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framework programmes as we put more

emphasis on the deployment of research

results than ever before.

“Second is the big emphasis on SMEs – 20%

of the Horizon 2020 budget is going to be

given to small and medium sized enterprises.

This means many newcomers will become

involved, which is healthy for the system.

“Third is the radical simplification. In my

organisation, there is one person who is called

‘Mr Simplification’, and his job is purely to

scout for critical comments on the web about

our programme and then immediately take

action to remedy them. For example, when UK

participants complained that they had a

problem with accounting in euros and had to

transfer constantly between accounts in

pounds and euros, we immediately addressed

this issue.

“Finally, the challenge-driven approach is also

a big novelty. Rather than being prescriptive, we

are now identifying a societal problem, be it an

ageing population, obesity, Ebola, vaccine

development, and state this as the challenge,

and allow the science community to develop

the best solution. It’s a completely different way:

less prescriptive and more open.”

EFSI

The deal between the Commission, the Council

of the European Union and the European

Parliament on the European Fund for Strategic

Investments (EFSI) sees €2.2bn drawn from the

budget of Horizon 2020 and invested into the

new fund under the Investment Plan for Europe.

One of the worries within the research

community has been whether universities and

research technology organisations will be able

to take full advantage of the EFSI following the

budget reallocation. Smits commented that the

EFSI would offer “enormous potential for

innovative projects”.

“If you look at the lists we have drawn up, there

are thousands of projects which different EU

member states have put forward. There are

some very interesting innovation projects,

including in the areas of ICT, Industry 4.0, the

Internet of Things and energy systems, etc. We

now need to make sure that the innovators in

Europe are aware of the EFSI and that the fund

procedure: the first stage asks for a proposal outline that is just a couple

of pages long; this stage will have a low success rate. This is then

followed by a second stage with a possible 30% success rate. This

method is helping to manage the oversubscription problems.”

SMEs

One of the goals of Horizon 2020 is to encourage the greater involvement

of businesses, and one of the techniques the Commission has introduced

to realise this goal is the creation of the SME Instrument. Managed by

the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, the near

€3bn tool ‘helps high-potential SMEs to develop groundbreaking

innovative ideas for products, services or processes that are ready to

face global market competition’. Smits provided a further insight into the

instrument’s success.

“There’s an increase in the participation, notably from SMEs, but also

from industry, which can be explained through the SME Instrument. We

are putting more emphasis on innovation, demonstrators, proof of

concept, first-of-a-kind, pilot lines, and technology transfer and

deployment. Because of this greater emphasis on innovation, we see

that in the first calls of Horizon 2020, there is an increase in the number

of industrial and SME participants.”

Break from the past

Horizon 2020 and its predecessors share the common themes of investing

in ICT, nanotechnology, space research, as well as researcher training,

and addressing major health, environment, energy and climate challenges.

Portal asked the director general what makes this framework programme

so much more significant to the future of Europe.

“Firstly, we are putting greater emphasis on the deployment of research

results and getting these to market. We therefore have demonstrators

and proof of concepts, as well as the InnovFin SME Guarantee Facility,

which allows us to give grants through the European Investment Bank

(EIB) and European Investment Fund to those projects that we feel are

really close to the market. This is a big novelty compared to previous

I S S U E S E V E N

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L

www.horizon2020projects.com

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E X C E L L E N T S C I E N C E

Horizon 2020’s health

calls have been

particularly

oversubscribed