Ukraine Association Agreement to Horizon 2020

20 March 2015, Taras Shevchenko National University

Carlos Moedas - Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

Check Against Delivery

Minister Kvit, Minister Seile, Professor Hubersky, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to speak to you today in this prestigious institution. It is a great honour to have signed Ukraine's Association Agreement to Horizon 2020 this morning. The first time that Ukraine has been associated to an EU programme. A historic day. A remarkable achievement. I warmly welcome the further integration of Ukraine into the European Research Area. And, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made this possible. In particular, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science, has handled negotiations with patience, determination and integrity. Patience and integrity, at a time when no task is easy − at a time when Ukraine faces so much hardship and uncertainty.

But yours is a strategic, long-term vision. Yours is a powerful message. That no level of hardship or uncertainty will prevent Ukraine from investing in its future. That the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of science, research and innovation, are indivisible from the peace and prosperity of any nation.

I would like to thank the Taras Shevchenko National University, and Professor Hubersky, for hosting this celebration. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak face-to-face with Ukraine's radiant, science and technology community.

Jacob Bronowski, the mathematician, said in one of his books:

"Science is the acceptance of what works and the rejection of what does not. That needs more courage than we might think."

In my eyes, science and research cooperation between Ukraine and the EU works. You were among the top ten third countries to participate in our previous research funding programme. Let us help each other be courageous, be bold, be determined to see Ukraine progress through its scientific and technological endeavours.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest multinational research programme in the world, improving European knowledge every day. Ukraine is now part of that legacy, part of a huge multinational effort to push boundaries and improve lives.

Horizon 2020 is based on three pillars synonymous with European ideals and aspirations:

  1. Scientific excellence
  2. Industrial leadership
  3. Societal challenges

Billions of euros dedicated to improving the world we live in, the world we share and the world we will pass on to future generations. Representing thousands of projects, organisations, companies, experts and scientists, united in their fascination for exploring the unknown. United by the highest ideals. Asking the most fundamental questions about life, nature and the advancement of humanity. Why do humans do science? Why do we do art? Because every one of us is innately curious about the beauty of the universe and the complexity of existence. We can choose to spend time destructively, or constructively. We can choose to take, or to contribute.

I believe Ukraine has chosen to be on the construction team. Chosen to invest in its knowledge and in its people. Chosen to contribute to the common goals of the wider science and technology community.

We know these contributions work. European Research Council funding has proven to be an invaluable asset to Europe. The ERC has supported over 4300 Principal Researchers, of 64 different nationalities. Providing grants to the people whose discoveries can start new industries, new markets, and improve our quality of life. The ERC's curiosity-driven, competitive approach has enabled it to fund a broad portfolio of research. Including projects which address the grand challenges, as well as the fundamental questions, faced by European and global society.

Like Norwegian husband-and-wife team Professor May-Britt and Edvard Moser's 2014 Nobel Prize winning discovery, of proof of the human brain's inner navigation system.

To keep our economies healthy we must remain at the forefront of research, science and innovation. To remain at the forefront, we must encourage researchers to take risks. Only by enabling our top talent to explore the unknown, can we stretch the limits of our understanding and break new ground. For every project and attempt that is unsuccessful, there is still the further opportunity to learn from what went wrong.

To advance as a competitive global partner, we need the world's best to make Europe their laboratory. To make Europe the destination of choice for the world's most groundbreaking scientists, researchers and innovators.

The list of benefits of today's association agreement to the Ukraine and to the European Union is both long and significant. It will now be possible for Ukraine to host European Research Council grants. It will now be possible to share research infrastructure. Ukrainian researchers will be eligible to apply for all mobility schemes and fellowships of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions. Ukrainian businesses will now have access to the Horizon 2020 instrument for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. The list goes on. And the EU is excited to learn from you and to engage with you.

We look forward to strengthening our cooperation and growing together.

But our common vision will not be achieved over night. We will provide you with support, but you will need everyone on board. You will need to make sincere investments and to persevere in the most difficult of circumstances. From now on, the Horizon 2020 programme is your programme. Its success in Ukraine will be determined by Ukranians. It will be up to you to examine the programme, to determine where your interests and strengths can best be matched. But, this presents an opportunity to reform and modernise the Ukrainian national research and innovation system. To make it even more competitive. This will be difficult. You will face new challenges other countries haven't had to, but your efforts will determine the opportunities you afford yourselves in the future.

We are fully ready to support the development of your research and innovation systems. A strong Ukrainian knowledge economy, associated to the EU knowledge economy, is, of course, an asset to us as well. We don't presume to teach you what you already know. Our aim is to support you and share as much as we can. Beyond Horizon 2020, the Commission will need to work across portfolios.

EaPConnect, for example, will provide Eastern Partnership countries, and Ukraine in particular, with huge broadband capacity dedicated to scientific research. This will be achieved by improving the current interconnections with the European GEANT network: the most powerful for research and education worldwide. The objective will be to provide broadband Wi-Fi access on university campuses, and access to a wide range of scientific publications and databases. This is expected to substantially ease the integration of Ukraine into the virtual life of the EU and international scientific communities.

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To the young generation of Ukrainian researchers and scientists, and to the students present here today, I offer you the words of Albert Einstein:

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning."

In the EU we will make every effort to support Ukraine's sustainable and self-determined development, based on a relationship of mutual respect and reciprocal commitment. Your association to Horizon 2020 is, I hope, one of many joyful moments to come.

Together we can learn from yesterday, we can hope for tomorrow, and we will never stop questioning.

Thank you very much.