On February 2, the new Horizon Europe programme, the EU fund for research and innovation, was launched. The fund will contribute a total of €95 billion for the period 2021-2027.
The launch event brought together speakers from all over Europe – researchers, managers, decision-makers and government officials – who contributed to a discussion on the future implementation of Horizon Europe, parallel with national recovery and resilience programmes within the Next Generation EU programme.
The political agreement on Horizon Europe was reached last December with a 30% increase in the resources allocated to research and innovation compared to the previous programme, making the programme one of the most ambitious ever in the field of research and innovation.
The initiative will support the European Union in the double green and digital transition, combining their priorities with a solid foundation in research and stimulating an effective increase in public and private investment in research and development. It is also in line with the European Commission’s goal of increasing public and private investment by 3% of GDP by 2030.
Horizon Europe will be based on three main pillars: the first, for scientific excellence, the second tackling global challenges and European industrial competitiveness and, finally, the last for a more innovative and inclusive Europe.
The first pillar aims to support the Union’s scientific excellence, both in terms of human resources and creating new infrastructures. Here, the European Research Council (ERC) will play a key role in coordination at supranational level.
The second pillar’s main focus is on the centrality of European industry and its competitiveness to face new challenges globally. To achieve this, different clusters have been identified to promote research and development activities – health, culture, civil security, digitalisation, industry and space, climate, energy and mobility and, another cluster on food, bio-economy, natural resources, agriculture and environment.
Finally, the third pillar aims to deliver a truly innovative Europe, promoting the creation of new markets accessible to small and medium enterprises, stimulating ethical, responsible and sustainable innovation. Three actors will play a key role in this – the European Innovation Council, the European Innovation Ecosystems and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. The aim is to create a coherent and accessible framework, bringing together research, education and business around a common goal to foster innovation on a European scale.
“We need to take this opportunity to make Horizon Europe a catalyst of synergies for national public and private investments, and leverage the resources to tackle the challenges of the green and digital transitions” tweeted Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
However, there was also no lack of criticism, especially concerning the timing of actual access to funds. A first work programme and the launch for proposal calls is not expected before April. The implementation of the Horizon Europe programme will be coordinated by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research (DG RTD) and will be one of the key dossiers for the Portuguese Presidency that began in January.