Launch event for Horizon 2020 in Switzerland

Launch of Horizon 2020 / Bern

14 January 2014

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be in Bern today for the official launch of Horizon 2020 in Switzerland.

I’d first of all like to thank our hosts and organisers for putting together a very impressive programme of events to mark the start of this new era in European research and innovation.

I am very impressed by the huge interest in Horizon 2020 in Switzerland. But this is not surprising.

Switzerland and the EU have a long history of scientific and technical cooperation – first formalised in 1986, and Swiss participants have been extremely active under the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

As one of the world’s most advanced knowledge economies, Switzerland has few peers when it comes to innovation. The Innovation Union Scoreboard consistently shows Switzerland as the leading performer, and the new European Innovation indicator also shows that Switzerland is one of Europe’s top performers.

I know that you will be keen to take advantage of the opportunities offered by Horizon 2020, the EU’s new programme for research and innovation.

Horizon 2020 is a totally new departure for the EU, and it is designed to deliver results that make a difference in people’s lives.

I am very proud of it, and I am pleased to have this opportunity to talk about its ambitious objectives and what I think it will mean for Switzerland.

With nearly 80 billion euro over seven years, Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU research programme yet, and one of the few areas in the EU’s new budget that sees a major increase in resources.

I am determined that this additional money – which represents 30 per cent more in real terms compared to the 7th Framework Programme – will be invested as wisely and efficiently as possible.

It will fund not just the best fundamental research, but also applied research and innovation, bringing in small and large companies. This is so vital because we know that research and innovation are the foundation for sustained growth and job creation.

Horizon 2020 is all about simplification and coherence.

Simplification first: from the very start of my mandate as European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, I have been determined to make it easier for our scientists and business people to access EU funding – so they spend less time on administration and more time on research and innovation.

Simplification applies to all aspects of the programme.

We have cut red tape wherever we can. While the previous generation of programmes had lots of different rules, Horizon 2020 applies the same rules everywhere. That means it is much easier to apply and participate in projects.

Projects will be up and running in eight months – four months more quickly than under the 7th Framework Programme – and during the projects there will be less paperwork and fewer audits.

As well as reforming how we administer EU funding we have redesigned the programme architecture to be much more coherent.

By bringing together all the European-level funding for research and innovation under one roof, we can support you in a seamless and joined-up fashion, at every step of the way from excellent fundamental research all the way to innovative products and services that can conquer world markets.

Horizon 2020 will be there from lab to factory to market.

Of course, this support takes different forms – it could be a European Research Council grant that enables a top scientist to stay in Europe to pursue her risky but promising research.

It could be support to industry to maintain Europe’s lead in a key technology like biotechnology. It could be a wide-scale collaborative effort tackling a societal challenge like climate change. Or it could be support for a project to demonstrate the feasibility and market potential of a technological innovation.

You probably know already that one of the biggest changes is Horizon 2020′s challenge-based approach.

This reform was needed because the challenges facing all of us in Europe – whether food and energy security, clean transport or public health for example – cannot be solved by a single field of science or technology or, indeed, a single country.

That’s where Horizon 2020 comes in. These complex challenges will need solutions that draw upon many different areas of research and innovation. That’s why interdisciplinarity is such a crucial aspect of Horizon 2020.

We’re encouraging researchers to get out of their silos, and we expect that broader societal aspects are addressed by embedding the Socio-Economic Science and Humanities across the whole programme.

Horizon 2020 is also less prescriptive about what projects must do. This means that the programme is more open to innovative proposals from applicants. However, we will be more demanding about the impacts that projects must have, and this will be one of the key criteria for selecting which proposals get funding.

We are counting on Europe’s scientists to produce excellent research that will both find solutions to societal challenges and underpin our drive for competitiveness and innovation.

So Horizon 2020 champions excellent science, with increased funding for the prestigious European Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions on researcher training, mobility and careers.

I am particularly proud of what the ERC has achieved in such a short time. It is already the international gold standard for excellent fundamental research.

Switzerland’s overall success rate under the 7th Framework Programme was significantly higher than the EU average, but you really shine when it comes to winning ERC and Marie Skłodowska-Curie grants. Swiss institutions host around 300 ERC grant winners, receiving over 540 million Euro and Swiss institutions have also secured over 267million Euro of EU funding from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grants.

