouring research money into defunct systems.
Reform is not easy. Take it from someone who has been through the process with Horizon 2020!
But having steered a course of simplification in Horizon 2020, I encourage you to take an honest look at your national research and innovation system to identify any room for improvement. I know how difficult it is to simplify and become more efficient, but I am convinced that it is worth the effort. We owe it to our researchers and entrepreneurs to make their jobs as easy as possible.
In the long run, creating an efficient, outward looking and dynamic research and innovation system will ensure that your economy has a solid, long-lasting foundation.
We want this for every country in Europe, and Horizon 2020 can provide the spark.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I did a little bit of research on some of the most renowned Czech scientists when I was preparing for this trip.
I found out about Ressel, Heyrovský, Janský, and Wichterle. But I was particularly fascinated to learn more about Antonín Holý, perhaps the most eminent Czech scientist of recent years, who died in July 2012.
I found him especially interesting because so many aspects of his career epitomise what we are trying to achieve with Horizon 2020.
Excellence was certainly his trademark – and something that Horizon 2020 aims for.
He conducted pioneering blue-sky research in chemistry and was responsible for many patents. His research led to practical innovations, including in the treatment of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis, helping us tackle the major societal challenge of public health.
Prof. Holy's research also had an economic impact since he was very successful in bringing his research to market. But as happens all too often with excellent European research, one of his biggest successes, the HIV prevention drug Truvada, is marketed by an American company.
Professor Holy also collaborated internationally on research, including with the virologist Erik De Clercq from the Catholic University in Leuven on Viread, an ingredient of Truvada.
He was rightly honoured by the EU during his lifetime. He was awarded the Descartes Prize in 2001 and was chosen as one of the Ambassadors for the European Year of Creativity and Innovation in 2009.
His legacy will certainly live on. I hope that he will serve as inspiration for many more of you in the Czech Republic.
So, today, I am calling on researchers and universities, businesses big and small, academics and innovators: get involved!
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!