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An important week for Europe

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard's speech at Ministerial conference on Horizon 2020 in Copenhagen 1 February 2012.

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An important week for Europe

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn; Ministers; distinguished guests.

It is a pleasure to welcome you to Copenhagen. And a pleasure to welcome you to this important Ministerial conference on Horizon 2020.

This is an important week for Europe! It is a week where Europe's challenges – both immediate and long-term – are at the top of the political agenda.

On Monday, the EU heads of state and government met in Brussels in the European Council where they discussed growth and employment policy – and not to mention reached an agreement on the Financial Pact. The main aim of the Financial Pact is to restore confidence in European economies. This is essential.

Responsibility breeds trust from the markets and is a prerequisite for renewed prosperity.

Monday also saw a conference in Brussels on the European Research Area. About how to create a real single market for researchers so that we can even better address the major challenges of our time through European cooperation.

Now more than ever, we need the best brains working together across borders.

And today we are gathered here in Copenhagen to discuss how we can put the largest collaborative research programme in the world together. But also how it could be strong and efficient. It is a programme that will be a crucial instrument in ensuring Europe's future.

This is a week of important discussions.

Current crisis and long-term challenges

It is no secret; Europe is faced with great challenges. Debt is high. Growth is low. Innovation is insufficient. And jobs all over Europe are being lost. That is the prevailing challenge of the day.

But there will be more challenges ahead. And tomorrow's challenges will not be easier. On the contrary.

We must solve cross-border challenges related to climate, energy, environment and security. And we are challenged by increasing global competition – from Asia and from new emerging markets.

It's a new world order.

We must improve our competitiveness.
We must be smarter than the rest.
We must invest today in growth for tomorrow.

A paradigm shift is needed

The response to Europe's challengers is not business as usual.

This is a cornerstone of Horizon 2020. It is not just the name of the framework programme that differentiates itself from previous programmes. Horizon 2020 is a paradigm shift.

There are three crucial elements that separate Horizon 2020 from previous framework programmes:

  • Firstly, all EU research programmes will be gathered into one large and powerful programme marked by more simplicity and flexibility.
  • Secondly, Horizon 2020 is designed to help to bridge the gap between research and the market. This approach is central to ensuring greater programme participation by businesses.
  • Thirdly, the programme is based on a challenge-driven approach and identifies the grand societal challenges in Europe. 

And the challenges will not be seen as defined problems isolated from each other in academic disciplines.

Horizon 2020 is a strategy for growth and jobs – and will make a difference for European citizens. Hence it is so important that we ensure progress in the work on Horizon 2020. And that is also the reason why the conference today and the meeting tomorrow are so important.

Why the conference is important

The Danish Presidency will do its utmost to progress the negotiations and has set the ambitious goal to reach a partial general approach on the overall structure of Horizon 2020 at the Competitiveness Council at the end of May 2012.

Cooperation with the Member States, the European Parliament, the Commission; and with researchers, knowledge institutions and industry is crucial for a successful and timely outcome of the negotiations.

We are building on the previous work done by the Polish Presidency and we would like to deliver to the Cypress Presidency.

We will work diligently and constructively and our ambition is to take a big step towards preventing any gap between the Seventh Framework Programme and Horizon 2020.

A precondition for this is to ensure an early political debate on Horizon 2020. The conference today is therefore dedicated to political discussions between European research ministers and key global and European stakeholders within research and innovation.

The day's programme

We have an exciting day ahead of us.

In a moment I will pass the floor to Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

After this, Alan Leshner, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Executive Publisher of the journal Science, will explain how innovation is supported in the US. I am sure we can learn something from the American experience.

Following that, Professor Reinhard Hüttl, President in the German National Academy of Science and Engineering, will give his proposal for how Europe can improve its competitiveness.

We will then have a roundtable debate and this will be followed by brief parallel workshops focusing on each of the three pillars of Horizon 2020: Societal Challenges, Industrial Leadership and Excellent Science.

The purpose of the workshops is to facilitate a direct dialogue between research ministers and the key stakeholders. And each workshop will be kicked-off by brief presentations from key stakeholders.

This is indeed an important week for Europe!
This is a week of vital discussions.
This is a week of great opportunity.

We have a common responsibility to address the challenges faced by the EU. And the conference today is an important part of the process.

I look forward to an inspiring conference and hearing your contributions.

last modified Dec 21, 2021