Horizon 2020 will also be very good for business. I was determined from the outset to get more companies participating in European research and innovation projects.

Simplification will certainly help, as will the guiding ethos of support from “lab to market”: private companies will have greater scope to get involved in close-to-market actions.

More money will be available for testing, prototyping, demonstration and pilot type activities, for business-driven R&D, for promoting entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and for shaping demand for innovative products and services.

In short, Horizon 2020 helps the business sector to reap the full commercial rewards from innovation.

I know that the business sector is a strong investor in R&D in Switzerland so I hope that Swiss companies, large and small, will find many exciting opportunities in Horizon 2020.

Horizon 2020 is also joining forces with the private sector through public private partnerships on an unprecedented scale.

These partnerships on innovative medicines; fuel cells and hydrogen; aeronautics; bio-based industries; and electronics – along with public/public partnerships in the areas of ageing population, poverty-related diseases, metrology research and SME support – are expected to mobilise up to around 22 billion euro of investments, with 8 billion coming from the EU. I would encourage Switzerland to participate fully in these important partnerships.

While all sizes and types of business can benefit from Horizon 2020, we’re putting the spotlight on innovative SMEs that want to both develop nationally and spread their wings internationally.

Research and innovation for SMEs are promoted across Horizon 2020 as a whole, but we are also introducing a new instrument that is adapted to their specific needs.

This will allow single SMEs to receive small, simple grants for highly innovative projects.

The new dedicated SME instrument will fill gaps in funding for early-stage, high-risk research and innovation by SMEs and help stimulate breakthrough innovations.

These are just some of the opportunities offered by Horizon 2020. Make no mistake; competition for Horizon 2020 funding will be fierce, especially since there is still such pressure on national research budgets.

But coming from such a strong position, what is the added value – for both Switzerland and the EU – of Swiss participation in Horizon 2020?

I have mentioned just some of the opportunities available and you will hear much more detail over the coming days.

But there are many more reasons why I think Horizon 2020 will be a very good fit for Switzerland.

In fact the reasons are similar to those for the highest performing EU Member States. Participation in major international research projects, networks and infrastructures – as offered by Horizon 2020 – can help maintain Switzerland’s position as a prime location for higher education, research and innovation.

And although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, we all face very similar societal challenges that we can’t tackle alone. So it’s only logical, and a better use of scarce resources, to pool our knowledge to tackle them.

CERN is a very obvious example of the benefits to science of international partnership.

Participation in the framework programmes provides experience and contacts as well as funding.

So how should researchers and innovators in Switzerland get started?

You start from a very strong base. Under the 7th Framework Programme, participants from Switzerland have drawn down over 1.8 billion Euro of EU research funding. You have been most successful in the areas of the ERC and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, ICT, Health, Research Infrastructures and Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and New Production Technologies.

Capitalise on this experience and build on your potential in these areas, while striving to maximise opportunities in new areas of research and innovation.

For example, there is perhaps room for improvement in the fields of energy and environment, where Switzerland has not fully converted its scientific strengths into participation in EU-funded projects.

Smaller research institutions, like Universities of Applied Sciences, could also increase their participation rate.

I have no doubt that Swiss partners will be very active participants in the Horizon 2020. The programme has got off to a flying start.

The first calls for proposals were published in December and over the next two years we will channel more than 15 billion Euro to the best ideas that Europe has to offer.

All the information you need can be easily found at our new participants’ portal.

I fully expect Switzerland to become an associated country to Horizon 2020 in time for the signature of the first grant agreements under Horizon 2020 in the Autumn. I know that the Swiss government is equally committed to this goal and I believe that we are fully on track. In the meantime the Commission will treat all applications from Switzerland on an equal basis as those from Member States, including for the eligibility of applicants and for the evaluation of proposals.

So, today, I am calling on Switzerland’s researchers and universities, its businesses big and small, its academics and its innovators: get involved!

Find out how to participate, build on your contacts with your peers in the rest of Europe, and don’t be afraid to think big, because Horizon 2020 is about big opportunities and big results.

Step up to the challenge, find the opportunities and reap the rewards of Horizon 2020!

Thank you.

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