Research, Innovation and Science

Innovation Union!

Innovation Union!
The Commissioner's Webstreaming event where she talked about the European Union's Innovation Strategy, the kind of Europe that it's citizens would like to see, and the ways in which we could bring this to fruition. The Commissioner was unable to answer all of the questions on the day due to time constraints, but you can now read those questions and answers online (last updated on 13 July).

Brussels, 17 June 2010

You may also like to take a look at our new page on Facebook: Innovation Union

Watch again: Commissioner's speech - Q&A

Questions and Answers

Question on simplification
Dear Ms. Geoghegan-Quinn,
I am really grateful for your effort to make the research support in EU less bureaucratic and more efficient. Taking advantage of this discussion, my question is: do you have in mind some measurable targets to achieve in this direction? Do you have any idea what is the typical proportion of the paperwork activities to the scientific ones in the present framework programme and what the proportion should be if your effort is successful?

Anyway, I wish you much success,
Tomas Opatrny
Thank you for your question. We have indeed introduced indicators measuring simplification and efficiency. "Time-to-grant" (the delay between the deadline of a call for proposals and the signature of grant agreements) and "time-to-pay" (the delay between submission of a report with a financial statement and the payment) are monitored continuously and reasons for delay are analysed. Concerning "time-to-grant", we observe in FP7 a slight improvement of the overall average as compared to FP6. The FP7 average is nevertheless of the order of 350 days, which is no reason for complacency - I am committed to working towards a further substantial reduction. For "time-to-pay" we are currently below the contractually required delay in more than 90% of the transactions. Regarding the proportion of administrative effort to scientific work, we have no detailed quantitative figures available yet. However, following the stakeholder consultation we carried out in preparation for the Communication on Simplification (COM(2010) 0187), we are well aware that the effort involved in preparing proposals and managing grants reduces the attractiveness of our programme, in particular for SMEs. The options proposed in our Communication will aim at a considerable reduction of this burden.
Question on simplification
Hello from Galway. Multi-layer bureaucracy will be a stifling deterrent to innovation. My area of interest is Language Planning and Adult Literacy (software) as both are serious issues for Ireland. Can you ensure that the bureaucracy can be kept to an absolute minimum please? Go raibh maith agat (thank you).
Buíochas a ghabháil leat as do cheist. Please be assured that we are fully committed to simplification. But we cannot act alone. Simplification requires full involvement of all actors. This is the rationale of our 29 April Communication on Simplification (COM(2010) 0187). We have opened a debate with the other European institutions as well as with research and innovation stakeholders. We are receiving a lot of comments and want to keep the momentum going until we reach the point when we can implement as many of our proposals as possible.
Question on supporting partnerships
What kind of support do you give to partners in the process of forming collaborations/partnerships and consortia in negotiation stage and later in managing consortia?

Thank you.
Kamna Pruvost
Thank you for this question. As you will understand, it is for the applicants themselves to form appropriate partnerships and collaborations, and to present these when submitting their proposals. Nevertheless, there are National Contact Points in every country, who are available to advise on all aspects of participation in FP7. More information can be found here:
Question on experts
Dear Sir or Madame,
Thank you very for your message and the invitation to join the web event. Unfortunately I will not be able to join this event due to other commitments but I would like to take the opportunity to raise one question.

The commission uses expertise of a lot of experts from all over Europe. The results resp their quality are depending from the qualification of the experts or consultants. At my opinion experts should have an expertise in the field of research of at least 3 to 4 years in the field to be assessed or scrutinized and for industrial oriented research at least three years of industrial practice of the issues in scope. Sometimes budgets are quite small and this may be causes economical based decisions for experts or consultants.
Is there a qualification guideline valid also for other DGs for choosing experts which is considering this aspect?

I would appreciate to get an answer by mail very much.
Reinhard Hoock
Thank you for your question. There are no fixed rules on the length of experience of experts appointed to evaluate proposals for funding under FP7; the Commission first and foremost seeks a high level of expertise, and the right range of competences for the call for proposals in question. The Commission also aims to ensure a measure of diversity in its panels, in terms of geography and gender. It also ensures that a minimum proportion of experts are replaced every year
Question on scientific mediation and research infrastructures

Pour les chercheurs européens, non anglophones surtout, une des plus sérieuses barrières à l'innovation et à la réactivité face à de nouveaux problèmes (de société, d'environnement, d'économie) est la barrière linguistique : ils ne prennent connaissance des travaux réalisés dans d'autres pays que de manière aléatoire (colloques, séminaires, infos par internet, etc. ) et avec un délai très long. Résultat : il y a énormément de recherches qui se font sur les mêmes thèmes en parallèle dans plusieurs pays sans que les chercheurs le sachent. Il apparaît absolument indispensable de créer des outils de médiation scientifique. Cela fait-il de vos priorités d'infrastructures de recherche ?

