“The Regional Secretary for the Sea, Science and Technology announced in Ponta Delgada that the Regional Government, through the Regional Fund for Science and Technology, has channelled “nearly five million Euros for projects with a strong scientific component,” through the participation in European consortia. Overall, this figure corresponds to 27 projects, of which five are already concluded.
“Bearing in mind the size of the Regional Fund and of a region such as the Azores, this is a very significant amount,” Gui Menezes said, highlighting the “good work” carried out by this entity in “facilitating new lines of investment.”
The Regional Secretary spoke during the public presentation of the “FORWARD” project, an investment of 4.7 million Euros implemented under the Horizon 2020 programme involving 24 entities from nine Outermost Regions. The Regional Assistant Secretary for External Relations also attended the event.
Gui Menezes stated that this project will allow the University of the Azores and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Azores, which are partner entities, “to strengthen their technical capacity with regard to Research & Innovation. It will promote the integration of entities from the Scientific and Technological System of the Azores into the dynamics of Horizon 2020 and, in the future, of Horizon Europe.”
FORWARD arises “at a crucial time insofar as the new support framework for Research & Innovation is being prepared,” the government official said, adding that this project “prepares the Region to be more competitive in channelling funds.”
Gui Menezes reminded that the European Commission’s proposal provides for “a significant increase from 80 billion Euros to 100 billion Euros for these areas under the 2010-2027 Community framework.” According to him, this “demonstrates the importance of Science in the development of Europe as a whole as well as the investment of Europe in Science as a means for the development of our societies.”
The Regional Secretary emphasised “the work carried out by the Regional Government, through the coordinated action between the departments of European Affairs and Science and Technology. In this context, he pointed out that it will “allocate 125 thousand Euros to the University of the Azores and more than 70 thousand Euros to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Azores for the recruitment of human resources and the establishment of networking,” among other things.
“Hence, FORWARD contributes the achievement of one the goals of the Regional Government’s programme concerning the improvement of our Scientific and Technological System,” said the government official.
In his speech, Gui Menezes also defended that nowadays “Science involves national and international partnerships and it is necessary that Outermost Regions be able to become part of consortia, thus promoting the future of Science in the Azores.”
The Secretary for Science and Technology also defended that “Science is not done without people,” pointing out that the “training of human resources is fundamental.”
“The ageing of university professors and researchers is becoming worrying reality in our country,” the government official said, adding that it is “fundamental to promote scientific jobs as well as to integrate young people and their dynamics into our research system.”
In turn, the Regional Assistant Secretary of the Presidency for External Relations considered that the approval of the “FORWARD” project marks “the turning point” and “a new paradigm” in the approach to Community projects, highlighting its importance for the Azores and Outermost Regions.
Rui Bettencourt defended that this project is “highly unprecedented,” stressing that it will “leave its mark by opening a new paradigm of Community projects and by becoming an important turning point for knowledge in the Azores.”
For the government official, “it is not so much the 4.7 million Euros that are at stake in this project,” but rather what they represent “as a turning point, as an opening to a new development cycle in the Azores and as an approach to Community projects.”
The Secretary for External Relations also recalled the work carried out by the Regional Government and Outermost Regions since March 2017 when the Forum on Outermost Region was held in Brussels. At the event, the ORs challenged the European Commission for the need of “adopting a joint vision and a joint strategy” in the field of Science and Technology. In this context, the government official also mentioned the Conference of Presidents of ORs that took place in Guyana, where the new communication for Outermost Regions were launched and where President Juncker mentioned the possibility of additional funding for these areas.
“This immense capacity we have demonstrated in ten months gives us great hope that we can become part of this new paradigm of projects,” Rui Bettencourt said, stressing the “external mobilisation of the nine Outermost Regions and the internal mobilisation of regional partners.”
From 2021, it will be necessary “to have a great capacity of internal and external mobilisation for new projects,” noted the Regional Secretary.