The first item on the agenda at the virtual conference had EU research ministers discussing new investment targets for research and development within the framework of the European Research Area (ERA).

The ERA was originally created in 2000 in order to strengthen the EU’s international competitiveness by promoting an internal market for science, research and innovation. On 30 September, the European Commission proposed a new plan for the ERA. Among other things, the new plan recommends speeding up the transition toward a green and digital economy. This transition is a central element of the EU’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

Additionally the new plan confirms the goal of investing 3% of the EU’s total GDP in research and innovation, and supports EU member states’ ambitions to put 5% of national public funding into joint EU research projects and partnerships by 2030.

Following this, the Council Presidency informed EU research ministers about the current funding situation for research and innovation as part of the next multi-year EU budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). There will be a focus on the “Horizon Europe” programme, which is the ninth EU framework programme for research and innovation. The programme is to run from 2021 to 2027 and is slated to be one of the largest projects for research and innovation funded by a single donor in the world. Among other aims, this programme strengthens the EU’s scientific leadership and includes work on digitalisation, mobility and other global challenges.

A further item on the agenda was a report by the Council Presidency and the European Commission as to progress on the European Open Science Cloud and the Open Science Policy Platform. Ministers will also be updated on European institutionalised partnerships, which help to fund research and development projects in EU member states. Following this, the European Commission briefed research ministers on the latest positions taken by independent scientific advisers to the Commission on pandemic preparedness and management.

The virtual conference concluded with a presentation by the Portuguese delegation about the priorities during its upcoming Presidency in the field of research and innovation.