Honorary Conferrings Speeches Archive

    at Aula Maxima, UCC

  • 04 Nov 2016








Professor ANITA MAGUIRE, Vice President for Research and Innovation in University College Cork, on 4 November 2016, on the occasion of the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on CARLOS MOEDAS


A Leas Sheansailéir agus a mhuintir uilig na hOllscoile,

Vice Chancellor, Governors, Distinguished guests, Colleagues, ladies & gentlemen,


Carlos Manuel Félix Moedas has combined an education in engineering with a career in banking and political life, most recently taking up his appointment as the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation in November 2014. It is difficult to imagine a better combination to underpin the role he holds (as leader of the largest funding programme globally, Horizon 2020).


From Beja, Portugal, his father was a journalist and his mother a seamstress; he was born in 1970 only a few years before Portugal became a democracy in 1974.  He was only 10 years of age when Portugal joined the EU.   He studied Civil Engineering at the University of Lisbon, graduating from the Instituto Superior Técnico in 1993. His European interest started early, spending an Erasmus year at the ENPC in Paris (École des Ponts ParisTech originally called École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées) - he is one of several current Commissioners to have done Erasmus. He met his French wife during his Erasmus studies. He is fluent in English, French and Spanish, as well of course as his mother tongue - Portuguese!


Following five years as a project manager for the Suez Group in France, Moedas undertook postgraduate studies at Harvard Business School, graduating with an MBA in 2000, then came back to Europe to work in mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs. He then worked at Eurohypo Investment Bank in its Real Estate Investment Banking Division, before returning, in August 2004, to Portugal, when Moedas joined the real estate consulting company Aguirre Newman Portugal where he was Managing Partner until 2008. Then he set up his own investment management company, Crimson Investment Management.


Following the Eurozone crisis, Moedas was elected to Parliament, in June 2011, and the Prime Minister of Portugal appointed him to his Cabinet as a Secretary of State.


One of his toughest jobs was this role as a Secretary of State in Portugal during the Troika years.  Moedas oversaw ESAME, the agency created to monitor and control the implementation of the structural reforms agreed in the context of the assistance programme by the Troika (composed of the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund).


Moedas earned great respect for Portugal, not only in Brussels but right across the EU.  He had a clear view that Portugal should use the crisis to make much needed reforms and whenever anyone from another Member State asked him what they could do to help Portugal at that time his answer was "make the same reforms as we are making".  In other words, he  was not looking for handouts but recognised that Portugal could grow again and more sustainably by  using its EU membership, if other countries took measures to open up to competition.


In September 2014 EC President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker accepted the Portuguese Government's nomination of Carlos Moedas as European Commissioner, and appointed him to the portfolio of Research, Innovation and Science, taking office on 1 November, succeeding Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.


As EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, his responsibilities include:

  • Making sure that research funding programmes, notably Horizon 2020, contribute to the Commission's jobs, growth and investment package.
  • Promoting the international excellence of the EU's research and science and strengthening research capacities and innovation across all Member States
  • Evaluating how EU‑funded research can be used more effectively.
  • Ensuring that Commission proposals are based on scientific evidence.
  • Encouraging private companies to apply research to meet challenges faced by society and create more high-quality jobs.


The Commission made the Digital Single Market one of its top priorities of Horizon 2020, in order to make full use of the opportunities that digital technologies offer to European society and economy.   Within his priorities of Open Science and Open Innovation, Commissioner Modeas has made his mark  onthis and other important issues which underpin Europe’s leadership in research. Indeed, the Commission has just published (11-10-2016) its first report of the High Level Expert Group on the European Open Science Cloud, which has implications for all Member States on Open Science policy. Moedas himself emphasises that “No single country or region can face global challenges alone.  That’s why our research and innovation needs to be Open to the World”.


Carlos is known as an influencer who knows how to empathise with those with whom he deals. He is known to display a very positive attitude, not dwelling on victim-hood during Portugal's troubles but pouring all his energy into finding solutions.  Well read, with a keen interest in literature, he is also very keen on technology, very comfortable with new devices etc while understanding too that many older people do not feel so comfortable.  Moedas is keen on cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary approaches - very important characteristics in a Commissioner.


Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. As European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Modeas oversees Horizon 2020,  the largest EU Research and Innovation programme ever, with nearly €77billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment leveraged from this funding. It is also one of the largest research and innovation funding schemes worldwide.


Recently, as part of a package of proposals for the mid-term review of the 2014-2020 Multi-annual Financial Framework, Commissioner Moedas announced the very welcome news (via a tweet) that Horizon 2020 would receive an additional €400m and that the Erasmus + exchange programme would receive an additional €200m.


By coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020 is supporting the enhancement of Europe’s global competitiveness through its emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership, tackling global societal challenges and supporting the EU’s external policies. The overall goal of Horizon 2020 is to ensure that Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.


The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation is complemented by further measures to complete and further develop the European Research Area. These measures are aimed at breaking down barriers to create a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation.


In its first two years, Horizon 2020 attracted over 76,000 eligible proposals.  In Ireland, and here at UCC, researchers have focused on competing from Horizon 2020 programmes ranging from the ERC awards focusing on excellence through to the collaborative programmes focused on societal challenges. To date, some €38.2M of funding has been drawn down by our researchers across 70 awards (22 as coordinator and 48 as partner) from a total of 479 applications submitted. This equates to a success rate of 15%, higher than the EU average (14% initially; declined to 12% more recently). The funding secured to date equates to 35% of UCC’s institutional target for the total 7 years of the programme – €110.3M. Drawdown from ALL European programmes since start of 2014 is €39.8M. The University is very proud of our researchers who have invested effort and creative ideas and networking in this institution wide endeavour.


Some of our key research awards include

  • Marinet – a large research infrastructure, pan-European project in the area of marine renewable energy originally funded in FP7 and renewed under H2020 (PI: Dr Jimmy Murphy)
  • Odin – a FP7 project focused on Vitamin D deficiency (PIs: Profs. Mairead Kiely & Kevin Cashman)  
  • Senator is an FP7 funded project that has developed software for the assessment and optimisation of drug and non-drug therapies in older people; OPERAM is  follow up H2020 project.(PIs: Profs Denis O’Mahony, Patricia Kearney, Stephen Byrne)   


Among our ERC awards are

  • Dr Maria McNamara – fossil analysis on animal colouration – tremendous contribution in terms of outreach.
  • Dr James Kapalo – using secret police archives to study religious minorities in central and Eastern Europe
  • Dr Thomas Read – linking genes to phenotype in demography
  • Dr Micheal Scanlon – soft photoconversion – sustainable energy production


Of course the key benefit to our researchers, in addition to the funding from H2020, is the collaborative networks with leading research teams across Europe and beyond. This is complemented by the mobility of early career researchers across countries as they grow and develop their expertise to become independent researchers.


Enterprise partnerships nurtured through the programme ensure that ideas and technologies are brought to commercial reality. One of the differentiating features between FP7 and Horizon 2020 has been the increase in opportunities for SMEs to benefit from partnership in research proposals.  Here at UCC our research centres have played a very important role in bringing SMEs in the region into H2020 programmes, thereby opening up European horizons to these companies.


In the context of supporting innovation and the critical SME sector, we also applaud Commissioner Moedas’s vision for a new “European Innovation Council” that will support the scaling-up of start-up businesses and creation of more disruptive innovation at the European level, as well as reducing bureaucracy in this area by simplifying access to funding and reforming existing innovation support instruments. As one commentator put it, the EIC could provide the much needed “glue between innovators & researchers”.


The European Commission recently (20-10-2016) launched its public stakeholder consultation which will feed into the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020.  This interim evaluation is intended to not only to improve the functioning of Horizon 2020, but also to provide an important element in preparation for the next EU Research and Innovation Programme, FP9.   Commissioner Moedas has encouraged as widespread a participation as possible in formulating a comprehensive overview to include feedback from researchers, entrepreneurs, innovators, citizens and organisations.


Commissioner Moedas has also called for a much needed debate on defining new ways to measure Research & Innovation performance and to better understand its impact on the economy. Understanding the economic impacts of R&I investment through outputs rather than inputs and ensuring that the data used to inform policy and strategic decision-making will be key if we are to realise the full growth-enhancing and job-creating benefits of R&I investment.


We very much welcome this opportunity to engage in framing these future processes. And we salute Commissioner’s leadership in driving this agenda forward.


We are here today to mark the tremendous contribution that Commissioner Moedas is making in his role as leader of Research, Innovation and Science across Europe and globally. As preparations for FP9 advance, wise leadership is essential to ensure strategic prioritisation of the future of European investment in research to ensure Europe’s competitiveness globally.


Moedas is known to be a very engaging and accessible person, at ease in leading Europe’s priorities in research and innovation while also holding in respect the proud cultural heritage of Europe and its citizens.  In many ways, he embodies the modern European. 


Praehonorabilis Vice Cancellarie, totaque universitas!

Praesento vobis hunc meum filium, quem scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad Gradum Doctoratus in Utroque Jure, idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo totique Academiae.






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