European Parliament and the EU Council have reached a partial agreement on the Horizon Europe research programme, but still no deal has been reached on its budget and non-EU country participation.
The next step will be for the EU’s member states and MEPs to approve the agreement so that the European Commission can prepare for Horizon Europe to be implemented by its set start date in 2021.
‘We should be aware that time is precious, and we are living in times of global competition where stakeholders are no longer just Europeans. They can easily go to the US or to China,’ said Christian Ehler MEP, who is one of the Parliament’s Horizon rapporteurs.
As per this agreement, Horizon Europe’s five confirmed mission areas are:
- Climate change
- Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters
- Climate-neutral and smart cities
- Soil health and food
Its eight partnership areas are:
- Faster development and safer use of health innovations
- Advancing key digital and enabling technologies
- World-renowned metrology research
- Accelerated performance of EU air traffic, aviation and rail
- Sustainable, circular and bio-based solutions
- Hydrogen and sustainable energy storage technologies
- Clean and autonomous vehicles for future mobility demands
- Innovative and R&D intensive SMEs
Changes will be made to the European Innovation Council as part of the deal. The Council’s Accelerator, which works to support innovation in SMEs will replace the SME Instrument from previous Horizon programmes, whose budget was for grants only.
The Accelerator will now support SMEs through a mixture of grants and equity investment to provide ‘blended finance’ to companies.
Calls to increase the incomes of researchers in poorer countries have been rejected, with negotiators agreeing to dedicate 3.3% of Horizon Europe’s budget to support widening participation of the programme.
Currently, the Commission’s counter proposal sets aside €1.7bn for this activity, which is 1.8% of the proposed budget, and Parliament want 4%.
Widening participation is primarily focused on 15 countires, including the ‘EU13’ that joined after 2004, such as Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, and Portugal and Greece – countries that fall short of the high research standards in the EU.
The Parliament will vote on the deal in April.