Summary:

  • The first news provides a comparison of participation of EU 13 in H2020, with a focus at the participation of social science and humanities organisations of the above noted countries and recommendations provided by the European Commission on that issue, which specify that specific thematic priorities and exploring the concrete needs for interdisciplinary research cooperation to tackle them are of the outmost importance for the EU 13.
  • The second news is dedicated to “Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation” opportunities in the 2016-2017 Work Programme, aiming at engaging organisations of those countries which could commit more towards the EU research and innovation effort. The Work Programme consists of the following calls: Teaming, Twinning, ERA Chairs and the call for support to JPI Urban Europe.
  • The third news refers to the report that has been released in November 2015 by the independent High Level Expert Group conducting an ex post evaluation of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for Research, as required by the European Parliament Decision and European Council decision setting up FP7. The objective of this Group was to evaluate the effectiveness of FP7 and its implementation, to analyse its main achievements and shortcoming in order to provide recommendations for Horizon 2020 and all future FPs accordingly. The above noted report is addressing the findings with a particular focus at the participation and performance of EU 13.

The participation of social science and humanities organizations from the EU-13 across H2020: an opportunity to seize

Social Science and Humanities: integrating their methodologies and perspectives in H2020 projects has become a priority for the European Commission. But what about the involvement and participation of social science and humanities organisations from EU13 countries? Starting from a European Commission’s report that analyses how the different Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) disciplines have been integrated into H2020 2014 funded projects that had been flagged as “SSH relevant”, in its policy brief MIRRIS shed light on the specifics of EU13 participation.
 
Partners form the EU-15 represent the majority (83%) of participants with SSH skills, and in particular the UK (16%) strongly confirms its highly influential role within Europe’s SSH scene. In terms of participation from EU-13, only 10% for the SSH partners came from the EU-13 Member States. The significant geographical divide between the EU-15 and the EU-13 even increases, when the origin of project coordinating partners is under scrutiny; here the share of SSH coordinators from the EU-13 drops to only 3%. 92% of the SSH coordinating partners come from the EU-15 Member States, especially Germany (19%), the Netherlands and UK (both 13%), Spain (9%), Italy (8%), France (6%) and Belgium (5%). Contrasting the coordination figures with the overall participation figures, we can conclude that SSH research organisations from EU-13 are – in general – only peripheral integrated and hardly if at all visible as coordinators.
 
The figure below – taken from the abovementioned report – shows the 20 countries with highest participation of SSH research organisations in SSH flagged calls under Horizon 2020 in 2014.
 
 
As regards the EU-13, Poland and Hungary are best represented with 24 and 16 partners each and a share of 3% and 2% respectively. Also two more EU-13 Member States rank among the top 20 countries, namely Bulgaria and Romania with each 10 participations.
 
The second part of MIRRIS analysis focuses on a detailed assessment of the participation of SSH research organisations from the EU13 by each different theme /work programmes. The potential and engagement of SSH research organisations from EU-13 countries is visibly demonstrated by their relatively high participation rates in Societal Challenge 6 and Societal Challenge 7 – which can be considered as the two Societal Challenges with most obvious topical SSH orientation. However, the integration of SSH research organisations in the other Societal Challenges and in Industrial Leadership Priorities (LEIT) in Horizon 2020 has not been realised yet for these countries. The under-representation of SSH research organisations from the EU-13 results in a significant geographical divide between the EU-15 and the EU-13 which raises concern.
 
The original EC report puts forward a series of recommendations, some of which of utmost importance for the EU13. One of these is the need of further contributing to shape the work programmes reflecting the real concerns, needs and challenges of the EU-13. To this end, a series of workshops is envisaged to be organised by the Commission addressing specific thematic priorities and exploring the concrete needs for interdisciplinary research cooperation to tackle them. Special emphasis should be undertaken to include the important insights that SSH can offer to address societal challenges.
 
Other areas of reflection include the critical underestimation of evaluators of SSH extraction within the EC evaluators’ body, as well as the need of strengthening a critical information and communication process (e.g. through the NCP system) in order to highlight all the SSH opportunities provided under H2020, beyond those areas (i.e. Societal Challenges 6 and 7) with a more obvious SSH component.
 
 

“Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation” opportunities in the 2016-2017 Work Programme

The new bi-annual work programme specifically dedicated to the so called “widening” countries has been recently published. “Widening” countries – i.e. those showing “low R&I performance” and that should commit to a stronger participation in H2020 – are identified through a specific composite indicator of research excellence.

In its introduction to the new work programme, the European Commission stresses how research and innovation are tightly connected to a successful pathway to economic growth and competitiveness.  Among the most relevant prerequisite that positively affect R&I performance in cooperative international research, there are the efficiency of the national research and innovation systems, as well as in the capacity of networking and of staying connected.

