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Horizon 2020: Rediscovering the 'European added value'

24 January, 2014 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

Horizon 2020: Rediscovering the 'European added value'
New innovation programme is more flexible, business-friendly

By Máire Geoghegan-Quinn
European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Horizon 2020 presents huge opportunities for Cyprus. With nearly 80 bln Euros in funding over seven years, it 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 a 30% increase in real terms on the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) 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, as well as growth and jobs.
For me, the two most important themes are simplification and coherence.
Simplification first: from the start of my mandate, 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 on research and innovation.
While the old programmes have 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 FP7 – 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, at every step of the journey from excellent fundamental research all the way to innovative products and services that we hope will conquer world markets.
Horizon 2020 will be there from lab, to factory, to market, with one of the biggest changes being the challenge-based approach.
This is because the challenges facing Europe - whether food and energy security, clean transport, public health or security – 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 crucial difference: making a bigger impact and getting better results from taxpayers' money by helping the best researchers work together irrespective of borders. However, we will be more demanding about the impacts that projects must have, and this will be one of the key criteria for selecting which proposals get funding.

GOOD FOR BUSINESS
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 Cypriot companies will take the bait.
Simplification will certainly help sell Horizon 2020 to businesses, as will the guiding ethos of support from “lab to market” which will offer private companies greater scope to get involved in close-to-market actions.
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 22 bln Euros of investments, with 8 bln 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.
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 Cyprus.
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.

SMART STRATEGIES
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.
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. 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.
These are just some of the myriad opportunities that Horizon 2020 offers to researchers and innovators in Cyprus. But where should they begin?
Building on your experience in FP7 is a good start.
Participants from Cyprus drew nearly 80 mln Euros of funding under the 7th Framework Programme. They have been most successful in the areas of information and communication technologies; European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, research for the benefit of SMEs, research infrastructures and transport, including aeronautics.
I also encourage you to seek to maximise opportunities in new areas such as the emerging energy sector, including solar and newly found natural gas reserves.
I know that the government of Cyprus has announced that a major effort will be put into research and innovation as a way to assist in exiting the financial crisis.
I encourage you in this important work and I welcome the establishment last September of the National Committee for Research, Innovation and Technological Development. I understand that this Committee has received a mandate from President Anastasiades to analyse the existing research and innovation governance system and come forward with recommendations for improving it. I look forward to seeing the results.
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.
These are just some of the very good reasons why I am confident that many more researchers, universities, businesses and innovators from Cyprus will participate in Horizon 2020.
Whatever your objective, you will be helping Cyprus to reach its full research and innovation potential while helping economic recovery.

(Excerpts from Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn’s speech at the launch of Horizon 2020 in Nicosia on Thursday, January 16)