All areas of life gain from EU research

The EP proposed increase of R&I budget after 2020 to €120bn

Photo: EP Antonio Tajani

When it comes to EU added value, there is hardly more pertinent area than research and innovation. For sure, this was the impression of the more than 1,000 participants - researchers, scientists, lawmakers, entrepreneurs and citizens - who got together at the European Parliament's Hemicycle in Brussels on 27 November for the conference “EU research and innovation in our daily life”. In the forum initiated by the EP President Antonio Tajani and the EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas, the storytellers were the EU researchers.

There is no area which has not benefited from European research, President Tajani pointed out, noting that since 1984 the EU has invested more than €200bn in these areas and that more than 45,000 researchers have been involved in the Horizon 2020 Programme.

“But this is not enough. The European Parliament is more ambitious. Our proposal, voted on 14 November, is to increase research funding to €120bn. This should be accomplished without increasing taxes - that are already high - but rather by making those who do not pay taxes today pay their fair share, starting with web giants and tax havens,” he asserted.

A vaccine development process normally takes over 10 years, but it was compressed in EBOVAC1 and EBOVAC2 projects because of the urgency to find preventative vaccines against Ebola. EU funding had a crucial role for this to happen. “Having a number of licensed vaccines to prevent the Ebola infection will add a powerful weapon to our armoury,” said Professor Deborah Watson-Jones, Clinical Epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and coordinator of the EBOVAC1 project.

Galileo, EU's global satellite navigation system that provides positioning and timing services, will reach full operational capability in 2020 and will be the most precise satellite navigation system in the world. For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing to bring all space activities under one single €16bn 'EU Space Programme'.

The EU-funded AGELESS project sought to make new inroads into understanding the progressive deterioration of the body experienced with age and how to slow down, halt or reverse this process by uncovering the molecular mechanisms of halted ageing in bats. “Our research shows that bats are able to maintain cellular homeostasis over time,” says Emma Teeling of University College Dublin in Ireland who received an ERC grant for the project. Findings may lead to further discoveries that could provide new solutions to slow down the ageing process, as well as fight cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

Commissioner Moedas focused on three moving stories where he saw first-hand “the impact of our work”. One of them is TUMO. Talking about this after school project in Yerevan, Armenia, he explained that there the students learn how to discover their passions and build their own curriculum. They discover what they really are good at and follow their intuition to learn. “I wasn't expecting to find the most revolutionary educational institutions I have ever seen in Yerevan. It was Armenia, but it felt more like Silicon Valley,” he said, adding that the EU has been part of this amazing project. Last month, Paris also launched its TUMO.


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