Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A Comprehensive Approach

Today (9 February 2011), EU Commissioner for Research and Innovation Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (below) presented a Green Paper which proposes major changes to EU research and innovation funding that should make participation easier, increase scientific and economic impact and provide better value for money for EU taxpayers. The proposals are out for consultation until 20 May.

The changes, which could be introduced in the next EU budget after 2013, would bring together the current Framework Programme for research (FP7) and its successor, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP), and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

This proposed "Common Strategic Framework" (CSF) would create a coherent set of instruments along the whole "innovation chain" starting from basic research, culminating in bringing innovative products and services to market, and also supporting non-technological innovation, for example in design and marketing.

"These ideas are very much in line with current SusChem thinking both in terms of the continued emphasis on research and our strategic work programme on innovation along the value chain and in close cooperation with other related European Technology Platforms. The indicated simplification commitments are crucial to ensure increased private engagement and show confirmation of increased trust in public private collaborations," commented Ger Spork, Innovation Manager at Cefic and SusChem coordinator. SusChem intends to respond positively to the Green paper.

The Green Paper provides the basis for far-reaching simplification of procedures and rules. The changes aim to maximise the contribution of EU research and innovation funding to the Innovation Union and the Europe 2020 Strategy.

Some initial actions on simplification of the rules for participation were announced by Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn at the end of January, but the proposals in the Green paper go further and require co decision with other European Institutions.

At a press conference to launch the paper Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "Our aim is to maximise value from every euro the EU invests in research and innovation. By making our programmes more coherent and simpler, we will make life easier for researchers and innovators – especially SMEs - attract more applicants and get even better results."

She promised: "Rigidity replaced by flexibility, confusion replaced by consistency."

A video extract of the press conference is embedded at the end of this article.

Clear focus
The CSF keeps a clear focus on three mutually reinforcing objectives: giving the EU a world-beating science base; boosting competitiveness across the board; and tackling grand challenges such as climate change, resource efficiency, energy and food security, health and an ageing population.

It also makes EU funding more attractive and easier to access for participants, for example through a single entry point with common IT tools or a one-stop shop for providing advice and support to participants throughout the funding process. The CSF should allow a simpler and more streamlined set of funding instruments covering the full innovation chain, including basic research, applied research, collaboration between academia and industry and firm-level innovation.

There will be much simpler and more consistent procedures for accounting for the use of the funds received. This may involve, for example, greater use of lump sum payments.

Other ideas in the Green Paper include: further steps to pool Member States' national research funding; better links with cohesion funding; using EU funding to stimulate public procurement; more use of prizes; further strengthening the role of the European Research Council and of financial instruments such as the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF) and the loan guarantee and venture capital investments; and drawing up a set of performance indicators to measure the success of EU research and innovation funding.

Dedicated response
The Commission is initiating a widespread consultation on the Green Paper and has established a dedicated web page on the document to handle responses. The deadline for contributions is Friday 20 May 2011.

Responses can be made in a variety of ways. There is an online questionnaire, written submissions can be made (some of which may be published on the site), and an interactive blog has been initiated.

In addition events are planned to be held during the consultation period with the Commission planning to host a major event on June 10 after the close of the consultation to bring together and discuss the main outcomes.

These will be used to design the proposals, to be presented by the Commission by the end of 2011, for a legislative decision of the Council and Parliament on the Common Strategic Framework.

Name that CSF
However a new name for the proposals should be available by then as, in parallel, a competition for the name of the Common Strategic Framework is being organised. This open competition to find the most inspiring name for the CSF will be launched in the next few weeks with the winning entry announced at the June 10 conference. Got any suggestions?

GREEN PAPER "From Challenges to Opportunities: Towards a Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation funding."

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