Europe in bid to tie up €80bn plan for research
Irish researchers and innovators are well placed to profit from the EU Horizon 2020 programme
You could call it a case of pretty good timing. Ireland is hosting the presidency of the council of the European Union for six months.
And those six months will also be a critical period for finalising Horizon 2020, the upcoming framework programme for research and innovation in Europe.
It’s estimated that up to €80 billion could go into the funding pot for Horizon 2020, which is due to start in 2014 when the current Framework Programme Seven (FP7) ends, and it is expected to run to 2020. So where does Ireland stand?
Success to date
Projects funded under European framework programmes often involve collaboration between researchers and companies across various countries. Ireland has been successful so far under FP7, which still has another year to go, says Dr Imelda Lambkin, national director of Ireland’s national support network for FP7.
“We have just passed €480 million coming into Ireland from FP7,” she says, adding that she expects researchers and companies in Ireland to hit a target of €600 million in funding awards under FP7 by the end of 2013.
About a quarter of the funding in Ireland so far has gone to companies, and Horizon 2020 could hold even greater potential for small to medium enterprises here, according to Dr Lambkin, who is based at Enterprise Ireland.
Horizon 2020 is broader than FP7, explains Prof Anita Maguire, vice-president for research and innovation at University College Cork and a member of the Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (ACSTI), which provides policy advice to the Government.
She describes how Horizon 2020 not only continues the framework programme, but it adds other elements, such as the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme.
“These are going to be all brought together into Horizon 2020 with a view to strengthening research and innovation across the whole European community,” she says.
The programme will be built across the areas of “excellent science, competitive industry and better society” she adds, and it identifies various grand societal challenges to be tackled, including health and demographic change, food security, climate change and efficient energy use.
In 2012, a national research prioritisation exercise in Ireland outlined priority areas for investment in public funding for science, technology and innovation, and Prof Maguire comments that they fit well with the grand challenges set out in Horizon 2020.
“The align well with the prioritisation areas identified in Ireland,” she says.
“And the next six months will be absolutely critical, because the details of the Horizon 2020 programme are becoming more concrete.”
Potential for Ireland
The Irish presidency is timely for negotiations on those finer details, according to Seán Sherlock, Minister of State for Research and Innovation.
“The package of measures under Horizon 2020 will be co-decided between three institutions – the European Council of Research Ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament,” he explains. “And I am hopeful that we will sign off on Horizon 2020 within the lifetime of the Irish presidency.”