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The largest transnational research- and innovation programme in the world

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard's speech at Horizon 2020 arrangement 19 November 2013 in Odense.

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Horizon 2020

Good morning everyone.

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of the opening of the Horizon 2020 Week here at the University of Southern Denmark.

Two years have passed since the European Commission adopted its proposal for the Union’s new research- and innovation framework programme, Horizon 2020.

It was also one of the very first matters which were put in front of me when this government took office.

The Danish Presidency for the Council of the European Union was just around the corner.

We had one – and only one – priority for the Presidency in the research and innovation area: to reach a partial general agreement on the basic structure, the overall framework and the underlying content in the new programme. And we did just that.

The succeeding presidencies, the Cypriot, the Irish and the present Lithuanian, continued the work and brought us where we are today:

Ready to start up the new programme covering the seven years period from 2014 to 2020.

On the one hand, Horizon 2020 is based on the positive experiences learned from the seventh framework programme. This is especially the case regarding excellence and quality.

On the other hand Horizon 2020 represents a paradigm shift. Horizon 2020 is to a much larger extent reaching out towards the surrounding community. It is about finding new solutions to the societal challenges that the world is confronted with.

The programme is also about cooperation between researchers and industry. It is about bridging research, innovation and production. It is about creating growth and new employment.

This is precisely the difference compared with the previous framework programmes.

Firstly, Horizon 2020 has a strong focus on finding solutions for the future societal challenges: Environment, climate change, food supply, demographic change and energy supply.

Secondly, the new programme will to an even larger extent focus on SMEs. SMEs will, for instance, have the possibility to receive grants supporting innovation near to the market

Thirdly, Horizon 2020 shall ensure that Europe and European companies are global leaders within a number of strategic technologies - technologies which will promote the future growth.

Finally. Size does matter: 70 billion Euro.

Horizon 2020 will be the largest transnational research- and innovation programme in the world – and in the history of the European Union.

Less paperwork and more research

During the negotiations of Horizon 2020 I was constantly approached by universities and industry concerning one specific issue. We must address the most critical barrier for participation in the EU research framework programmes: The level of red tape.

Consequently, simplification became a key issue for me during the negotiations. Less paperwork – more research and innovation. And we came a long way.

Simplification in Horizon 2020 has two overarching goals:

  • reduce the administrative burden and related costs of participants
  • speed up all processes of proposal and grant management.

The Commission is committed to reduce the time to grant to a general maximum of 8 months. This is a reduction of 100 days compared with FP7.

Simplified rules. Shorter time to grant. Horizon 2020 will be a programme which is more accessible and easier to work with compared with FP7.

The European agenda is also Denmark’s agenda

On Tuesday last week the Danish Prime Minister and the Minister for Employment was in Paris for a meeting with their European counterparts on youth unemployment Europe.

The purpose of the meeting was to exchange experiences on the management of youth unemployment.

There are too many young people - especially in southern Europe - who have difficulties getting a job. And the crisis has not gone past Denmark. Europe’s agenda is Denmark’s agenda.

And Horizon 2020 is a very important part of the European agenda for new growth and employment in Europe. It is a decisive part of the answer addressing the growth crisis in Europa.

The programme shall strengthen the scientific position of Europe on a global scale.

It shall ensure that Europe is leading within a range of strategic technologies related to growth and job creation. It is the foundation for the welfare of tomorrow.

Horizon 2020 is clearly in line with the ambitions and initiatives of the Government.

This is the case in relation to the national innovation strategy, “Denmark – a nation of solutions”, where the objective is to ensure closer relation between research, education and innovation in companies.

It is also the case for the new Inno+ initiative, which is a basis for inspiration and prioritisation of new intelligent strategic investments in innovation. And it also goes for the newly adopted Danish Innovation Foundation.

The Danish Innovation Foundation shall ensure that investments in research and development are transformed into concrete solutions on the societal challenges, new growth and new jobs.

Much harder competition for grants

As mentioned earlier, slightly more than 70 billion Euro will be allocated to research and innovation through Horizon 2020 during the next seven years.

This provides new opportunities for Danish universities, knowledge institutions, researchers and industry. It is decisive that we are ambitious and use the opportunities.

As I have mentioned: The financial framework is bigger than ever before. The rules are simpler. The time to grant is shorter.

So we must do our upmost in order to get our share of the funding.

Today the Danish applicants have a high success rate in the European research programmes. We shall continue along this line. And the Government will support these efforts.

We will spend DKK 26 million to help knowledge institutions and industry to get a bigger share of Horizon 2020 and other EU programmes.

We must pave the way for even more promising cooperation between researchers and business. We must develop better cooperation across scientific fields, trades and countries.

The Government has set the ambitious target of laying in 2.5 per cent of the Horizon 2020 budget. On average this is DKK 1.5 billion a year. Presently, we are at 2.36 per cent within FP7.

Our ambitions are high because the competition will be tougher. In order to reach the 2.5 per cent objective some 3.500 Danish research institutions and companies shall participate in Horizon 2020.

So far every fourth Danish application has received a grant. Following that logic some 14.000 Danish applications shall be forwarded to Brussels in order to reach the 2.5 objective.

A high success rate is also a quality label for Danish research. There is no doubt in my mind that Danish researchers will and can perform at the very highest level in Europe.

So let’s get started!

Closing remarks

Three weeks ago we had a successful national launching conference in Copenhagen – back-to-back with the storm. It probably prevented some of you from participating. But around 1.500 people attended the conference.

In my view this is a clear indication of the broad interest in the programme. As the case is to day - I could feel the curiosity in the air!

This brings me back to this conference. It is very promising to see that so many people have turned up. I hope that you will have an interesting week.

I can see from the programme that you make good use of the resources in our EuroCenter. They will tell you a lot about our support initiatives for Horizon 2020. About EUopStart. About the new EU-DK Support.

Use them. Ask them. Call, mail or even fax them (if you still have a fax). That’s what they are paid for.

Europe is at a crossroad right now. The societal challenges are real. The competition is tougher than ever before.

The 21st century has been named the Asian century. But it is more than that. It is the global century.

The BRICS countries – where S marks South Africa – have growth rates high above the European level.

The only solution for Europe – and Denmark - is an enhanced focus on research and innovations. On pursuing excellence. On fostering better cooperation between universities and industry. On providing the best framework for researchers, universities, knowledge institutions and industry. We can and we must – here and abroad.

I wish you all the best for the conference.

Thank you.

last modified Nov 22, 2013