The EU needs to act urgently and coherently to achieve the scale of effort and impact needed to address grand challenges with the limited public research funds available. Strategic Research Agendas developed under the Joint Programming Initiatives show Member State commitment to addressing grand challenges as called for in the 2009 Lund Declaration25 and by Council. Joint Programming also has the potential for better anchoring co-operation with international partners. But implementation to date falls short. The crux is to enable transnational research and innovation by exploiting synergies between national and international programmes, strategically aligning different sources of national and other funds at EU level rather than cross-border funding per se. The level of alignment is presently too low to make a serious impression on big and complex challenges. This is due in part to differences between national funding rules and selection processes, but it is also a question of political will.
Conditions need to be created for all Member States to benefit from strengthened cross-border cooperation and competition through:
Defining common priorities and joint research agendas, building on the Joint Programming Initiatives and input from strategic forward looking activities
Implementing joint research agendas, when possible, through joint or at least synchronised calls between Member States based on joint international peer reviews delivering comparable scores for all proposals. This would ensure pan-European competition, the benefits of which are already widely acknowledged by Member States (almost all participate frequently in joint ERA-NET calls and some choose to award national funding to researchers on the ERC reserve list for this very reason). It would also pinpoint national strengths and weaknesses in each field across the EU, so helping Member States to decide where to specialise
Jointly implementing and/or financing calls and projects, building on experience to date and the provisions for Public-Public Partnerships in Horizon 2020. This requires national funding rules to be made compatible and to converge to common European standards.
Joint research agendas should be implemented in cooperation with non-EU countries where relevant and appropriate.
Step up efforts to implement joint research agendas addressing grand challenges, sharing information about activities in agreed priority areas, ensuring that adequate national funding is committed and strategically aligned at European level in these areas and that common ex post evaluation is conducted
Ensure mutual recognition of evaluations that conform to international peer-review standards as a basis for national funding decisions
Remove legal and other barriers to the cross-border interoperability of national programmes to permit joint financing of actions including cooperation with non-EU countries where relevant
Agree on common funding principles - eligible costs, reporting requirements, etc. to make national research programmes compatible, interoperable (cross-border) and simpler for researchers
Further develop and deploy the Lead-Agency, Money-Follows-Cooperation Line, Money-Follows-Researcher and other models for cross-border cooperation
Pilot the use of synchronised calls with, where possible, single joint international peer review evaluation of proposals as a basis for funding decisions
Pursue, stimulate and participate in Public-Public Partnerships to address grand challenges as set out in the Communication on Partnering in Research and Innovation to leverage Member States' contributions and ensure close coordination with relevant activities under Horizon 2020
On the basis of the information supplied by Member States, map activities in agreed priority areas, with a view to identifying strengths, weaknesses, gaps and duplications
Support Member States and research funding organisations in implementing joint international peer review evaluations and setting common funding standards - e.g. through an ERA Mark label recognising best practice in cross-border research operations
Excellent research depends upon world-class facilities and research infrastructures (RIs), including ICT-based e-infrastructures (eRIs). Such RIs attract talent and stimulate innovation and business opportunities. eRIs in particular enable increasingly prevalent data-intensive collaborative research by geographically dispersed teams - eScience. The challenges are to ensure national commitments to the implementation of the ESFRI Roadmap, achieve maximum value-for-money from investment at all levels, overcome obstacles to construction and operation and ensure open access for researchers to RIs across Europe. The IU includes a commitment to complete or launch construction by 2015 of 60% of the ESFRI roadmap priority RIs of pan-European interest. This requires investment beyond the means of individual countries - pooling of regional, national and European Union funds is thus necessary, particularly for ERIC RIs, including distributed facilities requiring the participation of as many countries as possible with world class national and regional capacity. Many new European RIs also benefit from international partners or are the European branches of worldwide networks. It is crucial to ensure cost control and management of global projects. The group of twenty major economies (G20) is addressing these issues with the active participation of the Commission.
Confirm financial commitments for the construction and operation of ESFRI, global, national and regional RIs of pan-European interest, particularly when developing national roadmaps and the next Structural Fund programmes
Remove legal and other barriers to cross-border access to RIs
Support through Horizon 2020 access to RIs as well as the on-going overall integration of EU RIs particularly those awarded ERIC status
Encourage Member States to link RI roadmaps to the ESFRI roadmap and smart specialisation strategies in Structural Funds co-financed research and innovation programmes, reinforcing the capacity of less favoured regions to host and participate in RIs of pan-European and international interest
Support training programmes for the management of such RIs
Develop in cooperation with ESFRI, e-IRG and other stakeholders a Charter of Access setting out common standards and harmonized access rules and conditions for the use of RIs
Work with ESFRI to set priorities for implementing the Roadmap and to provide advice and guidance to Member States on overcoming legal, financial or technical obstacles to implementation
Define with ESFRI, e-IRG and other stakeholders common evaluation principles, impact-assessment criteria and monitoring tools which can be applied in regional, national and European programmes to help combine funds from different sources
Work with e-IRG to promote the alignment of EU and national approaches to eRI development and use