Lucy Parnall – European Strategy and Development Manager, AHRC
Last Friday was the UK Launch Event for Horizon2020 – the new programme of European Commission Funding that will run from 2014 – 2020. The event was very upbeat and positive. Research and innovation is the only area to receive an increase in funding when overall budgets fell, and through some tough negotiations the Commission are proud that the principle of excellence was maintained, significant simplification agreed, and a move to societal challenges achieved.
Robert -Jan Smits, Director General DG Research and Innovation gave an engaging overview of Horizon2020 (click on the picture below to access all the presentations from the launch). Both he and Vicky Ford MEP (in presentations and Q&A) gave some insight into the work that went into agreeing Horizon2020. The commission did consult widely on its development and it’s been years of effort to get to this point, with BIS in the UK doing an excellent job of consulting Research Councils etc to input into this process.
The place of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) was also discussed, an aim of Horizon 2020 is to embed SSH across all societal challenges, Robert-Jan Smits stated “SSH is crucial” but like national multi and inter disciplinary programmes it’s a challenge to achieve and requires a change in mentality. The Commission will also have to “learn by doing”, so we will have to see how this develops (we will be doing a post on SSH embedding shortly).
Lots of the simplification measures are designed to help SME’s engage with Horizon 2020 funding and this was mentioned frequently. Horizon 2020 is a programme for Research and Innovation, and the latter definitely has more emphasis than in previous Framework programmes. The two presentations by Business both gave an interesting perspectives and also demonstrated that lots of the principles of international collaborations are cross sectoral – for example picking excellent partners and defining clear roles. Technology Strategy Board (TSB) are providing a lot of support for SMEs to engage with the new work programmes.
Some issues were discussed, there is significant concern that there will be huge demand for this funding; The Commission want to make sure people are thinking strategically about likely success before submitting. Making sure you fit the call, ensuring excellent collaborators and having a coherent project where all mentioned. The Commission are aiming to publish two year work programmes to give people more time to prepare and consider their collaborations and projects before submitting. It was also acknowledged that whilst simplification has been achieved, it is still a substantial undertaking – as ever these things are always a balance and the European Commission needs to ensure public money is funding the best projects possible.
The event created a positive feeling of international collaboration – many speakers acknowledged that the value and benefit of the funding isn’t the money, but the networks you establish and the new knowledge you create as a result. All the presentations were very interesting and are available at the UK Horizon 2020 website (click the picture above to access).