July 2, 2018
by Ariane Georgiannakis, student of the third European school of Brussels
Horizon 2020, the successor of FP7 and FP6, is the biggest Research and Innovation programme run ever by the EC, with billions invested in it, over 7 years (2014-2020). Established in times of severe economic challenges and youth unemployment in Europe, it has three priorities: scientific excellence, industrial leadership and societal changes. All of them sharing the objective of developing innovation, as a mean to ensure Europe’s global competitiveness, stimulate economic growth and create new jobs.
When the programme was first presented, the quote: ‘taking ideas from the lab to the market’ was used. For this to happen, the action ‘Science with and for society’ was developed with the specific objective of building effective cooperation between science and society. It is the single link between the scientific work undertaken by the programme and the public.
It aims to engage society more broadly in R&I activities, by promoting informal and formal science education and making scientific activities more attractive to the youth, as well as by increasing the accessibility and use of results and ensuring gender equality in both research teams and in taking decisions. In addition to all this, it takes into account the ethical dimension of this progress in innovation and its consequences to the environment.
This is true for Hypatia which aims to bring a change in how teenage girls (aged 15-18) engage in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics activities. These activities have their central focus in communicating STEM in a gender-inclusive way, empowering teenage girls and showing them the variety of studies and careers they can follow in this field. Gender equality is therefore ensured, not only for this moment but for the future too. This is perhaps one of the best aspects of the programme, that it does not only tackle European issues faced now but that it helps create a future where solutions have become facts.
Although many targets have been achieved, it is accepted that there is still room for improvement in bringing innovation closer to society. In fact, this is given a lot of emphasis in the curator’s to-do list for Horizon Europe, which will follow Horizon2020.
Many European citizens are still not properly informed about all these actions, especially teenagers, who are the next generation to bring new ideas in our world. Scientific data and results should be made even more openly accessible and in general shared with the public. It would be even more preferable if the public was informed beforehand about all these projects taking place.
Each one of the projects funded by Horizon2020, will affect in a way some aspect of our life in the future, whether this is improvements in health or technological changes in agriculture and forestry. Many of these are still running but for those which are finished, it is impressive to see how a few of the positive advances in technology from the new Blade Runner film (which takes place in 2049) are already turning into reality. Yet, the public knows very little about them…
So, does Horizon2020 actually contribute qualitatively to its objectives (excellent science, industrial leadership and addressing urgent societal changes), rather than just quantitatively? Of how much relevance is it to us?
Let us start with the youth, which will grow up in a changing world with many new jobs created and career opportunities. Horizon2020 has the same impact to young adults.
As for adults and the elderly, they are affected by the extended innovation and research, which also affects the rest of the population. These are the results and impacts of the programme most of which are not visible yet to the public, as it hasn’t come to an end.
As for now, the figures suggest the GDP percentage growth of each country has significantly increased, leading to more prosperity. Judging from the results of the previous programmes (FP7 and FP6) previously faced issues such as the unnecessary complexity of the application process, difficult implementation and un-friendly funding rules have been overcome. This does not mean everything is settled, however the programme is on the right track. Horizon Europe should focus in integrating its projects in society and continue supporting innovation through its 3 initial priorities.