FP10 should boost industrial competitiveness, European associations argue

04 Jul 2024 | News

There should be more industry participation in the next EU research programme, 110 associations say in a joint statement

Photo credits: paulgrecaud / BigStock

Some 110 European associations representing research and innovation stakeholders are calling on the EU to “significantly increase” the budget for the next framework research programme FP10, and to focus on supporting industry participation.

A joint statement published today, says the priority should be to strengthen Pillar II of the programme, which focuses on global challenges and industrial competitiveness, in order to retain private investment in Europe.

Signatories include the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO); business lobbies such as DigitalEurope, BusinessEurope, and EuropaBio; and several industry groups involved in Horizon Europe partnerships, such as Hydrogen Europe, and the Batteries European Partnership Association.

The statement calls for a “significant part of FP10’s total budget” to be allocated to Pillar II, which includes the EU’s public-private partnerships, and which already gets just over half the total funding in Horizon Europe.

The organisations point to the recent evaluation of the predecessor Horizon 2020 framework programme, which showed that partnerships were successful in creating a leverage effect. In some partnerships, private investment was double or even triple the amount of EU public funding.

Pillar II is seen as being crucial to reducing risk and incentivising private investment in technology-intensive sectors. The partnerships bring together a variety of research and innovation stakeholders, and facilitate the uptake and scale-up of new technologies.

“The activities in Pillar II must also be driven by strategic EU priorities and clearly defined industrial needs,” the statement says. “The focus on competitiveness must be reinforced in Pillar II, and should similarly be a key driver for activities in Pillar I and Pillar III.”

Competitiveness, which is the new buzzword in Brussels policy circles, describes the need to boost European industry particularly in key technologies, in response to Chinese interventionism and US protectionism. Former Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will soon submit a report on the topic to the European Commission, while EU leaders recently called for a “new European competitiveness deal”.

Member states are also asking for a greater role in setting the EU’s strategic research priorities, in their plans for FP10, although they do stress the need to ensure top-down planning does not come at the expense of funding for basic research.

EARTO secretary general Muriel Attané said the backing from industry and research and technology organisations for the joint statement represents “a real show of support to EU RD&I programmes and their role in supporting private RD&I investments in Europe”.

“Strong EU public-private partnerships, especially the co-programmed and institutionalised ones, will be the funding instruments that will allow us to tackle our societal challenges while supporting our industrial capabilities in Europe,” she said.

Double the money

The need for a bigger and more stable EU framework programme budget has become a rallying cry for researchers, lobby groups, policymakers and other stakeholders, after Horizon Europe funding was repeatedly siphoned off towards other priorities in recent years.

According to the statement, FP10 public investment is crucial to mitigate market failures and stimulate private sector investments.

The associations urge the EU institutions to make the change by increasing the current framework programme budget, at the same time calling for member states to increase national funding so that public and private investments in R&D reach 3% of GDP, a target the EU set in 2003.

According to 2022 Eurostat data, the 3% figure has only been reached in Belgium, Sweden, Austria and Germany. Meanwhile, eight countries have an R&D intensity below 1%, with Romania at the bottom at 0.46%, followed by Malta on 0.65%; Latvia 0.75%; Cyprus 0.77%; and Bulgaria 0.77%. 

Rather than continuing improvements, there has been a recent reverse and the EU average R&D intensity fell from 2.27% in 2021 to 2.22% in 2022.

In mid-May, EU research lobbies launched a campaign asking for a significantly larger and ring-fenced budget for FP10, due to start in 2028.

Policymakers have been vocal about the FP10 investment issue as well, urging the Commission to double the budget to €200 billion.

Marc Lemaître, head of the EU's research directorate, and research commissioner Iliana Ivanova lamented the funding gaps in the past and current framework programmes, calling for a budget boost in the next one.

During the EU Research and Innovation days event in March, Lemaître said that from 2021 to 2022, Horizon Europe would have needed an additional €34 billion to fund all the excellent research proposals the programme received.

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