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Horizon Europe: what is the European Commission up to?

18 February 2022

Science|Business held its annual conference (8 and 9 February 2022) under the title “Horizon Europe: The first assessment”, to discuss about the R&I programme application processes, the collaboration with non-EU countries and the plans to boost innovation in the EU, among other topics. This event brought together the main representatives from the European Commission in the field of research and innovation, who informed about how the EC is responding to the scientific community demands.

During the conference, commissioner Mariya Gabriel announced that a guide is being prepared on lump sum funding for applicants ahead of 2022 calls to “remove any uncertainties among applicants” and to “make the programme more attractive to newcomers and small companies that struggle with the current heavy reporting requirements”.

Director-General of DG RTD, Jean-Eric Paquet, confirmed the EC is adjusting the next set of Horizon Europe Work Programmes 2023-2024 and “very busy with working on the electronic application forms to be able to provide guidance on every single step”. As he mentioned, after the first year of the current research and innovation programme, EC will focus on research policy in calls and will increase links between the different parts of the programme.

Speaking at the session on ‘How can Horizon Europe increase public faith in science and scientists?’, Anna Panagopoulou, Director of European Research Area & Innovation at DG RTD, referred to the “important role of citizens in science policy” and the need “to increase science literacy at all levels”. She also drew attention to the way “we evaluate research and researchers” and the need to develop scientists’ communication skills”.

Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council, raised the issue of the funding for basic research. “We are far away from the goal to reach 3% of GDP investment in science in the EU Member States”, she said, “If that was achieved, then the ERC would be under less pressure from the overwhelming number of applications”. Ms Leptin pointed out that “fundamental research is in our nature and helps understand the world we live in” and stated that “we have a very strong basis to show that the budget allocated to the ERC is not wasted”.

With regards to innovation, Director of the EIC Jean-David Malo announced that “starting this year, the EIC will make equity investments bigger than €15 million in promising start-ups, support more women-led companies, and increase the budget for top-down calls in health, digital and climate to more than €750 million”. “We are not comparable to the ERC, but we have the same ambition: to become the investment of choice for investors and a fabric of unicorns in Europe”, he said.

During the conference, the ‘Stick to Science’ campaign was launched. Led by a group of six research institutions, including the Coimbra Group, this initiative urges the finalisation of the Horizon Europe association agreements with Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK). The French minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Frédérique Vidal, referred to this topic and said that “political roadblocks must be shifted before these two countries can associate to Horizon Europe”. “Brexit must be resolved before the UK can formally join the research and innovation programme” and “the question of Switzerland’s association to the Horizon Europe programme should not be dissociated from the global dimension of the EU-Switzerland relationship”, she noted.

You can read the ‘Stick to Science’ press release in this link.