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Comment: New Horizons

In this featured comment Rector and Prorector of the University of Copenhagen argue that the interdisciplinary approach fits perfectly with a new EU research funding programme

About a year and a half ago, representatives from the University’s faculties described six areas where we – across academic fields – have something special to offer society. The areas were Health and Quality of Life, Ageing Societies, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, Food Security, Energy Security as well as Diversity and Cohesion in Europe.

The result was a position paper with input to EU’s 8th framework programme for research.

This November, the European Commission presented its proposal for the programme – Horizon 2020 – that runs from 2014 to 2020 and is expected to have a budget of 80 billion euros. That is 30 billion euros more than the current 7th framework programme. In addition, the programme provides a simplified application process, a market-driven approach to research contributing to value creation, and better opportunities for new applicants and talented young researchers to participate in EU-research projects.

Scientific synergies

This promises new horizons for UCPH at a time when the University experiences scientific and educational growth and needs new funds to further strengthen this development. Moreover, the Horizon 2020 topics fit perfectly with UCPH’s new strategy 2016 which, among other things, aims at connecting our experts across different fields creating a clear profile that is easy to identify and exploit for our potential external partners.

The EU programme focuses on six interdisciplinary areas that will prepare Europe to handle the great societal challenges; health, climate change, food security, renewable energy, sustainable transportation as well as innovative and secure societies. Topics that align with what we, a year and a half ago, described as UCPH’s main strengths.

Here, our comprehensive interdisciplinary research comes to our advantage, just like the merger between UCHP’s ‘wet’ faculties will support our continued focus on scientific synergies.

Input to EU from Copenhagen’s researchers

Future scientific breakthroughs will not appear if we stay put in different mono-disciplinary silos. Instead, we must be able to mix disciplines – while preserving in-depth scientific standards. We are already witnessing this fine balance in interdisciplinary research projects such as Food, Fitness and Pharma, which involves researches from almost every UCPH faculty, Sustainability Science Centre that works with the cultural to biophysical aspects of sustainability, or the new Centre for Communication and Computing, which will contribute to the development of new communication platforms by connecting humanities and science.

And there is more to come. UCPH’s strategy clearly states that we must strive to be the university that contributes to solving some of society’s great challenges by approaching them from several scientific angles and as such creating more complete solutions. In the form of graduates, PhD’s and research results, this is our essential contribution to value creation in society, and it seems that Horizon 2020 can help us achieve this goal.

Via Copenhagen Research Forum, a group of UCPH researchers provided input to Horizon 2020 along with 600 researchers from all over Europe.

We do all the disciplines

Everybody agreed that the key to the programme should be to focus on interdisciplinary, problem-based research and that the social sciences and humanities are just as important as science and health science.

This provides an extraordinary platform for UCPH to explore new research horizons in the years to come, because we encompass all the scientific disciplines – and because we see great potential in exploiting our comprehensiveness.

See a University Post article about the new fund here.

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