Marie-Dominique Ribereau-Gayon

For European researchers, and non-English speakers in particular, one of the most important barriers to innovation and reacting to new challenges (societal, environmental and economic) is the linguistic barrier: they only find out about research in other countries by chance (symposiums, seminars, web information, etc.) and late. As a result, a huge number of research projects on the same themes are carried out in parallel in different countries, without researchers being aware. It seems mandatory to create tools for the exchange of scientific information. Is it one of your priorities for research infrastructures?

Marie-Dominique Ribereau-Gayon

Dear Ms Ribereau-Gayon,
Thank you for your question and interest in the debate. Let me answer you with the following points.

1. There is no doubt that state-of-the-art European research infrastructures are essential tools for this kind of information exchange. The development of world-class research infrastructures across all fields of science and technology is indeed a major priority of the EU strategy for the European Research Area and the 7th Framework Programme for Research (2007-2013).

Current initiatives including FP7 actions for research infrastructures support the linking and sharing of existing research facilities. They also support the access of researchers to these facilities regardless of their location in Europe. In this context, collaborative working of researchers in virtual laboratories is given priority and FP7 pays particular attention to the further development of e-infrastructure.

Over recent years, major attention has been paid to identifying a common agenda and setting up priorities for the next generation of European research facilities. As a result, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) has developed a European Roadmap for research infrastructures with (currently) 44 projects ranging from lasers, telescopes and marine exploration to databases for research in all fields of scientific research. Exploiting the potential of e-infrastructure to develop research facilities was clearly considered when developing this roadmap. However, a major challenge is to ensure the long-term preservation of the digital records of science. This is a task which all European stakeholders are currently working on.

2. Activities in the scientific data infrastructure domain aim to overcome fragmentation in heterogeneous data repositories and to enable the research communities to better manage, use, share and preserve data. To support the emerging European Scientific Data e-Infrastructure, 15 projects are currently being supported under FP7. Projects span the range from policy development, related to strategies for information access, to technological development.

3. The open access to scientific data is also one of the new strategic priorities of the Digital Agenda for Europe: "…publicly funded research should be widely disseminated through Open Access publication of scientific data and papers." "To this end the Commission will appropriately extend current Open Access publication requirements as stipulated in Commission Decision C(2008) 4408".

The Agenda outlines seven priority areas for actions, one of which is the investment in research and innovation. Knowledge transfer activities are part of this action. They should be managed effectively and supported by suitable financial instruments. Publicly funded research should also be widely disseminated through Open Access publication of scientific data and papers.

Answer translated in French:

Chère Mme Ribereau-Gayon,
Merci pour votre question et votre intérêt pour le débat. Permettez-moi de vous répondre avec les points suivants.

1/ Sans aucun doute, des infrastructures européennes de recherche performantes sont des outils essentiels de la médiation scientifique. Le développement d'infrastructures de recherche de niveau international dans tous les domaines de la science et de la technologie, est, en effet une priorité clé de la stratégie de l'UE pour l'Espace européen de la recherche et du 7e Programme-cadre de recherche (2007-2013).

Les initiatives actuelles qui incluent les actions du 7e PC pour les infrastructures de recherche soutiennent le lien et le partage des installations de recherche existantes. Elles soutiennent également l'accès des chercheurs à ces installations, sans lien avec leur situation en Europe. Dans ce contexte, nous donnons priorité au travail collaboratif des chercheurs dans les laboratoires virtuels, et le 7e PC accorde une attention particulière au développement des "infrastructures électroniques".

Ces dernières années, nous avons ciblé notre attention sur l'identification d'un agenda commun et la définition des priorités pour la prochaine génération d'installations de recherche. Ainsi, le Forum stratégique européen pour les infrastructures de recherche (ESFRI) a développé une feuille de route européenne pour les infrastructures de rechercher avec (actuellement) 44 projets tels que des lasers, des télescopes, l'exploration maritime ou des bases de données de recherche dans tous les domaines scientifiques. L'exploitation du potentiel des infrastructures électroniques pour développer des installations de recherche a été clairement prise en considération lors du développement de la feuille de route. Cependant, un défi majeur demeure d'assurer la préservation à long terme des dossiers numériques scientifiques. C'est une tâche sur laquelle travaillent toutes les parties prenantes européennes.

