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Former Minister for Education, Research & Science Dr. Heinz Faßmann on Innovation in Europe

Eureka has just officially annouced that Austria will take on the Chairmanship in 2020/2021, following the incoming Dutch Chairmanship this July. We are commemorating this, with an OpEd by the former Minister for Education, Research & Science of Austria, Dr. Heiz Faßmann.


Sometimes, everything that counts comes down to one specific moment in time at one specific place: On 30 November 2018, in a meeting room of the Europa building in Brussels, I asked the other research ministers of the EU Member States whether any of them had any further objections to an agreement on the content of the Horizon Europe Regulation. Their answer was silence. There were no objections, just silence for a couple of seconds that felt like hours. It was late afternoon in Brussels, and while I was waiting for these seemingly endless seconds to pass, I remembered the long hours of negotiations during that day, but even more so during all the preceding months of the Austrian EU Council Presidency. 29 rounds of negotiations at technical level, about 10,000 pages of amendments from all negotiation partners within four months, several political roundtables, bilaterals, lunches and dinners: every single activity, all efforts undertaken by my team and myself cumulated in this very moment of silence. Then, with my voice calm and clear, I declared: “We have an agreement on the next Framework Programme!”

Research and innovation are crucial for the future of Europe. Contrary to what some had expected, Europe proved to be capable of acting. As a result, Europe will have the largest research funding programme in the world by 2021. Horizon Europe will offer the gold standard of frontier research funding, implemented by the European Research Council. It will provide new financial opportunities for knowledge-intensive start-ups and scale-ups of enterprises. And it will address major societal challenges across several clusters and a limited number of missions and partnerships.

The list of partnership areas foreseen for Horizon Europe also provides for collaboration of innovative SMEs. This means that the very successful EUREKA-driven Eurostars initiative will enter into its next phase. Beyond Eurostars, EUREKA is to be regarded as an important player in the European innovation eco-system. The flexible funding for applied R&D cooperation in small consortia is the core domain of EUREKA, and a highly valued complement to Horizon Europe. I take very positive notice of the fact that the EUREKA network does not limit its ambitions to Europe alone, but has started to open up opportunities for R&D cooperation of European enterprises also with the rest of the world. A ’value chain perspective’ is becoming more and more important, both for enterprises collaborating within Europe and for those active at the global level.

Let me finally refer to the main responsibility of my colleague Margarete Schramböck, Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW), for EUREKA issues in Austria, and the fact that the EUREKA agenda in Austria is managed in close cooperation with the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).