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Call for pillar merger in FP9

The industry and society pillars in Horizon 2020 should be merged into a single programme in Framework 9, the League of European Research Universities has said.

Bringing the Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges pillars together would “discourage the formation of research ‘silos’, and stimulate new ideas to better tackle challenges from different perspectives”, Leru said in its Framework 9 advice paper on 20 June.

This single programme should be interdisciplinary, fund the entire research and innovation process, and be designed around big themes such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Leru said. Its funding priority should be broad topics derived from open consultations.

Leru’s suggestion is controversial. On 13 June, the European Parliament called on the European Commission to “respect the current pillar structure” of Horizon 2020 and “retain this structure for the sake of continuity and predictability” in Framework 9.

Muriel Attané, secretary-general of the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations, told Research Europe that its members were “highly committed” to the industry pillar and favoured retaining separate industry and society pillars. “Both should be strengthened in Framework 9”, she said, as this is “the only way to leverage research and innovation investment by industry and guarantee sustainable application of EU research to better the lives of citizens”.

There is, however, general agreement among research organisations that there should be more funding for collaborative research in Framework 9. This is in contrast to a recommendation made in March by the European Commission’s Research, Innovation and Science Policy Experts group that there should be a shift of funds towards individual researchers.

“We want more funding for collaborative projects in the Societal Challenges pillar, especially for bottom-up, researcher-driven projects,” said Stephan Kuster, acting director of Science Europe, an association of funders and research institutions.

But many have said that this policy should go hand-in-hand with increased funding for the European Research Council and the Marie-Skłodowska Curie Actions programme, which support individual researchers. The ERC, Marie Curie and collaborative research “should be the cornerstones of Framework 9”, Leru said.

Leru members believe that Marie Curie should be moved back under the control of the Commission’s research directorate, having been moved to the education directorate in 2009. Laura Keustermans, Leru’s senior policy officer, said: “It makes sense from a managerial and policy perspective that everything in the Framework programme be under one directorate.”

This article also appeared in Research Europe