2/ Les activités dans le domaine des infrastructures de données de recherche ont pour but de surmonter la fragmentation des répertoires, hétérogènes, et permettre aux communautés de recherche de mieux gérer, utiliser, partager et préserver les données. Pour aider l'émergente Infrastructure électronique européenne de données scientifiques, 15 projets sont actuellement soutenus dans le cadre du 7e PC. Les projets traitent de développement politique, lié aux stratégies pour l'accès à l'information, et le développement technologique.

3/ Le libre accès (Open Access) aux données scientifiques est aussi l'une des nouvelles priorités de la Stratégie numérique pour l'Europe: " assurer à la recherche financée par des fonds publics une large diffusion par la publication librement accessible de données et d'articles scientifiques."…" À cette fin, la Commission élargira le champ des exigences actuelles en matière de publications librement accessibles telles qu'elles figurent dans la décision de la Commission C(2008)4408".

La stratégie souligne sept domaines d'actions prioritaires, dont l'investissement dans la recherche et l'innovation. Les activités de transfert de connaissances font partie de cette action. Elles devraient être gérées efficacement et soutenues par des instruments financiers adaptés. La recherche financée publiquement doit également être largement disséminée à travers les publications libres d'accès.

Question on avoiding "brain drain"

Dear Commisioner,

Creating innovation in the EU requires innovative people. Innovation has its roots in fundamental scientific research, typically conducted in laboratories associated with universities. Historically, there has been a large 'brain drain' from Europe (and elsewhere) to North America for the academic community. Have you considered mechanisms to attract successful European scientists back to the EU?


Filip Van Petegem

Filip Van Petegem, PhD
Assistant Professor
The University of British Columbia

The European Commission has launched a number of soft-law initiatives to make Europe more attractive to researchers and to enhance their careers. Such initiatives include the Charter and Code, and the European Partnership for Researchers. Many of the aspects covered by the European Partnership for Researchers, or by the Charter and Code, are of a nature that cannot easily be tackled by legislation. What we need is a true change of mindset. A fundamental principle underlying the Charter and Code is that researchers are professionals, even if they are still in training, and that they deserve to be treated as such. What we need to do is convince employers and funders of the benefits of offering good conditions to the researchers that they employ or fund. And, we need to support them in their efforts to provide such good conditions - quite often the good intentions are there but the framework conditions are not supportive.

This being said, there are also a number of areas where legislative measures could be used to speed up the process of improvement. For example, we are currently examining the feasibility of such measures in the areas of open recruitment and the portability of grants. We already have a European legislative framework for the coordination of social security for mobile workers (which of course includes mobile researchers), but there is room for improvement, especially when it comes to supplementary pensions.

Question on support to researchers

Dear Mrs Geoghegan-Quinn,

I do apologise but I was not available to participate to your online conference.
I am a researcher, an ethnobiologist doing my PhD at the University of Kent in the UK, I work towards community-based enterprise for the alleviation of poverty and natural resources conservation.

Yes Europe is at its worse currently and needs to find ways to turn around this situation, not an easy task!!

I just wanted to say that as scientists, we have a lot to offer and contribute to the EU. However, what does not seem possible at the moment is to bring this knowledge and expertise into the institution, which in my view remains a very complex bureaucratic institution and not an easy one to access. I know that there are many programmes across Europe for young scientists. However, this is not the case for me as I am what you could call a mature student and there does not seem to be many openings for people of my age.

Personally what I would like to see is an easy access for researchers, a kind of platform where one could contribute to current world problems and work in a closer collaboration with the EU.

I believe that if these openings were created to facilitate exchange, the EU will be a better position to draw from the scientific community knowledge across many disciplines.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely

Bernadette Montanari (Ms)

Dear Ms Montanari,

In the context of the Research & Innovation Plan and the Conclusions of the Competitiveness Council of 2 March 2010 which focused on European researchers' mobility and careers, we consider enhancing existing information services for researchers of the utmost importance. The EURAXESS portal and more than 200 associated EURAXESS Service Centres across Europe offer free personalised assistance to researchers and their families, regardless of their age or nationality.

