“Countries and regions across the world should work together”


In her role as Director for International Cooperation, DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, Cristina Russo gives high priority to the strengthening of EU position in the world through International Cooperation. In a brief talk with Amalia Drosou she refers to the importance of the united action between the countries as well as about the emerging opportunities of the new EU’s framework program for Research and Innovation, the Horizon 2020 program.

Different countries, different needs but still the same goals. Where does the important role of International Cooperation lie?

First of all we need to have international cooperation in order to strengthen the EU position in the world. In addition, given the fact that the challenges we are facing nowadays in the field of Research and Innovation are global, it is of great importance that countries and regions across the world work together in order to tackle these challenges and find global solutions.

Which are the cooperation tools to reinforce the united action between the countries?

This is a very important question that gives me the opportunity to explain that one of the key international cooperation instruments is Horizon 2020, the new EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. Horizon 2020 is the world’s largest multinational programme for supporting research and innovation, with a budget of nearly €80 billion available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). Although there is not a specific envelop called “international cooperation” within Horizon 2020, international cooperation is embedded as a cross-cutting dimension within all thematic areas of the programme. Moreover, Horizon 2020 is fully open to participation by researchers from anywhere in the world. The tool is there but, of course, there is a lot of work which is needed, including in the Member States, in order to encourage participation of international partners and to promote the enormous opportunities for international cooperation offered under Horizon 2020.

Which are the characteristics which make Horizon 2020 more attractive for the participants in comparison with the past framework programs?

I would like to mention 3 points: The first one is that Horizon 2020 is much more focused on societal challenges. It is characterized by a multi-sector approach and tries to gather the best scientific expertise around the world to find a response to major global societal challenges. The second one is that it strengthens the link between research and productivity and innovation, and between research and the market. And last but not least, participants will also find simpler programme architecture and funding, a single set of rules and a reduced administrative burden.

How can Europe strengthen its position as a pole of innovation and creativity and increase its competitiveness in the global environment given the economic downturn?

There is a very clear answer: Horizon 2020, the new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. Compared to the previous 7th Framework Programme (FP7), Horizon 2020 has a 20% increase of its budget, around 80 billion euros. This increase is due to the European’s leadership belief that, through research and innovation, we can promote growth, job creation, and strengthen our competitiveness position in the world. The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.

The interview was first published in Science View.