4. How results will be improved in future

There have been criticisms of too much red tape in EU research and innovation funding. The Commission agrees that more can and should be done to tackle this, while maintaining and reinforcing tight control of taxpayers' money.

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn has already implemented significant reforms of FP7 in order to ensure even better value for taxpayers from every euro:

  • stronger focus on the grand global challenges such as climate change and food and energy security, which can only be tackled effectively through cross-border coordinated research;
  • more emphasis on growth creation and on evaluating the economic effect of research and innovation funding;
  • major simplification of procedures to get researchers out of the office and into the labs and to boost SME participation in FP7.

The Commission's Green Paper on a Common Strategic Framework sets out further radical changes envisaged under the successor programme post-2013 and therefore for the next MFF. These will need to be agreed by Member States and the European Parliament.

There will be an even clearer focus on the key global challenges, for example climate change, energy and food security, resource efficiency, health and an ageing population. This brings with it an even stronger priority for funding the projects which will do most to improve people's lives and most to boost our economy.

The existing research programmes will be brought together with the current SME-targeted Competitiveness and Innovation programme and with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, which is pioneering a new collaboration at European level between higher education, research and business. This will mean researchers and innovators can apply in one go for different types of funding supporting the whole "innovation chain" from research to the moment when new products hit the retail shelves.

There will be less form-filling, freeing researchers to spend more time in the lab and less in the office. For example, more flat rate lump sum payments based on estimations of average costs will be introduced, replacing the need to account individually for every single test-tube purchased.

The coordination between research and innovation funding and regional funding will be improved so that there is a dual focus on supporting existing excellence in science and building excellence in regions where performance is less strong, usually as a result of a disadvantaged economic and political history.

The European Research Council will be reinforced. Its role is to use FP7 finance to fund groundbreaking research at the pinnacle of excellence, both by established "star" researchers and their most promising younger colleagues. The ERC will also redouble its efforts to attract also top research talent from outside Europe, reversing the "brain drain". There is evidence that the ERC is already helping to retain and attract leading researchers who might otherwise have pursued their careers in the US. For example, two-thirds of the ERC's grant-holders in neurosciences have had post-doctoral experience in the US; and, half of the ERC's economics grant-holders completed their PhD in the US. In 2010, a young ERC grant-holder, Professor Novoselov, received the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on graphene. In 2011 the ERC was able to attract US Nobel prize winner James Heckman to University College Dublin to do pioneering research on health throughout the lifecycle.

More funding will be allocated to the Commission's current innovative financing schemes which have been successful in leveraging in large amounts of additional public and private funding (see above).

Source: EUROPA