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Brazil on the horizon

Europeans seek partnerships for new program to support science and innovation

037_Europe_202Representatives from the European Union visited institutions that support science in Brasília and São Paulo in November 2012, for the purpose of identifying potential areas of scientific collaboration and to introduce Horizon 2020, a new support program for science and innovation to be launched in early 2014. “We also need to promote Europe and Brazil,” says Sieglinde Gruber, Head of the European Commission unit for Science, Technology and Innovation in the Americas.

Designed for the purpose of stimulating economic growth and creating jobs across the 27 European Union countries, enhancing knowledge produced in Europe and facilitating access to global markets, Horizon 2020 will emphasize innovation at universities and companies and confront the challenges of wide-ranging social issues, such as health, clean energy and transportation. Access to the European Commission’s science and technology programs on the part of research centers and companies, previously considered too bureaucratic, should now be simpler. “We want to simplify the procedures, which took a great deal of researchers’ time,” said Gruber as she introduced the new program at FAPESP on November 12.

Through Horizon 2020, the European Union is looking to expand cooperation with strategic countries such as Brazil, India, China and Russia. “We now view Brazil as an equal partner,” says Piero Venturi, Science and Technology member of the EU Delegation to FAPESP in Brazil. “Instead of funding Brazilian researchers for European projects, we want to determine common interests and discuss them within the framework of a cooperation program with partner institutions in Brazil. This is more complex because it involves investors from both countries, but we believe it is the best strategy.”

Horizon 2020 has a budget of €80 billion (the final number is under discussion in the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union) and will replace the current program, the Seventh Framework Program (FP7), which expires in 2013 and had a budget of €50 billion. Brazil ranked sixth among FP7 countries in terms of contributions to European countries (see graph). Brazilian projects had an approval rate of 22.2%, which was above the 19.3% approval rate for European projects. “Every two years we will redefine our goals for cooperation with Brazil,” says Gruber. Research groups, companies and non-governmental organizations in Brazil may participate in Horizon 2020 alongside at least two European partners.

In July 2012, the European Commission announced that it would invest €8.1 billion – the highest ever earmarked for a call for proposals – to fund science and technology research projects that could contribute to economic growth in Europe. “We went through a financial crisis,” says Gruber, “but some European countries such as Denmark and the UK continued to invest in science and technology.”