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Research commissioner promises easier access to Horizon 2020 funds

The replacement for FP7, the European research funding programme, will simplify and standardise funding and help bring discoveries more quickly to market, the research commissioner has declared. It will streamline patenting and “smooth the path from lab to market”.

Commissioner Marie Geoghegan-Quinn was speaking to a meeting of the European Parliament’s Alde group of liberal democrats in Dublin on 20 October. Participants included the Alde leader, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt. The Irish junior minister for science, Sean Sherlock, also attended.

Geoghegan-Quinn called on Alde to support the goals of the Horizon 2020 strategy adopted last year by member states. Its goal was to use innovation and research to get Europe “back on the path of growth and jobs”, the commissioner said.

Implementation of Horizon 2020 would be simplified and standardised, she said, which would include funding schemes and rules for accessing funding under the EU’s research programmes.

The programme’s suggested budget was “ambitious but realistic”, the commissioner said, with an expenditure target of €80 billion between 2014 and 2020.

The administrative burden on participants would be eased “by applying a radically simplified cost-reimbursement approach,” she said. Negotiation and selection phases would be shortened to allow projects to begin more quickly. Guidance and advisory services would be provided through a single internet portal to deliver a “one stop shop” of support structures.

The Horizon 2020 approach matched that being taken by many member states, with sustained investment in education, training, research and development and innovation providing a push towards future growth, she said. “Fiscal consolidation” was necessary, but had to be pursued in a “smart” way.

This meant carefully considered expenditure reductions that still allowed for economic growth and job creation by improving competitiveness. Despite the tough economic situation, member states still needed strategies for growth through the support of research and innovation, the commissioner said.

She emphasised that funding research and innovation at European level and not just nationally continued to make sense: “We gain economies of scale and the critical mass necessary to tackle our biggest challenges.” Joining together brought synergies between researchers and countries, in turn raising the quality of research across the community, she added.