After much debate the new European research, development and innovation programme, Horizon Europe is in place to run from 2021 to 2027. Of course like students in a pizza parlour there was much debate about how big the pie should be and what toppings to include. There were those that wanted a thin pie, those who wanted a much bigger pie and those that wanted exotic toppings. Because of the consultation process with stakeholders the details of the programme are beginning to leak out.
As with past “reinventions” of European support for R&D, a cuts slices and dices approach has been adopted so that direct comparison with past programmes is difficult; elements funded through other programmes are included under the umbrella, while established elements are broken apart and distributed under new headings. As always this allows national politicians to claim the budget has increased, been reduced or has stayed the same. The overall budget agreed is Euro 95.5 billion.
While drafts are in circulation with stakeholders, the final programme details are expected to be released in April. The programme will operate under three pillars and cross cutting actions to widen participation. Pillar 1 is the European Research Council, which addressed basic research. Pillar 2 is broadly the industrial R&D programme. Pillar 3 is the European Innovation Council. The key priorities of Pillar 2 are:
- Health cluster
- Culture, creativity and inclusive society
- Civil security for society
- Digital, industry and space cluster
- Climate, energy and mobility
- Food, Bioeconomy Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment
After much pressure from national stakeholders the UK Government signed up to Horizon Europe an a broadly pay as you go basis. The principles of the UK’s involvement have been agreed , but the detail is missing. The UK still needs to complete the negotiation of an “Associate State” agreement to participate. The EU’s intention is to include Canada, Australia and Japan in Horizon Europe on a pay as you go basis, however the Brexit negotiations have been a distraction and this part of the ambition remains for the moment unfulfilled.
The UK has joined the party, the pizza is large and is likely to come with “exotic options” from the Americas and the Asia Pacific region. The UK slice of the pie will be proportionate rather than generous, in comparison to the past. Many of the options on the menu such as health , culture and creativity and the digital space are strong suites for the UK.
The genesis of fundable European projects takes months and generally relies on the identification of strong European partners. The programme details will be announced in April, indicating that the first calls will close around September 2021. For companies operating in the target fields and interested in using European programmes to support their R&D the next two to three months are important for crystalising the projects and finding appropriate European Union partners.