Carlos Moedas

In a speech, EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas highlights the findings of the Lamy report and shares why it is necessary to reform the research system

Horizon 2020 has been hugely successful overall. We have got many things right: Supporting the very best new science, with the ERC as a European flagship; the simplest and most user-friendly programme in the EU; The decision to bring research and innovation together in a single programme. So let’s keep the things that have worked so well. Let’s expand them.

The Lamy report also gives us a blueprint for what we need to change in the future. The 11 recommendations contained in the Report are ambitious, but they are essential.

The first recommendation is as bold as it is simple: to double the budget.

There is plenty of evidence to support this. It would overcome the huge waste of top quality proposals that currently go unfunded. It would set the path for the Member States to follow. The evidence is clear that we need both European funding and national funding for research and innovation. Also, an ambitious increase would demonstrate our commitment to cut the gap with the US and others. And to take leadership in investing in the future.

This first recommendation also builds on the European Parliament’s opinion, authored by Soledad Cabezon Ruiz, which recommends a budget of €120 billion for the next programme.

Just recently, the Commission published a reflection paper on the future of EU finances. In that paper, research and innovation is singled out as having exceptional European added value. So there is a clear case for an increase. But this will involve difficult choices. There are new priorities. Any budget increase must go hand-in-hand with reforms.

Reform is necessary

 The remaining 10 recommendations in the Lamy report are precisely about the reforms that will be needed. Each of these recommendations merits a conference by itself. So I cannot go through all of them. But I would like to highlight 3 messages that cut across the recommendations. Messages that I believe will have profound impacts on the design of the next Framework Programme. These are:

Look at-

  • the whole picture;
  • Focus on the person; and:
  • Inspire Europe with mission-driven R&I.

The Lamy Group did not look at individual sectors or scientific disciplines. They did not look just at Horizon 2020. Instead, they looked at the whole system. I would urge us all to continue with this approach. It is the only way to break down the silos between disciplines, between policies, and between programmes. On this topic, I often think of a story that Bertrand Piccard told me. I first spoke to him last year just before he made his incredible flight on the Solar Impulse. During that first conversation he told me that when he wanted to build his plane, he went to every plane manufacturer. None of them agreed to partner with him. They said it was impossible. So eventually he went to a boat builder that agreed to do it. Because they didn’t know that it was impossible. I think this is a great example of what can be achieved when researchers and innovators step outside their comfort zones and look at the whole picture.

As policymakers, we must also step outside of our comfort zones. For example, I very much welcome the fact that the Lamy group included education in their report and proposed some new ideas. Such as including more training activities in collaborative research projects. Or introducing incentives for university reforms. And capitalising on the education and training activities of the EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities. I also fully agree with the need to break down the silos between the Framework Programme and Structural Funds. This is very important to really integrate the EU13 Member States in the global knowledge economy. The Seal of Excellence I introduced with Commissioner Cretu has been a success. But its implementation is hampered by having different rules between the current programmes. So let’s get to work on how to change this.

We also need to break down the silos between regulation and innovation. For example, the Lamy group suggest that improvements are needed to State Aid rules. They urge more policy experimentation, such as what we have done with the Innovation Deals. This is the systemic approach that we need.

The second cross-cutting message I take from the report is the focus on the individual. One of the breakthroughs of the European Research Council was to address the individual scientist. To allow her to follow her dreams.

So I very much welcome the clear recommendation in the Lamy report to develop a European Innovation Council that focuses on the innovator. We spend a lot of time discussing the size of the company, or the sector, or the maturity. And focusing on the individual innovator will be a new approach which can bring a lot of value.

Inspirational research

 I will be asking the new Group of Innovators to take forward this recommendation from the Lamy report. And help us turn it into a reality.

This brings me to the third cross-cutting message. Let’s make European research and innovation inspirational. This is our future and it should be inspiring and exciting for European citizens.

I believe the recommendation to adopt a mission-driven approach in the next Framework Programme is the right way forward. To engage people. Make them part of the process. And proud to be European. Mark Zuckerberg talked about feeling part of something bigger in a recent speech. He was referring to a well-known story about John F Kennedy. The President visited the NASA space centre and saw a janitor carrying a broom. He walked over and asked what he was doing. And the janitor responded:

“Mr President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” That’s the kind of purpose I’m referring to. That sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. I would like us all to think seriously about a mission-driven approach. To bring together our best ideas. To reach out in a way to citizens in a way that we have never done before.

It is not my role to define missions. This needs a collective process. But I would like to highlight some of the points made in the Lamy report about missions: They must capture the public imagination. Achieving a 1% increase in the efficiency of a hydraulic pump may be exciting for an engineer like me. It may have important environmental impacts. But it will not capture the public is imagination.

Missions should be interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral and international. So I would encourage everyone to think beyond the limits of their sectors and disciplines. Where it does not only make sense but is essential, to work together. To build European and global partnerships. To go beyond what is currently possible. If we play it safe, and set missions that we all know are possible, then we will achieve all of our missions. But no one will be inspired. And the projects are unlikely to generate any new breakthroughs.

Richard Nixon was often criticised for setting a mission to cure cancer. As we all know, he failed. But I learnt something interesting about this at a recent conference in Norway. In fact, the scientific discoveries that were made as a result of this mission led the way to breakthroughs in other fields. Such as treatments for HIV. Thinking big leads us to great things.

The serious discussion on FP9 has started. Building also on the excellent report from the European Parliament. This is part of the wider debate on the Future of Europe. It is central to the reflection on the future of EU finances. On the Commission side, we will be using all of these inputs to develop a proposal for FP9 that I aim to present around the summer of 2018. The Horizon 2020 Work Programme this autumn will be a stepping stone towards the changes to come. Including a pilot phase for the European Innovation Council. It is clear to me that Europe needs research and innovation. And research and innovation needs Europe.

We all want an R&I programme that matches that ambition of the report from Mr Lamy and the High Level Group. The 11 recommendations contained in this report will help us deliver an FP9 that is fit for the future. And we can achieve it. This is an edited version of a speech which can be found here. ■

Carlos Moedas

Commissioner for Research, Science, and Innovation

European Union


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