Writes Minister of State for Research and Innovation, Seán Sherlock T.D.
The key research and innovation priorities during the Irish Presidency are to achieve political agreement on the Horizon 2020 Programme, the next European Research Framework programme due to commence in 2014, and to make further progress on the achievement of the European Research Area.
We have been working hard with the Member States, the European Commission and the European Parliament to finalise agreement on Horizon 2020 during our Presidency and this work will continue right to the end of June.
It is a very complex process to reconcile the various interests of all the parties involved. However, I welcome the shared commitment among all the parties concerned in advancing these negotiations.
It is vital that we demonstrate to the citizens of the European Union that we are representing their interests efficiently and effectively. And it is essential, therefore, that we make progress as speedily as possible to ensure that there will be sufficient time to give effect to the necessary legislative procedures to implement Horizon 2020 from the start of 2014.An important feature, indeed an important innovation, of Horizon 2020 is the focus on addressing the major societal challenges - major concerns shared by citizens in Europe and elsewhere. A challenge-based approach will bring together resources and knowledge across different fields, technologies and disciplines, including social sciences and the humanities, to help address issues such as climate change, developing sustainable transport and mobility, making renewable energy more affordable, ensuring food safety and security, and coping with the challenge of an ageing population.
Research in these areas offers enormous opportunities for European citizens, researchers and entrepreneurs. The scale of the budget for Horizon 2020, some €70bn, is testament to the importance attached to continuing to invest in Europe’s science base.
The Irish Presidency has also focused hard on measures to progress the European Research Area (ERA). Europe needs a unified research area to attract talent and investment. Remaining gaps must therefore be addressed rapidly to create a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation.
Our aim was to focus attention on and secure substantial progress towards meeting the target set by the European Council in February 2011 to complete the European Research area by 2014.
As Presidency, we tabled a policy debate at the Competitiveness Council in February on the issue of better access to scientific information. We will continue to exchange views with the Parliament with a view to developing further the policy on open access to scientific information and its implementation in the European Union, and in particular in the context of Horizon 2020.
We also focused on how best to ensure coordinated public investment in research and innovation across Europe through Joint Programming. To this end, we hosted a major conference on the lessons from the experience to date of Joint Programming and the way forward.
Following on from this, I will Chair a policy debate today on joint programming at the May Competitiveness Council, which will be informed by the report of the Presidency conference.
Enhancing and focusing international cooperation in research and innovation is an essential, cross-cutting and integral part of the European Research Area. It plays a vital role in contributing to the quality of European research and the strengthening of the economic, industrial and technological competitiveness of Europe.
At the May Competitiveness Council, we are proposing Council conclusions to endorse the new strategy for developing international cooperation in research and innovation, as proposed in the Commission’s ERA Communication, and in the Communication from the Commission on “Enhancing and focusing international cooperation in research and innovation.”
We also hosted a key conference on how best to promote an open labour market for researchers. One of the core objectives of the European Research Area is to make Europe a more attractive location for researchers through better career opportunities. The Researchers and Career Mobility conference provided the opportunity to gauge progress in achieving these objectives and how to make further advances through the interaction of researchers and policy makers. Through interactive workshops and discussion fora, delegates developed practical initiatives to help Europe overcome the well-known barriers to mobility (between countries and/or employment sectors) and to improve the career prospects for researchers.
The conclusions of the conference will target measures that will help achieve the ERA objectives of better career opportunities for researchers.
During June, the Irish Presidency will host three major research conferences. The Week of Innovative Regions in Europe (WIRE) Conference 2013 will be held in Cork from 5-7 June. The WIRE Conference series is now recognised as a key element in facilitation of the European regional agenda.
EuroSME 2013 in Dublin on 11-12 June and will bring together hundreds of entrepreneurs, policymakers, SME support organisations from the private and the public sector, and other intermediary bodies that will provide their energy and ideas on how to improve the EU eco-system for innovative enterprises. Furthermore, it will introduce SME-specific measures in Horizon 2020 to this community.
The EuroNanoForum 2013 Nanotechnology Innovation: From research to commercialisation – the bridge to Horizon2020 conference will be held in Dublin from 18-20 June. The main focus of the conference will be the commercialisation of nanotechnology, exploiting its potential for new applications, pushing it from an enabling technology through to development and on to use in end products. With Horizon2020 beginning in 2014, the conference will be used to look at how nanotechnologies will fit into the new structure within the key priority areas of Excellent Science, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges.