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 Full text 
Tuesday, 11 December 2018 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Establishing Horizon Europe – laying down its rules for participation and dissemination - Programme implementing Horizon Europe (debate)

  Christian Ehler, Rapporteur. – Mr President, when we talk about research, are we just talking about research or are we talking about, in substance, the basis of the well-being of this continent? We owe to the labour of our working population in Europe, but the basis of our well-being is innovation. We are just 10% of the world population but we are consuming practically more than 40% of social welfare expenditure. And the reason why we can do that is innovation. Labour costs are fairly high, we are in a global competition. The reason for the well-being of this continent relates, starting in the 18th century, to its ability to innovate. The historic legacy of the Enlightenment is very much related to that.

I am referring to that because we are at a crossroads. We decided, and the heads of state decided, almost 10 years ago that we were going to spend 3% of our GDP until 2020 on innovation, just to keep up with the Chinese, the Americans and other competitors. But we failed. We are spending almost 2% of GDP but we have to catch up. That is the reason why the ambitious budget proposal by the Commission and the even more ambitious budget proposal by Parliament are so important. It’s not for soapbox speeches, it’s not for the sake of academic life – it is about the substance of the well-being of this continent.

I think what we are going to achieve with that programme is, first of all, going back and tackling the big challenges which are related to the ordinary life of citizens. We want to tackle children’s cancer. In terms of technology, we want to have a quantum computer. We are leading but we have to do something about that leadership and we want to have a quantum computer 10 years from now.

I think what’s important to understand is that this is not just another programme, that it is one of the biggest contributions to the European economy, but also to the well-being of European citizens. That relates also to the fact that we want to have a programme which is open to the world. We don’t want to be copycats like China. We don’t want to have an ‘America First’ like the United States. This is the continent which is open to the world; we are not naive, but we want to ask the world to work together with us.

A second issue which is important and also an achievement for Parliament is that we are reflecting on the fact that we are living in an ever-changing innovation environment. It’s new, it’s fast, it’s ambitious, it’s driven by VC capital and it’s competitive. And we did that in the past in a top-down way, starting in the 19th century where the sovereign and then later the state or the Commission top-down decided on the issues. I think the fast track the Commission and Parliament are now attributing is an achievement because its bottom-up. If you’re a researcher, if you’re an innovator, if you’re smart, if you’re innovative, you can go to the Commission and say: ‘in the framework of what has been decided in the programme, do we get funding? Are we ambitious? Are we fast enough in the international context?’ And I think that is an answer. It’s a game changer that we have more of a bottom-up approach.

I would like to refer also to revolutionary issues such as what we did in the energy challenge. For the first time, we don’t fight the fight between CO2 reduction and competitiveness, we just focus on energy production. What we are going to say is: yes, it’s not a contradiction both to do CO2 reduction and to be competitive, but we have to do something about that and that is to focus on manufacturing. We want to have CO2-free steel plants. We want to have more ambition but we want to align CO2 reduction and competition. So it’s a big programme, it’s a smart programme, it’s a progressive programme and I think we would like to see the Council acting as fast as Parliament. We did that in six months and we cannot delay that. We should have a deal before the election to show Europe, to show the world, that we are able to act.

Last updated: 22 May 2019Legal notice