EU sets its research and innovation horizon to 2020

- energy sector's key role in de-carbonisation is recognised

The EU Commission recently published its proposal for the new multiannual programme for research and innovation. Fortum welcomes the clear signal of the proposal to focus resources on strategic EU growth and sustainability priorities as well as the genuine attempt to simplify and streamline both the programme and procedures. Especially positive is the large share of energy research in the forthcoming Horizon 2020 programme compared to the present FP7, hence reflecting the energy sector's role in leading the way towards de-carbonisation goals.

Fortum welcomes the Commission's proposal for a new multiannual research and innovation financing programme, Horizon 2020, which was published on 30 November 2011. The proposal to increase the overall budget for research and innovation activities is well in line with the aim to target EU financing more closely to the implementation of the strategic growth and sustainability priorities. The proposal to increase the energy related research activities is also a clear improvement compared to the situation under current financing programme. It also emphasises accurately the key role of the energy sector in leading the development towards de-carbonised society.

Fortum wants to highlight especially the following aspects regarding the "EU Horizon 2020" proposal:

- Horizon 2020 marks positively the aim to simplify and clarify the system by bringing all research and innovation related programmes under a single programme framework. A genuine effort has also been made to simplify the participation rules and administrative procedures. For example, the proposed target to reduce the maximum time of handling applications to 100 days from the present 150 days is especially welcome as slow and cumbersome application and financing procedures have clearly been identified as a reason for reduced companies' interests to participate in the EU calls.

- We also warmly welcome the Commission's commitment to increase flexibility in the scope and specification of cooperation calls in the new programme because an important precondition for industry participation is that the results of R&D projects have relevance in terms of company's future business activities.

- Horizon 2020 puts more focus in developing scientific breakthroughs into innovative products and services. Besides supporting wider participation of SMEs, the proposal also rightly recognises the important role of large companies in improving industrial innovation.

- EU Strategic Energy Technology Plan, SET Plan, has been integrated as the energy pillar of the Horizon 2020, hence bringing the implementation of separate Industrial Initiatives more closely connected with the key EU financing instrument.

- Although the budget for energy related research and innovation has increased, there is still a wide gap between the funding

proposal and the estimated EUR 50 billion implementation costs of the SET Plan Industrial Initiatives. Hence, additional financing from national RDI budgets, cohesion funds as well as other innovative financing instruments will be needed.

- It is important to make sure that funding is available for large-scale demonstration projects, especially those relating to SET Plan industrial initiatives, as the scale and risks of such projects are often too big to be covered by private funding.

- In order to improve long-term competitiveness of the EU and companies it is crucial to continue to allocate funding on the basis of competitive calls and using excellence as the decisive selection criteria. Regarding selection criteria, priority should be given to research projects that have the biggest potential for cost-efficient carbon reduction and the potential for market viability in the medium term while reserving also a reasonable share of the funds to radical innovations and projects covering the whole innovation chain. 

EU Horizon 2020 – background information

Integrates earlier initiatives:

The EU Horizon 2020 programme integrates the earlier Framework Programme for Research (FP7), the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

Targets the innovation chain:

The aim of the renewed proposal is to create, for instance, a whole "innovation chain" – from basic research to bringing innovative products and services to market – and also to support non-technological innovation, for example in design and marketing. There is a strong emphasis on European Innovation Partnerships (EIP).

Budgeted resources:

The Commission has proposed a EUR-80-billion overall budget for the programme for distribution among three high-level objectives: Excellent science base; Industrial leadership and competitive frameworks; and Tackling societal challenges.

SET Plan:

Following the EU energy and climate package in 2007, the Commission published a Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) in 2008 as a technology pillar to complement the energy and climate package. The SET Plan covers all key energy technologies needed for moving towards a low-carbon energy system.