• Building together Europe's Digital Future: How to leverage Research & Innovation collaboration in the next EU framework programme (FP9)?

    26 March 2018Over the last twenty years, the number of people working in ICT Research & Development has doubled, and productivity in the ICT sector currently exceeds that of the total economy in the European Union. In the Digital Single Market strategy, the European Commission rightly notes that the digitalisation of Europe’s economy and society necessitates research and innovation in all areas.

    In addition, three-quarters of the value of the digital economy for Europe lies in the transformative potential of ICT for other sectors and public services. As digital technologies are fundamentally changing European economy and society, they are creating highly skilled jobs in knowledge-intensive organisations across all sectors.The challenge now lies in driving this transformation and ensuring that the European economy is ready for the digital age.

    How do we ensure that future generations of technologies are researched by the most excellent and skilled researchers from Europe and all over the world? At the same time, how will the latest available ICT products and services based on previous research and innovation investments be used to solve societal challenges and to improve Europe’s competitiveness in vertical sectors?

    On 21 March 2018, DIGITALEUROPE organised a workshop to discuss how to boost collaboration in the next Framework Programme to maximise the impact of Research & Innovation and ensure that EU funding leads to concrete European industry solutions, especially in the digital sector. The speakers and moderator were:

    • Jan Gulliksen, Vice-President for Digitalisation and Professor in Human-Computer Interaction at KTH Royal Institute of Technology of Stockholm and Member of the European Commission’s High-Level Group on maximising the impact of EU Research and Innovation Programme,
    • Khalil Rouhana, Deputy Director-General of DG CONNECT
    • Ingrid Van de Voorde Executive Director of Nokia Bell Labs Belgium
    • Luc Van den hove, CEO and President of IMEC
    • Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE

    Towards a €160 billion budget for FP9?

    2018 will be an exciting year for Research & Innovation, with the release in May of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) proposal and the next Framework Programme legislation (FP9) for 2021-2027. The European Commission wishes to significantly increase the budget of FP9 compared to Horizon 2020, from €80 to €120 billion, and President Juncker announced on 14 March that the institution could even aim for a €160 billion target, despite Brexit.

    As Khalil Rouhana explained, the Commission’s plans to double the Framework Programme’s budget and to double the overall EU funding to ICT are crucial to ensure that European Research is not lagging, especially as new fields are opening up and need strong investment commitments, such as Artificial Intelligence or Blockchain. Hopefully, as the October 2017 Tallinn Digital Summit showed, Member states are keener to give European research the resources it needs, especially in the ICT field.

    The essential role of Framework Programmes for R&I

    As pointed out by Jan Gulliksen, Europe has one of the most talented pool of researchers combined with outstanding research capabilities. Yet, despite hosting first-class talents and world-leading research institutions, the EU often fails to effectively translate these assets into global leadership in market-ready solutions. “We need to capitalise on the excellence of our European research to be able to deliver and to bridge the gap from excellence to execution” summarised Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl.

    FP9 is the perfect tool to address these challenges on the value chain and to ensure that the technologies, for instance the key enabling technologies (KETs), will ultimately benefit end-users. The Framework Programmes profit from collaborative models that encourage consortia of different types of actors to engage in research, which allows new innovative solutions to be developed. Thanks to this unique structure based on cooperation, the industry can drive the Programmes towards more market-ready solutions to drive Europe’s growth.

    The added-value of collaborative research

    Collaboration beyond national borders is essential for European research. The Framework Programmes help to develop pan-European partnerships and synergies with critical mass, making Europe competitive. Luc Van den hove demonstrated that Horizon 2020 is for instance extremely valuable in connecting different research entities, from Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) and academia to big firms and SMEs, creating innovation ecosystems nurturing European R&I.

    The Framework Programmes provide a well-established and essential structure for peer-to-peer cooperation between skilled researchers from all over Europe, allowing them to exchange new ideas for state-of-the-art research, apply them in addressing societal challenges, build platforms and establish networks of talented people. The panellists noted that this collaborative side can be further improved with FP9 to reach truly open and lasting collaborations, which are not limited to working side-by-side on a given project.

    Industry participation is indispensable

    There is a persistent debate over the role that the industry should have in the Framework Programmes. Some EU decision-makers, particularly in the Parliament, would like to tackle the oversubscription issue by reducing the position of the industry in FP9. Yet for both FP7 and Horizon 2020, industry participation, including large firms and SMEs, has remained between 25% and 30% only. If we decide to prevent large companies from taking part in the Programmes, it would not solve the oversubscription issue, as they only represent 12% of Horizon 2020’s funding.

    To resolve the oversubscription issue, Ingrid Van de Voorde proposed to launch more focussed calls. This would result in fewer application proposals and increase the success rate. Such measure is essential to ensure that the industry will be willing to participate in FP9. Writing proposals is time-consuming and costly, which refrain more and more companies from participating in collaborative research through the Programmes. If such a trend were to be confirmed and continued, the whole cooperative approach of research in the Framework Programmes would be jeopardised. Having a sufficient percentage of industry evaluators would also help to get more industry on board by increasing their trust towards the application process.

    Finally, it is crucial to continue industry partnerships such as Joint Undertakings (JUs) and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). Khalil Rouhana acknowledged their positive impact, highlighting the success of the ECSEL JU and the 5G PPP. The latter has had a leading role in the standardisation of the 5G radio interface, a crucial technology development for Europe’s future.

    For more information on DIGITALEUROPE’s views on FP9, please check our position paper.

     

     

       

    Julien Chasserieau
    Policy Officer
    julien.chasserieau@digitaleurope.org

     

       

    Klaus-Dieter Axt
    Director
    klaus-dieter.axt@digitaleurope.org
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