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Horizon 2020 needs reality check, regions say

The Committee of the Regions says the future EU research programme needs more focus on real-life practices at the local and regional level.

Framework 7’s successor “needs to include [policy] instruments which are focussed on changes in real-life practices and secure faster societal outcomes”, such as jobs or economic growth, the Committee of the Regions’ commission for education, youth, culture and research says in its draft opinion on Horizon 2020.

The Committee of the Regions is an advisory body of leaders representing regions and cities throughout Europe, but has no formal role in the negotiations between the European Parliament, Council and Commission that will determine the final shape of Horizon 2020.

Local, regional and national governments must be given greater responsibility to implement the programme in practice, writes Markku Markkula, a conservative member of the Espoo City Council in Finland, and author of the draft document.

Before Horizon 2020 starts in 2014, regional policy-makers as well as local universities and research centres should develop joint innovation strategies to be funded from different sources—municipal budgets, businesses, and different EU funding programmes.

They could use help from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, Markkula suggests. “Instead of reports and other publications, the outcomes should resolve much more around funding of experimentations and rapid prototyping, applying research knowledge to practical chance processes in all parts of Europe,” the draft opinion says. “There should be more focus on the use of results, and not on inventing the same again and again.”

Markkula says that the EU programme Regions of Knowledge, worth €126 million in 2007-13, should not be scrapped as the European Commission proposed. On the contrary, the programme should be maintained and beefed up.

“Regions of Knowledge can be of crucial importance in challenging and supporting regions towards smart specialisation and becoming a stairway to increased European collaboration,” he writes.

The draft opinion will be amended and discussed on 23 April by the Committee’s commission for education, youth, culture and research. The final document will then be submitted to the whole Committee of the Regions for approval.