2 October 2019

EFC strengthens cooperation with European Commission at European R&I Days

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The European Commission and the philanthropy sector are moving towards closer and better cooperation in the area of research and innovation, as seen at the inaugural European Research & Innovation Days, which took place from 24-26 September in Brussels. The closer cooperation with the EFC has led to the inclusion of philanthropy as a key partner in the Horizon Europe Framework Programme (2021-2028), a first for the sector.

At the R&I Days, the EFC co-designed with the European Commission four key sessions exploring the role of philanthropy as a partner in research and innovation. Across the sessions, philanthropy was recognised for how much it can bring to the table outside of funding; namely expertise, convening power, and the ability to provide risk capital, among other assets. Another key recurring concept was the desire on all sides to open up traditional co-funding partnerships to include more co-designing and co-implementing of projects and programmes.

The three-day event brought together world leaders from industry, finance, academia, business and philanthropy to debate and shape the future research and innovation landscape. The event, which will be held annually, also welcomed EU citizens and increased general awareness and understanding of how important research and innovation are in addressing societal challenges. This inaugural edition featured a high-level Policy Conference, an Innovative Europe Hub and the annual “Science is Wonderful” exhibition.

Read on for highlights of the EFC co-designed sessions:

Institutional philanthropy supporting science, research & innovation

At this session, both the philanthropy sector and the Commission expressed their good will and commitment to deepening collaboration and openness to jointly overcoming potential barriers. On behalf of foundations, Ángel Font from “la Caixa” Foundation thanked the Commission for creating an enabling legal framework under Horizon Europe and said, “Let’s move from co-funding to co-created and co-designed programmes. We talk about PPPs – we could add a 4th “P”, for philanthropy, to these partnerships.”

Jean-Eric Paquet, DG Research and Innovation, expressed gratitude to the EFC for coordination of the work on behalf of foundations.

The unique characteristics of philanthropic organisations were outlined, including their independence, flexibility, local connections, expertise, experience, technical capabilities and ability to anticipate future opportunities and challenges. These characteristics allow for complementary actions that act as catalysts for change. Participants emphasised the importance of co-creation and co-design of solutions to tackle the large societal challenges we are facing.

Leveraging private philanthropic cooperation to enhance European R&I

Philanthropy and the European Commission are entering a new phase of collaboration, and this session discussed how to make the most of this new context. Foundations are being seen in a new and different light, with the Commission showing a clear understanding of the diversity that exists and the need for flexibility. Though both sides will require a certain period of testing and uncertainty, and bumps and barriers will inevitably appear along the way, the session demonstrated that there is much good will to co-create partnerships. The range of ways philanthropy can contribute in forms other than funding were again emphasised at this session.

Innovative approaches to policy co-creation

Marking a concrete, practical step forward, the Commission and philanthropy expressed a clear commitment in this session to set up a forum of exchange on policy and operational issues, supported by the representative of the European Parliament. This forum would not entail creating a new complex structure with heavy rules. Participants agreed that any forum should allow simpler collaboration exchange, and a structure under the European Innovation Council Forum could work very well. Key policy areas for discussion should include horizontal and vertical issues such as gender equality, open science, and public engagement, as well as other more specific areas such as tackling rare diseases or linking economic growth to local job creation.

Eyes on the prize

Focusing on prizes and awards, this session found that partnership between diverse stakeholders who co-design, co-fund and co-implement the prizes is key. All stakeholders have their own interests and agendas, so they must find areas of common interest and bring their own experiences and expertise into a common initiative.

Participants agreed on the important role of prizes in communicating that “science matters to society”. Media outlets focus almost exclusively on the Nobel prizes, so winners of other prizes should take on an ambassadorial role to help promote and raise awareness of the subject matter.

For further information contact Jennifer Fitzsimons.