The much-awaited Lamy report on the future of the EU research and innovation programmes was presented by the former director general of the World Trade Organisation, Pascal Lamy, at the beginning of July in Brussels. It contains a numer of radical proposals, including shifting budget from agriculture and the regions to research and innovation, consolidating/simplifying the number of funding schemes, ending routine audits on researchers and overhauling state aid rules.
The highlights include:
- Although not saying how much money should go to areas like health, energy, security, space or oceans, the report advocates doubling the budget of the next framework programme dedicated to research and innovation. “Doubling the overall budget of the post-2020 EU research and innovation programme is the best investment the EU can make,” the report says. (Horizon 2020 is worth some €77 billion over 7 years.) Anything below €120 billion after 2021 “would break momentum and call into question the EU’s commitment to deliver on its political priorities,” the report adds.
- Increasing the budget will help address the growing failure rate problem. Horizon 2020 has only enough budget to fund one in four proposals evaluated as being of high quality. “The post-2020 programme must ensure a success rate in the range of 15 to 20 per cent, as was the case for Horizon 2020’s predecessor. Funding should be secured for at least 30 per cent of high quality proposals”.
- To simplify the programmes, a “minimum objective” should be to eliminate one third of funding “schemes, instruments and acronyms”.
- The life of the applicant should be made simpler. For example, “audits should only be carried out when there is a suspicion of fraud or serious financial wrongdoing.” Applicants should also have a choice between cost-based or lump sum funding for their project.
- Support is given to the new European Innovation Council to invest in entrepreneurs and businesses with risky innovations that have rapid scale-up potential (and thereby help compete better with innovation power houses Korea and Japan).
- A reform of EU state aid rules are necessary for more innovation.. “The current rules are perceived as insufficiently innovation-friendly,” the report says. According to Lamy, “Korea, Japan and China are more relaxed than us on spending public money on research”.
- The next framework programme should have several long-term research goals, or “missions”, e.g. achieving a plastic litter-free Europe by 2030 or producing steel with zero carbon by 2030, thereby helping to capture and inspire public opinion.
- The report advocates that the EU R&I programme should set the agenda for R&I investments within the European structural funds, albeit with a geographical rationale. (The budget reserved for such activities during the current funding cycle is worth €100 billion over 7 years.)
- Reesearch money should be ring-fenced for poorer regions in the future – the ‘widening participation and spreading excellence’ budget line.
- Rules governing international participation should be relaxed so that rich, foreign countries can join the programme more easily. Canada and Australia should be able to join the programme as associate members (currently limited to countries which are geographically close to the EU, such as Israel and Turkey). The UK would be considered in this category after Brexit.
- While welcoming the recent decision to finance defence research at EU level, the authors recommend that its budget be additional to the civil programme and kept separate from civilian research.