Education minister Jürgen Ligi has called for European Union research funds to be distributed more fairly to help research and development and to avoid “damaging” countries' competitiveness.
Ligi was speaking at a Competitive Council seminar in Brussels, organized by the Estonian Research Council, dedicated to finding solutions to reduce the innovation divide between European countries.
Ministers, representatives of the European Commission and members of the European Parliament were discussing Horizon 2020, a research and innovation program which can provide 80 billion euros worth of funding until 2020.
But the program has drawn criticism from politicians who have called it “inflexible” and said it takes a “top to bottom” approach, making it more suitable for bigger organizations to apply for funding than smaller start-up companies.
This, they said, is hindering competitiveness especially in the new and smaller EU member states.
Ligi said that smaller companies, universities and research institutions should get more help rather than having most of the money going to “certain regions”.
"We cannot be satisfied with the situation where most of the European Union’s research, development and innovation financing goes to certain regions," he said. "Every country must do its homework and use money from structural funds skilfully for research and development. An increase in the innovation divide between countries damages the competitiveness of Europe and hinders the use of its full potential."
Estonian MEP Marju Lauristin added that both European and national innovation strategies must be more flexible in terms of their subject matters to support new technology sectors and market solutions.
The seminar, held on May 28, was organized by the Ministry of Education and Research, and Estonian members of European Parliament alongside the Estonian Research Council.
Editor: H. Wright, M. Oll