EU lauds Horizon 2020 but warns underfunding ‘wastes resources’

European Commission interim evaluation highlights ‘oversubscription’ in funding bids

June 2, 2017
European Commission building

Horizon 2020, the EU’s current research programme, has been a success in supporting excellent research, but its “underfunding” has resulted in “an enormous waste of resources for applicants”, according to a European Commission report.

The interim evaluation of Horizon 2020 covers the first three years of its operation since it started in 2014. The programme has €80 billion (£70 million) of funding for its entire six-year duration.

The commission’s summary report says that in terms of strengths, the programme “involves top level participants from the higher education, research and private sectors; from a wide range of disciplines and thematic fields; and from over 130 countries”.

Through its focus on “scientific, economic and societal impacts”, Horizon 2020 is “on track to contribute to the creation of jobs and growth”, the report also says.

But in terms of challenges, it adds: “Horizon 2020 suffers from underfunding, resulting in large-scale oversubscription, much larger than in FP7 [the predecessor programme], which constitutes an enormous waste of resources for applicants and of good proposals for Europe.”

The report also says: “There is a need for greater outreach to civil society to better explain results and impacts and the contribution that research and innovation can make to tackling societal challenges, and to involve them better in the programme co-design (agenda-setting) and its implementation (co-creation).”

The report concludes that Horizon 2020 “is an attractive and well-performing programme, highly relevant for stakeholders. It goes in the right direction delivering value for money and is on course to meet its knowledge-creating objectives. Main areas for improvement are oversubscription; stimulating breakthrough, market-creating innovation, notably by SMEs, and scaling up to EU level; further alignment to policy priorities; and bringing results to citizens and involving them more.”

Carlos Moedas, European commissioner for research, science and innovation said: “Horizon 2020’s interim evaluation and stakeholder feedback confirm that an EU programme for research and innovation is an invaluable asset for Europe that fuels economic growth, creates the jobs of tomorrow and tackles the societal challenges of our time. However, we can always do even better, and will use the lessons learned to make Horizon 2020’s last three years even more effective, and to design a fit-for-purpose successor programme.”

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