Research and innovation were the cornerstone of the development of Estonia's digital society, and greater investment in research in Europe was needed to see more of the same, Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) said in a speech to the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on Tuesday.
Reps introduced the main topics and goals of the Estonian EU council presidency in the field of research and innovation, and answered questions asked by MEPs. The central issue in the field of research in the EU is the Horizon 2020 research program, which is the basis of the union’s funding of research and innovation.
The results of the preliminary evaluation of the program and suggestions for its next steps are set to be discussed under the leadership of Estonia as the presiding country in the Council of the European Union.
Reps said that Estonia’s focus would be on finding new arguments why investment in research and innovation were needed. Even though member states have jointly set a goal of achieving a research investment rate of 3 percent of their gross domestic product, this has yet to be achieved.
The funding of research and innovation in the European Union as a whole makes up 2.03 percent of GDP, and numerous cuts have been made to the Horizon 2020 program. "Contributing to research is not an expense, but an investment into economic growth and the development of the society. It is a message which we need to stand for more powerfully during budget negotiations as well as in the wider society," Reps said in her speech to the committee.
Estonia's goal was to also make the Horizon program simpler and more transparent, so that more researchers, research institutions, and businesses could be a part of it.
"The landscape of funding research in the European Union is too complicated at present. There are a lot of different measures, and familiarizing oneself with them requires a separate administrative resource as well as a network of contacts, the lack of which will be a hindrance particularly to smaller participants and newcomers," Reps said.
The ministers of research of the European Union are set to discuss these questions at an informal meeting in Tallinn on July 24 and 25.
Editor: Dario Cavegn