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European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
Horizon 2020 as the Key to an Innovative and Competitive Europe
Launch of Horizon 2020 / Warsaw
7 November 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be in Warsaw today for the official launch of Horizon 2020 in Poland.
Later on, you will hear more information about what Horizon 2020 entails. I would 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.
I believe that Poland is in an excellent position to benefit from Horizon 2020. This country has produced some of the best scientists, inventors and innovators, many of whom have made remarkable contributions.
I saw this for myself last July when I attended the opening of new facilities at the Gdansk Science and Technology Park.
And this year, Poland is honouring the achievements of Jan Czochralski, the chemist who invented the process used for growing single crystals that has become instrumental in the production of microprocessors.
With a budget of more than 70 billion euro over seven years, Horizon 2020 is one of the few areas of the EU’s new budget that sees a major increase in resources.
I am determined that this additional money – which represents a 25 per cent increase in real terms on 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.
The key words for me are simplification and coherence.
Simplification first: from the 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 to 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. Even when budgets are tight, we can't afford not to invest in basic research, because we can never be sure where it may lead us or what the applications could be – think of how Jan Czochralski's work on crystals led to semiconductor production.
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 Polish 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.
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.
The new dedicated SME instrument and the new financing options in the form of risk-sharing (through guarantees) or risk finance (through loans and equity) could be especially interesting for supporting innovative companies in Poland.
I have already had the pleasure of congratulating Minister Kudrycka on the signature of a guarantee agreement under the Risk-Sharing Instrument with Bank Pekao, a first for Poland.
One of our 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 the 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.
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 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.
Overall, Horizon 2020 offers many opportunities for Poland, for its researchers and innovators.
Polish participants have so far drawn nearly 370 million Euro of funding under the 7th Framework Programme.
They have been most successful in the areas of Research Potential; Information and Communication Technologies; the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions; Nanotechnologies, Nano Sciences and New Production Technologies; and Security.
Capitalise on this experience and build on your potential in these areas, while striving to maximise opportunities in new areas of research and innovation.
Greater success in Horizon 2020 relies on a number of factors, and many are in the hands of national authorities, universities and business.
I give a similar message wherever I go in Europe: we need to invest more 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, and that expenditure must work efficiently, to get the best possible results for the money. In Poland, this could pay off both in terms of winning more funding at the EU level, and in bringing more private research investment into the country.
Major weaknesses of the Polish economy continue to be a low level of R&D and innovation investments and a lack of innovation in businesses. Poland's R&D expenditure is among the lowest in the EU.
However, I know that the Polish research and innovation system has undergone major restructuring in recent years and that you have set an ambitious target of 1.7% R&D intensity in the context of Europe 2020.
This demonstrates a strong commitment to overcoming current weaknesses.
I would also like to pay tribute to the fact that Poland has weathered the crisis better than most of the other EU Member States. Indeed, it was the only EU economy that avoided the recession in 2008-2010.
Indeed, other Member States certainly have something to learn from your experience. But to sustain this impressive growth, Poland has to accelerate its shift towards an innovation-driven economy.
I know that reform is not easy. Take it from someone who has been through the process with Horizon 2020!
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.
I am convinced that the combination of national and European measures will support Poland in this shift towards a knowledge-based, innovative economy and to increase the internationalisation of Polish research & innovation.
We want this for Poland, and for every country in Europe, and Horizon 2020 can be a catalyst.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I want many, many Polish researchers, universities, businesses and innovators to participate in Horizon 2020.
So I am issuing you a call and a challenge today – find out how you can participate, find partners if necessary, and sign up!
Don't be afraid to think big, because Horizon 2020 is about big opportunities and big results. Make the most of it!