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Horizon 2020 content discussion starts among member states

The Council of Ministers, which represents EU member states, has started its formal information-gathering phase to prepare for negotiations of Horizon 2020, the next EU research funding programme.

During a meeting of research and business ministers on 20 and 21 February, the European Commission gave a presentation of the future agenda of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. The meeting notes, which were published on 24 February, also showed that the Council held a first debate of the Horizon 2020 proposal, which centred on social sciences and humanities.

The meeting notes state that many member states were in favour of the proposal to embed social sciences and humanities in other funding areas, rather than giving them a funding pot of their own. “Integration of these aspects could be helpful in the innovation process in terms of increasing problem-solving capacity,” the meeting notes say.

The pairing of social sciences with security research in Horizon 2020’s sixth pillar was criticised by some. “Both fields do not feel comfortable with this,” one diplomat told Research Europe Today. “At a later stage there might be a discussion about splitting them.”

The Council also discussed international cooperation, and said that Europe needs a targeted strategy to get the best possible benefits out of international research.

The meeting notes state that all members were supportive of small business participation in Horizon 2020.

The Competitiveness Council agreed that it would try and stick to the plan of having the content of the next framework programme agreed by May 2012 in order to launch negotiations with the European Parliament in good time. The content negotiations will be followed by budget debates, which are expected to become rather drawn-out, as the Council favours a lower budget than the Parliament.

But some council members think that even the content debates could be tricky, as it will be hard to decide what to fund without having a clear idea of the available budget.

“It could happen that many people want to add topics to make sure they can continue to participate if they do not find themselves in the programme,” said the diplomat. “It’s the Christmas Tree game. The tree is of limited size, but still everyone wants to find their own parcel under it.”