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At the beginning of the 21st century, in the face of the major challenges with which we are confronted, it
is becoming increasingly clear that massive investment in science and innovation is a crucial requirement
for Europe’s future. Indeed, exhaustion of natural resources, population ageing, energy supply difficulties
and climate change are amongst the many problems affecting Europe, which greatly contribute to the
deterioration of our competitiveness. The will to avoid remaining passive in the face of these problems
should make it possible to put the Horizon 2020 programme in place for the 2014-2020 period. The
elaboration and implementation of this programme constitutes a major part of the Innovation Union, one of
the 7 flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, following the observed failure of the Lisbon Strategy,
set out in 2000, which aimed to make Europe into the most competitive economy in the world by 2010. Two
years after the latter date, the facts are harsh: not only has our backwardness increased in relation to the
United States, but the emerging powers, in particular China, Brazil and India, have caught up with us. With a
required budget of 80 billion euros, Horizon 2020 is intended to make it possible to simplify the financing of
research, by means of increased coordination between the various programmes and means of organisation
that already exist. This programme is above all aimed at improving the effectiveness of research and of the
application of its results in industry by means of the innovation process, an aspect which has been neglected
too often in the past. It is based upon programmes and social challenges, instead of projects, and aims to
establish better coordination and coherence with national and regional programmes, a fact that sets it apart
from its predecessors.
It seems clear that cooperation between Europeans, itself based upon increased mutual trust, is the most
decisive factor with regard to the effectiveness of investment in research and innovation: cooperation
between the EU Member States; cooperation between the actors engaged in innovation, between research
institutes, Universities and companies; and, finally, cooperation on a larger scale at the world level, since
certain challenges transcend borders and need to be resolved by humanity as a whole. Cooperation at
various levels is the essential precondition for concentrating means and talents and thus boosting theoretical
and applied research, in order to stimulate Europe’s competitiveness. Indeed, individual initiatives appear
quite fruitless for resolving global challenges, such as the exhaustion of natural resources for example.
Significant progress has also been made with regard to transatlantic cooperation by means of the
Transatlantic Economic Council, in the fields of electro-mobility and smart grids in particular.
However, the key problem for this ambitious attempt at consolidating European policy on research and
innovation is that of its financing. In the current period of crisis and corresponding budgetary restrictions,
there is a strong risk of the means allocated proving insufficient in relation to the issues involved. Thus, only
4% of the EU budget is devoted to “the fight against climate change and the promotion of effective use of
resources and raw materials”. It is therefore clear that the stimulation of research and innovation cannot be
left to governments alone, and that measures encouraging the private sector to invest are indispensable, in
order for Europe to re-establish competitiveness and economic growth on a permanent basis.
Editor-in-chief, The European Files