European Commission adopted the first strategic plan in mid-March 2021 for the EU science, research and innovation program “Horizon Europe”. The strategic plan sets perspective for targeted investments during next four years supported by the EU’s budget of €95.5 billion. The plan ensures that European and the member states’ research and innovation (R&I) actions would contribute to modern EU political priorities, including, e.g. climate-neutral and green Europe, digital transition and sustainable socio-economic growth.
After a political agreement was reached on perspective research and innovation, i.e. Horizon Europe program in the March-April-2019, the Commission began preparations for a strategic plan; more than 8000 contributions have been submitted in various stages of the planning process. Hence, the present budget of Horizon Europe program increased by 30 percent compared to the previous EU research program making it the most ambitious R&I program in the world.
Horizon Europe is a key continental program aimed at assisting the member states towards green, digital, healthy and resilient perspectives. In this regards, the present pandemic crisis could be used as an opportunity to shape the recovery process in the member states by making it greener, more digital and sustainable.
Horizon Europe is a logical assistance to the EU’s recovery and resilience plan and is an essential instrument to foster the competitiveness of the member states’ economies through modern global challenges, such as SDGs, circular growth and climate change. It is important to note that Horizon Europe cuts across sectoral and research disciplines providing better impact and necessary flexibility in addressing emerging threats; besides, it is supporting green transition, sustainable growth and the R&I needs in the states’ industrial policies facing tremendous modern transformations.
Reflecting on the strategic plan’s adoption, the Executive Vice-President responsible for the European digital transformation, Margrethe Vestager noted that “the plan provides a frame for top quality, excellence-based research and innovation to be delivered by the Horizon Europe program. With this strategic orientation we ensure that research and innovation investments can contribute to a recovery process based on the twin green and digital transition, resilience and open strategic autonomy”.
Commissioner for the European R&I, Mariya Gabriel added that “the strategic plan’s orientations will ensure that common EU policy would both priorities and benefit from new knowledge, ideas and innovation. This new approach represents another way to make sure that the research and innovation funded by the EU will address the challenges faced by Europeans”.
Strategic plan’s priorities
R&Is importance for European future is revealed in various directions: i.e. to ensure the highest quality in generating new knowledge, to foster pan-European research cooperation, to enable the new ideas and innovations interacting with the SMEs activities, to widen the R&I access in promoting green and digital socio-economic transformations, etc.
For example, in market-oriented innovations, the European Innovation Council will support start-ups alongside the European innovation ecosystems and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT); these actions will play a key role in implementing new European Innovation Area’s activities. Besides, important cross-cutting plan’s components will support the widening of participation and strengthening the Europe Research Area: it will ensure that excellent science is spread in all countries, and that the necessary transition reforms are made in the states. Horizon Europe and the strategic plan for widening R&I should lead to aligning regional, national and European investments.
The plan is built on key principles and values backed by four political objectives:
1) Prioritising investments and reforms in R&I and focusing on the digital-green transformation and on the recovery.
2) Improving access to excellence, progressing towards more excellence and stronger R&I systems with best practices disseminated faster in the states;
3) Translating R&I results into national economies to boost the resilience and competitiveness of national economies;
4) Deepening the ERA, to further progress in free circulation of knowledge, e.g. by moving from an approach of coordination towards deeper integration among national policies.
The strategic plan also identifies the European co-funded and co-programmed partnerships, which will cover critical growth areas in energy, transport, biodiversity, health, food and circularity, and will complement ten institutionalised European partnerships proposed by the Commission in February 2021. On partnerships see: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_702
The strategic plan sets out four strategic orientations for R&I investments for the next four years: – promoting member states’ open strategic autonomy by leading the development of key digital, enabling and emerging technologies, economy sectors and value chains; -restoring Europe’s ecosystems and biodiversity, and managing sustainably of natural resources; -making Europe the first digitally enabled circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy; -creating a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society.
International cooperation underpins all four orientations, as it is essential for tackling many global challenges.
Therefore it is important to underline the Horizon Europe’s strengths for the member states and the EU integration, in general, through the following means:
1) accumulating experience through the European research Council, ERC as world-reference funding organisation supporting frontier research;
2) commitment to reinforce resources, which indicates that Europe’s scientific excellence is the base for future concrete results to the states socio-economic growth;
3) using the European Innovation Council, EIC which represents a new R&I element in modern approaches to support innovation with focus on start-ups and SMEs;
4) new approaches to partnerships, Horizon Europe will improve transparency and strategic management: i.e. in part by reducing the number of partnerships from over 120 to 49;
5) “strategic missions” will serve as additional instruments in maximising the R&I socio-economic impact in scientific integration.
Horizon Europe covers also five specific priority areas: – combating cancer, – healthy oceans, – climate neutral and smart cities, – soil health and food, and – adaptation to climate change; most of the R&I areas are connected to the EU’s ambitious actions related to achieving the Green Deal goals.
The EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility, which is the heart of the Next Generation EU recovery package, can also be used for research and innovation actions. By combining investments at EU and national level, as well as linking research with industry and policy, the plan can help the states to achieve together what would be impossible to achieve individually.
More in: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_21_405/ 2.02.2021
As to perspectives, the priorities set out in Horizon Europe’s strategic plan will be implemented through the work program, which sets out funding opportunities for research and innovation activities through thematic calls for proposals and topics. The first calls for proposals are envisaged in spring-2021 and will be presented at the European Research and Innovation Days on 23-24 June; the calls for proposals and applications for funding can be seen at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/programmes/horizon