Letter from Brussels: The European Union´s Innovation Investment Package

Bridges vol. 39, May 2014 / Letter from Brussels

By Adrian Csik

In July 2013, the European Commission submitted to the European Parliament and the Council its proposals for the so-called Innovation Investment Package. The tasks of these nine initiatives cover a broad spectrum, ranging from clinical trials on poverty-related diseases such as HIV/AIDS or malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa, to a program specifically designed for R&D-performing SMEs, to increasing Europe´s competitiveness in the aeronautics industry while concurrently reducing emissions and noise caused by air traffic. The central idea is to bring together partners (participating states, EU, industry) and thus create a critical mass in relevant fields of research and innovation. The respective Union contributions will come from Horizon 2020, the EU´s new Framework Program for Research and Innovation for the period 2014-2020.  After two years of intensive negotiations, this program was adopted in December 2013. Compared to its predecessor, the Seventh Framework Program (FP7; 2007-2013), the budget has been increased by about 30 percent. Its focus is far broader, no longer being a pure research program but encompassing the whole innovation cycle, from “blue sky research” through “close-to-market actions.” At the same time, success factors have been retained from the past. International cooperation remains an important dimension of the program, as does the principle of general openness: Horizon 2020 will continue to be the most open funding program in the world.

The innovation package´s entire budget could be as much as €22 billlion, with an enormous leverage potential. As regards the individual budgets, some of them have seen impressive increases, such as EDCTP2 and Eurostars-2 (the “2” at the end of an acronym indicates that most of the initiative was set up under FP7 and will continue under Horizon 2020). These programs have almost triple the money of their first generation. Regarding content of the. activities, the links to the framework program are stronger than under FP7, as there is explicit alignment with the objectives of Horizon 2020. These programs are expected to contribute to solving the Societal Challenges (such as demographic change, energy, or transport), which form an integral part of the Framework Program – namely its third pillar.

The initiatives in detail:

  • a European Metrology Program for Innovation and Research (EMPIR) jointly undertaken by several Member States
  • a Research and Development Program jointly undertaken by several Member States and aimed at supporting small and medium-sized enterprises that perform research (Eurostars-2; https://www.eurostars-eureka.eu/)
  • a second European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership Program (EDCTP2; http://www.edctp.org/) jointly undertaken by several Member States
  • the Active and Assisted Living Research and Development Program (AAL; http://www.aal-europe.eu/) jointly undertaken by several Member States
  • a proposal for a Council Regulation on the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI; http://biconsortium.eu/)
  • a proposal for a Council Regulation on the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking (CS2; http://www.cleansky.eu/)
  • a proposal for a Council Regulation on the Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership  (ECSEL) Joint Undertaking
  • a proposal for a Council Regulation on the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking (FCH2; http://www.fch-ju.eu/)
  • a proposal for a Council Regulation on the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (IMI2; http://www.imi.europa.eu/).

The main differences between the nine initiatives are that the first four are public-public partnerships, with the European Union participating in programs undertaken by Member States, following the “ordinary legislative procedure” with Council and European Parliament as co-legislators, whereas the rest are “Joint Undertakings” creating public-private partnerships between the Union and businesses and the research community. Here, the Council represents the sole legislator, and the EP is only entitled to give its opinion. Nevertheless, the Commission from the very beginning understood the Council and the EPas a package. The EP took advantage of this and declared from its own perspective to treat these two sets of legal acts as a package, potentially blurring the mentioned procedural differences.

Under the Lithuanian presidency, all dossiers were discussed in detail. In December 2013, a preliminary agreement was reached at the level of Member States. In January of this year, the new Hellenic presidency negotiated formally and informally with the EP. Intensive discussions, many technical meetings, and two so-called trialogues (with the participation of Commission, Presidency, and Parliament) made it possible to come to a political agreement at the end of February. Currently (March 2014) the legal linguists are working to ensure that all the versions in the official languages of the EU have the same legal meaning. After the March 18th adoption of the agreement in the EP´s committee in charge of research (ITRE), the Parliament´s plenary in April as well as the following adoption by the Council (probably in May) should be only a formality.