09:00 17:30

European Research Excellence - Impact and Value for Society

Competitiveness Council (COMPET)


The aim of the conference is to demonstrate to policymakers that excellent research is essential to addressing Europe’s challenges and for increasing competitiveness.

Please note that the pre-registration deadline has been extended to 7 September.

The conference is timely, as research is under considerable pressure across Europe. Public expectations for science to solve societal challenges are increasing. At the same time, we observe a decline in political commitment towards funding. Whilst there are expectations on realising the immediate economic benefits of research, it is also vital that we demonstrate the indirect economic and social benefits of public investment.

Truly transformative effects lie in new and unpredictable scientific and technological discoveries, which lay the foundations for new industries, markets and broader social renewal. The conference will demonstrate the value of research, build a case for investing in research and innovation, and aim to strengthen political commitment for ambitious long-term public investment in European research and innovation. It encourages a perspective that goes beyond a short timescale and focuses instead on a long-term vision.

The conference brings together internationally outstanding scientists and policymakers from many EU countries, as well as a range of stakeholders from academia, business, and civil society. It will encourage an open debate on how excellent research generates societal and economic added value and how we nurture the framework post-2020.

By sharing knowledge, best practice and experience, the conference will generate positive and strong messages that speak to the wider audience beyond the auditorium. The conference aims to influence the debate on European research policy in the lead-up to the next Framework Programme. The outcome of the Estonian Presidency conference will be presented in a final declaration, the Tallinn Call for Action.

The conference is free of charge. Pre-registration is open until 7 September. A confirmation of the successful registration will be sent to your email by 14 September at the latest.

A range of side events will take place in Tallinn the day before and after the main event to complement the conference: 

11 October

  • 13.00-17.00 ERC: Strengthening Europe's science base 

The mission of the European Research Council (ERC) is to raise the level, dynamism, and creativity of the whole European research system by providing competitive funding for investigator-driven frontier research across all fields of science and the humanities. This event will provide insights on the role of the ERC in supporting Europe's research communities and in complementing national research policies. 

  • 13.00-17.00 Nature Café 

Organised by Nature Research, this is an intensive round-table event focussing on the role of science communication in increasing the societal impact of research. 

13 October

  • 09.30-16.00 Crossing boundaries: new approaches to science for policy in Europe (SAPEA conference)

SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) brings together the outstanding knowledge and expertise of fellows from over 100 academies, young academies and learned societies in more than 40 countries across Europe. SAPEA is part of the European Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) which provides independent, interdisciplinary and evidence-based scientific advice on policy issues to the European Commission. This SAPEA one-day conference will provide fresh thinking on changing approaches to science for policy. Speakers from SAPEA, the European Commission, the private sector, media and citizens’ organisations will come together to share best practice with a wider audience and to forge a new way forward. 

  • 09.00-16.00 DANDELION workshop on creating impact from social sciences 

The workshop will bring together key stakeholders from social sciences research, policy-making, and civil society to foster exchange and create positive impact from EU research projects on inclusive, innovative, reflective societies. DANDELION is a project which supports the dissemination of results from socio-economic sciences and humanities research on current societal challenges, and aims to raise their value and impact for policy, civil society, and the market. 




Conference dinner

Estonia Concert Hall

The moderator for the conference is Brian Cox, University of Manchester




Welcome and opening addresses

  • Mailis Reps, Estonian Minister for Education and Research
  • Commissioner (TBC) 


Keynote speech

Mark Ferguson, member of the High Level Group on maximising the impact of EU Research and Innovation Programmes


Coffee break

Plenary Session I: Expecting the unexpected: frontier research brings the future closer

The aim of the session is to make a case for why Europe needs investment in bottom-up, interdisciplinary and visionary research. Frontier research is still often perceived in terms of "pure science" or "science for science’s sake". Despite the high-potential gain, it can involve significant costs and the risk of failure. Today’s R&D systems are not conducive to frontier research. There is increasing pressure for scientists to show that their research is generating impact and success. New arguments are needed to convince the public and decision-makers that investing in frontier research pays off over time, even if the outcome is unpredictable.

