SOMMa releases a Position Paper contributing to the discussion on the future FP9

  • FP9 will be yet another stepping-stone for Europe’s future as an innovation and economic growth pole
  • Public consultations take place during the year 2018 to contribute to the design of the successor of H2020

Framework Programmes and Horizon 2020

The Framework Programmes (FPs) are funding plans created by the EU/EC to support research in the European Research Area, with objectives varying between different FPs. The FP ongoing during the 2014-2020 period is Horizon 2020 (abbreviated as H2020, or FP8), and focuses on innovation, on the faster delivery of resulting economic growth, and on the provision of outcome developments and solutions to end users.

A goal of H2020 is to ensure that Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation. Horizon 2020 is, to date, the largest EU Research and Innovation programme, with a total of €80 billion in investment over the 2014 to 2020 period, an investment also considered to be a tool in favour of sustainable and inclusive economic growth and job creation in the EU.

A hallmark of H2020 is the coupling of research and innovation. This helps it to achieve its goals with an emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and the tackling of societal challenges. Through H2020, the European Commission has also taken steps towards promoting and implementing Open Science, aiming at accomplishing a transparent, open and inclusive R+D+i and education landscape.

Edifice Berlaymont, location of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.
Edifice Berlaymont, location of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.

The way to ensure success of the future FP9, is to build on top of previous experience and achievements, and to allow excellent research to flourish by implementing effective supportive policies. This entails, among other things, significantly increasing the budget for groundbreaking research in the forthcoming framework programme.

During the year 2018, the European Commission (EC) is consulting different stakeholders in order to support the elaboration of a comprehensive proposal for the design of the post-Horizon 2020 Framework programmes.

SOMMa recommendations:

SOMMa, in line with its mission and objectives, is a strong supporter of the European Framework Programmes for R&D. SOMMa members are particularly active and successful in H2020, substantially contribute to the European excellence in research, participate in numerous international initiatives, and hold relevant positions in important scientific societies, committees, platforms and networks, which together allow for the mobilisation of additional stakeholders. Thus, the alliance can offer valuable insights for the design of the upcoming FP9.  

The recommendations proposed by SOMMa have been included into a position paper describing suggestions and recommendations which are generally outlined next.

From the point of view of budget allocation, SOMMa encourages decision makers to seriously consider the recommendations of the Independent High-Level Group Chaired by Pascal Lamy and endorse an FP9 budget that nearly doubles the H2020 budget, to up to 150 Billion Euros. SOMMa also strongly supports the ERC Scientific Council in its recommendation for a minimum annual budget allocation for the ERC of 4 Billion Euros.

As well, SOMMa recommends doubling the budget of Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions with particular emphasis on Individual Fellowships and Innovative Training Networks. A budget increase for Future and Emerging Technologies programmes, FET Open and FET Proactive, is also proposed, in order to enhance these initiatives, as tools to boost innovative research and disruptive technologies.

Regarding project evaluation, SOMMa calls on the EC to alleviate a certain existing bias towards favouring short-term impact projects. Failing to do so potentially impairs the funding of basic research, on which applied research ultimately lays its foundations. SOMMa asks for a stronger commitment towards frontier research and bottom-up calls, covering the whole Technology Readiness Level spectrum, including calls under Societal Challenges.

Excellence should be the key evaluation criterion to allocate budgets, as it is the strongest indicator for impactful research. SOMMa also urges the EC to create a broader definition of impact, and to use a diversity of metrics to evaluate more adequately a project’s potential and outcomes.

An additional aspect that has the potential to release research resources, in the form of research labour, would be to favour the wider implementation of two-stage project application calls, which SOMMa strongly encourages. If successfully implemented, this would allow numerous researchers to decrease time spent applying for projects, allowing them to turn more of their efforts towards research itself.

Finally, SOMMa strongly supports the policy that European framework programmes should not substitute national or regional investment. Relatedly, measures should be adopted to incentivise R&I investment from Member States (MS) budgets aiming at least to investment ratios of 3% of GDP. This, both necessary and ambitious, is far from the current state of things, regarding research investment in most EU states.

The proposals and suggestions developed over the Position Paper aim at making FP9 a pivotal instrument to expand the frontiers of knowledge, European leadership and competitiveness via research and innovation (R&I).

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Edifice Berlamont picture downloaded and licensed from Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.