The European Framework Program for Research and Innovation (2014 – 2020) “Horizon 2020” is the new program of the integrated funding system for research activities of the European Commission, a task that was up to the VII Framework Program, the Framework for the Competitiveness and Innovation Program (CIP) and the Institute for European Innovation and Technology (EIT). Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implemented by the European Union whose main objective is to ensure the competitiveness of the European Union at a global level.
The new program will be active from January 1st 2014 until December 31st 2020, and will support the European Union in the global challenges to researchers and innovators by providing the tools necessary for the realization of their projects and their ideas. The budget for Horizon 2020 (including the nuclear research program Euratom) is of almost 80 billion euros, available throughout the seven years of the program’s activity. It is an ambitious program where it is expected to achieve significant scientific discoveries and the creation of patents, new technologies and for these relevant prototypes to begin to spread on a wider scale in the global market.
Seen as a means to give new input to economic growth and the creation of new jobs, Horizon 2020 can count on the political support of the European leaders and members of the European parliament: the importance and centrality of the most recent research is recognized as a fundamental element on which to build a sustainable and intelligent (“smart”) development.
Creating a system of research and innovation, Horizon 2020 aims to achieve its goals with a clear emphasis on excellence in science, industry and in the fields of social problems. The main objective of the program is to ensure the development of innovative scientific research worldwide, remove any obstacles to innovation and facilitate cooperation in public and private sectors in the push for innovation.
The structure of the program consists of three “pillars” or main themes: “Scientific Excellence”, “Societal Challenges” and “Industrial Leadership”.
“Scientific Excellence” is the first of the three pillars of the new framework program Horizon 2020. Its overall objective is to raise the level of excellence of Europe’s scientific base and to guarantee a steady production of world-class research to ensure Europe’s competitiveness in the long term.
It aims to support the best ideas, develop Europe’s talented, give researchers access to priority research infrastructures and make Europe an attractive place for the best researchers in the world.
It is divided into four programs:
- “European Research Council”: it supports the most talented and creative individuals and their “team” in carrying out frontier research of the highest quality;
- Future and Emerging Technologies: funds research to open new, promising fields of research and innovation;
- Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions: provides researchers with excellent training and career opportunities supporting mobility;
- Research Infrastructures: aims at the development of world-class research infrastructures (including e-infrastructures in the network) accessible to all researchers in Europe and other countries.
The second pillar, “Societal Challenges”, reflects the strategic priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy and addresses major concerns shared by European and other countries. One approach focuses on the challenges for the company to bring together resources and knowledge from a variety of sectors, technologies and disciplines, including social sciences and humanities.
The program intends to address activities ranging from research to commercialization, focusing on those related to innovation, such as pilot projects, demonstrations, test-beds, and support to public and commercial adoption. It will establish links with the activities of European partnerships for innovation.
The funding is focused on the following programs:
- Health, demographic change and well-being;
- Food safety, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research as well as bio-economy;
- Secure, clean and efficient energy;
- Intelligent, green and integrated transports;
- Climate action, resource and raw materials efficiency;
- Europe in a changing world: inclusive, innovative and secure society;
- Secure societies: Protecting the freedom and security of Europe and its citizens.
The planned activities range from basic research to the market, with a new emphasis placed on innovation-related activities, such as pilot projects, demonstrations, support tests and the holding of tenders, the design, social innovation and the commercialization of innovations. Social sciences and humanities shall be an integral part of the activities to address the challenges. The development of these disciplines shall be supported under the specific objective “Inclusive, innovative and secure.” Community support will also focus on providing a strong evidence base for policy making at international, European, national and regional level. Given the global nature of many challenges, strategic cooperation with third countries is an integral part of the pillar.
The last pillar of Horizon 2020 is “Industrial leadership”: it aims to make Europe a more attractive place to invest in research and innovation (including eco-innovation), by promoting structured activities of companies.
It aims to lead Europe’s investment in essential industrial technologies, stimulate the growth potential of European companies by providing them with adequate levels of funding and help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to become the world’s leading companies.
It focuses on three programs:
- Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies. It provides targeted support to the research, development and demonstration of the following priorities: ICT, nanotechnology, advanced materials, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and processing, space technology;
- Access to risk capital. This program was created with the aim of supporting the development of venture capital in Europe and aims to overcome deficits in the availability of credits and funds for the field of research and development, innovative companies and projects at all stages of development;
- Innovation in SMEs. This program aims to promote all forms of innovation in SMEs, with a specific interest in those with growth potential capable of internationalization on the single market and beyond. In the businesses research is not expected but funding for research support actions.
The activities of the Research Centre CRIM-SAFRI fit within the themes of Horizon 2020 program “Secure, clean and efficient” and “Climate action, resource and raw material efficiency.” The center, in fact, aims to support SMEs and districts of SMEs in the development of eco-innovative products and technologies, referring specifically to technologies powered by renewable sources, to spread the use of Best Available Technologies, spreading environmental product certification systems, environmental and energy management systems.
The above activities can certainly help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve resource efficiency and use of renewable resources to replace non-renewable ones.
Engr. Francesco Guarino, Engr. Sonia Longo