In the midst of austerity measures and budget cuts the EuropeanCommission prepares a leap forward by earmarking a stunning €80billion for research and innovation.
The Horizon 2020 proposal is centered around excellence, industryleadership and addressing societal challenges. For social sciencesand humanities there will no longer be a special programme.Robert-Jan Smits: “These disciplines should get out of their silo’sand step up their efforts to tackle societal problems. This weekendI read that in The Netherlands one out of eight people over seventyyears have only one social contact a month and 15% of people over80 suffer from mental depression. Those are issues they need towork on.”
It is not often that you hear EU Commission officials admit thatthey are ‘obsessed with controls’, but director-general Robert-JanSmits (DG Research and Innovation) pleaded guilty during the recentparliamentary debate on future research and innovation policy ofthe EU.
Smits: “We want full support of the European Parliament for thisradical simplification, because we have altogether made rules fartoo complex. We have been obsessed by controls and obsessed byaudits, but we have not allowed researchers to do what they want todo: research.” According to Robert-Jan Smits it is the real wish ofthe European Commission to move towards a ’trust based approach’.The question remains: will the European Parliament and the MemberStates follow suit.
The Horizon 2020-package is the successor of the EuropeanFramework Programme (FP7). Since it is part of the discussion onthe broader multi annual EU-budget it will be discussed in thatcontext during the coming months. Smits: “We cannot build thefuture of Europe on just austerity measures, we needgrowth-enhancing measures. Thus the area of innovation and researchgets a substantial budget increase: €80 billion in total for theperiod 2014-2020, that is an increase of 46% compared to thecurrent programme period.”