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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]


European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Launch event for Horizon 2020 in Slovakia

Launch of Horizon 2020 / Bratislava

21 January 2014

Minister Čaplovič,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here today to officially launch Horizon 2020.

I hope that by the end of my speech I will have convinced you that Horizon 2020 presents huge opportunities for researchers and innovators in Slovakia.

[You will hear much more detailed information in the sessions today about the content of Horizon 2020, how to apply and how to participate in a project.]

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.

With nearly 80 billion Euro in funding 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 some 30 per cent more in real terms than the 7th Framework Programme for Research – will be invested as wisely and efficiently as possible.

Horizon 2020 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.

For me, the two most important themes running through Horizon 2020 are simplification and coherence.

Let me first talk about simplification. From the start of my mandate as European Commissioner, one of my top priorities has been 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 what counts, research and innovation.

Simplification applies across the whole programme.

While the previous generation of programmes had lots of different rules, Horizon 2020 applies the same rules everywhere - that means it is now much easier to apply and participate in projects.

Projects will be up and running in eight months – that means four months earlier than under the 7th Framework Programme – and there will be less paperwork and fewer audits.

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 under one roof, we can support you in a seamless and joined-up fashion, every step of the way from excellent fundamental research to innovative products and services. In other words, Horizon 2020 will be there from lab to factory to market.

You may already know that one of the biggest changes is Horizon 2020's challenge-based approach, focusing on the challenges we face rather than thinking in terms of specific scientific disciplines.

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 by a single Member State.

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 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.

Horizon 2020 is also less prescriptive about what projects need to do. However, it is 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 the answers to societal challenges and the innovation that is vital to our economy.

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

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 companies from Slovakia will take the bait!

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.

Public/private partnerships on innovative medicines; fuel cells and hydrogen; aeronautics; bio-based industries; and electronics – along with public/public partnerships in the areas of ageing population, poverty-related diseases, metrology research and SME support - are expected to mobilise up to around 22 billion Euro of investments, with 8 billion coming from the EU.

But we're not just focusing on the biggest companies. Horizon 2020 has been designed to be good for small and medium-sized companies too.

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 SME instrument and the new financing options in the form of risk-sharing (through guarantees) or risk finance (through loans and equity) to support innovative companies could be especially interesting for Slovakia, which has a very high concentration of SMEs compared to the EU average.

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.

I have been working closely with Johannes Hahn, the 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 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 be 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.

This will ensure complementarities and synergies between the Structural Funds and Horizon 2020.

Slovakia, of course, adopted its smart specialisation strategy document in November last year and I understand that the final version of its operation document – the Operational Programme – is expected shortly.

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 excellence demands as much.

But there are also a number of new measures to help open the programme to a wider range of participants, from all the Member States and from all the regions.

Most research and innovation indicators show that some countries, mainly in central, eastern and southern Europe, are not yet fully exploiting their full 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 initiative, will strengthen the scientific excellence and innovation capacities of emerging institutions.

I hope that Slovakia will take full advantage of these measures to widen participation and engage in partnership with established centres of research and innovation excellence across Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have only had time to mention just some of the myriad opportunities that Horizon 2020 offers to researchers and innovators in Slovakia. But how should they get started?

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

Participants from Slovakia drew down over 68 million Euro of funding under the 7th Framework Programme.

They have been most successful in the areas of information and communication technologies; nanosciences, materials and production technologies; in the fields of security, energy and health.

I encourage you to capitalise on this experience and build on your potential in these areas, while seeking to maximise opportunities in areas with good potential such as motor vehicles and construction, materials and metallurgy and, again, ICT.

I think that success in Horizon 2020 will rely on a number of factors, and many are in the hands of national authorities, universities and research centres and business.

So I give a similar message wherever I go in Europe: we need to do better on research and innovation!

We need to reform and improve national systems and we need to transform our industries and economies to create the growth and jobs that Europe so desperately needs.

This is what our European Research Area and Innovation Union policies are 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.

I would like to acknowledge the progress that Slovakia has made in recent years and the reforms undertaken by the Slovak authorities in the fields of research, education and innovation, putting these sectors firmly among the government’s priorities.

One good example is the initiative of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport to create eight science parks at six universities in order to improve cooperation between science institutions and the private sector. This is a weakness that was identified in the European Semester’s Country Specific Recommendations in 2013.

Overall, my message is simple: keep up the good work with the reforms in progress, perhaps keeping in mind two guiding principles that I’d like to suggest.

First, ensure rigorous monitoring of the effectiveness of new measures so that they can be constantly improved.

And second, take full advantage of the opportunities offered by Horizon 2020 and the European Research Area to help you pursue excellence and engage directly with the societal challenges that can turn Slovak scientific excellence into concrete growth opportunities.

I am convinced that successful reforms will pay off both in terms of winning more funding from Horizon 2020 at EU level, and in bringing more private research investment into the country.

In this way, Horizon 2020 can be your partner in your quest for competitiveness and growth.

And apart from the funding that is available – crucial though this is – Horizon 2020 will be a catalyst for exchanging ideas and innovation.

It will give you access to new and fast-growing markets, often in high-tech sectors, and it creates strong and durable networks.

For me, this is a significant part of the added-value of European funding - it enables you to perform research and innovation in Europe which would otherwise be impossible because of the very high costs and lack of critical mass.

Horizon 2020 also puts the emphasis on innovation and knowledge transfer. This will help Slovakia to increase the linkages and connections between research, innovation and industry – a tough challenge faced by many Member States.

These are just some of the very good reasons why I am confident that many more researchers, universities, businesses and innovators here will participate in Horizon 2020.

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

So I am issuing you a call and a challenge today. Don’t miss out: find out today how you can participate, and sign up!

Thank you.

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