Horizon 2020 plays a significant part in developing the research and innovation capacity of the European community, as well as of the individual member states. We have already witnessed the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP7) effectively boost excellent science, strengthening Europe's industrial competitiveness, contributing to job creation and growth and addressing societal challenges. At the University of Copenhagen and Universities Denmark, we expect the same from Horizon 2020 and the 9th Framework Programme (FP9).
It is important to set ambitious goals for investment in research and innovation. Today’s investments will drive economic growth and job creation in Europe tomorrow and in the years to come. Yet, across Europe, we have seen national commitments to investments in research and innovation dwindle. Similarly, Horizon 2020’s budget was cut in order to finance the European Fund for Strategic Investments.
The European community needs to raise the bar for research investments. If Europe cannot compete on knowledge and innovation, it will greatly diminish our competitiveness. But we also need to make sound investments. This means prioritising excellent research in all pillars of Horizon 2020, as well as in the next Framework Programme. Furthermore, special focus should be given to high-quality research in activities meant to boost public-private collaboration and innovation.
With Horizon 2020, we have seen a funding gap arise between the fundamental research funded by the European Research Council (ERC) (pillar 1) and the innovation-oriented research funded in “Industrial Leadership” (pillar 2) and “Societal Challenges” (pillar 3). Horizon 2020 has focused on activities close to the market. While this is an important area, the funding gap could expose Europe to the risk of missing out on game-changing innovations and the possibility to create new value chains and solve societal challenges. FP9 needs to increase focus on excellent research in the second and third pillars to reap the full benefit of activities funded by the ERC.
In Denmark, several of the large research-intensive companies have called for more public funding for university research. They acknowledge that the ground-breaking discoveries and highly-skilled researchers developed at universities are essential for the innovation activities of private companies. The smaller businesses have come to the same conclusions. They also look to collaborate with the best and most innovative research environments in the world.
We already have excellent research environments across the entire EU. If we want businesses to look for these research opportunities in Europe, we should nourish, learn and benefit from these environments. Investments in excellent fundamental research should not be seen as expenditures, but as an investment for the future.
By Thomas Bjørnholm
Thomas Bjørnholm is the Prorector of the University of Copenhagen, Chairman of the Universities Denmark Committee on European Research and Innovation and member of the EUA Research Policy Working Group.
The University of Copenhagen participated in the 2016 EUA member consultation on Horizon 2020. To see the survey findings, please click here.
Photo © University of Copenhagen