The narrowing of objectives, opportunities and strategies, as well as an obsession with measuring impact in science, reflects an erosion of trust. This has the risk of reducing the effectiveness of scientific discovery, for example, the choice of research topics is becoming more conservative. In a rapidly-changing world, we must take more risks and be more flexible, otherwise we will not be able to respond to the next unexpected challenge we meet. This requires the R&D system to generate new knowledge that we perhaps cannot imagine. By being open and curious, frontier research can bring about truly disruptive innovation, built on radically new ideas. In the light of the upcoming debates on the next EU multiannual financial framework and programmes, it is crucial that bottom-up, high-risk activity is included.



Valeria Nicolosi, Professor of Nanomaterials and Advanced Microscopy, Trinity College Dublin


Panel discussion

  • Birgitte Nauntofte, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation 
  • Pim Tuyls, CEO, Intrinsic ID 



Plenary Session II: From impact to value of research: providing the rationale for investing in research

Research and innovation lie at the heart of most developed countries’ economic strategies and make a critical contribution to society and culture. Nonetheless, there is a constant challenge to research in the competition for public investment. Recent studies provide evidence that investment in research and innovation provide very high returns but this has not convinced sceptical politicians and the public that research is a sound investment. The second plenary brings together important individuals to discuss the value of research, provide sound arguments for investment in research and innovation, address current issues in approaches to assessment and how to integrate the long-term impact of research investment in economic models.


Panel discussion


  • Jean-Pierre Bourguignon,  President, European Research Council (ERC)
  • Luc Soete, Rector Magnificus, Maastricht University, Chair of the HLG RISE (High Level Group for Research, Innovation, Science, Expertise) 
  • Günter Stock, Chair of the SAPEA Board (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies), ALLEA President, (All-European Academies)
  • Vladimir Šucha, Director-General, Joint Research Centre (JRC)


Coffee break


Plenary Session III: Form and function: design of European research and innovation policies for global competitiveness

In the light of preparations for the next EU Framework and other programmes, the conference will promote discussion on how to design a research and innovation system that can exploit untapped research potential, advance a science-based society and develop a more competitive Europe post-2020. Europe has set a vision of open science and innovation as the new modus operandi for science.

The questions are, how can we ensure that research and innovation policies designed today will meet the needs of the next generation of researchers, as well as citizens and policymakers? How can we make Europe an attractive place to do science and innovation, with talent from around the world? What is the role of the framework programme in advancing research and innovation in other EU policies? How can we fund the best research in emerging, fast-growing areas and help improve European competitiveness in relation to technological innovation? In the context of the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020, the session will take stock of the lessons learned, and address the necessary framework conditions for the next programming period. It will contribute ideas and proposals for the next Framework Programme, including synergy with Structural Funds and national strategies.



  • Nicole Grobert, Professor of Nanomaterials, University of Oxford 



  • Dominique Guellec, Head of the Science and Technology Policy Division (STP) of the Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) of the OECD


Panel discussion

  • Gemma Galdon Clavell, Founder and Director, Eticas Research & Consulting 
  • Ciara Judge, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Germinaid Innovations, grand prize-winner at the Google Science Fair 2014 
  • Martin Kern, Interim Director, European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) 
  • Siim Sikkut, Deputy Secretary General for Communications and State Information Systems, Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications 

Plenary Session IV: Tallinn call for action: next steps in promoting European research excellence

In the final session, the conference declaration, the Tallinn call for action, will be handed over to stakeholders. It includes the main messages of the conference, emphasising the role of excellent research in the context of a changing research environment and a changing Europe. The concluding panel discussions will involve representatives from civil society, policymakers, business, science and innovation, and regional and local authorities - all stakeholders targeted by the call for action. The session focuses on steps to implement the messages of the call for action


Handing over of the Tallinn call for action


Concluding panel discussion


  • Janusz Bujnicki, Member of the High Level Group of Scientific Advisors of the EC Scientific Advice Mechanism 
  • Axel Heinrich, Head of Volkswagen Group Research (VW AG) 
  • Marina Huzvarova, Vice-President of the European Union of Science Journalists' Associations (EUSJA) 
  • Robert-Jan Smits, Director-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission 
  • Sven Stafström, Director-General, Swedish Research Council 


Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel)

Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel), Põhja pst 27a, 10415 Tallinn, Estonia

Last update 07/08/2017 10:49