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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]


European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Launch of Horizon 2020 in Italy

Launch of Horizon 2020

Rome, 07 April 2014

Minister Giannini, Members of Parliament, Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be back in Rome for the launch in Italy of Horizon 2020.

Horizon 2020 has the potential to be a true milestone in European science.

This new programme is eagerly anticipated here and I would like to thank you for the enthusiasm that you have shown for Horizon 2020 from the very beginning of our work.

The EU deal on Horizon 2020 came about thanks to the collective efforts of Member States in Council, MEPs in the European Parliament, and with the support of the wider stakeholder community. In this context, I would like in particular to mention the role played by Amalia SARTORI, the chair of the Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy committee, in reaching the deal on Horizon 2020 last year. You have had the opportunity to listen to Amalia during the panel discussion.

I am very confident that Italian researchers and innovators will take full advantage of the huge opportunities offered by Horizon 2020. I would like to take a few minutes to highlight some of the most exciting aspects of the new programme and talk about what I expect the programme to deliver to you.

Horizon 2020 is a totally new type of research programme for the EU. It has been designed from the outset to deliver results that make a difference in people's lives.

With nearly 80 billion euro in funding over seven years, Horizon 2020 is one of the few areas of the EU’s new budget to see a major increase in resources.

This increase – roughly 30 per cent more in real terms than for the 7th Framework Programme – brings greater opportunities, but also a greater responsibility to invest it as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The scale of Horizon 2020 may seem daunting at first, especially if you are new to working at EU level, but keep in mind that two of its most important characteristics are simplification and coherence.

As regards simplification, it has been my top priority to make it easier for our scientists and business people to access EU funding so they can spend less time on administration and more time on research and innovation.

Simplification applies across the whole programme. While the 7th Framework Programme had lots of different rules, Horizon 2020 applies the same rules everywhere, making it much easier to apply and to participate in projects.

As well as reforming how we administer funding, we have redesigned the programme architecture from top to bottom to be much more coherent.

By bringing together all the EU-level funding for research and innovation in one place, Horizon 2020 offers support at every step of the journey from excellent fundamental research to innovative products and services.

You may already know that one of the biggest changes from the Framework Programmes is Horizon 2020's challenge-based approach.

This is because the challenges facing Europe - whether food and energy security, clean transport, public health or climate change – cannot be solved by a single field of science or technology, let alone a single Member State.

That is where 'European added value' makes the big difference: getting bigger impacts and better results from taxpayers' money by helping the best researchers to collaborate and pool their ideas, irrespective of borders.

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

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

It is also one of the reasons why we are highlighting the international potential of research and innovation – Horizon 2020 welcomes participants from across the globe.

We are also less prescriptive about what projects need to do. However, we will be more demanding about project impacts, and this will be one of the key criteria for selecting proposals for funding.

We are counting on Europe’s scientists to produce excellent research that will direct us to both the answers to our societal challenges and to the innovation that is vital to our economy.

So Horizon 2020 champions the very best science, with a significant increase in funding for the prestigious European Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions on researcher training, mobility and careers.

Horizon 2020 will invest even more in the ERC's mission to give world-class scientists of any nationality the chance to conduct top-flight research in Europe.

I am delighted that Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, the President of the ERC, was here to participate in the panel session. Horizon 2020 is also very good for business. 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.

We will be supporting public private partnerships with major companies in areas such as aeronautics, pharmaceuticals and automobile manufacturers.

But we're not just focusing on the biggest companies. Research and innovation for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises are promoted across Horizon 2020 as a whole, and we are also introducing a new instrument that is adapted to their needs.

We expect more than 9 billion euro to flow to SMEs over the next seven years.

Another major goal for Horizon 2020 is wider participation and for all countries and regions to build the level of excellence that will be needed to be successful in the Programme.

Horizon 2020 and the new Cohesion policy have been designed to work hand-in-hand to promote excellence.

Under the new Cohesion policy, each Member State and region should develop Smart Specialisation Strategies that build on their particular strengths. This 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. Research and innovation must feature among the priorities of the Smart Specialisation Strategies and the Partnership Agreements that open up access to the huge funding opportunities of the Structural Funds.

