Position on Horizon 2020

For many years, the Max-Planck-Society (MPG) has successfully participated in the European Research Framework Programmes. The MPG intends to continue this commitment and is, therefore, intensively involved in the discussion towards the final structure of the Horizon 2020 for the promotion of science within the European Research and Innovation Area. The MPG welcomes the draft proposal presented by the European Commission: The ongoing emphasis on the criterion of excellence for the evaluation and the selection of EU-funded projects will increase the attraction of Horizon 2020. Furthermore, its effectiveness will be enhanced through the suggested simplification for the programme and project management.

In response to the Horizon 2020 draft version presented by the European Commission, the following considerations are of special interest for MPG:

1. Excellence and competition for EU funds should be finally settled in the Rules for Participation for Horizon 2020 (management rules) as the main funding principles. So far, Article 14 of the Rules for Participation foresees today only for the European Research Council (ERC) a clear preference for an evaluation solely on the criterion of excellence.

2. Knowledge-oriented research is the foundation of all innovation. Therefore, the MPG stresses out that basic research should be in Horizon 2020 firmly anchored in all funding axes and programmes along the lines set by the very successful previous EU programme New and Emerging Science Technologies (NEST).

3. The autonomy of the ERC should be further strengthened in addition with a doubling of the budget in Horizon 2020 to around 15 billion euros. The Scientific Council and ERC agency should take appropriate actions to increase the ERC’s international visibility. Highly qualified scientists of all age groups from around the world should be targeted in order to sustainably boost Europe as a center of excellence in the world.

4. Fusion research and ITER require a decent financing from 2014 to 2020 through the EURATOM programme in order to safeguard Europe’s leading role in this sophisticated technology, to secure this very important future energy source for Europe’s society and, moreover, to avoid the personnel and expertise from the fusion scene to be head-hunted by other globally competing research areas.

5. Mobility schemes for researchers should be far more extended within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Programme. The funding of research networks and fellowships should be continuously bottom-up organised in conjunction with the free choice of the thematic area. Particularly, the promotion of younger researchers shortly after obtaining their PhD, of post-docs and of experienced visiting scientists should be expanded. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Programme should, in addition, help to substantially increase the number of female scientists in Horizon 2020. The recruitment of scientists - fellowships and visitors - from third countries should be significantly increased. At the same time, the funding period for EU fellowships should include an option for the extension of the funding period from two to up to four years.

6. The MPG supports the intention of the EU institutions to develop excellent research in all regions of Europe (Twinning/Teaming Excellence). This desire should be managed via a competitive call for proposals in Horizon 2020 complementary to the use of Structural Funds. European regions should be able to submit jointly with a prominent research organisation matched scientific concepts.  International Max Planck Centers and Institutes or other comparable instruments of international cooperation undertaken by other European organisations could serve as a model.

7. The proposed cost model allowing the reimbursement of 100 percent of direct project costs and 20 percent of overheads (the ERC cost model) helps to simplify the management of EU projects. Nevertheless, the MPG is in favour of exceptions from the proposed cost model that are aimed at providing adequate reimbursement of project costs. The full cost model of Framework Programme 7 might be one example.

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