22 Oct 2020

HORIZON BLOG: Research and innovation in the next EU budget

The European Commission is working on a new proposal for its 2021-2027 multiannual budget, which is to be paired with a recovery plan aimed at helping the EU come out of the looming recession set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic.

Here, we gather the latest news and reactions to how the EU is planning to fund its research and innovation programmes during the difficult period ahead.

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The European University Association (EUA) today published a statement calling on the European Commission and EU member states to engage with universities and other research organisations in the implementation of the European Research Area (ERA).

The statement argues EU policymakers should involve the research community in setting excellence standards, defining the balance between fundamental and mission-oriented research, and designing tailored approaches to closing R&I performance gaps in Europe. It also calls on member states to formally welcome equality, diversity, and inclusion in research and to highlight institutional autonomy and academic freedom as core principles of the ERA.

All of this must be accompanied by adequate amounts of research funding and strategic cooperation among research funders, the association continues, expressing concern over a lack of financial investment from the EU to match the ambitious plans. 


The European Investment Bank (EIB) is giving a loan of €40 million to the Swedish biotech company, Oncopeptides, to support its research into potential cancer treatments and company expansion.

The company’s current research activities include phase 3 clinical trials of the drug candidate, Melflufen, that could potentially be used to treat multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells.


The European Commission has appointed Sandra Gallina as the new head of its directorate-general for health and food safety (DG SANTE).

Gallina, an Italian national, has been charged with overseeing a flurry of health priorities, including EU’s vaccines strategy. Her appointment comes at a difficult time for EU health, as the coronavirus pandemic is raging across Europe.

Over the next seven years, the EU will allocate nearly €6.9 billion from its research and innovation programme Horizon Europe to projects in health. In addition, the commission is about to establish EU4Health, a new programme aimed at helping member states coordinate health systems, digitise healthcare and focus more on disease prevention. Member states agreed the new health programme would have a limited budget of €1.7 billion, a far cry from European Parliament's demand for €9.4 billion.


The European Commission today released its strategy for reducing methane emissions, including plans to launch an observatory to track global emissions of the second most polluting greenhouse gas.

The commission is working with United Nations, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the International Energy Agency on creating the new observatory, which will collect, track, verify and publish data on global methane emissions. The project is expected to launch next year and be partly funded by the EU’s research programme, Horizon 2020.

To help with data collection for the new project, the commission hopes to employ the EU’s earth observation programme, Copernicus, to monitor global atmospheric methane as part of its CO2-monitoring mission due to launch in 2025.

Methane is the second most polluting greenhouse gas, however, tracking its levels in the atmosphere is difficult due to a lack of measurement and reporting tools. The EU’s new methane strategy aims to fill these knowledge gaps before setting targets for emission reductions to contribute to the EU’s 2030 and 2050 climate goals.

The EU’s push to cut on methane emissions will put extra pressure to cut emissions on Europe’s most polluting sectors – agriculture, waste management and energy. To help them weather the changing policy environment, the commission hopes to launch targeted calls for research into reducing emissions from the three sectors under the EU’s next research programme, Horizon Europe.


The European Commission published a draft report detailing how Horizon Europe public-private research partnership candidates plan to work together and with other EU programmes to deliver more impact despite a ‘limited budget’.

“EU investment in Research and Innovation will never be enough on its own to achieve the transitions that we wish to see. Firstly, the budget is limited, and secondly R&I only addresses part of the overall value chain,” the report says.

To fill the investment gap and effectively use their budgets, partnerships must find synergies with other programmes, the report argues. Potential additional funding sources for innovation deployment and scaling up named in the report include cohesion funds, the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) and the EU’s new innovation funding body, the European Innovation Council (EIC).

Defining potential synergies is the next step in the commission’s preparation for the launch of around 50 public-private partnerships under Horizon Europe. Most partnership candidates have submitted their plans to the commission, which is currently checking if the candidates fulfil the selection criteria. After the plans are accepted, each partnership will have to formally define how they plan to work together and with other EU programmes.


EU member states spend only 0.54 per cent of their total public procurement on R&D, which equals to 0.09 per cent of GDP, according to a commission research paper published on Monday.

The commission says increasing investments in public procurement of R&D to 0,5 of GDP would generate additional private investment. This could lift up EU’s total R&D investment from 2,19 to 3,19 per cent of GDP.

For nearly 20 years, the commission has been calling on member states to boost their R&D investments to at least 3 per cent of GDP, but not many countries have reached that level.


Universities of Applied Science for Europe, a European university association, says applied science universities are an essential partner in creating the European Research Area.

The association argues applied science universities can help develop regional partnerships; fulfil the triangle of knowledge, research and innovation; help collaborate with citizens and other stakeholders; bridge the gap between basic research and innovation; and address societal challenges with practice-oriented research. 

Last month, the European Commission presented their long-awaited plans for reviving the ERA, a single European market for research allowing member states to coordinate their research policy and agendas.


EIT Digital yesterday selected 20 SMEs from 10 countries to compete in the final round of the seventh annual EIT Digital Challenge for a cash prize of  €100,000 and a full year of tailor-made scaling-up support.

The shortlisted companies, selected from a total of 403 applicants, are developing innovative deep-tech products, such as an AI solution for patient care, a 3D safety radar for robotics and industrial automation, and a machine-to-machine platform for autonomous devices.


The Commission today launched a call for contributions from academia, industry, environmental groups, and consumer organisations on how EU competition policy can better support the objectives of Europe’s green policies.

Changing competition policy has become a growing issue for several policy areas beyond cohesion and the Green Deal – including research, innovation and digital technologies. The Commission’s new competition review, while technically about the Green Deal, is likely to have repercussions in these other areas as well.

Over the past few years, governments in Spain, Italy and some other EU members have complained that their efforts to deploy cohesion money for industrial innovation projects have been blocked by the Commission’s strict enforcement of competition policy. Likewise, as the Commission plans its Green Deal – 35 per cent of Horizon Europe funding is slated to go towards climate-related research and innovation, under the draft Horizon legislation – some analysts have argued that strict competition enforcement could also impede important green technology deals in industry.

The call is open until 20 November 2020. Once it closes, all contributions will be consolidated and presented at a conference next year.


The European Innovation Council (EIC), the EU’s tech start-up funding body, received a record 4,200 proposals in the latest round of its call for close-to-market innovation projects but this round the funding pot is around half the size it was last time.

The 4,200 start-ups and SMEs from 48 different countries requested more than €15 billion in this funding round, which can only provide the winners around €170 million in grants and equity investments. In the previous cut-off in May, around 2000 companies submitted proposals, requesting €7.8 billion, and 64 lucky winners were awarded €307 million.

The winners, which will be announced in December, will receive up to €2.5 million in grants and up to €15 million in equity investments from the recently established EIC fund, managed by the European Investment Bank (EIB).


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