Montesquieu Institute: from science to society

Speech by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel on the Launch of Horizon Europe by the Portuguese Presidency

Dear Minister Manuel Heitor,

Dear Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy Cristian Busoi,

Dear Ministers for Research and Innovation,

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

Dear Members of National Parliaments,

Dear Researchers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we celebrate the launch of Horizon Europe and allow me to start by thanking the team of the Portuguese Presidency for having organised this important event.

The European Commission has been always focused on delivering a timely start and a robust budget for Horizon Europe.

I am pleased because it is strategic for the future of Europe and also because it rewards the hard work of the wider European research community and the engagement of the co-legislators.

It was negotiated in difficult conditions, with more uncertainties than usual, arising from the COVID pandemics that is hitting hard our societies and our economies, but also from the UK leaving the Union.

Horizon Europe is a key instrument to see beyond the horizon - towards a green, digital, healthy and resilient future of the European Union.

It was not easy, but we have made it! The budget of Horizon Europe has increased by 30% in comparison to the previous programme at 27 Member States, making it the most ambitious research and innovation programme in the world.

This significant increase provides a clear political message: Europeans have decided that research and innovation will drive their future!

I would like to congratulate all of you for this joint achievement, which is the result of a thorough co-creation and co-design process.

Dear Manuel, I wish you and your team in the Portuguese Presidency all the best. I count on you to continue playing a key role, as we finalise the Strategic Plan of Horizon Europe.

Let me also express my gratitude to the former Presidencies, who worked with great dedication to make this Programme come true.

As for Slovenia, the next Member State to hold the Presidency of the current trio, know that I am also very much looking forward to cooperate with you, as we progress towards the final phases of the Programme's implementation.

The importance of research and innovation to shape Europe's future is unquestionable in its various dimensions:

  • To ensure we keep the highest quality in generating new knowledge
  • To foster pan-European research collaborations where the final result is more than the sum of the parts
  • To enable that new ideas are turned in concrete innovations by big and small entrepreneurs, improving our collective prosperity

and I would add

  • The importance of widening the access to excellence and promote the necessary green and digital socio-economic transformations ahead of us.

The coronavirus crisis has aggravated the climate, social and economic challenges that the European Union is facing. However, I believe that the current crisis is an opportunity to shape the recovery and make it greener, fit for a digital world, and more inclusive.

Horizon Europe should be a reference for the recovery plans, to support an innovative twin digital and green transitions, offer opportunities for progress leaving no one behind.

It will be an essential instrument to foster the competitiveness of European economy and to reach the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN Agenda 2030.

With this in mind, we have ensured that Horizon Europe cuts across disciplines for better impact, and has the necessary flexibility to be able to address emerging threats and challenges in the future.

The pillar on Excellent Science includes the European Research Council for -frontier research, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions strengthening researchers mobility and the objective of develop world-class research infrastructures.

The pillar addressing Global challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness will support investments in strategic domains from “Health”, “Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society”, to Energy, Mobility and Agriculture.

It is mainly in this pillar that Horizon Europe focus its support to European partnerships. Industry can play an important role in co-developing joint strategic research and innovation agendas.

Partnerships are also an important instruments to align priorities and investments at national and EU level.

I hope that we can advance during the Portuguese Presidency in order to close what remains in the legislative process to have the new, rationalised, partnerships landscape fully ready to start.

The 3rd pillar addresses breakthrough and market-creating innovations. The European Innovation Council will support start-ups alongside the European innovation ecosystems and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). It will play a key role in implementing my vision for a new European Innovation Area.

An important crosscutting component of the programme will support the Widening of Participation and Strengthening the Europe Research Area. It will ensure that excellent science is spread in all countries, and that the necessary reforms are made with Member States to help them achieve their transitions.

Here I would like to stress the need to look at Horizon Europe in the wider policy framework of a New European Research Area where we propose a Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe.

The Pact to be defined together as a voluntary initiative.

A Pact that should lead to the strengthening of cooperation and aligning regional, national and European investments. It will be built on key principles and values, enhancing transparency to guide European actions, backing the four political objectives:

  • 1) 
    Prioritising investments and reforms in R&I and focusing on the digital and green transformation and on the recovery.
  • 2) 
    Improving access to excellence, progressing towards more excellence across the whole of the EU and stronger R&I systems where best practice is disseminated faster across Europe;
  • 3) 
    Translating R&I results into the economy to boost the resilience and competitiveness of our economies and societies.
  • 4) 
    Deepening the ERA, to further progress on the free circulation of knowledge in particular by moving from an approach of coordination towards deeper integration between national policies.

