With the aim of boosting its efficiency at managing Horizon 2020 grants, producing better policy and fastering grant approvals with fewer costs, the European Commission is currently in the process of reorganising its research and innovation department.
This measure satisfies the Member States requirements, as, while in December 2013 they approved a 30 per cent budget increase for Horizon 2020 over the Framework Programme 7, they also urged the Commission to cut staff by 5 per cent.
The main objective is to separate the administrative side of the Horizon 2020 management from the policy making activities.
The main changes are as follows:
• Stronger policy-focus: Over time, the people throughout the DG will shift more towards policy issues like (e.g., completion of the European Research Area, which includes measures to abolish barriers to the mobility of researchers, a full roll out of open access to publications and open recruitment in universities)
• Externalisation of administrative functions: Four executive agencies will be dealing with Horizon 2020 grants. The European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA) will handle grants for frontier scientific research.
• A Common Support Centre (CSC) has been set up between the different Commission DGs that have a stake in the new programme, in order to ensure a coherent interpretation of rules and procedures across Horizon 2020. It will be located within DG Research and Innovation.
• Reinforcement of directorates: Of the eleven directorates within DG Research and Innovation, three are being reinforced:
o Directorate A - for Policy Development and Coordination;
o Directorate B - for Innovation Union and the European Research Area;
o Directorate C for International Cooperation.
In addition, the policy units in the Directorates dealing with the Grand Societal Challenges are strengthened since they define the multi-annual work programmes and content of the calls.
• Staff cuts: The 1,800-people-staff of the DG Research and Innovation will shrink by one third by 2020.
It is positive for researchers that despite severe budgetary constraints and hard fought negotiations on Horizon 2020, that research and innovation remains high on the agenda of the European Council.