Informal Meeting of Ministers in Vienna: Start of Substantive Negotiations on HORIZON EUROPE
At the Informal Meeting of the Council Competitiveness (Research) on 17 July 2018 in Vienna, Ministers requested to be more strongly included in planning the implementation of HORIZON EUROPE. They claimed this was necessary also because many measures of HORIZON EUROPE influence the national research landscape in the Member States and because important elements of Horizon Europe, such as the areas for R&I (research and innovation) missions or for large partnership initiatives, are not part of the Commission’s Proposal. Details concerning the co-design process between the Member States and the European Commission to govern the strategic planning of the implementation of Horizon Europe shall be elaborated in the coming weeks. The Ministers agreed that Europe could only advance its significance in research and innovation together.
The Meeting of Ministers of EU and EFTA countries responsible for research with the Commissioner of the European Union responsible for research, science and innovation, Carlos Moedas, took place on 17 July 2018 and was chaired by Austrian Federal Minister of Science and Research Heinz Faßmann. 20 delegations were represented at political level at this meeting. The presence of a large number of ministers underlined the importance attached to the meeting: It was the first meeting of research ministers after the proposal for HORIZON EUROPE, the next EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, had been presented on 7 June 2018.
"It is gratifying to see that with the new Financial Framework, the European Commission is putting a clear focus on research and innovation. In addition, synergies between individual programmes should be used more strongly. This increases the importance of research and innovation further,” Science Minister Heinz Faßmann underlined. “With ‘Horizon Europe’, the most ambitious funding programme for research and innovation so far has been proposed. What is new is that for those areas that affect our daily lives, the Framework Programme should pursue new strategies in order to deliver visible results more quickly. We would like to advance the negotiations on ‘Horizon Europe’ as far as possible during our EU Presidency.”
The overall structure of the programme as well as the priority given to R&I with an increased budget in the next Multiannual Financial Framework was clearly supported by all delegations.
Most delegations approved of the idea of establishing research and innovation missions in principle. A broad majority supported the focus on achieving concrete results that are perceptible for the population, as well as the broad and systemic approach required for this purpose when selecting funding instruments and projects. However, many Ministers found the concept still incomplete. According to the delegations, many questions still remain to be clarified with regard to the selection and implementation of missions.
The situation with the European Innovation Council is similar. There was widespread support for the idea of increasingly funding breakthrough and transformative innovations. When discussing in detail, the consultations in Vienna showed that assessments still differ with regard to how innovation funding should be designed in concrete terms in the future Framework Programme.
Ministers very clearly supported the continuation of the European Research Council for funding excellent basic research, as proposed by the European Commission. Measures for strengthening human resources in research, the so-called Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions, also received widespread support. Questions were raised as to a stronger budgetary weighting for both these activities, as well as with regard to research funding for industry-related technologies.
Measures to counteract the innovation divide in Europe were among the most frequently raised topics. The proposed doubling of the budget for so-called “Widening Participation” instruments compared to Horizon 2020 was supported by many delegations. Furthermore, many delegations asked for more support to enlarge the networks of potential beneficiaries, and to increase openness and transparency throughout the framework programme.
The enhanced focus on synergies as proposed for Horizon Europe was strongly supported by most delegations, especially with regard to the Structural Funds. Ministers and Commissioner agreed that it will be crucial to ensure that rules in both Horizon Europe and other synergetic programmes allow for an effective combination of funds.
Furthermore, delegations agreed that on the basis of their experience of national reforms, an open, excellence-based and inclusive European Research Area should emerge. Poland and Sweden presented successful reforms in this context, such as for instance from the fields of higher education or “Open Innovation”.
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