On the EURAXESS Portal (, you will find the contact details of all the EURAXESS Services Centres across Europe. Most countries also have their own national EURAXESS Portals with lots of useful information and links - definitely worth exploring!

Regarding the contribution of researchers to society, bringing ideas to markets is indeed a challenge. This will be one of the main pillars of the Innovation Union initiative. For example, we are looking into the possibility of creating European markets for unused patents and of bringing together the owners of unused patents with entrepreneurs who are interested in using them. This builds on pilot experiences in several European countries, such as France and Denmark. I also firmly believe in promoting open access to science results. In particular, the results of publicly funded research should be easily available to those who want to use them. This is the model that we are promoting with the European Framework Programme for Research: for example all the research funded through the European Research Council is open access. I want to go even further, so that Europe becomes a model of open innovation.

Question on support to researchers


mi chiamo Valeria Loscrì e sono un'assegnista di ricerca presso l'Università della Calabria (Italia). Sono assegnista da ormai 4 anni e non ci sono possibilità di sbocco professionale, soprattutto per me che ho scelto di avere dei figli pur facendo ricerca; per cui quando un bel giorno mi diranno che non ci sono più fondi non potrò fare altro che "SMETTERE" di fare quello che avrei sognato di fare per tutta la mia vita. La comunità Europea ha prestato molta attenzione alle regioni come la mia, sottosviluppate, mandando ingenti finanziamenti che però non hanno in alcun modo contribuito a stabilizzare la professione di precari della ricerca. La mia domanda è perchè la Comunità Europea invece di affidare i finanziamenti alle gestioni locali non gestisce direttamente dei finanziamenti per tentare di investire nelle persone che da anni si dedicano con stipendi da fame ed in condizioni di precariato assurde all'attività di ricerca di base? Perchè la comunità Europea non pensa alla possibilità di "creare" delle figure di Ricercatore Europeo che possano essere inseriti nelle Università e che vengano fatti interagire con altri istituti dell'ambito della Comunità Europea. In tal modo la Comunità Europea potrebbe monitorare direttamente i risultati della ricerca di base ed ovviare ad eventuali gestioni che poco si interessano alle condizioni di precariato ed al fornire i mezzi necessari per fare "vera" ricerca.

Distinti Saluti,

Valeria Loscrì

I would like to introduce myself: my name is Valeria Loscrì and I'm a postdoctoral research assistant at the University of Calabria.

I have been working in this position for more than four years without any hope of having a secure job, especially because I chose to have children while doing research.

As a result, when one fine day they tell me there is no more money, I will have to stop working as a researcher, the job that I have dreamt of all my life.

The European community has paid a lot of attention to underdeveloped areas like mine, spending a lot of money but without helping in the least to stabilise the unprotected profession of research.

My question is this: why doesn't the European Union, instead of entrusting the funds to local managers, directly manage funding in order to invest in the people who have for years devoted themselves, on starvation wages and in ridiculously insecure conditions, to the activity of basic research?

Why doesn't the European Commission create "European Researchers" who can be placed in universities and then interact with other research centres in the EU?

In this way the European Union could directly monitor the results of basic research and bypass any managers who are not that interested in the insecure conditions or providing the necessary means to carry out "real" research.

Best regards

Valeria Loscrì

Thank you for this question.

Making research careers in Europe more attractive and sustainable is of key importance if we want to achieve the ambitious objectives of the EU 2020 Strategy. Research talent is a very valuable asset, and we cannot afford to lose it due to the lack of a supportive environment for researchers at Europe's universities and research institutions.

The European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for their Recruitment stress the need to consider researchers as professionals who deserve to be treated accordingly. Member States have a key responsibility in making sure that the principles of the Charter and Code are implemented within the national research systems. The European Partnership for Researchers which we launched with Member States in 2008 has given a new dynamic to this process, and we are seeing some promising developments in this regard.

I am convinced that in the context of increased international competition for the best researchers, more and more institutions will realise that the only way to remain competitive is to adapt their human resources policies in such a way that researchers feel supported and valued for their work. Unfortunately progress is still too slow, but we are making every effort to speed up the adoption of the Charter and Code principles by more and more research employers (in particular universities and public research institutes) across Europe.

Answer translated in Italian:
Grazie per la domanda.

Far si' che la carriera di ricercatore in Europa possa interessare un crescente numero di persone e sia sostenibile e' un elemento cruciale se si vogliono realizzare gli ambiziosi obiettivi della strategia europea del prossimo decennio "Europa 2020".

