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Research ministers: Simplify funding, make research and innovation popular

Family photo with baby: Reps had her youngest daughter along.
Family photo with baby: Reps had her youngest daughter along. Source: (Arno Mikkor)

The EU’s research ministers discussed on Tuesday how the impact and value of European research and innovation could be increased. It was important to see research and innovation as necessary investments in Europe’s future competitiveness, the ministers agreed.

Minister for Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center), who chaired the meeting, said that the issue couldn’t be discussed without looking at the budget, and that again reflected political priorities.

“We cannot continue with business as usual if we want to stay competitive in the global market. To achieve a budget jump in research and innovation in Europe, we have to show people, companies, and our colleagues negotiating the budget the strong positive impact that excellent research has on the economy and society,” Reps said.

The impact of research and innovation at both the EU and national levels was discussed in the meeting. The roundtable focused on the questions how to build a stronger case for investing more in research and innovation, and what needs to be improved in the next framework programme to get better results.

The European commissioner for research, science, and innovation, Carlos Moedas, said that it was time to make it all “inspirational”, and to concentrate more on people. “We have been concentrating on the process of research and innovation, but not looked enough at the person, the innovators. We should look more at people and get them around ideas and missions. Missions that people understand and relate to and people on the streets feel proud of,” Moedas said.

EU research funding needs to be improved

The ministers also agreed that the way the EU funds research needs to be improved, and that the system of partnerships for research and innovation needs to become more coherent and open.

“We all understand that research partnerships are important. At the same time, the present system of partnerships is so complicated and fragmented that without help from professional consultants, it is very hard to understand it,” Reps said. The landscape of research funding needed to improve, and investments that turned out to be valuable and had an important impact on society and the economy needed to be properly presented.

Research partnerships across a range of national and international structures were discussed as well, with director of the Central European Research Infrastructure Consortium (CERIC-ERIC), Jana Kolar, introducing the advantages and shortcomings of the research partnership system, based on her experience with joint programming initiatives at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). Professor Luc Soete of Maastricht University described the present funding situation, and talked about ways the system could be improved.

In the discussion that followed, the ministers found that partnerships have to be approached more strategically, resources and activities have to be based on specific goals, and the number of different initiatives has to be reduced.

The impact and value of research will also be the focus of the conference “European Research Excellence: Impact and Value for Society” on Oct. 12 in Tallinn, also part of Estonia’s EU council presidency. The conference will aim to produce a call to action with specific steps for the union to move towards increased impact of research, and increasing the societal value of research done in Europe.

Editor: Dario Cavegn


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