ISINNOVA’s Lead Researcher Andrea Ricci Presents the Experts’ Report at the APRE Annual Conference

It has been an eventful week for the Italian and European research and innovation community. From 14th to 17th November, ApreCon2023, APRE – Agency for the Promotion of European Research‘s Annual Conference, hosted a series of events, both in person and online, aimed at institutions, members of the research world and all those involved in European Research and Innovation programmes.

The opening session of the APRE 2023 Annual Conference “TOWARDS A NEW FUTURE”, held on 14 November at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Rome, presented Towards the Mid-Term of Horizon Europe – the final report of APRE’s Expert Group chaired by Andrea Ricci (ISINNOVA). The event kicked off an agenda packed with dialogue, thoughtful reflection, and debate, focused on the Horizon Europe framework programme.

The picture: Europe faces increasingly complex challenges

According to Alessandro Damiani, APRE President, the challenges facing Europe are more complex than ever: the permanent uncertainty caused by the recent political, migration, geopolitical and climate crises is generating a real structural change for Europe. Retention of talent, research and innovation and digital transformation are the key issues on which Europe should focus.

Indeed, Damiani pointed out that 20 years ago, the European Union set itself the target of investing 3% of Gross Domestic Product in research and innovation, without having achieved it. Today, more than ever, this goal has become a necessity, and to achieve it requires a greater concentration of commitment and resources, as well as a forward-looking European research and innovation programme.

The goal: more investment and behavioural change

Marc Lemaître, General Director of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD), began by saying: “We have a clock that reminds us that we are producing our own extinction if we continue like this. “In Europe,” he continued, “we are arguably showing the way of a more sustainable path of winning this challenge of sustainability which is The Fight of this century”.

Aware of the urgent need to invest in research and innovation, Marc Lemaître stressed that the first step towards achieving this goal is to reaffirm the EU’s 3% GDP target in this area. By seizing the opportunity of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, with its €50 billion investment, “we are showing that the challenge of this century is possible”.

Horizon Europe Mid-Term – The Final Report of the APRE Expert Group

Andrea Ricci, Lead Researcher at ISINNOVA and Chairman of the Horizon Europe Mid-Term APRE Expert Group, presented the team’s efforts as, summarised in the report Towards the Horizon Europe Mid-Term.

“The work of the APRE Mid-Term Expert Group was carried out with the aim of representing the entire Italian research community, and to this end we have made intensive use of dialogues, interviews, hearings, surveys and the analysis of numerous position papers”. “The report is divided into three parts,” Ricci explains, “the first of which deals with strategic planning and the distribution of resources, reaffirming how the contribution of research and innovation is fundamental to the achievement of the European Union’s strategic objectives”.

“The second part of the document,” Ricci continues, “is a close-up on some new or strongly renewed instruments: the missions, the European Innovation Council and the European Partnerships. These are instruments and processes that are still in the start-up phase, so it would be inappropriate to make definitive assessments, but we believe there is room for significant improvement”.

“The third part, called Operational Governance, focuses on critical issues and proposals related to the operational functioning of the Framework Programme. We have tried to formulate proposals that are reasonable and feasible within a short timeframe, such as the evaluation process, which is also linked to an analysis of the role played by executive agencies as a structural and mandatory interface in some phases of this evaluation process”, concludes Andrea Ricci.

The document Towards the Mid-Term of Horizon Europe contains 52 proposals for improvement, 40 of which can be implemented in the second half of Horizon Europe, while the others require a relatively longer timeframe, not least because they would imply changes to the regulatory framework. The 52 proposals were then grouped into 12 priorities, which run through the structure of the report and are detailed in the document’s chapters.