Wishes and concerns of stakeholders: What should FP9 look like?
What do countries and other stakeholders want FP9 to look like? More budget, a focus on excellence or widening participation? Would the European Innovation Council be a useful initiative or does it only add to the complexity of the programme? A comparison of views expressed in different position papers gives us an insight in what FP9 should look like according to them.
Position papers on FP9
The future Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP9) will have a bigger budget to increase the current low success rates of the programme. That is, if the European Commission takes the view of stakeholders into account in drafting FP9. In that case, the Commission will also have to increase simplification efforts and preserve the current three pillar-structure of the programme. More focus on cooperation, especially within the innovation pillar is a must to increase the impact of the programme, according to many. This includes cooperation between researchers and innovators, private and public institutions. However, other elements are disputed and different interests are visible. Especially when it comes to the question how excellence as evaluation criterion relates to widening efforts, how and with whom to cooperate in the field of innovation, the role of the European Innovation Council (EIC) and how to involve citizens.
Excellence versus widening participation
Neth-ER states in its vision paper that excellence should remain the sole selection criterion for assessing project proposals and that geographic origin should not play a role in the assessment. This view is supported by a majority of stakeholders, with the exception of several Eastern European countries who argue that widening participation should become equally important in the assessment process. Some stakeholders believe that the focus in FP9 should be on uniting researchers from different countries in consortia to encourage spreading excellence and involve the currently less represented countries better. The majority of the stakeholders also emphasises that better alignment with other funding programmes is necessary and useful for widening participation. In particular, the alignment with the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) should be improved. Neth-ER is the only stakeholder calling for an overarching and coherent ‘knowledge first’ policy, by putting knowledge as priority for every European instrument, including the ESIF and Erasmus+.
Collaboration with industry: involving multinationals?
Almost all stakeholders and countries are in favour of more collaboration between research and innovation organisations, which is also actively supported by Neth-ER. Several voices call for greater involvement of SME’s and start-ups in order to create innovation-ecosystems and bring innovation closer to the market. The involvement of multinationals is supported to a lesser extent. This is mainly expressed by organisations representing industry, innovation organisations and a couple of industrialised countries. However, other organisations believe that grants should only go to public institutions focussed on research instead of subsidising the whole value-chain.
The EIC stimulating disruptive innovation
The European Innovation Council (EIC) could play a role in commercialising disruptive innovation ideas. However, not every stakeholder is convinced of the need for a new instrument and there are many different ideas on the role this instrument should play. A slight majority of countries and stakeholders are in favour of the EIC, arguing that there is a need for more investment in disruptive innovation to ensure and improve our global competitiveness. However, several stakeholders argue that the EIC should also invest in incremental innovation next to disruptive innovation. Opponents of an EIC believe that a thorough analysis of the current innovation landscape in Europe is necessary before adding another instrument. Especially universities associations argue for a smaller EIC with an advisory role. Many stakeholders emphasise the advantages of collaboration within the field of innovation, not only with private entities, but also with governments and education institutes. Neth-ER specifically mentions that the EIC grants should not go to single beneficiaries.
Bringing research to society
Neth-ER is one of the strongest, but not the only to advocate for involving citizens in setting the research agenda, collecting data and providing full access to research results. The involvement of social sciences and humanities (SSH) generally receives attention in the papers. From those who want to expand the role of SSH, some argue for a complete integration of SSH in all activities under FP9. This would mean, for example, the obligation of including at least one social scientist in project consortia and in evaluation boards.
According to several stakeholders, the idea of ‘missions’ (think: curing cancer) would be another means to bring science closer to citizens. This topic is becoming more present in position papers while attention for the mission-approach is growing. Several stakeholders mentioning missions are in favour of linking them to the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. Other conditions mentioned are that missions should be interdisciplinary, flexible and drafted in intensive consultation with citizens and countries.
The editorial is a result of an analysis of thirty-three position papers on FP9. It describes the wishes and concerns of actors directly involved with the framework programmes of the EU: university associations, universities of applied science, innovation associations, industry, the voices of EU member states and associated countries. It is positive that there is consensus among stakeholders on demands as a bigger budget, a better alignment with other EU programmes and that it should stimulate collaboration with different actors. This is crucial in order to strengthen Europe’s knowledge based society and contribute to solutions for current and future challenges.
In summer 2018, the expected publishing date for the proposal of FP9, we will find out how many of the demands of the stakeholders have been taken into account.
The topics highlighted in the editorial are based on topics that receive most attention from countries and stakeholders and those discussed in the vision paper of Neth-ER.
Publication Neth-ER: FP9 needs coherent EU 'knowledge first' policy
Factsheet Neth-ER (Dutch): Factsheet: De European Innovation Council-pilot
Dossier Neth-ER (Dutch): KP9 (2021 en verder)
Website Czelo: A collection of all position papers
Artikel Neth-ER (Dutch): Een missie-benadering voor meer impact van KP9: hoe werkt dat?