ERAC and Research Working Party meet in Salzburg
The 39th ERAC Plenary Meeting and the most recent meeting of the RWP took place on 17 – 18 September 2018 in Salzburg, hosted by the current Austrian EU Council Presidency. European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC) Plenary meetings and Research Working Party (RWP) meetings usually take place in Brussels, but in addition also once every half year in the Member State holding the EU Council Presidency.
At the ERAC Plenary Meeting, which was held at the level of Directors-General, Rapporteur Philipp Langer (CH) presented the final work on the review of the ERA advisory structure together with his colleagues from Switzerland and Norway. After several minor changes to the text of the draft review, ERAC delegates adopted the report. The final report consists of the main report with conclusions and recommendations, and annexes with the detailed findings and conclusions for each group as well as a description of methodology and procedures. It will now be issued as an ERAC Opinion to pave the way towards Council Conclusions on ERA, expected to be adopted by the Council (Competitiveness) on 30 November 2018.
A second important item on the ERAC agenda in Salzburg was a “strategic debate” on current relevant developments in research policy. The debate was based two recent reports from the Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility (PSF) on "Performance-based research funding and its role in the research governance policy mix" (report on the work and lessons from the MLE on Performance-based Research Funding Systems (PRFS)) and on "Administration and Monitoring of R&D tax incentives" (report on the work and lessons from the MLE on Administration and Monitoring of R&D tax incentives). ERAC Members exchanged views on these two topics. It became evident that if the directionality of research policy in Europe is not clear, discussions will only be theoretic. Also, even though many Member States share the same challenges, it is not possible for smaller Member States such as Cyprus or Malta to engage in the same way in PRFS as bigger countries do. Finally the ERAC Members agreed that ERAC should have more strategic debates but should reflect on the best ways to structure the exchanges of views, to follow them up and to reflect on the link to the Research Policy Group (RPG).
Furthermore the final reports by the ERAC Ad-hoc Working Group on Partnerships on “Rationalising the partnership landscape” and “Increasing the efficiency of implementation of partnerships” were presented and adopted by the ERAC delegates. On the basis of this work, concrete next steps are the following: (1) the Commission will present a proposal for the criteria framework and the Strategic Coordinating process at the next ERAC plenary on 6 December 2018. (2) The ERAC Workshop on 5 December will dedicate at least one sub-group to the issue of partnerships, and (3) the topic will form part of the ERA Council Conclusions to be adopted on 30 November 2018.
The Research Working Party discussed the provisions for personnel costs in the context of the negotiations on the rules for participation for Horizon Europe at its meeting in Salzburg. These provisions constitute an essential element, as almost 80% of Framework Programme reimbursements are associated with personnel costs. Furthermore Barbara Weitgruber, Director General for Research and International Affairs at the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF), presented the Austrian Research and Innovation system, focusing on current reforms and activities envisaged for 2019. This was followed by a lively discussion with the research attaches of the 28 Member States.
A site visit organised for both ERAC and the RWP in the afternoon of Monday, 17 September 2018 to the “Europa- and Bundesgymnasium Salzburg-Nonntal” highschool included the participation of Austrian Federal Minister for Education, Science and Research Heinz Faßmann in a discussion panel entitled “NEXT GENERATION: Are the next EU research and education programmes fit for the future of young Europeans?" The lively discussion between Director-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission Jean-Eric Paquet, Minister Heinz Faßmann, representatives of ERAC and the Research Working Party with students and teachers of the school showed the value of deepened interaction between stakeholders and policy-makers and highlighted the need to develop more systematic ways for them to interact.