The current European Union research & innovation programmes and related funding schemes will end in 2013 and many stakeholders are wondering what to expect afterwards.
The European Commission (EC) has already decided to combine the current Framework Programme with the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology into a single Common Strategic Framework (CSF) for Research and Innovation. This new programme has been named Horizon 2020.
The implementation of the upcoming Horizon 2020 for Research and Innovation will be of crucial importance in defining the future funding environment of EGI and ensuring its sustainability.
The current budget of €55 billion, provided during the 2007–2013 programme for research and innovation, is likely to increase to €80 billion in 2014–20, which represents a sharp 46% increase. This substantial raise can be considered as a big success and a vote of confidence, especially since budgets in other areas will either shrink or remain flat.
Horizon 2020 will move away from the non-cohesive priorities defined in the various EC programmes and initiatives to a set of common objectives based on the Europe 2020 strategy and the related Digital Agenda for Europe and Innovation Union initiatives. Horizon 2020 will be based on three main blocks:
excellence in science base;
tackling societal challenges and
creating industrial leadership and competitive frameworks.
The EC is committed to allowing more openness and flexibility in Horizon 2020, less prescriptive calls and better use of bottom-up initiatives. Horizon 2020 will allow a simpler funding landscape for research and innovation with common rules and funding schemes, a single audit approach and shorter negotiation and selection phases.
Through Horizon 2020, e-Infrastructures are seen as critical for e-science and open access to scientific data, providing added European value. Therefore, continuous support in upgrading e-Infrastructures and further federation of national efforts is needed in order to enable knowledge and innovation for research infrastructures hence fostering the development of genuine pan-European infrastructures.
The most important aspect of e-Infrastructure in the years to come is the development of innovative services, digital curation, open access, interoperability and a stronger user-centric approach.
Some of the areas that are identified as a critical include:
Improving the relationship between users and service providers;
Addressing the underdevelopment of the data layer of e-Infrastructures;
Reducing the distance between Research Infrastructures and e-Infrastructures;
Addressing the lack of awareness for the fundamental role of data and interoperability;
Leveraging activities and services beyond research and including communication, education and training as part of all e-Infrastructures initiatives;
Enhancing the dialogue with industry (especially SMEs) to foster knowledge and technology transfer, both as a supplier and as user;
Combining top-down, policy-driven initiatives with a bottom–up approach to identify innovation opportunities, new requirements and new communities;
Broaden the role of e-Infrastructures beyond research to other areas, e.g. transport, government, energy and health;
Tackle environmental ICT issues.
The next steps for the Horizon 2020 will be the publication of the final version of the Commission proposal, which should be ready by the end of 2011, followed by relevant legislative decisions by the Council and European Parliament during 2012 and 2013. The first call for proposals is expected to appear in autumn 2013 with Horizon 2020 officially starting from 2014.
Key references to understand Horizon 2020 and what it entails: