Two EU Commissioners and research and innovation ministers from across the EU have gathered in Copenhagen for two days of intensive discussions and workshops that will pave the way for the world’s largest research programme, Horizon 2020, with a proposed budget of EUR 80 billion.
On the background of an ambitious proposal from Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the ministers have discussed how to ensure more simplified access to funding and less bureaucracy than in the preceding research programmes. And not least how to better transform research and innovation to growth in Europe.
“Faced with economic crisis and extensive unemployment, especially among young Europeans, it can be difficult to focus on the horizon, but we must remember than this programme is not only a matter of research and innovation, but about creating future jobs for those same young people,” says Danish Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education Morten Østergaard, who is leading negotiations on Horizon 2020 during the Danish Presidency.
And he states that he is very satisfied with the results of the two days in the Bella Center in Copenhagen.
“These days have been a fruitful and promising beginning to the makings of what will not only be the world’s largest, but also strongest research programme. I get the impression that there is strong support for the ambitious programme and that the way out of European crises is paved with research and innovation,” he says.
Discussions have also revealed, however, that the ground has been prepared for intense negotiations during early 2012 if agreement on the programme’s content is to be reached by May at the latest.
“We must find a balance and result that every country can support without compromising the demand for excellence in research. At the same time we must keep focus on the great societal challenges – like climate and demographic changes – that are the underlying basis for Horizon 2020 and a bit of a paradigm shift from previous programmes,” says Morten Østergaard.
The higher education minister states that simplification was widely discussed.
“We must also make a radical change regarding the bureaucracy that has prevented businesses for many years from becoming part of the EU research programmes. One of Europe’s greatest challenges is not the quality of the research, but transforming it into innovation and jobs,” says Morten Østergaard.
The ministers will gather again at the Official Council meeting in Brussels on 21 February. Furthermore, an unofficial seminar has been planned with the European Parliament before agreement ideally will be reached at the Council meeting on 31 May.
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