EU research ministers reached agreement in Brussels on a “general approach” for the remaining outstanding issues concerning the proposal for the ninth EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation known as Horizon Europe, which will run from 2021 to 2027.
German Minister for Research Anja Karliczek explained:
Today’s agreement is an important step forward towards final adoption of Horizon Europe. We now need to make sure with the European Parliament and the Commission that our forward-looking EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation can enter into force without delay at the beginning of next year. This is our joint task for the benefit of the European research and innovation community as well as the competitiveness of the EU.
The agreement among the EU member states focused on the following outstanding issues which had not so far been negotiated:
- synergies with other EU programmes
- funding from the new recovery instrument Next Generation EU
- the allocation of the Horizon Europe budget among the individual programme areas, and
- international cooperation and the association of third countries
In the next step, the Council will open the so-called trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament and the Commission with the aim of adopting the Regulation and the Specific Programme for Horizon Europe by the end of the year.
Horizon Europe, the EU’s ninth Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, will be the world’s largest funding programme for research and innovation (R&I).
The proposed legislation for Horizon Europe (which is planned to run from 2021 to 2027) essentially consists of two legal acts:
- the Regulation establishing Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, laying down its rules for participation and dissemination
- the Decision on establishing the specific programme implementing Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (greater specification of the programme content)
Status of the negotiations
Within the framework of the trilogue negotiations, the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission agreed under the Romanian Council Presidency on a “common understanding” on the Regulation on 27 March 2019.
The Council reached agreement on a “partial common approach” for the specific programme on 15 April 2019.
There was no common position on the part of the member states regarding Horizon Europe on the above-mentioned outstanding issues until the Council meeting on 29 September 2020.
The overall programme can only be formally adopted when the three institutions mentioned have agreed the EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021 to 2027 and thus also the overall budget of Horizon Europe.
There is much continuity between Horizon Europe and its predecessor Horizon 2020. A new aspect is that the European Innovation Council (EIC) will be institutionalised. Its purpose is to support innovations that create new markets. In addition, Horizon Europe will see the introduction of a “strategic planning process” and “missions”.
Strategic planning process for 2021-2024
Strategic planning represents a new process under Horizon Europe. The aim is to set the most important political and strategic priorities for the initial years of Horizon Europe up to 2024. At the heart of this newly created process is the participation of European Commission services, representatives of the member states, members of the European Parliament as well as of interested R&I stakeholders and citizens.
The aim is to align the strategic priorities for R&I to the EU’s political priorities. For example, these concern the ecological and digital transformation as well as achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Horizon Europe will mark the introduction of “missions” for the first time. These EU-wide R&I instruments will address ambitious goals for solving current societal challenges in Europe in an interdisciplinary approach. An initial five mission areas have been defined:
- adaptation to climate change, including societal transformation
- healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters
- climate-neutral and smart cities
- soil health and food
The final reports of the “mission boards” were presented at the Research and Innovation Days event of the European Commission on 22 September 2020. These reports set out concrete missions for each of the five mission areas.