100th Marie Curie 'COFUND' grant, which has been awarded to a research fellowship programme managed by the Croation Ministry: speech by Androulla Vassiliou

Type: Complete speech   Reference: I-075649   Duration: 10:00:04  Lieu:
End production: 12/12/2012   First transmission: 12/12/2012
On 12 December 2012, Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the EC in charge of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, gave a welcome speech at the ceremony for the celebration of the 100th Fellowship Programme supported by COFUND, in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in Brussels.

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10:00:00 General atmosphere at the Marie Curie 100th COFUND Research Fellowship Programme, in Brussels 00:00:04
10:00:04 Soundbite by Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the EC in charge of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, (in ENGLISH): It is a real pleasure for me to be here with you for the opening of today's conference. Today is a day of celebration. We are here to mark an important milestone in the history of Marie Curie Actions and the COFUND action. For the hundredth time, the European Union will join hands with another research founder to support young researchers. And I am happy to say that this 100th partnership will be with Croatia and the mobility programme for experience, researchers designed by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sport. Since 2007, when the EU's seventh research framework programme begun, Croatia has participated as an associated country but soon, Croatia will be participating as a Member State when it becomes the 28th Member country to join the EU next July. Already, Croatia has taken an active part in the Marie Curie Actions obtaining EU support for 63 Croatian researchers and 14 Croatian institutions. And 6 of these institutions have succeeded in attracting young researchers to Croatia through the initial training network section. But through these new schemes, more than 100 additional researchers are expected to be supported. It will offer fellowships to scientists to go to Croatia in order to receive Research training at one of the excellent scientific universities or institutes in Croatia. It will also give Croatian scientists the possibility to go abroad and to learn and acquire new skills at top level institutes outside Croatia. Moreover, Croatian scientists currently abroad will be offered the chance to come back and to return to a research career in their country, Croatia. I am confident that this 100th COFUND partnership with Croatia which we are celebrating today, will give further momentum to this participation and strengthen the country's research capacity. Ladies and Gentlemen, Europe is today facing certainly one of its most serious economic crisis with more and more Member States being urged to conduct fiscal consolidation. However, our message is clear; we must conduct a smart fiscal consolidation preserving our even prioritising growth enhancing measures. We need to invest in the human capital of Europe. We need to invest in our researchers, especially in such difficult economic times. They are the source of our future growth in Europe because, researchers are precisely the bright people who push the boundaries of knowledge forward, make new discoveries and find new solutions thanks to their innovative ideas. Investment in Research and Development, especially in the training of our researchers is crucial to our economic recovery. The situation is indeed serious; we know that by 2020, we will need more than one million new researchers in Europe if we are to address the societal challenges ahead: ageing population, energy and natural resources, and new technologies. Our ambition is to make Europe an attractive place where to study and do research so it can also attract more young people to take up scientific careers. Europe's future ability to generate growth and jobs depends on our ability to become a world class science performer. And this is precisely the objectives of the Marie Curie Actions. Since 1996, the Marie Curie Actions have promoted the mobility of Researchers across borders and sectors. For researchers, this successful cross-border collaboration that we can all be proud of in Europe, has had a very positive impact on their creativity and their careers. And it has motivated people to go into research as a profession or to return to it. The figures speak for themselves. Between 2007 and 2013, the Marie Curie Actions will have awarded close to five billion Euros to 50,000 researchers pursuing their careers in Europe - 10,000 of whom are doctoral candidates, 130 nationalities and host organisations in 80 countries participate in the programme. 30 percent of today's Marie Curie fellows are from outside the EU. To increase the quality and quantity of its researchers, the EU in 2007 created the COFUND within the Marie Curie programme to strengthen further Europe's capacity to invest in Research. Through this scheme, regional, national or international exchange programmes which provide mobility fellowships to researchers can partner with the EU and benefit from a co financing of up to 40 percent. The COFUND is therefore a strong incentive, especially for national and regional authorities to create such mobility schemes for researchers. Today, we have with us several organisations that are already making use of the opportunities that COFUND offers. And we will have the pleasure to hear more about them later this morning. It is important because COFUND creates clear win-win situations for both the EU and its beneficiaries. This increased exchange of researchers greatly contributes to the development research area and the European higher education area. Also COFUND encourages research founders and research performing organisations to implement the principles laid down in the European Researchers charter and in the code of conduct for the recruitment of researchers