On Wednesday, 21 March 2018, two ex members of the European Parliament, Britta Thomsen (Denmark) and Teresa Riera Madurell (Spain) came to our center to join an informal roundtable on a very familiar topic for them: Future Science in Europe: Excellence, Innovation and Openness, invited by our UTC officer, Susana Garelik.
Britta Thomsen was member of the European Parliament (2004-2010), vice-chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, member of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, and vice-chair of the delegation for relations with South Africa. She is currently professor at the Copenhaguen Business School. Teresa Riera Madurell was member of the European Parliament (2004-2014), after some years at the Balearic Island Parliament, and Spanish Congress of Deputies. Currently she is a member of the RISE (Research, Innovation and Science Policy Experts) High Level Group.
Teresa introduced the RISE High Level Group, in which she participates since 2015. The RISE Group is a group of around 20 people from different countries and different disciplines that give strategic advice to Carlos Moedas, the European Comissioner for Reserch, Science and Innovation, on aspects related to the formulation and implementation of policies under his remit. The strategic advice focusses on improving the framework conditions for research and innovation, and contributes to the articulation of the Comissioner's Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World agenda. Furthermore, RISE also provies insight in optimizing the contribution of research and innovation to smart, sustainable, and socially inclusive economic growth for the EU within a globalized world.
Teresa informed us that, as the ERC (European Research Council) projects fund excellence science and researchers, the EIC (European Innovation Council) (EIC pilot, currently) wants to support top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas and the ambition to scale up internationally to improve excellence in innovation. Open to the World explores ways in which the scientific community can participate and have a role on global societal challenges.
From the meetings and results of this group, the document "Reflections of the RISE Group" was published in 2017, and now the members of the RISE Group are touring around Europe to connect their ideas with the scientific community and the people. They participate in roundtables and debates on these topics, and on how will the next framework programme (FP9) will be.
Teresa also talked about the evaluation of the mid-term review of the current H2020 framework programme, in terms of excellence, impact and openness. Regarding "excellence", the ERC projects have done a great job for science, but there is always way for improvement, especially for innovation (as mentioned before with the EIC), and to fund collective projects collectively (ERC are for individual projects, and the FET are not enough).
Regarding "impact", Teresa affirmed that the impact of the H2020 projects to solve the big societal challenges has been very little, due to a lack of coordination, and a lack of focus. This is why the "Mission-Oriented Research & Innovation" projects have appeared. Teresa informs us that Prof. Mariana Mazzucato presented her vision, entitled "Mission-Oriented Research & Innovation in the European Union - A problem-solving approach to fuel innovation-led growth", to Comissioner Carlos Moedas in a report, which is the latest in a series of inputs the Commission will consider in shaping the post-Horizon 2020 EU research and innovation framework programme. The report recommends five key criteria for the selection of research and innovation projects at EU level. They should:
Regarding "oppenness" it is clear for everyone that science should be open to everyone, but unless the existing barriers do not fall, the situation is complex. Barriers such as the evaluation system, the funding criteria, the evaluation of the professional career of the researchers, etc. "If one article in Nature counts more than 10 in other journals, regardless of the quality, it is difficult to make researchers want to publish in open access journals", said Teresa.
Britta then talked about the success of future proposals: not only they should ensure gender balance, but also include a gender dimension into their research, to be better evaluated, and also an international dimension: collaborate with other countries, including South and Central America, Africa, etc. She said that in the coming years, the European budget for agriculture and for regional funding will be cut, and the budget for research and for agreements with Africa will increase.
The round table continued with questions from the audience, who came from different research centers (CNM, ICN2, ICMAB...) and had different backgrounds (Project Managers, Business Officers, Researchers...). All in all, a very fruitful and enjoyable roundtable. From here, we would like to thank both Britta Thomsen and Teresa Riera Madurell for their time with us!
The RISE Expert Group with Commissioner Moedas, January 2016. The "Research, Innovation, and Science Policy Experts" (RISE) high level group (HLG) advises the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas. The group was set up by the European Commission in June 2014. Photo from: https://ec.europa.eu/research/openvision/