More than mak­ing do

On the up­sides of ef­fi­ciency

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

As the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the Coun­cil of the EU dis­cuss their po­si­tion on the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s pro­posal for the Hori­zon Europe pro­gramme, tough choices have to be made. The bud­get of E100 bil­lion for 2021-27 is large, but the gen­eral con­sen­sus is that it is not large enough to com­pete with the world’s biggest fun­ders. The ques­tion is what should be pri­ori­tised, given that re­sources are scarce.

Re­search v in­no­va­tion

Hori­zon has brought re­search and in­no­va­tion to­gether into one pro­gramme, but at its last meet­ing on 28 Septem­ber, the coun­cil made it clear that it con­sid­ers Hori­zon Europe a pro­gramme for re­search first and fore­most.

By con­trast, the com­mis­sion has been par­tic­u­larly con­cerned that Europe is a global leader in the pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge, but that it lags in in­no­va­tion. This con­cern has driven the de­sign of

Hori­zon Europe, which seeks to link re­search and in­no­va­tion more closely. It is im­por­tant, though, to strike a care­ful bal­ance be­tween the two: Europe must get bet­ter at in­no­va­tion, but not at the ex­pense of los­ing our po­si­tion in the global pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge.

Fun­da­men­tal v ap­plied sci­ence

At the pub­lic hear­ing in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s com­mit­tee of in­dus­try, re­search and en­ergy on 8 Oc­to­ber, MEPs as well as pub­lic ex­perts un­der­lined that we can­not ad­dress big sci­en­tific chal­lenges with­out fun­da­men­tal re­search.

Com­mis­sioner Car­los Moedas him­self re­cently stated that “fun­da­men­tal sci­ence must be at the core of Europe’s fu­ture”, be­cause no­body could pre­dict the next big in­ven­tion. Yet the text of Hori­zon Europe gives rise to some con­cerns. In the sec­ond pil­lar, “global chal­lenges and in­dus­trial com­pet­i­tive­ness”, will we fo­cus on close-to-mar­ket so­lu­tions?

How strong will the fo­cus on Europe’s in­dus­trial com­pet­i­tive- ness be ver­sus ad­dress­ing cut­tingedge sci­en­tific ques­tions? And when we see the in­tro­duc­tion of re­search and in­no­va­tion mis­sions in Hori­zon Europe, which are firmly driven by a goal to reach an am­bi­tious out­come, what will be the role of fun­da­men­tal re­search?

For the suc­cess of mis­sions as well as for ad­dress­ing the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals, we need col­lab­o­ra­tive fun­da­men­tal re­search to play a crit­i­cal part.

So­cial sci­ences and the hu­man­i­ties (SSH) v STEM

The ques­tion for Hori­zon Europe is how SSH sub­jects can make a full con­tri­bu­tion to ad­dress­ing its the­matic pri­or­i­ties.

First, Hori­zon Europe must take the chal­lenges pre­sented by the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals very se­ri­ously, and th­ese chal­lenges make it im­per­a­tive that there is full par­tic­i­pa­tion of all dis­ci­plines.

Sec­ond, it will be im­por­tant to demon­strate that, in ad­dress­ing sci­en­tific chal­lenges, Hori­zon Europe will make full use of the dis­ci­plinary range as ap­pro­pri­ate, and that there are mech­a­nisms to cor­rect this if it does not hap­pen. And fi­nally, choices have to be made about the rel­a­tive fund­ing for each clus­ter in Hori­zon Europe. At a pro­posed € 2.8 bil­lion (5.4 per cent of the sec­ond pil­lar), it must be asked whether the goal of cre­at­ing in­clu­sive so­ci­eties is re­ceiv­ing enough at­ten­tion.

One of the dif­fi­cul­ties of en­gag­ing in the com­mis­sion’s pro­posal is that so many of its core fea­tures – mis­sions, the Euro­pean In­no­va­tion Coun­cil, and the in­ter­dis­ci­plinar­ity of clus­ters – are still barely de­fined.

The Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the Coun­cil would like to fast­track a de­ci­sion on Hori­zon Europe to pro­vide cer­tainty and send a sig­nal that sci­ence and in­no­va­tion is im­por­tant for Europe’s fu­ture.

How­ever, what are they ac­tu­ally ap­prov­ing when so many de­tails are still to be de­cided?

The com­mis­sion, in re­sponse, pro­poses a new way of es­tab­lish­ing pri­or­i­ties for Hori­zon Europe, through a reg­u­lar strate­gic pro­gram­ming process that would in­vite the pub­lic to par­tic­i­pate. How that will work is yet to be an­nounced. But in the de­ci­sion­mak­ing and plan­ning process, one pri­or­ity must take cen­tre stage: that Hori­zon Europe is in­formed by cut­ting-edge sci­en­tific ques­tions, and that it em­pow­ers sci­en­tists to ad­dress th­ese with the full range of our knowl­edge, across all rel­e­vant dis­ci­plines.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.