The Irish Universities Association (IUA’s) Vice-Presidents and Deans of Research (VPDOR) Group moved to Brussels for one of its regular meetings on 31st January 2017. Facilitated by Enterprise Ireland under its Horizon 2020 liaison programme, the meeting is part of a two-day itinerary set up to enable the VPDOR to meet with key EC officials to discuss their topics of interest as well as promoting the capability and excellent science within Irish universities to key stakeholders in Brussels.
The European Framework Programmes for research and innovation have long been a priority for the Irish Universities. The Universities were very successful in securing funding from the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), winning €346 million, representing 56% of the overall FP7 drawdown to Ireland. This success is in no small part due to the strong collaborations they have developed with the private sector.
Speaking at the meeting, Ned Costello, IUA Chief Executive and Director of Research and Innovation said: “Collaboration is key to success in research and innovation. Horizon 2020 is a key facilitator of that collaboration and to ensuring that the effectiveness of our national strategy is enhanced by fully linking it into the wider European Research Area. In December 2013, the Universities published their strategy for engaging with Horizon 2020 “Horizon 2020: Sustaining Excellence in University Research & Innovation”.
This ambitious document laid out the Universities’ plans for targeted engagement and exemplary performance in Horizon 2020. The implementation of these plans have yielded a strong start, with Irish universities included for the first time in the top 50 participating Higher Education organisations in terms of funding.
Despite the increased focus on funding to support the private sector and the historically low success rates seen in Horizon 2020, the Universities have secured €179 million of funding (53% of the national total) and have a success rate of 13.4%, above the EU average of 11.8% and on a par with the UK, Denmark and Sweden. Ireland’s top programme area in Horizon 2020 is the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MCSA) which supports mobility and training of researchers and has secured €59.7m in funding, just ahead of the ICT Leadership in Industrial Technologies programme at €59.6m.
Whilst the Universities are very pleased with their Horizon 2020 performance to-date, they remain focused on increasing their performance and are mindful of a number of initiatives and political developments which could impact on their ambitions in this regard. In particular, they are keeping a watchful eye on the Interim Evaluation of Horizon 2020 and its impact on the development of the plans for its successor, but they are also monitoring developments in areas such as Open Science, Research Integrity and the potential effects of “Brexit”.
Dr Imelda Lambkin, Enterprise Ireland and National Director of Ireland’s Horizon 2020 support network said she is “delighted” by the success of the universities to-date, claiming it shows “real evidence” of the talent and abilities throughout Ireland. Dr. Lambkin said she and her team are “working to influence the 2018-2020 programmes” so that Irish researchers and research bodies can access greater funding, while those using the services of the national support “tend to double their chances of success in the programme”.