We propose to work together through the ERA Forum for Transition as the single entry point for strategic discussions to define key priorities for joint action.

Let me spend some words about what I believe are Horizon Europe strengths:

  • 1) 
    We will count on the accumulated experience if the European research Council (ERC) a world-reference funding organisation supporting frontier research.

Our commitment to reinforce its resources indicates clearly that Europe's scientific excellence is the base to build our future and deliver concrete results to our society and our economy.

  • 2) 
    The European Innovation Council (EIC) is a new element that brings a new approach to support innovation with focus on start-ups and small and medium enterprises.

The beneficiaries of European Innovation Council have demonstrated to be successful to attract external investors into European successes.

During the pilot period, the EIC beneficiaries managed to crowd-in almost 5 Billion euro from external investors and 40 of them have managed to get a valuation above 100 Million euro.

I am proud that EU funding has supported European companies BioNTech and CureVac to develop the new generation of vaccines, through past EU research and innovation programme's grants, as well as loans provided via the European Investment Bank.

  • 3) 
    With a new approach to European Partnerships Horizon Europe will improve transparency and their strategic management. We have significantly reduced the number from over 120 in Horizon 2020, to 49 in Horizon Europe.

We are setting up a strategic coordination mechanisms that will allow cross-partnership collaborations. It makes a lot of sense to build synergies and collaborations in areas of transport, smart mobility with hydrogen or artificial intelligence.

The result should support both green deal sustainability goals but also the innovation our industry needs to face big transformations ahead.

Strategic cooperation between public and private actors is necessary to leverage all European forces and accelerate the development and uptake of new joint solutions to common global challenges.

  • 4) 
    Missions are another example of an instrument to maximise the socio-economic impact or research and innovation.

The specifically cover 5 priority areas related with Cancer, Healthy Oceans, Climate neutral and smart cities; Soil health and food, and Adaptation to climate change. ambitious actions with the aim of achieving measurable goals related with the Green Deal within a set timeframe.

Extensive work has been done already in all 5 proposed Mission areas that, I recall, cover key challenges such as Cancer to dramatically reduce death rates more specifically, by 2030, to have more than 3million lives saved, living longer and better.

The other Missions with a clear “green deal” flavour address Adaptation to Climate Change to help 200 European regions to fight against heatwaves, forest fires, droughts, floods and storms.

The Mission on Ocean Seas and Waters is targeting the regeneration of European marine and freshwater ecosystems and restoring biodiversity for a vibrant sustainable blue economy by 2030.

The one on Climate Neutral and Smart Cities aims to make at least 100 European cities climate neutral by 2030. The Mission on Healthy Soils and Food wants to ensure that by 2030 at least 75% of all European soils are healthy and sustainable.

The Missions are now in a preparatory phase to define their implementation plans. We expect to have in the second half of 2021 an assessment of the plans according to a selection criteria covering maturity of the R&D scope of actions, timeline and financial resources.

We ask your support since Missions were co-design with the wide consultations with stakeholders and citizen's involvement and have a great potential for wide impact across Europe.

You can see that by looking at the ambitious objectives that concern all our societies and economies.

Horizon Europe will also increase the possibilities to link with R&I funded at regional level and, in that regard, the first joint Action Plan with the Committee of the Regions will be a strategic guide.

In the current context there is also an opportunity to support reforms and investments for improving their research and innovation systems with the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

With its budget of 672.5 billion euros available for Member States in loans and grants, the Recovery and Resilience Facility is at the heart of the Next Generation EU recovery package, and can also be used for research and innovation actions, by contributing to flagship areas or by complementing Horizon missions and partnerships.

By combining investments at EU and national level, as well as linking research with industry and policy, we can achieve together what would be impossible to achieve individually.

I would like to conclude calling upon the wider European research and innovation community, national administrations, to help us make sure that European citizens are also key actors of this transition.

Horizon Europe is the first European programme designed with huge involvement of citizens and stakeholders.

I strongly believe that together, we can unlock the innovation potential of Europe's research and education.

We should make Horizon Europe a key lever to promote a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future.

Thank you very much.