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Horizon 2020 - lift-off for EU research funding

Posted by EUbusiness at 05 December 2013, 14:15 CET |

Two major long-term EU funding programmes with important implications for growth and jobs got the go-ahead this week, with ministers adopting a new EU framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020, as well as Erasmus+ for education, training, youth and sport.

Horizon 2020 is a new type of research programme for the EU, designed to deliver results that make a difference to people's lives.

It is built on three key pillars – Excellent Science, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges - and it will fund all types of activities, from frontier science to close-to-market innovation.

The programme brings different branches of EU funding for research and innovation - currently the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) - under one roof for the first time.

This will provide a single set of rules and is set to slash red tape.

The Commission also says the overarching goal of the new programme is a "more coherent, simpler programme that will make it easier to participate, especially for smaller research organisations and small businesses". 

Horizon 2020 has three general objectives:

"Excellent science" - to strengthen the EU's position as a world leader in science, through grants to top-level individual researchers, investments in future and emerging technologies, training for researchers as well as support to research infrastructures,

"Industrial leadership" - to make the EU more attractive for investments in key industrial technologies (such as ICT, nanotechnology, biotechnology and space), access to risk finance and through support to innovative SMEs,

and "Societal challenges" - focusing on major issues affecting the lives of EU citizens, in areas like health, food security, energy, transport, climate action, inclusive societies and freedom and security.

Significantly, Horizon 2020 includes measures to widen the group of researchers who take part in the programme, for instance by attracting new applicants or promoting networking of research institutions. 

Less red tape is also an important feature, and the Commission says simplification was one of its central goals when designing Horizon 2020. 

This should also play a part in encouraging greater involvement from smaller businesses, and it is expected that a minimum of 20% - that is, about EUR 8.65 billion, of the total combined budgets of the specific objective 'Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies' (LEITs) and the 'Societal Challenges' will be allotted to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). 

A specialised SMEs department, with its own budget, should ensure that the programme's calls for tenders are SME-friendly.

Public-private partnerships are also to be opened up to new members, so as to avoid building "closed clubs". And over EUR 400 million goes to "Science with and for society" measures strengthening science's role in society.

The most significant point, however, is probably that these funding programmes for the 2014–2020 financial period invest in research, education and youth, and so are a direct investment in Europe's future.

The work starts now. The Commission launches the first calls for funding under Horizon 2020 next week, on Monday 11 December. These calls are a huge opportunity for scientists and businesses across the EU and beyond. they should not be be missed.

Horizon 2020 background guide

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.