Interview with the European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel (pt. II)

Valeria delle Cave

Interview with EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel* in 4 appointments. It is an in-depth article that addresses the major issues of the European Commission towards research policy in the coming years

Many scientists, in particular ERC grantees and coordinators of other EU-funded projects, decided to focus on Covid-19 emergency, adapting their research study to present needs. In a certain way they clearly demonstrated that science is still a “common good” and that all citizens may benefit from it. Nevertheless, as Commissioner you recently published a letter, also on Corriere delle Sera, to remind to member states the importance of funds for scientific research. Why it is still necessary? What will be the final budget for Horizon Europe programme and how this programme will impact on the life of European citizens?

Indeed, it is impressive how fast the science and research community is responding to the coronavirus crisis. The EU framework programme for research and innovation has all capacity to effectively and rapidly respond to emergencies and investment in science-driven solutions. Science, research and innovation, including social innovation, will be crucial also for the transition to a sustainable, carbon neutral and digital society and economy. This will become the basis of our resilient and inclusive recovery from the current coronavirus crisis. Developing the new technologies is only one part of the story. Making best use of them in the interest of the whole society requires engagement. Active engagement with citizens has the potential to improve research and its benefits for society and hence, reinforce societal trust in science. For me, it is particularly important, to ensure that research and innovation aligns with needs and expectations of European citizens.

Therefore, we do not only need funds for scientific research – this would be reading my letter with a too narrow focus – but for science, research and innovation. Horizon Europe, the next EU research and innovation programme, is designed to deliver tangible impacts. It builds on the successes and achievements of Horizon 2020 and will further strengthen the EU’s scientific and technological bases, boost its innovation capacity and deliver on Europeans’ priorities such as making our economies greener, more digital and more resilient.

With the Horizon Europe programme we aim to deepen the relationship between science and society, thus maximising the benefits for people. The programme is actively engaging citizens in co-creating responsible research and innovation contents, making scientific knowledge publicly accessible, and facilitating their participation.

Let us take for example the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan and EU Missions.

The Plan identifies main areas for research and innovation support, as well as synergies for maximizing the impact. So far, over 9.000 people have engaged in its creation, including civil society and the general public. Involved in the co-creation process they made it one of the largest co-design exercises that the European Commission has ever led.

EU missions are a novelty under Horizon Europe designed to solve major societal challenges like fighting cancer, adapting to climate change, living in greener cities, ensuring soil health and food, and protecting our oceans. They go beyond research and innovation and are not only for scientists. They will spark innovation across sectors to deliver effective solutions.

They will deliver specific targets, co-designed with citizens. The Mission on adaptation to climate change will prepare Europe to deal with climate disruptions, preparing Two hundred European regions to tackle the climate change. 100 European cities are to be transformed into climate-neutral, smart cities by 2030. The Mission on healthy oceans and waters aims at the full recovery and regeneration of European marine and freshwater ecosystems by 2030. 3 million lives will be saved by 2030 through the EU mission on cancer. To achieve all these targets, we have also engaged European citizens through a call for ideas and proposals.

The final word on the budget is not yet spoken, but it will need to fit with the ambitions of the programme. To be able to provide tangible results and impact, my ambition is to establish synergies between Horizon Europe programme with the other EU funding programmes and instrument. Moreover, through mobilizing the available EU financial resources with national funding and private instruments, and investing in a smart way, we will be able to maximize the impact of research and innovations for building resilient economies and societies.

Mariya Gabriel* is the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth