LJP Youth: What is Horizon 2020?

Léa-Claire Tersou is part of a new initiative called LJP Youth. The LJP team has partnered with the Bilingual School of Marcq-en-Baroeul, a high school in Lille, France, to create a space for young, aspiring journalists to comment on the world around them. We hope you enjoy what they have to say. 

Innovation, exploration and curiosity have been the key to human advancement and development throughout history. It is a thirst for knowledge and a quest to answer scientific questions that have pushed us towards the innovations we take for granted today. But the media today largely tends to focus on celebrities and war, pushing technology and innovation reporting to the side. A good example is the lack of recent coverage devoted to one of the biggest research projects in Europe: the Horizon 2020 Program.

What exactly is Horizon 2020? The European Commission describes the project as “Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.”

The program aims to increase the European competitiveness by promoting and funding scientific innovation, with the hopes of introducing new products into the global market and jumpstart economies.

While the professed goals of the project are far-reaching unsurprisingly vague (“Excellent Science, Industrial Leadership, and Societal Change” are the three pillars of the program), some specific goals have been set for each. At a time when European decreasing competitiveness is continuously documented in international media, programs to aid European economic, scientific, and technological development are promising and enticing. Many countries in the European Union have already signed on. France and Cyprus are two of the most recent signatories, with France signing on Jan 6.

With more than 80 billion dollars in funding, the project plans to give grants to European research centers in order to boost breakthroughs. The goal of increased “Industrial Leadership” would also be tackled by giving grants to small and medium-sized enterprises and indirectly financing companies through the European Investment Bank. The largest goals have been set for the third pillar of the program, “Societal Change,” which also prove to be the most challenging. The program intends to target social needs of Europe, from national security to public health, ecology, food security, and new energy sources.

The larger goal of the program is to promote scientific and technological discoveries in order to put them out into the world so they can be commercialized and used in a productive way. Nanotechnology, for example, has great potential for technological and economic advancement. It can increase memory storage, and with a reduction of size – that could occur with further research –could come a reduction of price. This possibility for growth and investment in nanotechnology research is just one example of projects that can be beneficial and innovative when given the proper funding.

Horizon 2020 is already funding a wide variety of studies being conducted by institutes throughout Europe. From predicting future droughts in Europe, or giving grants to do research on heart disease and cancer, the programs goal to promote “societal change” seems to be applicable in every field of research and has already attracted a great deal of interest from investors and researchers. Another – and possibly the most interesting – goal of Horizon 2020 is to improve gender equality by increasing female participation in research and administration.

There are many contradictions within this initiative. One could view Horizon 2020 as a way for the European Commission to monopolize the research industry –and consequently its breakthroughs. This could have negative consequences, like higher prices or manipulation of inventions. Another issue to consider is the proximity of the signing on to Horizon 2020 and the European Parliament elections. As a political strategy, promoting innovation and research proves extremely effective.

In France, the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche (Ministry of Higher Education and Research) plans to use the Horizon 2020 project as a means to “ensure France’s place in European research.” They also aim to increase the role of knowledge and research into the values of French society by giving it such a large investment.

As a French citizen, I was surprised not to have heard much about Horizon 2020 in the media. Regardless of the fact that France signed on in January, the negotiations had occurred long before that, with hardly any coverage. This made me realize how little attention is paid to this type of news, as opposed to the current topics of interest, such as pop culture or political scandals. This indicates that people no longer are encouraged to be involved in the innovation of the world, or even of their own country – perhaps spurring the need for such a program in the first place.

What does this project mean to me as French and EU citizen? As someone who will form part of the next generation to take over the work force, advancing in fields such as technology and industry will help pave the way for me and others who wish to go down this path in the future. Every day, we speak about the economic crisis and how slow recovery is. In this light, the idea that our leaders have taken massive initiatives to shape our future is comforting and encouraging. I believe we do not inspire people to be involved with innovation anymore. Perhaps we might not achieve all of these goals, but the Horizon 2020 Program is already a large step for Europe towards technological, scientific, and economic advancement.

Trackbacks

  1. […] What is Horizon 2020? Innovation, exploration and curiosity have been the key to human advancement and development throughout history. It is a thirst for knowledge and a quest to answer scientific questions that have pushed us towards the innovations we take for granted today. But the media today largely tends to focus on celebrities and war, pushing technology and innovation reporting to the side. A good example is the lack of recent coverage devoted to one of the biggest research projects in Europe: the Horizon 2020 Program. What exactly is Horizon 2020? The European Commission describes the project as “Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.” […]

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