Research and innovation policy have always been looking for ways to solve societal concerns, but using these challenges as a driving factor for developing research and innovation policy is a recent development. What has caused this development is a combination of factors:
- the fact that today's challenges are among the most complex and threatening ones mankind has faced;
- increasing demand from society to get 'value for public money' in terms of societal benefits;
- the threatened competitive position of Europe on the global stage which is forcing policy makers at the highest political level to reflect on new modes of stimulating sustainable growth;
- the continued fragmentation and lack of coordination in Europe across policy domains and policy levels which an approach based on grand challenges could help to address
Currently, the main EU programmes that support research and innovation are the 7th research Framework Programme (FP7) and the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme. The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has been established to bring together the knowledge triangle of research, education and innovation. In addition, the Structural Funds have committed substantial resources to support research and innovation at regional and national levels. However, all of these programmes and initiatives have differing objectives and modalities that can hamper the cross-cutting approaches needed to address societal challenges and which increases the complexity for participants.
This commitment enumerates a number of orientations for the next generation of EU funding instruments, and in particular for the Framework Programme, CIP, EIT:
- Stronger focus on societal challenges;
- Streamline funding instruments;
- Radically simplify access by shifting from a control-based to a trust-based system;
- Strengthening of the role of the ERC;
- EIT should set out a Strategic Innovation Agenda
- Easily accessible funding system for SMEs, building on Eurostars
The EU added value of these funding instruments is unquestionable. EU action in the domain of research and innovation is driven by the need to add a cross-border dimension to the national organisation of these policies to stimulate European wide cooperation, competition and mobility, with the aim to capitalise on synergies and complementarities, stimulate excellence or build critical mass.
Following the Innovation Union, the Commission Green Paper "From Challenges to Opportunities: towards a Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation Funding " COM (2011)48 proposes a Common Strategic Framework that would cover the current FP7, CIP and EIT in order to enable coherent support for research and innovation as well as simplify participation. It also sets outs strategic objectives for such a Common Strategic Framework as increasing excellence in the research base, tackling major societal challenges, and increasing levels of competitiveness.
The commitment touches upon three of the Union's funding instruments, i.e. the Framework Programme, CIP and EIT, and in particular the next generation of these instruments under a Common Strategic Frmaework in the next multiannual financial framework (MFF).
A Green Paper was published in February 2011 to seek stakeholder views by May 2011 on the overall objectives and priorities of a Common Strategic Framework for future EU research and innovation funding. Over 2000 responses were received from a wide range of stakeholders from across the EU and beyond. In parallel, a competition was held for the name of the new programme, with the winning name being announced as "Horizon 2020".
The Commission's proposals for the next Multi-annnual Financial Framework covering the EU budget for the period 2014-20 were presented on the 29 June 2011. They included a proposed increase in EU research and innovation funding in absolute terms, and as a share of the overall EU budget, with a proposed budget allocation for 2014-20 of €80 billion euro (figures in constant 2011 prices).
The Commission legislative proposals for Horizon 2020, the new framework programme for research and innovation, were adopted on 30 November 2011. The set of proposals cover the overall framework, the objectives and budget, the rules for participation and dissemination, the specific programme for implementation, and the activities under the Euratom Treaty. These proposals provide the basis for the negotiations in the European Parliament and Council.
Following the Decisions of the European Parliament and Council, the implementation of Horizon 2020 should start at the beginning of 2014.