A year in, the preliminary plans for the €55.3B research partnerships appear to be on track to help advance EU’s green, digital and health goals
A year since the launch of Horizon Europe, the European Commission says its research partnerships with industry and member states are showing first signs of contributing to EU’s green, digital and health policy goals.
The 49 research partnerships bring together industry, member states and research organisations to accelerate the development of new technologies and coordinate efforts, avoiding duplication and fragmentation of R&I efforts across the bloc.
They’re also an instrument for driving innovation in strategic policy areas, such as the EU’s green and digital transitions, a dimension that has been brought into the focus in the new generation of partnerships under Horizon Europe.
According to the first assessment report under Horizon Europe, the preliminary plans for the partnerships that are now up and running show they are set to contribute much more resources to EU’s policy objectives than their 110-odd predecessors under the last seven-year programme, Horizon 2020.
In particular, 67% of Horizon Europe partnership collective resources are planned to be allocated to green deal R&I, a 38% increase compared to H2020.
Much more funding will also go into resilience-related R&I, in particular in health, with 36% of resources contributing to this policy area, a 74% increase compared to Horizon 2020.
Around a third will also address digital objectives, a whopping 107% increase compared to H2020.
The money to achieve the impact is there too, with member states and industry contributing €31.4 billion to the partnerships, together with EU’s €23.9 billion contribution that comes from the €95.5 billion Horizon Europe programme.
This is an increase compared to previous years. The member states and association countries’ €9 billion contribution alone is around the same as their entire commitments between 2004 and 2020. That’s in addition to €22 billion committed by industry.
When it comes to increasing participation of SMEs and countries, one of the European Parliament’s main tasks for the initiatives, the partnerships are also moving in the right direction. A recent survey showed many partnerships have strong intentions to be in touch with European countries that have not been actively taking part in their initiatives, with at least ten partnerships each eyeing Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia and Luxembourg as potential partners. Others are looking beyond the EU, hoping to establish links with Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, India and the US.
There are also signs of potential for synergies and cooperation between the different partnerships, another key priority for policymakers, with survey results involving 31 partnerships showing “a good awareness of the need for alignments, synergies, and coherence.”
There are three types of partnerships, involving industry and member states in different formats, all with the goal of funding R&I, in strategic areas ranging from biodiversity to AI and robotics. They’ve been launching one by one in the past year, with 12 still waiting to get off the ground in the coming months.
It is early days for the initiatives and few data were available for assessment in this first edition, but industry and member states welcomed the preliminary report as a guiding document which lays out the structure for assessing the impact of the partnerships across six indicators: additionality and directionality, coherence and synergies, openness and transparency, and international visibility.
“Now we’re seeing where we are heading to, what data we need to record or collect, so that will ease the process and strengthen the evaluation later on,” said Olivier Bouc, coordinator of the Water4All partnership, at the launch event.
The next report will be published in two years.