Scientific impact of EU projects is ‘outstanding’

The scientific impact of Danish publications linked to the European Sixth and Seventh Framework Programmes is “outstanding”, according to a ministry report.

For universities and research and technology, or GTS, institutes the effects of participating in the European Union framework programmes were “considerable” regarding building European networks and funding of activities.

But the effects on companies were statistically insignificant, the report found.

Esben Lunde Larsen, the minister of higher education and science, said: “Competition for EU funding is tough, but there are positive measurable effects coming out of the participation in EU projects. The impact of scientific publications linked to the EU’s earlier framework programmes is outstanding and above the international performance levels.

“This should give researchers an extra incentive to look into the possibilities for cooperation that are funded by Horizon 2020, the EU’s eighth framework programme for research and innovation.”

The report, published by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science in Copenhagen, titled Effects of Participation in EU Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development: For researchers, institutions and private companies in Denmark, was presented to 140 participants at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Copenhagen on 5 October.

The event focused in particular on how Danish experiences in Horizon 2020 could build upon experiences from Danish institutions participating in the Sixth and Seventh Framework Programmes (FP6 and FP7) during the years 2002 to 2013.

The ministry has set a national target of Danish institutions landing 2.5% of the total Horizon 2020 budget, and given the present cutbacks in research funding for 2016, this goal has become even more important for higher education institutions and companies.

In the first round of Horizon 2020 in 2014, Danish participation stood at 2.3%, down from 2.37% in FP6 and 2.36% in FP7.

In the period 2002 to 2013 Danish universities and companies participated in 3,135 research and innovation projects financed by the FP6 and FP7.

Over these 12 years, Danish universities and companies received €1.4 billion (US$1.6 billion) in support from the European Commission, €79 million per year in FP6 and €151.5 million per year in FP7.

The report addressed these questions:
  • • What effects did representatives from universities, research institutions and companies experience following their participation in FP6 & 7?
  • • What economic effects can be measured for private companies participating?
  • • What is the scientific impact of FP6 and FP7-linked publications?
The mini-conference heard presentations of Danish companies and their experiences of participating in the framework programmes; and senior officers at Danish universities elaborated on how strategies for universities now participating in Horizon 2020 must build on previous experiences, but have to go beyond these in the degree of involvement of private companies and industry, which is now mandatory.

John Westensee, deputy director of research and external relations at Aarhus University, said that the university now had to develop a new strategy towards Horizon 2020.

"We are not asking every researcher to apply over and over again, but in collaboration with the faculties we are now identifying our best researchers and working on ways to get them involved with top international consortia aiming at bidding for Horizon 2020," Westensee said.

"We have noticed that the so-called Technology Readiness Level component of Horizon 2020 projects has developed two steps further compared to FP6 and FP7,” Westensee said.

“Hence, we are looking for scientists who have research excellence in their profile, but we are also looking at their innovation potential and the possible inclusion of scientists from the social sciences or the humanities in their research consortia.”

This is because Horizon 2020 projects are supposed to counterbalance ‘scientific silos’ and are supposed to be designed in a way that they have a measurable impact upon society.

"We have had some extraordinary successes so far in participating in Horizon 2020," Westensee said, "and we are in particular glad that one of our IT scientists in the humanities is coordinating a larger Horizon 2020 consortium which has succeeded."

Bibliometric studies

The bibliometric analysis of 2,020 unique publications linked to 171 FP6 projects and 3,583 unique publications linked to 461 FP7 projects show that their impact is high, and for FP7 even “outstanding", the report says.

The average citation score for publications from the FP6 set is approximately 50% above the international average and for FP7 it was almost 75% higher.

Controlling for international collaboration still results in an expected impact that is significantly higher than the national benchmark, according to the Danish National Research Foundation and the Danish Council for Independent Research.

In a foreword to the report, Lunde Larsen said: “Continued funding of research and innovation activities needs to be backed up by knowledge about the outcome of these activities. This report gives unique knowledge about the effects of Danish projects funded by previous EU framework programmes. I hope that this report will encourage the Danish research and business communities to increase their participation in Horizon 2020."