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European Commission


European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Launch of the EU-Russia Year of Science 2014

EU-Russia Year of Science / Moscow

25 November 2013

Mr. Fursenko, Deputy Prime Minister Golodets, Minister Livanov ,

Dear Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be in Moscow today on such a wonderful occasion - the launch of the EU-Russia Year of Science 2014.

It is also a special privilege for me to address such a distinguished audience of Ministers, senior officials, and leading representatives of the European and Russian scientific and industrial communities on my first official visit to Russia.

Cooperation in science, technology and innovation holds a very special place in the overall EU-Russian relations.

As President Von Rompuy stressed again during his recent visit to St Petersburg, “Russia is a key strategic partner for Europe, and our most important neighbour”.

Nowhere is that more true than in the field of science.

Ours is a long-standing and thriving partnership.

It is a partnership built on a shared scientific culture, on the excellence of our scientific communities and on centuries of exchanges and collaboration between our very best minds.

This has led to joint achievements in many areas, from nanotechnologies to space research, from ‘blue-sky’ science to ‘hands-on’ industrial applications.

And today our scientific partnership is also characterised by common interests and shared goals, and by a belief that it's imperative to work together in the face of common societal, environmental and technological challenges.

Challenges like climate change, emerging diseases, food security, environmental threats, and ageing populations.

So it is time to reinforce our partnership through the EU-Russia Year of Science, with a calendar of events that will engage our scientists, our universities, our industries, our policymakers and the wider public.

As our leaders said, when they designated 2014 the “EU-Russia Year of Science”, the aim is, and I quote “to celebrate the vibrant and multifaceted cooperation in science, technology and higher education between the EU, our Member States and the Russian Federation”.

So, yes, tonight is definitely a cause for celebration. The fireworks arranged by our hosts later tonight are totally justified!

The EU-Russia Year of Science, however, is not just about taking stock and reflecting on our achievements.

It's also a chance to look to the future and renew our scientific relationship.

We should see how we could further strengthen our cooperation in the future, and turn it into a genuine strategic partnership, in a spirit of mutual respect and trust.

So let me share with you a few thoughts on how the EU-Russia Year of Science should be both a celebration and a springboard to take our relationship to the “next level”.

We have a great deal to be proud of.

Our scientists have a long history of collaboration. Indeed, in more challenging times in our relationship, science was one of the few areas where dialogue continued, uninterrupted.

In recent years, cooperation has mushroomed at all levels, in so many disciplines, between so many partners. Indeed, it's difficult to fully describe the "embarrassment of riches" that characterises our current cooperation.

This flourishing relationship between the European Union and the Russian Federation in science, technology and innovation is of course crucial, but it’s just one part of the story.

It is very fitting that all the different aspects of our relations – the multilateral, European, national and institutional levels – are represented here today.

Our scientists are collaborating in hundreds of projects funded from dozens of different sources.

They are working side by side in pan-European and international initiatives like CERN and ITER and in large-scale infrastructures such as XFEL, the EU X-ray Free Electron Laser, in which Russia has heavily invested.

Russia is the most active international partner country under the 7th Framework Programme for Research. 273 different Russian institutions have drawn down a total of 64 million Euro, or 2.8 billion Roubles, in EU funding. Half of these participations come from Russia’s regions.

25 Russian nationals have been awarded grants from the prestigious European Research Council, to conduct research in ten different European countries. And we have been pleased to see that, in turn, EU researchers have been successful in winning 31 grants under the first calls for Russia’s “mega-grants” to attract leading scientists to Russian institutions from all over the world.

The European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, is cooperating with Russian colleagues in many areas, especially nuclear energy and nuclear safety, soil science and agriculture.

And the real depth of our relationship is to be found in the complex tapestry that Russia and the EU Member States have woven, with contacts and exchanges between thousands of people in hundreds of institutions.

I am convinced that the EU-Russia Year of Science can be the catalyst to doing even better in the future.

2014 was certainly the right year for us to pick!

We are both on the cusp of major new developments.

2014 sees the launch of Russia's new Federal Targeted Programmes for Research and the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, worth almost 80 billion Euro.

At the same time, a new chapter opens for the EU-Russia Science and Technology Agreement. It is due for renewal very soon, in February 2014. A team of independent EU and Russian experts have performed an in-depth evaluation of the current agreement.

It is the first time that we have performed such an evaluation together with an international partner, and I am pleased that the independent report was accepted by both the Russian Ministry and the European Commission. This paves the way to adoption of our new agreement by the end of the year. Another reason to celebrate!

At the beginning of this exciting new stage in our relations, it's only sensible to explore how we can best work together and capitalise on synergies between our programmes.

On our side, we have been following with great interest the work of the Russian government to reform Russia’s research system, and I have no doubt that Russia has been following our work to reform how we fund research and innovation at the European level. We are keen to see Russia participate very actively in Horizon 2020, building on its excellent record under FP7.

Horizon 2020 will be a unique platform for the leading universities, companies and research organisations in the EU to raise their international profile and to act globally, in partnership with the very best around the world.

And we hope that the leading universities, research organisations and companies in Russia will seize the opportunities open to them and join these partnerships!

Importantly, I think that Europe and Russia now share a common understanding of the importance of science and its role in our societies and economies.

In Europe and in Russia, we are adopting very similar approaches with our policy instruments, focusing on the need to boost competitiveness and innovation in our economies and to address other challenges. And we both understand that in doing so, we need to consistently involve industry and entrepreneurs.

The similarity in our approaches is very encouraging indeed and augurs well both for the success of the EU-Russia Year of Science and for reinforced, long-term cooperation.

We have a very busy programme in 2014 with many opportunities to work together.

Let us remain focused, and let us not be overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of our scientific relations.

I think we can gain the most if we concentrate on those areas where, together, we can have the biggest impact.

I’m not going to pre-judge what those areas may be. But I propose that we be very practical. Let us seize the opportunity in 2014 to define our common goals and develop a new, ambitious and concrete roadmap of actions that we can implement after the end of the EU-Russia Year of Science.

In that way, ladies and gentlemen, our “embarrassment of riches” will lead to a wealth of advantages and benefits not just for our institutions and scientists, but for the people of Russia and the European Union.

Thank you.

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