In his first press briefing on 27 March since taking up the post of EU Director General for Research and Innovation, Jean-Eric Paquet announced his strategy for a more “joined-up process” in planning the next Framework Programme by working more effectively with other policy areas, such as regional development, energy, transport and digital technologies.
The Commission’s proposal for the next programme covering the period from 2021 to 2027 was more or less completed by his predecessor, Robert-Jan Smits, and will be announced officially by the end of May. There are currently three possible budget scenarios for FP9 ranging from a low-end €80 billion to €120 billion and even €160 billion, which was recently advocated by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. In comparison, the current seven-year budget, ending in 2020, is €77 billion. At this point it is not possible to say which option will prevail, but one indication will be the announcement of the Commission’s overall seven-year spending proposal, covering all policy areas, scheduled for 2 May.
A search for synergies between different areas of EU policy is not new. Successive Commissions have tried – with partial success – to make it easier to combine research money with regional development funding to build and run new scientific centres in eastern Europe, or to make research a key element of health or agricultural policy. The new Director-General admits that there is no magic formula for implementing synergies, but it is his intention that the different sectoral areas of FP9 should be developed in genuine “teams” that cut across departments.
Among the changes planned at the top of the Research & Innovation DG will be regular Monday meetings between Paquet and his three deputy directors-general, Wolfgang Burtscher, Patrick Child and Signe Ratso, to coordinate planning. In addition, there is “a strong case” to reshuffle the top portfolios so that each of the three deputies controls some sector-specific areas as well as broad administrative or policy tasks, which again, will make policy coordination with other parts of the Commission easier. A further reorganisation may be needed at some point to prepare for FP9.
On planning the next Framework Programme, Paquet said the main work was completed by Smits. “We now have two more months to fine-tune it” before it is published at the end of May. As with Horizon 2020, there will be a basic science “pillar” comprising the ERC and the Marie Sklowdowska Curie researcher grants; a societal challenges sub programme including “missions” to apply science and technology to solving big problems; and an open innovation portion, including Moedas’ proposed European Innovation Council, “to promote disruptive, breakthrough innovation at the EU level, and to complement what many member states are already doing.”