I encourage you to seek every opportunity to use this funding to strengthen Italy's research and innovation capacity – I understand that all the Italian regions are now registered at the Smart Specialisation Platform of the Commission's Joint Research Centre.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your success in Horizon 2020 will depend on a number of factors, many of which are in the hands of national authorities, universities and business.

Across Europe, we need to do better on research and innovation and we need to sustain investment in research and innovation today to ensure growth and jobs.

Horizon 2020 and the Structural Funds are there to support you, but they can only complement national efforts.

It is not surprising that when the Member States met last autumn, they agreed that 'Investment in research and innovation fuels productivity and growth and is key for job creation. Member States that have continued to invest in research and innovation have fared better in the current crisis than those that have not'.

This goes for public as well as private investment. Indeed, publicly-funded R&I policy should aim to leverage private investment.

It is not easy when public finances are extremely tight, but I strongly encourage Italy to keep focusing on growth-enhancing investment so that you reach your national target of 1.53% of GDP expenditure on R&D by 2020.

However, it is not just a question of spending more money. We must create science and innovation systems that are fit for purpose.

We are working hard to do this at European level, in particular through the European Research Area, Innovation Union and of course, Horizon 2020.

The European Commission is all too aware just how difficult reform can be. Progress on the European Research Area is not as quick as we would like, and Horizon 2020 was the result of a long, challenging, but ultimately very worthwhile process.

It is vital that these initiatives at European level are accompanied by reform of national research and innovation systems to make them more efficient and better adapted to the knowledge economy.

I am pleased that Italy's research and innovation strategy, "Horizon Italia 2020" matches Europe 2020 goals and includes a series of measures that are in line with the Commission's 2012 Communication on the European Research Area.

Horizon Italia 2020 and the measures announced in last year's National Reform Programme will help increase the effectiveness of the public research system.

Recent reforms have included measures to tackle issues such as the allocation of public funding, transnational cooperation, researchers' recruitment and careers, doctoral training and public-private cooperation.

However, you still face a number of challenges.

An increase in R&D funding is needed to reach your 1.53% target. The institutional budget in 2013 was around 20% lower than the 2008 figure. Budgetary cuts and the substantial reduction in university staff and students risk weakening the public research system.

I know that the new government is keen to improve Italy's research system, and the European Commission supports your efforts in this direction. Indeed Italy is certainly not alone in this respect: many Member States are facing similar challenges.

I am sure that we will have many opportunities to discuss these issues during the Italian Presidency of the Council in the second half of this year.

Successful reforms will pay off both in terms of winning more funding from Horizon 2020 and in bringing more private research investment into the country.

And coming back to Horizon 2020: I have mentioned just some of the many opportunities that Horizon 2020 offers Italian researchers and innovators. But where should they begin?

Building on your experience in FP7 is a good way to start.

Italian researchers certainly seized every opportunity under the Seventh Framework Programme, which ended in 2013.

Italy ranks fourth among all Member States both in terms of the number of participations – nearly 11,500 - and the amount of funding received, nearly 3.5 billion euro.

Participants were most successful in the areas of Information and Communication Technologies; ERC and Marie Curie Actions; Health; Nanosciences, Materials and production technologies, and Transport, including aeronautics.

And if you need any further encouragement to take part, I leave you with 4 more reasons why Horizon is a good fit for Italy.

First, because Horizon 2020 will provide increased funding for research and innovation in areas where Italy was successful under the 7th Framework Programme, including Information and Communication Technologies, Health and the European Research Council.

Second, Horizon 2020 isn't just about the money. It can help you to develop strong and durable networks and give you access to new and fast-growing markets, often in high-tech sectors.

Third, as I mentioned, Horizon 2020 contains a very strong package of measures aimed at widening participation and supporting Member States that want to improve on their record under FP7. Ensure that there are synergies between the Structural and Investment Funds and Horizon 2020.

Fourth, Horizon 2020 also puts the emphasis on innovation and knowledge transfer. This will help Italy to address the need to increase cooperation between research, innovation and industry. This is certainly a challenge faced by many other Member States.

I am sure that you will be able to identify many other opportunities and many more reasons to participate in Horizon 2020.

Whatever your objective, you will be helping Italy to reach its full research and innovation potential.

So I am issuing you a call and a challenge today – find out how you can participate, and sign up!

Getting involved in Horizon 2020 will be good for you, good for Italy and good for Europe!

Thank you.

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