Horizon 2020 – the EU's current framework programme for research and innovation – has been a success, but further effort is needed to step up European R&I beyond the framework programme, rapporteurs of the European Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament stated on Thursday. The European Commission is currently conducting a mid-term evaluation of Horizon 2020, which will serve as starting point for reflections for the new EU R&I programme beyond 2020.
The CoR's SEDEC commission adopted its draft opinion on Thursday 8 June, calling for a return to R&I as a budgetary and policy priority. Rapporteur Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), Member of the Pays-de-la-Loire Regional Council, underlined that the budget for the next framework programme should be increased to at least EUR 120 billion, without compromising cohesion policy within which R&I should be a greater priority. This position is in line with the European Parliament, whose rapporteur Soledad Cabezón Ruiz (ES/S&D) emphasised that "Europe of excellence can be achieved only with more cohesion".
Bridging the innovation gap between regions and between Member States is therefore a key element for the European Committee of the Regions. Mr Clergeau's opinion, which will be adopted in the plenary session on 11 July, emphasises that the framework programme must help to strengthen R&I capacity in cities and regions and to promote the ability of all regions to take part in Horizon 2020 contributing with high-quality projects.
"It is important to promote an excellence-based approach that is firmly rooted in the cities and regions, does not lead to exclusion or excessive concentration and leaves room to include new entrants", rapporteur Clergeau said.
The draft opinion also seeks to clarify the debate on R&I synergies with other EU policies, claiming that such synergies should be built on the principles of coherence, compatibility, complementarity and co-construction, as well as the ecosystems principle. "Expanding the co-construction of R&I programmes with the cities and regions is crucial as this can enhance the impact of the framework programme and its relevance to local and regional circumstances", stated rapporteur Clergeau, adding the need for greater support to interregional cooperation and smart specialisation.
According to the draft opinion, the European added value of the framework programme is primarily based on its collective and collaborative dimension and on its contribution to creating a network of researchers and innovation ecosystems. Therefore excellence should be measured against not only its scientific impact but also its capacity to lead to open and collaborative innovation and the development of new products and services and to ensure employment and well-being for the inhabitants of cities and regions.
In Thursday's meeting, SEDEC – the CoR's commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture – also discussed following topics:
Coordinating of Social Security Systems (rapporteur Ulrike Hiller, DE/PES). The draft opinion welcomes the revision of the rules on coordinating social security and calls to strengthen regional advisory and support networks against the background of the increasing mobility of EU citizens. The planned extension of the possibility to export unemployment benefits from 3 to 6 months is seen as positive, though the rapporteur voices concerns about the special provision regarding employment periods shorter than twelve months. The opinion also stresses that all EU citizens should have a right to family-social benefits in the country where they are registered or subject to tax.
Building a European Data Economy (rapporteur Kieran McCarthy, IE/EA). Balancing transparency and restrictions, fostering the potential of General Data Protection Regulation, developing the generation of data flows and improving interoperability are key topics of this draft opinion, which concludes that greater acknowledgement should be given to the EU’s cities and regions in the sustainable roll-out of the Digital Agenda and the building of the EU data economy.
European Pillar of Social Rights and the social dimension of Europe. In a debate led by rapporteur general Mauro D'Attis (IT/EPP) and CoR Vice-President Karl Heinz Lambertz, members highlighted that consolidating the social dimension of EU policies is a key factor for regaining citizens' trust in the European project. Strengthening social cohesion and upward convergence between Member States and regions could solve many of the problems EU is facing, from brain drain to unfair competition in the Single Market. The opinion of Mr D'Attis will be adopted in October, in time for the EU Social Summit which will be held in Gothenburg on 17 November.
The next meeting of the SEDEC commission will be held in Timisoara, Romania, on 28–29 September. Special focus will be on cultural heritage as a driver for economic development and social cohesion, ahead of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.