13 July 2017
Regions and cities must be given a greater role in the EU's future R&I programme

Regions and cities must be given a greater role in the EU's future R&I programme

Plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions

CoR members adopted today unanimously the draft own-initiative opinion on the "Local and regional dimension of Horizon 2020 and the new framework programme for research and innovation", by Christophe Clergeau, Member of the Pays-de-la-Loire Regional Council (PES, France).

This is a very timely own-initiative opinion as it comes at the time of the mid-term evaluation of Horizon 2020, the EU's 7-year framework programme for research and innovation (R&I), as well as the publication of the report of the High Level Group on Maximising the Impact of EU R&I Programmes, led by Pascal Lamy. The European Commission's first reflections about the new EU R&I programme beyond 2020 are due in autumn. Christophe Clergeau welcomes overall the findings of the so-called "Lamy report" but is critical of the lack of acknowledgement of the importance of the territorial R&I ecosystems.

"We need a new collective ambition that focuses on scientific excellence and the innovation capacity of Europe as a whole, acknowledging the key role of regions and cities, helping to strengthen their  capacities and promoting open and collaborative innovation", said the rapporteur in his introductory remarks. "Regions and cities are the link between science and people and they transform everyday life through the development of new products and services based on R&I outcomes", he underlined, calling for a new alliance between EU research policy and the cities and regions. 

The CoR opinion calls for an ambitious budget for the future framework programme in order to be able to at least maintain the current programme's growth momentum, which, according to the High Level Group report, would translate into a 7-year budget of at least EUR 120 billion in current prices. The opinion also seeks to clarify the debate on R&I synergies with other EU policies, arguing that such synergies should be built on the principles of coherence, compatibility, complementarity and co construction principle, as well as the ecosystems principle. 

The rapporteur calls for a new approach to excellence, which should be measured against not only its scientific impact but also its societal impact. He suggests promoting excellence in cities and  regions through smart specialisation strategies and better coordinating regional and European investment in structural projects in relation to smart specialisation. 

Christophe Clergeau makes a series of concrete proposals to address implementation shortcomings of Horizon 2020, such as the limited participation of newcomers and the need to promote an excellence-based approach that is firmly rooted in the cities and regions and to bridge the innovation gap between regions and between Member States. He also proposes the adoption of a new, complementary mission-based approach, in order to carry out exploratory work and large-scale projects. Other key demands include: setting up the European Innovation Council with the involvement of local and regional authorities; reducing red tape ​​​and simplifying rules for innovative public procurement; and last but not least, supporting interregional and regional networks of excellence through adequate funding tools.

The adoption of the opinion was preceded by an extensive exchange of views with Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, who referred to the current difficulties arising from the complexity of combining different EU funds to finance R&I, in particular H2020 and cohesion funds. He acknowledged the key role of regional smart specialisation strategies and welcomed the CoR's contribution towards the design of the next framework programme.