I talenti della ricerca sono dei beni molto preziosi e non possiamo permetterci di perderli a causa di una mancanza di sostegno per i ricercatori da parte delle univerista' europee e degli istituti di ricerca.

La Carta europea per i ricercatori e il codice di condotta per la loro assunzione sottolinea la necessita' di considerare i ricercatori come professionisti e che questi devono essere trattati di conseguenza.

Gli Stati membri hanno una responsabilita' chiave nel garantire che i principi della Carta e del Codice siano attuati all'interno dei sistemi di ricerca nazionali. La partnership europea per i ricercatori, lanciata nel 2008 con gli Stati membri, ha generato un nuovo dinamismo a questo processo e stiamo vedendo dei promettenti sviluppi a questo proposito.

Sono sicura che, nell'ambito dell'aumento della concorrenza internazionale per i migliori ricercatori, sempre piu' istituzioni comprenderanno che il solo modo per restare competitive e' adattare le loro politiche delle risorse umane in maniera tale da sostenere ed apprezzare per il loro lavoro i ricercatori. Sfortunatamente i progressi sono ancora troppo lenti, ma stiamo facendo tutti gli sforzi possibili per accelerarli e far si' che i principi della Carta e del Codice siano tenuti in considerazione da un maggior numero di datori di lavoro ( in particolare le università' e gli istituti pubblici di ricerca) in Europa.

Question on research funding

Question from Austria:

How will you better align public research funding in the different Member States and on EU level? Preferably without too many new instruments that again cause administrative burden for scientists and programmes.

Best regards,
Alexander Holleis

Dear Mr Holleis,
Thank you for your interest in the debate.

The current variety and lack of consistency of the terms and conditions attached to competitive research funding across Europe has been identified as one of the important bottlenecks preventing us from achieving a properly functioning European Research Area. While the existence of many funders with their specific research characteristics is a benefit, the existing heterogeneity of funding conditions undeniably creates complexity for researchers, unnecessary transaction costs and financial insecurity for research institutions, and also clearly prevents funders from easily designing the effective funding instruments we need to better support cross-border collaboration.

Ongoing policy actions are paving the way to increased inter-operability of national legal and administrative research frameworks, and should contribute to a greater streamlining of the funding conditions for research across Europe. First of all, the High-level Group for Joint Programming is developing guidelines for six Framework Conditions (foresight, peer review, evaluation of Joint Programmes, funding of cross-border research, dissemination of results and Intellectual Property Rights) which were considered by the Council to be key for the implementation of Joint Programming Initiatives. These guidelines should be adopted by the end of 2010. In addition, common principles for public competitive funding are currently being identified by a Stakeholders' Platform gathering representatives from research performers and external public funders. The objective of this work, supported by the European Commission, is to foster awareness of the key factors that make external research funding manageable and efficient for the direct benefit of the quality and the competitiveness of European Research. Last but not least, the recently adopted Commission Communication also offers new perspectives for the simplification of the Framework Programme, which is an important signal given to the research community considering its leverage and structuring effects on the European research landscape and its impact on the behaviour of national funding organisations.

The streamlining of funding conditions for research is high on the EU policy agenda. The Lisbon Treaty offers a new legal basis to move forward which can be used in case voluntary progress remains too slow and piecemeal.

Questions on answers to societal challenges and the R&I Strategy

Questions from LERU :

1. We see a multitude of initiatives in EU research policy, focusing on topics, presently under the heading of "Grand Societal Challenges": energy, environment, climate, etc can be found in FP7, the KICs of the EIT, the proposals for JPIs, etc. How will the Commissioner guarantee a coordinated, non-overlapping, approach on these topics? Will next to the KICs, research & innovation schools be set up to tackle some of these challenges?

2. We applaud the Commissioner's resolve to develop a powerful Research and Innovation Strategy for the EU. Ensuring that enough creative and talented people, coming from our own nations and from all over the world, will choose the EU to pursue a career in research will be crucial to make the Strategy succeed. Universities play a leading role in attracting, training and supporting researchers and in delivering frontier research upon which innovation is built. What elements will be included in the Strategy to invest in people and in the universities that prepare and support them?

Thanks and regards,

Prof Dr Kurt Deketelaere
Secretary-General, League of European Research Universities,

Thank you for your questions and interest in the debate.

