27 Jan 2021

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 Commission has approved a €200 million top-up for a German scheme providing loans for long-term research and development projects.

The state-aid scheme, which the Commission has now deemed compatible with EU internal market rules, was launched in 2016 and was set to expire at the end of 2020. Last year, Germany decided to prolong it for another six months, increasing the budget from €7.5 billion to €7.7 billion.


The Coimbra Group, a university lobby association, is calling for an alternative scheme for student and staff exchange with UK universities after the country opted out of the EU’s student mobility programme, Erasmus+.

“[The Coimbra Group] advocate for new alternative schemes that would facilitate student and staff exchange with our UK partners and minimize as much as possible the impact of the decision of the British government for our universities, academic and administrative staff and students,” the association’s statement said.

The group is also urging the EU institutions and national governments to help universities deal with the impact of the UK’s decision.

The UK has already announced it will be setting up an Erasmus-style replacement programme to enable UK students to study abroad, however, the country’s government has only committed to fund “outward” student mobility.


The European Commission today published a set of recommendations for managing 14 new research and innovation centres in Bulgaria, co-funded by €160 million from the EU cohesion funds.

The recommendations detail how Bulgarian authorities and researchers can best strengthen the country’s R&I ecosystem, share knowledge, and boost public-private cooperation.

The recommendations are the result of knowledge sharing with other EU countries and a 1.5-year-long fieldwork project coordinated by the EU’s science hub, the Joint Research Centre.


EIT Health, the EU-supported network of health innovators, has established a new base in Ireland to grow partnerships in the country.

The move will support existing member and attract a new cohort of innovators to the network of 150 partners supported by the EU innovation agency, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.


Germany today launched three flagship green hydrogen projects set to receive a total of €700 million from the country’s recovery package by 2025.

The three industry-led projects will address challenges in the production of electrolysers used for separating water and hydrogen, explore the production of the gas directly at sea with the use of wind turbines, and develop hydrogen-powered transport technology.

A total of 230 industry and research organisations from around Germany will work together on the flagship initiatives that aim to solve the biggest remaining challenges to the future renewable hydrogen economy.

“I see green hydrogen as an innovation and industrial policy opportunity for Germany of the century,” said Germany’s research minister Anja Karliczek. “We want to make our country the leading market and global leading provider of hydrogen technologies.”


The European Parliament’s Culture and Education committee yesterday unanimously voted to approve the new €26 billion (in current prices) Erasmus+ deal.

The EU’s next education and student exchange programme will be more inclusive, greener and more digital than before. It will also be open to adult learners and help modernise higher education institutions.

The Parliament initially demanded a budget of €46.7 billion for Erasmus+, however, after several years of campaigning and negotiations with the EU Council, it settled for €26 billion.

“Even though the budget is not as ambitious as we perhaps would have liked to have seen it, I think that here we have managed to achieve a 60% increase in financing compared to the last MFF [long-term EU budget],” said the Parliament’s Erasmus+ rapporteur Milan Zver.

The next step will be for the MEPs to vote the text into law in a plenary session.


Starting today, European SMEs can apply for support from a new 20 million fund to make better use of their intellectual property rights, marking the first concrete action from the European Commission’s IP Action Plan announced in November.

The first of five 2021 calls for applications was launched today inviting SMEs to apply for reimbursements of up to €1,500 for IP scan services and trademark and design applications.


Germany this week announced the start of its first quantum computing research projects funded with €120 million from the country’s economic stimulus package.

This is the first tranche of funding from the national recovery package aimed at developing the country’s quantum computing ecosystem in a push for more technology sovereignty.

“With quantum technologies, we are making an important contribution to greater independence from competitors and thus to greater technological sovereignty,” said Germany’s research minister, Anja Karliczek.


The European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) today signed a pact kicking off joint efforts to support promising entrepreneurs.

The start-up funder EIC and the EIT, which focuses on training and custom support for innovators, will integrate their services enabling entrepreneurs to access both funding and training opportunities.

The cooperation has been in the works for several months now and the two organisations have been testing out pilot actions. They have also set up a joint working group which will share information and have regular progress reviews.

With the EU’s next research programme set to launch in February, the EIC and the EIT are ready to work together. “I think it’s very important that we move on to execution. The difference between dreams and reality is execution,” said Ireland’s chief scientist and the chair of the EIC advisory board, Mark Ferguson.


The European Research Council (ERC) today announced 55 winners that will receive €150,000 each in its latest round of funding for proof-of-concept projects.

The winners will test ideas for new low-cost COVID-19 tests, improving clean energy production and ways to develop drugs for treating blindness.

This final investment of €8.25 million brings the ERC’s total 2020 funding for 166 proof-of-concept projects to €25 million. Last year, scientists from the UK, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands won the most awards, securing a total of 87 grants.

“The research funded in this call is set to break fresh ground and to open new ways of dealing with pressing challenges in the areas of health, migration and climate change, amongst many other fields,” said EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel.


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