This article was published under the 2015-2020 European Committee of the Regions mandate.
This own-initiative opinion has the dual aim of taking stock of the current state of R&I infrastructure in the European Union and providing recommendations in view of the implementation of the next Framework Programme (FP) 9 for Research and Innovation at the local and regional level.
Specifically, the critical problems of openness, accessibility and sustainability of research infrastructures will be addressed. Parallel to this, the question of shared financing, complementarity and responsibility for cross-border research infrastructures will be explored too. Finally, new contextual factors, such as the implementation of large scale digital infrastructures, together with similar ones in the field of biotechnology, health, space exploration and defence, need to be necessarily taken into account, alongside smaller- and medium-size research infrastructure traditionally carried out at the local level.
The rapporteur discussed his report with the Romanian European Council Presidency and the rapporteur of the European Economic & Social Committee, Prof. Samm, as well as with the ALDE Group in the European Parliament advisors.
Eamon Dooley discussed research infrastructures with Eoghan O’Neill of the European Commission’s DG Connect, and with the Executive Secretary of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), a strategic instrument to develop the scientific integration of Europe and to strengthen its international outreach, at DG Research & Innovation.
In the afternoon a stakeholders’ consultation took place in the European Committee of the Regions:
Eamon Dooley spoke with representatives and the Deputy Head of Unit of the DG Research and Innovation, discussing key challenges for research infrastructure with potential solutions for regions that perform poorly. They exchanged best practices on how to reach out to EU citizens and inform them about what has been achieved thanks to the EU.
With the European Institute for Technology and its Head of the Liaison Office, the rapporteur also talked about what the EIT is doing to address innovation from people’s perspective, placing the entrepreneur in the centre; what do they do in order to bring innovation results also to local and regional level: spreading of innovation hubs, creating a so called regional innovation scheme?
With the European Social and Economic Committee on Horizon 2020 Xavier Lobo, Dooley discussed how to create a “dream”, a “mission” as proposed by Commissioner Moedas, e.g. for Europe to discover the cure for cancer – what would be the concrete steps that we need to invest in? Skills/high-level education, less bureaucracy and strong single market are the basis for excellence in Research & Innovation; the need to attract and maintain talent is an imperative too, as well as the need for Member States to respect their obligation of reserving 3% of their GDP for research.
Rapporteur Dooley discussed with the Deputy head of unit Regional and Urban Policy, DG Regional Policy, the connection between structural funds and Horizon 2020 funding of research and innovation. How do these funds cover the construction of research infrastructure and research projects that are developed on the basis of this research? How can we bring entrepreneurs and citizens on board? How can we help regions transitioning if cohesion funds are dropped in the new Multi-Annual Financial Framework.