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Interview of Professor Spiros Pantelakis, Chairman of the EASN Association

Professor Spiros Pantelakis, Chairman of the EASN Association, comments on the Horizon 2020 and highlights the main points of the EASN position paper on Horizon 2020.

Q.: It is obvious that EASN is fully supporting Horizon 2020 as an indispensible tool for the European Research Community. The H2020 budget has been for some time now a matter of discussion and disagreement between the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament. Although it is almost definite that there will be a significant increase compared to the respective FP7 budget, the final budget seems to be freezing to levels below the Parliament's expectations. What would be your personal expectation or wish in general and also more specifically with regard to aeronautics?

Sp.P.: I believe that research and innovation are the key elements to retain Europe's prosperity. The economic crisis in Europe can be faced by investing on innovation and developing products and services including knowledge, as an appreciable percentage of their final cost. Therefore, I would expect and wish a clear message from the European politicians by increasing the European budget for research and, in this context, increasing the budget for aeronautics research. We should not forget, maintaining global leadership in Aeronautics relies heavily on the investment on research, innovation and the development of breakthrough technologies.

Q.: The budget available for aeronautics research in FP7 has been about 2 Billion Euros. Do you think it has been sufficient for achieving the progress required to retain European global leadership? On the other hand, do you think the use of this budget has been adequate or do you think there is room for optimization?

Sp.P.: The budget available for aeronautics research in FP7 has been definitely not low. On the other hand the budget requested throughout FP7 for aeronautics research projects was several times above the available. Competition is by no doubt healthy, fosters excellence and allows, on the base of a reliable evaluation mechanism, to select the most promising ideas and challenging proposals for funding. However, the success rates of some FP7 calls for L1 proposals have been low at the limit of non-acceptable by the scientific community. The fact that a number of excellent proposals could not be funded is discouraging the scientific community to strengthen its efforts. I do believe that an appreciable budget increase for aeronautics would be necessary. As for the exploitation of this budget, a series of studies performed with the support of ACARE and the financial support of the Commission provided evidence that an essential progress in aeronautics has been  achieved, thus making the VISION 2020 realistic. It proves a globally adequate exploitation of the available budget. On the other hand, we should not ignore the European paradox, namely a strong scientific base but a weak innovation performance. This shows  to me that there is space for improvement on the exploitation of the available budget.

Q.:  Would  the budget split between the different level projects in the frame of the Aeronautics programme be a means to improve efficiency in the exploitation of the budget available for aeronautics?

Sp.P.: Budget split could be one of the means to foster innovation and the development of breakthrough technologies in Aeronautics. A re-consideration of the evaluation criteria applied by the Commission for selecting projects for funding by raising the weight of the score achieved for the technical excellence of a proposal in the overall score of the proposal could be another complementary means. As for the budget split, please allow me to refer to the recently published EASN position paper on Horizon 2020 and cite from there that "EASN is in agreement to the principle of the four different levels of projects, as introduced in the AAT-2012 FP7 call. Each of the four levels serves its role and all four levels are interconnected and complementary. However, one should take into account that after the introduction of L3 projects, there has been a major unbalance of available budget towards the implementation of technologies and research activities of higher TRL, although a niche for academia involvement in the L3 projects calls for proposals does exist, through the need for lower TRL research. The long time frame required between an idea developing into a flying product or technology along with the downstream shift or research emphasis, may lead in the medium and long term to a shortage of new available technologies. It is therefore proposed that when calculating the budget split between L1 and L2 projects, to take into account the possible existence of other instruments (e.g. the potential CS2) which strongly support the implementation of existing technologies rather that the development of new, upstream and innovative knowledge and technologies. EASN considers the development of new innovative and breakthrough technologies and novel solutions as an urgent need for the European aeronautics in order to retain its global leadership". I fully share this view and I think a split of the order of 70-30 among L0/L1 and L2 budget would be fair enough. To implement and integrate innovation one has first to produce it.      

Date posted: March 15, 2013, 7:24 am

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