EU plans monster €80bn investment in R&D

30 Nov 2011

EU Innovation Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

In a move calculated to give Europe the edge in science and technology with the resulting jobs boost that will come from new industries, the EU plans to invest €80bn under its new Horizon 2020 programme.

“We need a new vision for European research and innovation in a dramatically changed economic environment,” Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said while announcing Horizon 2020. In recent weeks, Geoghegan-Quinn warned Europe is facing an innovation challenge.

“Horizon 2020 provides direct stimulus to the economy and secures our science and technology base and industrial competitiveness for the future, promising a smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive society.”

Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has put forward a Strategic Innovation Agenda for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which will receive €2.8bn of funding under Horizon 2020.

In parallel, vice-president Antonio Tajani has announced a complementary new programme to boost competitiveness and innovation in SMEs, with an additional budget of €2.5bn. The funding programmes run from 2014 to 2020.

Plan to drastically cut red tape

For the first time, Horizon 2020 brings together all EU research and innovation funding under a single programme. It focuses more than ever on turning scientific breakthroughs into innovative products and services that provide business opportunities and change people’s lives for the better.

At the same time, it aims to drastically cut red tape, with simplification of rules and procedures to attract more top researchers and a broader range of innovative businesses.

Horizon 2020 will focus funds on three key objectives. It will support the EU’s position as a world leader in science with a dedicated budget of €24.6bn, including an increase in funding of 77pc for the successful European Research Council (ERC).

It will help secure industrial leadership in innovation with a budget of €17.9bn. This includes a major investment of €13.7bn in key technologies, as well as greater access to capital and support for SMEs.

Finally, €31.7bn will go towards addressing major concerns shared by all Europeans, across six key themes: Health, demographic change and well-being; food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio-economy; secure, clean and efficient energy; smart, green and integrated transport; climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials; and inclusive, innovative and secure societies.

Private-sector investment will be leveraged

Under the plan, €3.5bn will be devoted to a scaled up and expanded use of financial instruments that leverage lending from private-sector financial institutions. These have been shown to be extremely effective at stimulating private investment in innovation that leads directly to growth and jobs. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will benefit from around €8.6bn, recognising their critical role in innovation.

Horizon 2020 will invest nearly €6bn in developing European industrial capabilities in Key Enabling Technologies (KETs). These include: photonics and micro- and nanoelectronics, nanotechnologies, advanced materials and advanced manufacturing and processing and biotechnology. Development of these technologies requires a multi-disciplinary, knowledge- and capital-intensive approach.

Under the commission proposal, €5.75bn (+21pc) will be allocated to the Marie Curie Actions, which has supported the training, mobility and skills development of more than 50 000 researchers since its launch in 1996.

As an integral part of Horizon 2020, the EIT will play an important role by bringing together excellent higher education institutions, research centres and businesses to create the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and to ensure the European ‘knowledge triangle’ is a match for the world’s best.

The commission has decided to significantly step up its support for the EIT by proposing a budget of €2.8bn for 2014-2020 (up from €309m since its launch in 2008).

The EIT is based on a pioneering concept of cross-border public-private-partnership hubs known as Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). Its three existing KICs, focused on sustainable energy (KIC InnoEnergy), climate change (Climate KIC) and information and communication society (EIT ICT Labs), will be expanded with six new ones in 2014-2020.

Funding for the European Research Council (ERC) will increase by 77pc to €13.2bn. The ERC supports the most talented and creative scientists to carry out frontier research of the highest quality in Europe, in a programme that is internationally recognised and respected.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years