[check against delivery]
Thank you Mr. Lannoo,
Profs. Soete, Ritter, Šlaus, Veloso
Members of the RISE Group,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning and welcome!
First, let me say congratulations to the RISE group. This publication is an immense achievement. Your efforts have accomplished something very significant for the EU. Let me tell you why I think it is so important.
First, it shows us how critical the three O's are.
Second, it makes them more concrete.
And third, it gives us direction.
But most importantly, if you leave with one idea, it should be this: Your work has already inspired our work for the future.
Europe can determine its own path. Can shape its own destiny. This was the sentiment behind President Juncker's White Paper on the Future of Europe. It maps out the challenges and opportunities ahead.
FP9, our future European Research and Science program, will be our greatest tool to solve these future challenges. And the three O's, and the work you are presenting today, forms the basis of our thinking on FP9.
For me, there are four things from the publication that we need to fully support.
- First, we need to master Innovation Support at all levels.
- Second, we need to be Mission Driven.
- Third, we need to Spread Excellence.
- And fourth, we need to invest in Science Communication.
And I want to discuss each of these things today.
Let's start with innovation.
Currently, under Horizon 2020, we are supporting three types of activity:
Firstly, basic research – in particular through the ERC. And the evidence shows we are doing a good job and attracting the best talent.
Secondly, public private partnerships with big industry in major technology sectors, such as aeronautics, pharma, auto and ICT. This, we do relatively well. We attract all the main companies
Thirdly, start-ups, spinouts and small companies. This is a relatively new activity. And unfortunately, the evidence shows that we do not attract the best.
Why? Either they do not know about Horizon 2020, or they find it too slow and inflexible. Or, we fund them once and then forget.
So we need radical reform. This is why I've launched the idea of the European Innovation Council. We need to target the next generation of innovators, in a fast and flexible way. We need to support them from start up to scale up and from grants to private investment.
We will proceed step by step, with a preparatory phase in 2018-2020 and a full-scale EIC in the next programme.
In the first phase, we will introduce a set of reforms to improve the way we fund innovation within Horizon 2020. For example, the Commission is committed to introduce an entirely bottom up approach in the Horizon 2020 SME instrument. We will change:
(i) Our evaluation criteria and process to increase the probability of funding market-creating innovations.
(ii) We will interview the people, not just evaluate the paper proposals.
(iii) We will introduce mentoring and coaching support.
(iv) We will look at ways that companies can graduate from grants to private investment.
We are also engaging top innovators across Europe to help us shape a new support system for start-ups and small companies. This was the idea behind the High Level Group of Innovators.
This is a group we recently set up to advise us on innovation support. Together we will brainstorm on what are we doing right, what are we getting wrong, and how we can push further.
We have chosen people with a remarkable range of experience in entrepreneurship and innovation. Their ideas will go hand in hand with the EIC and what we already provide under Horizon 2020.
Secondly, I want to talk about mission-driven research and innovation.
We need to define missions that breakdown silos. We have made progress in Horizon 2020 to focus resources in selected areas. But we still support too many different projects that disperse or fragment our funding. We need to set our eyes on a specific target, and drive our scientific efforts towards reaching that target. And we need to be ambitious about it.
As Mariana Mazzucato says:
Innovation-led growth is not just about fixing a market failure but also about setting direction and creating new markets. If you just tackle the market failure you can head into the wrong direction.
So we need to set direction for the future, and having a clear mission is a way of doing that.
In the White Paper, President Juncker talks about our scientific community being at the vanguard of global research tackling health challenges. Why not choose curing Alzheimer's Disease as a target? Yes, it’s ambitious. But if we are determined to coordinate the excellent science we have on offer in Europe, across silos, I believe it is achievable.
This leads me to an important point on mission driven science: it needs to be interdisciplinary. We can set high targets, but if science remains in silos, we will not reach them. Mission driven means we need to step away from approaching challenges in a vertical thematic way.
Instead, we need to unite our capacities. And we need to use a cross-discipline approach to achieve our common goal.
My third point is on our need to spread excellence.
R&I are the drivers for growth across Europe. But it is not spread evenly. Unfortunately, not all regions (in particular in EU 13 countries) are seizing this opportunity. We need to cross the R&I divide so that our future challenges can be addressed equally by all Member States.
H2020 funds R&I projects based on excellence. But many of the EU 13 countries are not performing as well in H2020. Not because they do not have excellent people or ideas. But because often their R&I systems are less developed. They do not connect the relevant actors: for example academics, public and private sector. This could also be because they do not attract talent. Or even lose talent because they lack an incentive to stay.
Structural funds can help in creating better a better R&I system. This can be through structural investments in universities etc. By doing this, they create a more dynamic R&I system that can compete.
But right now, the two programs, H2020 and the structural funds, are not very well linked. Of course, they should keep their distinct role. But they should also have a common approach to support R&I. This should be built on a common narrative and overarching strategy. And it should create better direct synergies.
Expanding the use of the Seal of Excellence is a great example of this synergy. Since 2015 more than 3000 SMEs have received one. And more countries are recognising the Seal in their funding programmes. We need to continue to extend this under Horizon 2020
Now to my final point: we need to invest in science communication. Communicating science is important, now more than ever.
Not just because we need to showcase the great work we are doing. But also because of the threats we face; the rise in populism, extremism and euro-scepticism. We're living in an era of distrust and confusion. And these kinds of threats are attacking the role and the legitimacy of science. For me, science is the only way we can reconnect citizens with the EU project.
We have one of the best and largest R&I programmes in the world. But very few outside our community know about it!
Just a few weeks ago, NASA made the headlines with the announcement of the discovery of seven new exo-planets. It was all over the media throughout the world. But they forgot to mention that the discovery was made by European researchers. Dr. Michael Gillon, who led the team which made the discovery. He is a Belgian scientist, funded by the European Union.
Spreading the word on EU discoveries, like the 7 new exo-planets, is exactly what makes EU citizens cherish and be proud of the EU.
I read a great article recently by Herman Goosens. He urged scientists to shout about the great things that EU funding does for them. He said, and I quote:
scientists must shout from the rooftops that many of our problems today can be solved only at a European level.
So if we are to face these challenges, we need to shout loud about our science in FP9. And make science communication a priority for the future.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The insights from this book prepare us for the road ahead. Thanks to your work, we have a much clearer idea of how to shape FP9. Together, we are laying the ground for the future of Europe.
President Juncker has a striking quote in the introduction to the White Paper. He says
As we decide which way to go, we should remember that Europe has always been at its best when we are united, bold and confident that we can shape our future together.
This publication gives us the confidence. It shows us we have the tools, the knowledge, and the opportunity to shape the future. And the best possible future is an Open one.
Thank you again for all your hard work.
This book marks the end of this work for you all. But in reality, this is only the beginning.
As the Roman philosopher Seneca said
every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.