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budget of €10bn during 2016 alone, an 11.6% increase on 2015. Portal

asked Smits what developments scientists and researchers could expect

to see in the next two years.

“The 2016-2017 work programmes will support more than ever the

political agenda of President Jean-Claude Juncker, be it on the Energy

Union, Smart Cities, the Circular economy or the Digital Single Market.”

Brussels has made major advances in funding research and innovation

with the creation of Horizon 2020. The success of the programme is

underlined by the significant interest from the research community and

the number of funding applications submitted. Coupled with a challenge-

based approach, simplification and new tools to encourage the

involvement of industry, the latest R&I framework appears to satisfy many

of the demands of scientists and researchers.

The EU institution has now also attempted to allay fears that a cut in

the budget of Horizon 2020 following the creation of the EFSI would

damage opportunities presented in the framework programme. As the

new fund begins its work this summer, along with the final adjustments

to the new work programmes and an ever-increasing number of

applicants to Horizon 2020, it will again be up to the research

community to witness themselves that this R&I programme is truly a

successful break from the past.

is not just available for major infrastructure

projects, but also for innovative projects; the EIB

is playing its role in assessing and evaluating

each project,” commented Smits.

Risk sharing

The Commission has already worked very

closely with the EIB in supporting investment in

research and development projects through the

Risk-Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF). The

instrument saw the EU institution and the EU

bank collaborate financially to ‘improve access

to … debt finance for participants of European

R&D projects’.

“The RSFF loans supported very high risk

research and innovation projects which led to

competence in the field of investing in R&I

in the EIB,” Smits explained. “Over the last six

years, we have been awarded €12bn in loans

to innovative projects. Thanks to the RSFF the

bank now has great skill in innovation, allowing

it to assess projects and undertake due

diligence, since, for example, investing in the

Paris Metro is very different to investing in the

next-generation biorefinery, Industry 4.0

project, or next-generation manufacturing.

“The due diligence competency of the EIB has

been developed, and the bank is able to

effectively assess innovation projects. We now

need to make sure that we bring forward good

projects which then can benefit from the EFSI.”

Introduced under Horizon 2020, and replacing

the RSFF, is InnovFin, a joint initiative between

the EIB Group and the Commission as part of

Horizon 2020. According to the EIB, the

instrument “consists of a series of integrated

and complementary financing tools and

advisory services offered by the EIB Group,

covering the entire value chain of research and

innovation in order to support investments from

the smallest to the largest enterprise”. By 2020,

it is anticipated that InnovFin will make available

over €24bn of debt and equity financing to

innovative companies, thus supporting €48bn

of investment in R&I.

Next steps

The Commission is currently finalising the

next work programmes under Horizon 2020,

covering the years of 2016-2017, with a

Robert-Jan Smits

European Commission

B R OW S E

www.ec.europa.eu/research/

H O R I Z O N

2 0 2 0

www.horizon2020projects.com

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

I S S U E S E V E N

15

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

Following trialogue

negotiations, €2.2bn

will be drawn from the

budget of Horizon 2020

© Florian Pircher