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MEPs seek reassurance that Horizon 2020 will welcome “alienated” groups

According to an article published on Science|Business, EU officials expect to be inundated with grant applications, but maintain that simplification of Horizon 2020 procedures will accommodate SMEs and young researchers.

MEPs at the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee meeting yesterday (12 February), questioned whether it will be easier to access funding under Horizon 2020.


Previous Framework R&D Programmes were smothered in red tape. “How can we be sure that this round will be any different?” said Gunnar Hökmark, MEP.

Robert Jan Smits, Director-General for Research and Innovation, acknowledged that earlier Framework Programmes were “alienating” for SMEs. “Due to past complexity, there was less interest from industry,” he said. “We clearly need to regain trust and first reactions have been promising.”

The incentives in Horizon 2020 for the private sector are stronger than before, Smits told the meeting. “We have placed a larger emphasis on innovation in this round,” he said. “In the past, it was more strongly tilted towards scientific research.” Moving on from the perception of Framework Programmes as being “an old boy’s club” is critical, Smits added.

Also facing MEPs was Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, the new President of the European Research Council (ERC), who looked to the leadership role of the ERC in “ensuring a place for young researchers in Europe.” Two-thirds of the ERC’s funding is allocated to young researchers, he noted.

Another speaker, Carlos Salema of Instituto Superior Técnico, agreed previous Framework Programmes were “seen as a closed club by many.”  The best strategy for inexperienced SMEs hoping to win a grant is to find a large corporate partner.  “SMEs need to find a locomotive - a big company that can bring a small company with it,” he said. “Their presence in a consortium can help a small company pass the funding threshold for the first time.”

Angelika Niebler MEP was positive about Horizon 2020, but wanted to know if DG Research has the capacity for dealing with all the grant applications. “It’s off to a great start,” she said. “But how will the DG cope with extra demand?”

Smits replied that there was no need to farm work out to any new agencies. “The ERC and the Research Executive Agency (REA) will continue their top class work,” he said.

There remains a lingering concern over the volume of demand, however. It has previously been acknowledged by EU officials that the average odds of winning a grant in Horizon 2020 could drop to around 15 per cent from the 20 - 22 per cent success rate seen in Framework Programme 7.

Whilst Salema sees the SME instrument in Horizon 2020 as “incredibly attractive”, he also envisages it being “hugely over-subscribed.” Smits accepted this is a “nightmare scenario” while Bourguignon called it “a potential dark cloud.”

Read more on Science|Business

Tagged in: Horizon 2020 R&D
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