EU’s €7bn R&D fund to generate 450,000 jobs

19 Jul 2011

The European Commission’s €7bn FP7 R&D fund launched today by Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is expected to generate 174,000 jobs in the short term and nearly 450,000 in the long term. It will also boost GDP by €80bn over 15 years.

Geoghegan-Quinn said EU research funding is now at the top of the political agenda and is at the centre of an Innovation Union strategy which will form the bedrock of Europe’s plans to compete against the US and China.

Grants will promote research to tackle the biggest societal challenges facing Europe and the world.

Universities, research organisations and industry will be among more than 16,000 funding recipients.

Special attention will be given to SMEs, including a package close to €1bn. There will also be a new EU Prize for Women Innovators whose work has been funded by FP7 or earlier programmes.

The majority of the “calls for proposals” will be published on 20 July.

“Today, Europe is again showing its commitment to putting research and innovation at the top of the political agenda for growth and jobs,” Geoghegan-Quinn said.

“EU-wide competition for these funds will bring Europe’s best researchers and innovators together to tackle the biggest issues of our time, such as energy, food security, climate change and our ageing population.

“The Commission is proposing a significant increase in research and innovation funding for our Horizon 2020 programme post-2013 and I want to show taxpayers already with the calls we are announcing today our determination to get the best value for every euro,” she said.

Main focus of research

The main focus of the calls is the integration of research with innovation to tackle societal challenges and create sustainable jobs and growth by giving Europe a lead in the key technology markets of the future.

This will be achieved by providing more support than ever before for activities that help bridge the gap between research and the market, for example by demonstrating that new technologies have commercial potential or can work on a sufficiently large scale to be industrially viable.

This market-linked approach is also central to the European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs), set up under the Innovation Union action plan. Each EIP, including the pilot on Active and Healthy Ageing, will be supported by FP7 projects.

In all, €220m of the €656m available for health research and €240m of the €1.3bn in funding for information and communication technology (ICT) will be allocated to work aimed at tackling the challenge of providing for an ageing population.

The rest of the ICT funding will go to key developments in network and service infrastructures, in nano-/micro-systems, photonics and robotics, in digital content and language technologies and for applications such as ICT for health and ICT for energy efficiency.

The European Research Council (ERC) will award close to €1.6bn to the best senior and young researchers working in Europe.

To help bridge the gap between frontier research results and commercialisation, a small-scale “Proof of Concept” initiative has been introduced. Another initiative is the new ‘ERC Synergy Grant’ to support a few small groups of researchers working together on the same project.

Around €900m in support for researchers’ mobility and careers will be provided through ‘Marie Curie Actions’ for around 10,000 highly-qualified researchers. This will include €20m for a pilot project to fund ‘European Industrial Doctorates’, to stimulate entrepreneurship and co-operation between universities, research institutions and companies.

The €265m reserved for environment research will help address major challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss or resource efficiency. 

In response to the increasing demand for safer, healthier food and sustainable bio-resources, the European Commission will invest more than €307m in building a strong bio-economy that will improve production methods, create new industries and provide jobs.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), recognised as vital for innovation, are given special incentives to participate. In addition to newly simplified rules, the investment package of almost €1bn for SMEs includes pilot schemes both within the health theme and through the European Investment Bank’s ‘Risk-Sharing Finance Facility for SMEs.’

Some €488m for nanotechnologies will focus on areas such as factories of the future, green cars and energy-efficient buildings.

Research and innovation for cleaner, safer and more efficient transport and mobility will get €313m.

Finally, the Commission sets aside €40m for the ‘Smart Cities initiative’ to help find more efficient ways to use energy and provide urban transport.

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

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