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We wanted to show citizens that science can make Europe a better place to live and work - Teresa Riera Madurell

Teresa Riera Madurell says it is imperative to have an effective dialogue between science and society. Image credit: European Parliament
Teresa Riera Madurell says it is imperative to have an effective dialogue between science and society. Image credit: European Parliament

European policymakers wanted the EU’s latest funding programme, Horizon 2020, to demonstrate how research and innovation make Europe more competitive and – in doing so – more attractive to its inhabitants, according to Teresa Riera Madurell, a former MEP who represented the European Parliament in the negotiations on Horizon 2020.

As ‘rapporteur’ you were responsible for preparing the report for the European Parliament on Horizon 2020. What was the role of the Parliament in shaping this programme? 

‘According to the Treaty, the Framework Programme must be adopted by the co-decision procedure, meaning the European Parliament has full legislative powers together with the Council of the EU. I led negotiations within the Parliament. Later, when the parliamentary groups had reached consensus, I had the honour and responsibility of leading the negotiations with the Council.’ 

What were your priorities during the negotiations to agree the content and budget of Horizon 2020?  

‘Europe 2020 sets out a vision of the continent as a knowledge-based economy, with a target of 3 % research and development intensity to be achieved by the EU by 2020. Horizon 2020 becomes the Union’s main contribution to reach this ambitious goal. 

‘After the long and difficult negotiations, the final agreement, on the EUR 80 billion budget at the service of European research and innovation during the next seven years, was the best deal possible with the Council. To compensate, we negotiated proposals aimed at using the budget in a more efficient way to try to multiply its effects all over Europe and to really reach our objectives of strengthening the EU’s position in science, empowering industrial leadership in innovation, and tackling the societal challenges Europe is facing. 

‘The Parliament also prioritised the reduction of red tape; open access to scientific publications; a clear and ambitious budget for research and innovation in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency; a substantial budget for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); gender equality; better control of public-private partnerships; a proper role for social sciences and humanities; genuine dialogue between science and society; and strengthening researchers’ competences and skills through reinforcing and properly funding the Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme.’ 

Horizon 2020 will devote 39 % of funds to societal challenges. Why is this important? 

‘If we want science to be a priority for public investment, we need European citizens to share scientific values and recognise the contribution of science to progress.’

Teresa Riera Madurell, former MEP

‘Knowledge must be at the heart of innovative answers to the societal challenges which are the greatest concerns of EU citizens. Therefore, Horizon 2020 reflects these major concerns shared by citizens in Europe and elsewhere as the main priorities to be funded.’ 

Will this help to make EU research more meaningful for European citizens? 

‘Horizon 2020, as a whole, is designed to contribute to integrating scientific and technological endeavour into European society. Our aim is to help citizens to be aware that research and innovation largely contribute to making Europe a better place to live and work, and that they improve Europe’s competitiveness, boosting growth and job creation.’ 

Why is it important to allocate EUR 400 million for projects under the heading ‘science with and for society’? 

‘Establishing an effective dialogue between science and society is an imperative. Horizon 2020 lays down the foundations for a genuine and fruitful dialogue to emerge. If we want science to be a priority for public investment, we need European citizens to share scientific values and recognise the contribution of science to progress.’