A former Portuguese minister of science who sits on the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee, Maria da Graça Carvalho worked as principal advisor to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on science and research issues from 2006 to 2009. She is the European Parliament's rapporteur on the proposed research programme for 2014-2020, called 'Horizon 2020'. She spoke to EurActiv’s Jeremy Fleming in Brussels.
How confident are you that Horizon 2020 can survive the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations intact?
We have to wait for the negotiations to take place. The added value of European research and innovation framework programmes is widely recognised and hopefully those countries with a reputation for academic excellence will support an adequate budget for Horizon 2020.
What seems to be the key political issues underlying the negotiations, and how well do you think Horizon can fare in this process?
The European institutions have to act according to their political decisions. Research and innovation is on top of the political agenda and the dedicated budget available is crucial for making those goals happen.
What role or stance will the EP assume in the negotiations?
The Parliament has called for €100 billion for Horizon 2020. Nevertheless, the Parliament is one of the three partners of this negotiation. In my opinion the Commission’s proposal (€80 billion) is the absolute minimum budget necessary to achieve Horizon 2020’s objectives.
By when do you believe that the MFF will be settled? Are the other big political issues currently at play (banking union/fiscal union/monetary union) obstructing the MFF negotiations or snagging them up?
On the 22 and 23 November the Council will present its position on the MFF. Then the negotiations with the Commission and Parliament will start. It is hoped that the final budget of Horizon 2020 will be decided before spring 2013. In my opinion the MFF negotiations are independent from the other issues such as the Banking Union.
Under Horizon 2020, will more money be available for SMEs?
The budget dedicated for SMEs will depend on the final figures of Horizon 2020. Nevertheless, the Commission is aiming at 15% of the budget available for the total combined budget of priorities of "Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies" and "Societal challenges" going to SMEs.
How will the new system scrap bureaucracy in applications for funding?
The Commission proposal presents a very significant number of simplification measures that will lead to less bureaucracy and reduced time to grant.
How do the KETs fit into Horizon?
Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) play a central role in the Industrial Leadership pillar. Horizon 2020 governance is designed so that synergies between pillars are fully exploited. This coordination is of most importance in the specific case of KETs that will be essential for better addressing the identified societal challenges.
What difference will the new architecture make on innovation?
Horizon 2020 is the first European programme that sets a common framework for research and innovation. This integrative approach of funding the whole innovation cycle will help bridging the “valley of death” and will lead to the creation of more innovative products, companies and jobs.
What overall means and instruments do you suggest for making innovation a priority in Europe?
One of the instruments that I suggest in my report – Specific Programme Implementing Horizon 2020 – is the creation “Innovation Vouchers”. These vouchers could be used by SMEs to work individually or with one or more research performers.
In particular, in these times of budgetary constraints, how can a critical mass of financial resources still be guaranteed for funding innovation? And how should these best be distributed?
European programmes act as a catalyst by pooling resources and creating economies of scale and other positive trans-boundary and spill-over effects. The European budget is an investment, which generates more investment from public or private sources. Banks and venture capital markets have a part to play in an environment driven by the search for new and profitable investment opportunities.