Jean-Eric Paquet is no ordinary man. If you have heard of Horizon 2020 (the “largest ever European research & innovation program ever funded”), that’s on his watch. If you haven’t, you must have been hiding in the last 7 years. The unit that he leads (DG Research and Innovation) is of one of the largest (“~1500 in staff, ~3000 if we include the researchers”) and most impactful units of the European Commission.

I had the pleasure of spending a good amount of time with Jean-Eric, back in Feb 2020 (a lifetime ago…) during his last visit to Silicon Valley and I was particularly impressed with his ability of eloquently address audiences very different in nature (researchers, investors and entrepreneurs), and being equally effective and to the point.

Our Mind the Chat spans from the role of science and research in Europe today, to the opportunities created by the European Green Deal, with a deep dive on the successor of Horizon 2020, called Horizon EU a ~€100B program that will deeply impact the outcome of the research and innovation in Europe and globally.

EIC (European Innovation Council) and ERC (European Research Council) are Europe’s Unicorn and Nobel Prize factories

Here are some of highlights of our discussion:

  • Europe’s science first approach has only been reinforced by the current health crisis: differently from other major countries today (guess who?), Europe stands strongly behind policies that are backed by scientific data and might have an impact for the whole society, not EU only.
    Two examples: the support of COVID-19 vaccine discovery and commercialization (not “EU first”, but open to the world) and the unique stand of the EU Green Deal (CO2 neutrality by 2050) , that has become the bearing of all policies from the European Commission going forward
  • The multi trillion Euros plan to financially support the EU member states during the health crisis has made the multi trillion Euros theoretical plan in support of the Green Deal look achievable when the sense of priority and urgency is shared among states. Europe can achieve both goals at the same time if done right: balance sheet repair, while supporting the macro-goals set by the Green Deal
  • Scale will be the rule of the game for Horizon Europe: in addition to continuing the support of “blue sky” fundamental research (ERC), the program will be cross-cutting  and will implement a mix of “blended funding” (grants + equity). The EIC pilot with 10K+ applications is a sign of great appetite

“2019 was a defining year for Europe. The EU Green Deal is providing the bearing for all our policies. In 10 years, I have no doubt, our industry will lead the competition as a result of our policies of today”


  • [0:42] Covid-19 impact on European Commission: science first

  • [5:15] What’s DG Research and Innovation within the European Commission

  • [9:05] Vaccine for Covid 19: US vs EU approach

  • [12:06] Horizon EU vs Horizon 2020

  • [17:13] The EU Green Deal importance in R&I framework

  • [19:13] Creation of European Innovation Council (blended funding)

  • [21:10] What we learned from Silicon Valley

  • [23:35] 10K+ innovators already applied to EIC (pilot)

  • [25:25] EU Green Deal: macro definition

  • [28:05] Stage of internal discussion of EU Green deal

  • [34:32] KPIs of Impact of Horizon EU