Reply to 1st Question:
It is true that we need better coordination throughout Europe. This means creating a real single market for knowledge and for innovation in Europe. This goes from establishing an integrated European Research Area to agreeing at last on the EU Patent and promoting joint public procurement and common standards for innovative products and services. We will refocus and simplify the European funding instruments, including the Research Framework Programme, the Community Innovation Programme and the Structural Funds.

Furthermore more EU joint programming initiatives, such as the recent Joint Programming Initiative for neurodegenerative diseases, are expected to be launched. They will address major common challenges by bringing together researchers, existing research evidence and national funding bodies and by sharing tools, techniques and other resources more efficiently among EU member states. At the heart of all new developments will be the major societal challenges that we face, such as climate change, energy and food security, and health care for an ageing population.

Reply to 2nd Question:
Innovation Union should help in several ways. First, I expect that simpler research and innovation programmes will make participation easier for all, including universities. Secondly, I am working with my colleague, Commissioner Vassiliou, to bring universities and business together to encourage them to develop new education and training curricula for the innovation skills needed in the new economy. As you know, educational policy is a Member State competence, but we will positively encourage constructive reform. Thirdly, I see an important role for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, which is creating strong networks of universities, research institutes and businesses to address important challenges such as climate change and energy.

Question on cutbacks in the public sector

I would like to put the following question to the Commissioner please: -

The community / voluntary / education sectors have struggled with limited support for a long time but have proven good value for every cent invested in them by creating employment and improving services. Why must they now suffer further cutbacks so that governments can afford to bail out the banks and developers? Surely cutbacks in these sectors is misguided policy at a time when countries such as Ireland need job creation and it would make more sense to reduce the bail outs and invest wisely in truly committed people providing important services at both community and national level ?

Kind regards,
Bob Wilson
Projects Coordinator
CELT Centre for Environmental Living and Training

Dear Mr Wilson,
Thank you for your question.

Let me reassure you. Research and innovation as well as education and training are at the heart of the EU2020 strategy. We must invest more and better in education and research and innovation - not less. The message of the Commission to Member States is that the crisis makes it even more important for governments to prioritise education and research investments in their budgets. This is the source of future growth for Europe. So cutting these budgets would only undermine the possibility for Europe to recover and to come back to strong growth and sustainable economies - including balanced public budgets - in the long run.

At the same time, the crisis makes it extremely important that every euro is spent in the most effective way. Spending public money on education and research is not enough: it must also be spent intelligently. For this, Member States need to coordinate among themselves and with the European Union to avoid duplication, ensure critical mass and thus get maximum returns for their investments.

On our side we will also refocus and simplify the European funding instruments, including the Research Framework Programme, the Community Innovation Programme and the Structural Funds. This is the best way to boost competitiveness in Europe, to create more growth and more jobs in future. I am passionate about fostering an innovation culture in Europe because it can change people's lives and transform our society.

I am convinced that European leaders are ready to recognize that they now need to put their acts together and unite their efforts to create jobs, and achieve a single area for research and innovation in Europe.

Question on international cooperation

Dear Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn,
As you know FP7 programme in the health work programme is a general agreement that USA partners get funded by FP7 (and EU/EEA partners can get funds from NIH in USA, see below). This is very good for EU/EEA industry.

So are Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn going to extend this agreement to other granting agencies in USA e.g. NSF, DOE as well as with Japan? When will possible changes take place?

K. Kristoffer Andersson

Prof. K. Kristoffer Andersson
Department of Molecular Biosciences
University of Oslo

Dear Professor Anderson,

Thank you for your message of 17 June 2010 in which you address the question of funding opportunities for participants from the US in FP7 projects. As you rightly point out, at the moment funding for US participants is explicitly provided for only under the FP7 health work programme. Otherwise US participants can only receive funding under the general conditions established by the FP7 rules for participation which stipulate that participants from industrialised countries are only eligible for funding if the EU's financial contribution is necessary for the successful execution of a research project or when the EU's financial contribution is provided for in an international agreement or arrangement with an industrialised country. The reason for explicitly providing for funding in the Health work programme has been that the US National Institutes of Health is, at the moment, the only US agency which also offers funding for researchers and research organisations established in the EU which are participating in NIH projects.

However, the Commission has concluded a number of implementing arrangements with US research funding agencies, such as the NSF and the Department of Energy, under which we have established special dialogue platforms which may identify common research objectives and also funding opportunities. The Commission is eager to make use of these platforms to explore the idea further of reciprocal funding opportunities in given research areas.