adopted in 2005. These include the improvement of working conditions for researchers as well as their selection process through transparent, independent and international peer review. All of which is of course extremely important. And the results are convincing. Since 2007, the COFUND fellowship programmes have supported about 6,000 research fellowships with an EU contribution of more than 300 million Euros. COFUND beneficiaries have, on their side, invested more than 450 million Euros of own funds into these fellowships programmes. By partnering up with other funding bodies all over Europe, we are able to offer a much larger number of Marie Curie fellowships to increase the impact of the investment in Research to a strong leverage effect and to streamline the national and the European objectives. In a time of scare resources, these are not a luxury. However, we need to go further. For the next funding period of 2014-2020, the Commission has proposed an increase of 46 percent in the total budget of horizon 2020 with an increase of 21 percent, specifically for the Marie Curie Actions. This is ambitious and we all know that the negotiations on the overall EU budget are proving extremely difficult but we should avoid at all costs any cuts in areas like Education, Innovation and Research. That represents the best investment we can make in our future. I really urge the Member States to support this increase of the budget. The European Parliament has expressed, last week, a strong support in favour of the budget proposal put forward by the Commission. On Marie Curie Actions they have proposed to increase further their allocation from 7.4 percent of the total horizon 2020 to 8.3 percent. And of course, I strongly welcome this because, with these resources, we want to strengthen Europe support for the career development and training of researchers in all scientific disciplines. Besides the budget aspects, the Marie Curie Actions will be renamed as you know to Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions to reinforce the connexion with the inspiring figure and extraordinary scientist that Marie Skłodowska- Curie was. However, there is a strong continuity with the current actions. The new actions will still involve the private sector as an important actor and will maintain a strong international dimension. But there will be streamlined to reduce the number and strengthen the doctoral training elements. We already launched it and we will strengthen in the new programme the innovative doctoral programmes initiative to enhance the quality of doctoral training in Europe. We also launched the European industrial doctorates to better support the interactions within the knowledge triangle between academia, business and research and to bring researchers over to the industrial sector for at least 50 percent of the duration of their PHD. The first projects are now underway. In fact, with the new horizon 2020, we expect the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions to become the main EU programme offering support for doctoral training including joint doctorates. Also and, very importantly, the co-funding mechanism will be extended especially to programmes that offer early stage researchers training and transnational mobility experiences. The co-funding approach under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions will therefore be able to support the development of smart specialisation strategies of Regions by fostering excellence, promoting international mobility, enabling the reintegration of researchers and enhancing their attractiveness of centres of excellence across Europe. It is expected that, in their new version, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions will contribute to the career and development of around 65,000 researchers. Finally, the new programme will keep at aiming to foster an open European labour market for researchers, free from all forms of discrimination. It will also continue to actively promote equal opportunities between men and women. Already now, close to 40 percent of the Marie Curie researchers are women. One reason for this is that allowing agreement to fully enjoy their maternity rights and to restart their career after a maternity break guarantees that they will have the same opportunities as men. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, after 16 years in operations, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme has proved its success and its continued ability to foster the international exchange of great minds, scientific methods, and innovative approaches while building the European research area. Our aim is to keep on building on that experience in horizon 2020 while building on the excellent experience of specific actions such as COFUND. My ambition is to render COFUND much more visible so as to maximise its potential. I am therefore glad to award today the 100th COFUND agreement and I am particularly glad that this award goes to the Republic of Croatia. I am confident that this initiative will help boost the attractiveness of Croatia as a research place. I hope that Croatia will be a source of aspiration for research in the Balkan Region. This is also a strong symbol and the confirmation that the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions are above all a true engine of European integration and the vector of this European mindset cherished by Jean Monnet. Marie Skłodowska-Curie has shown us that scientific achievements can have a direct and positive impact on people's lives. As she said, "nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood". Now is the time to understand more so that we fear less. So let's make sure that the future of researchers in Europe remains bright. You can count on my full and personal commitment in this endeavour in the coming march which of course as you understand will be crucial for our actions. Thank you very much. 00:16:40
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