Ms. Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth and Mr. Emil Boc, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca (Romania) and member of the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions, participated in a Citizens’ Dialogue on “Horizon Europe – challenges and perspectives”.
The Citizens’ Dialogue was held at the Centre for Urban Culture Casino in Cluj-Napoca. It focused on the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation “Horizon Europe”, which will boost the scientific, economic and societal impact of EU funding. Horizon Europe invests in shaping Europe’s future through research and innovation. It can help turning challenges into opportunities thus improving citizens’ life. The citizens’ dialogue offered an excellent fora to discuss the impact of the programme and especially its main novelties, such as the European Innovation Council and Missions.
In her introduction, European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel emphasized that “The programme aims at giving Europe a new push to a global positioning. Horizon Europe is to be the biggest and most ambitious EU Research Innovation programme ever. It builds on the success of Horizon 2020 and improves it further by fostering a stronger support to breakthrough innovation through the European Innovation Council, by creating greater impact through R&I missions and by streamlining partnerships landscape.” In response, Cluj-Napoca Mayor Emil Boc argued “Investing in local and regional innovation eco-system would also allow to effectively address the challenge of Brain Drain by turning it into Brain Gain. Cohesion Policy already addresses this challenge, but the Horizon Programme can also hugely help by going more local and collaborating more effectively with cities and regions.“
The lively debate addressed issues pertaining to innovation, research, youth and startups that highlighted the concrete opportunities provided to the local audience.
The discussions were focused on how to turn brain drain into brain circulation, the ways in which to guarantee social justice, the importance of citizens active participation in identifying the priorities for the Horizon Missions, the focus on investing in startups and SMEs that deal in sustainable solutions and green technologies, the build-up of a network of European cities that promote innovation, as well as the need to use resources better and more efficiently. More specifically, in the field of education, the focus should be on enhancing the synergy with the Erasmus+ programme in the context of achieving the priorities of the Green Deal, the increased involvement of European universities in the elaboration of strategies at European level, the support for the development of alliances of European universities, the increased connection between education, research and innovation on the labour market and the development of a European research area. Last, but not least, was highlighted the importance of providing and promoting information on available opportunities, funding or otherwise, as well as on results obtained through research and innovation actions.
In conclusion, Commissioner Gabriel outlined the next steps related to the strategic planning process that will identify priorities for calls for proposals for the first four years of Horizon Europe. The Commissioner confirmed the commitment of the European Commission to listen to citizens, including young people, and to take into account their needs in the process of shaping Horizon Europe.
Mayor Boc, in his turn, stated: “What I personally take with me from our debate is that we need to promote access for all to the Horizon Europe programme. Together with Commissioner Gabriel, we have learned from our young students and researchers that we can do more to close the gaps between regions in order to address the challenges ahead of us, such as demographic change or brain drain. From my own experience in Cluj-Napoca, a city that we proudly name “smart city”, I say that the strong focus put on smart cities should be complemented by a solid regional dimension in the Missions of the programme. Regional innovation eco-systems make a very good delivery tool for these Missions.“