New EU funding programme a ‘huge opportunity for Scotland’

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by a Newsnet reporter

Alyn Smith, SNP Member of the European Parliament for Scotland and Aileen McLeod MSP have welcomed a package of measures to boost research, innovation and competitiveness in Europe.

Horizon 2020 is an umbrella initiative which incorporates various programmes for investment, innovation, technology and research including the EU SMEs and Competitiveness programme.  It will be complemented by further measures to complete and further develop the European Research Area by 2014.  These measures will aim at breaking down barriers to create a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation.

The initiative simplifies the complex rules and regulations for EU research funding.   Horizon 20202 combines all research and innovation funding currently provided through the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.  In total some £63 billion of funding will be made available between 2014 and 2020.

The largest slice of available funding, over €35 billion, is destined “to help address major concerns shared by all Europeans such as climate change, developing sustainable transport and mobility, making renewable energy more affordable, ensuring food safety and security, or coping with the challenge of an ageing population”.

The EU hopes that Horizon 2020  tackle societal challenges by helping to bridge the gap between research and the market by, for example, helping innovative small and medium businesses to develop their technological breakthroughs and turn them into viable products with real commercial potential.  

Speaking after the launch of the initiative, Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice president for the Digital Agenda said: “Today is great news for Europe’s innovators, and Europe’s economy.  The EC is proposing £63bn in funding for research and innovation over seven years.

“The programme will make it easier to seek funding, easier to bring good ideas to market and easier for Europe to invest in innovation for the future.”

The proposals announced by the Commission indicate a greater focus on a ‘green’ economy, though the SNP parliamentarians have expressed concern on the level of funding in general and for small and medium businesses under the proposals.  Of the €80 billion budget, €24.5 billion has been earmarked for scientific research, but only €17.9 billion is destined to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs).  

Commenting on the Horizon 2020 proposals, Alyn Smith said:

“I’m pleased to see Europe’s role as a leader in the green economy has been recognised with these proposals; it’s crucial we prioritise research and innovation towards meeting the challenges of this century, and Scotland is already paving the way. We need to ensure that Horizon 2020 effectively delivers a viable, green economic future.

“The proposals are certainly promising however the Commission must ensure there is effective stakeholder participation and improved governance, so that NGOs, SMEs and smaller research bodies can access the EU funding and support available to them. Further, the reduction in funding for SMEs is a cause for concern with a 50% reduction in funds directly earmarked for activities related to SMEs under Horizon 2020. The Commission must pay heed to those who need the funding most.

“Scotland is punching well above its weight when it comes to world class research institutions and so this is very relevant, and these proposals will add to Scotland’s role as a leader in green innovation.”

Member of the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Affairs committee Aileen McLeod MSP added:

“Horizon 2020 offers a huge opportunity for Scotland.  Our universities and SMEs have done well from the previous FP7 package, however we can always do better.

“We’ve learnt from the past experiences are now placed to ensure that Horizon 2020 creates the opportunities necessary to allow us to continue to build on the world leading innovation which has and continues to take place in Scotland.

“The greater focus on a ‘green economy’ is something we all want to see.  Scotland is already well ahead of the game in this field and hopefully, if utilised correctly, Horizon 2020 can continue to support our drive.”