The EU’s plan to change how it funds research

Posted on February 10, 2011 by

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The EU commission is planning to change how it funds research and innovation, bringing what are currently lots of programmes and initiatives into a single system with the plan of it being more joined-up, streamlined and easier to navigate; all of which they hope will increase research and innovation across the EU. They published a green paper yesterday From Challanges to Opportunities: Towards a Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation funding which lays out all their proposals and are consulting on it.

Background

The EU Commission funds research and innovation across the EU in several ways, including through the Framework Programme. Currently, framework programme 7 has a budget of 53.3 billion euro. There’s a nice summary of the programmes active at the moment on page 3 of the green paper here.

The Innovation Union Scoreboard 2010 showed that the EU is doing less research and innovation than some of its competitors:

EU-27 R&D intensity in 2009 was 2.01 % GDP, compared to 2.77 % in US (2008) and 3.44 % in JP (2007).

This is bad because research and innovation underpin business and economic success. (check out Simon’s blog about the innovation scoreboard here, the UK is down as an “Innovation follower”)

In the Europe 2020 strategy, the European Union set itself an objective to increase spending on R&D to reach 3 % GDP by 2020. And in their recent Budget Review, the EU proposed there should be a Common Strategic Framework, ensuring all the EU activity in research and innovation works together efficiently.

So what does the green paper say?

It is designed to kick off a debate to identify what the key issues are that should be taken into account as the EU designs the new programmes they will use to fund research and innovation.

The EU is planning to have a design for these new programmes by June 2011 and adopt them by the end of 2011.

They want the EU to stay competitive in research and innovation. They consider the pressures of the current economic conditions and the potential of joining up research activity across the EU:

At a time of severely constrained public budgets, the most needs to be made out of every euro. Public research and innovation funding in Europe is primarily organised at the national level. Despite some progress, national and regional governments still largely work according to their separate strategies. This leads to costly duplication and fragmentation. EU level actions provide the opportunity to generate greater efficiencies and impact.

EU programmes should leverage private investment and make Europe a more attractive investment location.

An integration of policies and EU funding from  research to market (as in the European Innovation Partnerships) will make Europe better at turning knowledge into innovation. The provision of services to support innovation processes beyond technological innovation will help seizing market opportunities for innovative solutions.

They have evaluated the current systems of funding research and identified problems. It is highly complex, there is duplication, limited participation etc. These are summarised on page 5 & 6 of the green paper.

The green paper proposes a new system, a Common Strategic Framework:

This would cover all relevant EU  research and innovation funding currently provided through FP7 and CIP and EU innovation initiatives such as the EIT on the basis of coherent goals and shared strategic objectives.

The plan is that this new system will:

focus on addressing societal challenges, encouraging the competitiveness of Europe’s industries and the  excellence of its scientific and technological base.

and it will address some of the problems we have at the moment, the benefits will include:

  • it will be more attractive and easy to access for participants
  • it will be a one stop shop for providing advice and support to participants
  • a simpler and more efficient structure will be streamlined and simpler to administrate

The green paper then asks  a series of questions about:

  • how this single Common Strategic Framework might look
  • how these new structures can better ensure that the EU funds research which addresses societal challenges
  • how the EU can be more competitive by working better with business, particularly SMEs (Small Medium Enterprises), using financial awards and purchasing power to drive innovation.
  • how the European Research Area can be developed and work better to develop world-class excellence

What next?

The EU have set up a public consultation website here and they are consulting until 20 May 2011. There are a number of targeted consultations on specific areas, including the European Research Area, which will feed into this.

Now’s the time to feed in. The results of all the consultations will be out on 20 June 2011 and the formal legislative proposals for the new-look Common Strategic Framework for the EU research and innovation will be out by the end of 2011.

And the Commission holding a competition to find the most inspiring name for the new common framework, launching in the next few weeks.

Check out Simon’s blog for some reflection on what all this means; EU plants green shoots of recovery.

And you can read Maire Geoghegan-Quinn’s, EU commissioner for research, own blog about these plans here.

There’s a nice summary in Times Higher Education, Europe plans to deliver scholars from red tape on what this means for researchers:

This central funding pool – the Common Strategic Framework – will allow researchers to make just one application for funding from all streams, and successful applicants will face just one accounting system when they receive a grant.

There’s also a nice post on the Royal Society’s blog Fewer Eurocrats, more research, greater impact, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn spoke there about her plans, which gives some background on where the UK fits within EU science and innovation including the fact:

Recently released figures from the European Research Council show that UK universities are incredibly successful at attracting researchers and grants, receiving nearly 20% of awards from the Council in 2010.

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