As concerns our S&T cooperation with Japan we have just signed an S&T cooperation agreement with the government of Japan which will be ratified soon. We hope that we can use the consultation mechanism which will be set up under this agreement to explore the opportunity of reciprocal funding possibilities.

Question on social sciences and innovation

My question to the Commissioner:

How can the Commission promote innovation when the research projects promoted within the 7 FP are so large that they represent only fragments of the scientific potentials? This is extremely important in the case of the social sciences that are from their nature fragmented in relation to empirical approaches and theoretical foundations. By organizing huge projects only some parts of the approaches and theories can be applied in the production of social innovation. The fruitful competition among the theoretical approaches in creative analysis of the social realities and policies is in this way diminished.

Dr. Maria Kontos
Institut für Sozialforschung
an der J.W. Goethe Universität

Dear Dr Kontos,
Thank your interest in the debate.

The thematic priorities under the "Cooperation" Specific Programme of FP7 promote innovation through topics related, for example, to advanced technologies, health, energy, environment or agriculture. Topics for innovative developments of technology or scientific knowledge are included by the themes in their annual work programmes.

The economic aspects of innovation and social innovation are specifically the subject of the Socio-economic Science and Humanities programme. Economic research addresses issues such as impacts of research and innovation programmes on Gross Domestic Products, employment, competitiveness, and sectoral production as well as the role of services, intangible investments, and entrepreneurship in the innovation process.

Social innovation is a new and very important subject of research in the Social Sciences and Humanities programme: 30 million euros have been invested in this area in 2010 and 2011.

This effort is explained by the Commission's growing interest in social innovation issues in relation to the Europe 2020 strategy and the Research and Innovation Plan. President Barroso emphasized the importance of social innovation at the beginning of 2009. I have also confirmed my willingness to strengthen this important dimension of innovation in the new Research and Innovation Plan. The Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities programme is already funding research and social entrepreneurship in this area; in 2010, it will support projects about welfare systems for urban cohesion, social innovation for inequalities and poverty, employment in social services and social innovation.

In 2011, research will address measurement, scaling up and networking of social innovation. The Science in Society programme of the "Capacities" Specific Programme is also involved in social innovation best practices linked to the exploitation of science by the public and civil society organisations.

Question on cultural development

Most brakes to innovation in research, education and industry are of cultural origin. However, the cultural dimension is always the weak spot in EU research calls for research. The same mistake (disregard of socio-cultural stakes in change and innovation) is repeated over and over again. Your own approach focuses mainly on economy: do you have plans to balance this with real means to develop the indispensable innovation in the cultural field and favour a sustainable cultural development?

Marie-Dominique Ribereau-Gayon

Thank you for your question
Culture and Humanities is an important part of the Social Sciences and Humanities programme; Europe's cultural heritage is the subject of research in 2010, including the role of museums and libraries in the 21st century.

Cultural issues are also embedded in the majority of the social sciences research topics at the same level as the social and economic dimensions. This is a true progress compared to the past.

Last but not least, the Science in Society programme of the "Capacities" Specific Programme addresses culture in relation to the dissemination of adequate knowledge to the public, taking into account cultural diversity.

Question on Women and Science


The Commissioner speaks about breaking down barriers - Does the commissioner agree that a focus on utilising the skills and talents of women in all fields, but especially in the areas of science and ICT, is key to creating a successful innovation Union? And how can we support changes to encourage women to participate more fully in innovation and development?

Many thanks,
Louise Norman
European Project Assistant

Thank you for your question.

The Commission fully agrees on the need to better involve women in science and technology to increase innovation. A study from A. Löström (Gender equality, economic growth and employment, Swedish Presidency of the European Union, 2009) confirms the importance of involving women in science: it shows that, by eliminating all the gender gaps, the potential gain for the economy is around 30% of GDP growth for the EU as a whole.

The European Commission is well aware of the situation and produces statistics and reports on Gender Equality in Science with the Helsinki Group on Women in Science. The latest edition of these "She Figures" was published in 2009. Despite some progress made since the last edition in 2006, women still represent only 30% of European researchers and only 18% of full professors. The report underlines the need for long-lasting and far-reaching structural change in universities and research institutions, to promote a gender mix in all study fields and at all levels of scientific careers.

The European Commission is encouraging this "structural change" financially: it supports research institutions in order to modernize their management structures and working conditions, in order to become more gender aware, flexible and inclusive.