[Horizon Europe] What progress for the definition of the next European Research Programme ?

H2020, Horizon 2020, is in its last months. European policy makers and Member States progress on discussions drafting Horizon Europe to finance Research and Innovation projects from 2021 onward.

H2020 Interim reports confirm it is a very competitive program, with a success rate of 11.6%. The H2020 Interim reports acknowledge that funded projects are ~40% more likely to be granted patents and that patents are of higher quality & commercial value. In addition, every euro invested under Horizon 2020 brings back 6 to 8.5 euros, hence an estimated GDP gain between EUR 400 to EUR 600 billion by 2030.

H2020 covered the period 2014-2020 and European policy makers and Member States currently progress on discussions drafting Horizon Europe to finance Research and Innovation projects from 2021 onward.

The EU institutions reached a provisional agreement on Horizon Europe on 20 March 2019. The European Parliament endorsed the provisional agreement on 17 April 2019. The details will be circulated in a public drafts in June, September and October this year. In parallel, a web based public consultation on the key drivers of the first strategic plan of Horizon Europe is foreseen during the summer, and a conference is scheduled in Brussels on 24-26 September, as well as workshops focusing on different industry sectors. The draft implementing act establishing the First Strategic Plan should be discussed and adopted Autumn 2019 – Early 2020, allowing the Work Programmes for Horizon Europe to be drafted as soon as Q1 2020.

Open topics for discussion for policy makers are numerous and include the involvement of non-EU countries. Strengthening international cooperation appeared in the top-objectives listed after analyzing H2020 results, and extended association possibilities should be defined in Horizon Europe. Similarly, reinforcing openness is another key objective of the new program, and a new Open science policy is expected in Horizon Europe. Of course, Horizon Europe budget is another key open topic, and the budget for Horizon Europe should be around 100 billion €. It must be decided by national governments as part of a unanimous agreement on the EU’s next long-term financial plan.

Horizon Europe’s pilars

What can be said now is that Horizon Europe, the ninth R&D programme, will run from 2021 – 2027. Based on three pillars (open science, global challenges and industrial competiveness, and open innovation), it will include new features such as the European Innovation Council (a one-stop shop to support high-risk, market-creating innovation projects), the flagship new funding agency that will comprise a “subprogram”, called the Accelerator, to support innovation in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) through a mix of grants and equity investment, therefore replacing an existing component of Horizon 2020, the SME Instrument. Indeed, “Supporting breakthrough Innovation” is another of the objectives of Horizon Europe. Each €1 invested by the SME Instrument under H2020 generated €1.6 of private investment and the companies funded under Phase 2 of the programme have experienced a 118% increase in turnover and a 158% increase in employment, only two years down the line.

Horizon Europe is built around EU-wide research missions to ensure the effectiveness of research and innovation funding by pursuing clearly defined targets. During the trilogue negotiations in March 2019, a partial agreement was reached between the Parliament and the Council. Five research focus areas were agreed: adaptation to climate change; cancer; healthy oceans, seas and waters; climate-neutral and smart cities; and soil health and food. The deal envisaged at least 35 % of the Horizon Europe budget contributing to climate objectives. Horizon Europe will also emphase social sciences, humanities and the creative industries.

Since that, the recruitment for Horizon Europe mission boards started. ‘Mission Boards’ will advise the Commission for the identification and implementation of missions in Horizon Europe. The 75 successful applicants, divided equally among five themes, will be responsible for designing and managing the missions. The deadline for applications is midday on 11 June.

In parallel, eight themes, broader than missions, have been listed. They will be addressed as public-private partnerships with industry or member state public-public partnerships. These institutionalised European partnerships are foreseen to be established under Article 185 or Article 187 TFEU (*), as is currently the case for EUROSTARS, S2R JU, SESAR JU, and many more. Indeed, one of the objectives set after analyzing H2020 results was to rationalise the funding landscape, and it was therefore decided to implement a new approach to Partnerships in Horizon Europe.

The eight partnership areas foreseen for Horizon Europe are:

  1. Faster development and safer use of health innovations for European patients, and global health.
  2. Advancing key digital and enabling technologies and their use, including but not limited to novel technologies such as artificial intelligence, photonics and quantum technologies.
  3. European leadership in metrology, including an integrated metrology system.
  4. Accelerate competitiveness, safety and environmental performance of EU air traffic, aviation and rail.
  5. Sustainable, inclusive and circular bio-based solutions.
  6. Hydrogen and sustainable energy storage technologies with lower environmental footprint and less energy-intensive production.
  7. Clean, connected, cooperative, autonomous and automated solutions for future mobility demands of people and goods.
  8. Innovative and R&D intensive small and medium-sized enterprises.

It is expected that Horizon Europe will increase EU’s gross domestic product (GDP) by an average of 0.08% to 0.19% over 25 years and create up to 100 000 jobs in R&I activities for the years 2021 to 2027.

(*) To encourage EU research and innovation, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) includes two articles which have been used as a legal basis for establishing public-private and public-public partnerships in research and innovation:

  • Article 187 TFEU covers public-private partnerships, typically involving the EU, industrial association(s) and other partners. These partnerships are managed by legal entities called joint undertakings which are responsible for implementing the research agenda in the area they cover.
  • Article 185 TFEU covers public-public partnerships, with participation of the EU in research and development programmes undertaken by several EU countries.

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