The programme aims at engaging organisations of those countries which could commit more towards the EU research and innovation effort. The WP 2016-2017 consists of the following calls: Teaming, Twinning, ERA Chairs and the call for support to JPI Urban Europe.

Teaming will invest in Europe’s research and innovation potential through supporting the creation of new (or upgrading of existing) Centres of Excellence on the basis of partnerships with internationally leading institutions.

Twinning aims to build on the huge potential of networking for excellence through knowledge transfer and, exchange of best practice between research institutions and leading partners.

ERA Chairs will bring outstanding researchers to universities and other research organisations that have high potential for research excellence. On their side, institutions should mobilise support from different funding sources, including from the European Structural and Investment Funds, to invest in facilities and infrastructures in the context of Smart Specialisation Strategies and commit to institutional change and a broader support to innovation.

Support to JPI Urban Europe is an initiative that will enhance the knowledge and capacities in order to support urban transition towards sustainability in Europe and beyond. In doing so, it develops innovative solutions and reduces the fragmentation of urban-related research and innovation funding as well as builds critical mass and visibility. This call in particular represents a great opportunities for EU 13 countries and especially for the Eastern European countries. City regions in the Widening countries are facing specific challenges.  For instance, the processes of severe regional polarisation and population shrinkage are hindering the  development  of  many  city  regions  into  knowledge  hubs  in  these  countries.  At the same time, there are huge possibilities of improvement for the Widening countries based on active collaboration with innovative urban regions of higher performing countries. Also other global megatrends such as demographic and climate change will have more severe negative impacts on  urban  regions  in  the  Widening  countries,  especially  in  Eastern  Europe,  whereas  city regions in Western and Northern parts of the Union will be less affected. In order to respond to  these  challenges,  actors  from  the  Widening  countries  should  be  actively  involved  in relevant R&I networks and activities having a strong policy-informing ambition.

EX POST evaluation report of FP7: What does it say for the EU13?

In November 2015, the independent High Level Expert Group released its report containing an ex post evaluation of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, as required by the European Parliament Decision and European Council decision setting up FP7. The objective of this Group was to evaluate the effectiveness of FP7 and its implementation and to analyse its main achievements and shortcomings, with a view to providing recommendations for Horizon 2020 and all future FPs.

Among the main achievements and improvements compared with previous FPs, FP7 was an innovative programme in that it established new sub-programmes, such as the FP7-IDEAS (ERC), which supported individual researchers from all academic disciplines working on excellent frontier research, and the Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs), which better addressed the needs of industry, allowing more effective collaboration. Seen from an economic viewpoint, FP7 had an estimated generation of 11€ of direct and indirect economic effects for each euro spent by the Commission. FP7 managed to set and maintain a very high quality standard of research excellence, attracting excellent researchers both at individual and institutional level, particularly on frontier research. A cross-sector and cross-border cooperation culture was successfully encouraged, engaging large corporations and SMEs alike, through mechanisms such as public-private-partnerships. Mobility of researchers was intensified, as well as the number and extensiveness of investments in European research infrastructures.

On the other hand, the major shortcoming of FP7 has been the presence of inconsistencies and even competing or overlapping elements within the Programme and between it and national programmes.


But what does the report say about the involvement of the EU13? At a first glimpse, the total EC contribution by country table (above) may suggest a bias against EU-13 countries. However, the major difference between the two groups is that EU-15 countries usually host the most prestigious centres of excellence in Europe, which have made substantial investments in highly qualified human resources and support structures. The lower shares of funding for EU-13 countries can be reconsidered when looking at the very low science and innovation funds they receive at a national level, thus proving the key role FP7 has played here.

In response to one of the 12 commonly held myths about FP7 that the programme was biased against the New Member States of EU13, the report states that the lower participation shares of the EU‐13 is caused not by a bias against the new EU Member States, but rather by a comparably high number of weak proposals submitted by, or with partners from the EU‐13. Some of the most important reasons are information and language barriers; lack of professional contacts and research networks; lack of leading universities and research organizations; insufficient motivation to participate in FP7; generally low focus on R&D in policy and in business that is more prevalent in many EU‐13 countries.

Another finding of the report, which has a bearing on the EU13’s performance in FP7, is that while the programme showed a high degree of openness for organizations that had not participated in previous FPs, this inherent openness was not mirrored in terms of funding shares of newcomers and organizations that participated in both programmes. A very high percentage of the EC funding in FP7 was received by organizations that had already participated in FP6 (especially universities and research organizations).

The full 124-page report can be downloaded at: Final Evaluation Expert Group Report