European CommissionAttracting more top global companies and boosting investment in defence are among the main avenues the European Commission could investigate as it lays the ground for a successor to Horizon 2020, according to a report which examines ways of maximising the impact of EU research and innovation programmes.

The report, which was written by Commission civil servants and published at the beginning of February, provides a foundation for the Commission’s analysis of the links between EU R&D spending and economic performance, and highlights possible future paths for increasing impact and growth.

While Horizon 2020 is a huge magnet for some of the world’s best universities, there would be a clear benefit in attracting more top companies to the programme, if the EU wants to achieve its goals of  closing the research to innovation gap. There is also “a strong business case for spending money more efficiently” in defence, where a lack of cooperation is estimated to cost Europe between €25 billion and €100 billion annually.

The document will be used by the high level group of 12 experts headed by former director-general of the World Trade Organization and EU trade chief Pascal Lamy, which is charged with drawing up a vision by this June for the 2021-2028 EU research programme. Getting more value for money at EU-level is especially important, the paper suggests, in a world where the EU share of the world gross expenditures in research and innovation has fallen from one quarter in 2000 to one fifth in 2013. In the same period, the EU share of world output of scientific publications dropped from one third to one quarter, and the EU share of the world’s patents has gone from one third to one quarter also.

The report highlights that Europe could do better at breakthrough, market-creating innovation. The last few decades have seen the emergence of major new markets based on ICT, biotech, consumer internet, and most recently the collaborative economy. Despite early technology leads, the EU has created few companies that now dominate these new markets.”

The Commission intends to make changes to the last two years of the Horizon 2020 programme in a bid to attract more top talent. These will include adopting a fully ‘bottom-up’ approach – so innovative projects that cut across sectors and technologies become more eligible for support – and putting more emphasis on financial and technical support for start-ups, in the hopes that they can scale-up quicker.


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