Canada in Horizon Europe: strong links to France, Quebec universities most active

30 Nov 2023 | News

With Canada set to associate to the EU’s research and innovation framework programme, Science|Business data show where collaboration is already strong

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking during an EU-Canada summit in November 2023. Photo: European Union. 

Scientists in Canada and Europe are gearing up for the country’s association to Horizon Europe next year after it was announced last week by president Justin Trudeau.

This will allow Canadian researchers to apply on an even playing field with their EU counterparts, doing away with the need to find their own sources of funding, for example.

Brussels and Ottawa will hope association will strengthen ties further, although Canada will only join Pillar II of the programme, which has the majority of the budget and backs industrially-focused consortia.

Canadian academics already do participate in this part of the programme, joining 46 projects so far, and receiving €2.4 million in funding from the EU. In special cases where Canadian universities are thought to be indispensable to a project, Brussels pays for participation out of its own pocket.

Meanwhile, during Horizon Europe’s predecessor, Horizon 2020, Canadian institutions joined 159 projects in Pillar II, 57 of which are still ongoing.

Science|Business has analysed these data to find three key trends, as these existing links might give some clue to the shape of future collaboration.

France in the lead

So far during Horizon Europe, France is the strongest partner of Canada, with 70 French institutions joining projects where there is a Canadian partner.  

This isn’t a statistical fluke. France was also in the lead in Horizon Europe’s predecessor, Horizon 2020, with Germany closely behind. Then followed Spain, Italy, and the UK.

This could in part be due to the strong language and historical links between Francophone Quebec and France. Ten out of the 46 Canadian participants in Horizon Europe are from the province.

Ecosystems, energy and fisheries

An analysis of Horizon 2020 data also shed light on the types of fields Canadian and European researchers have been collaborating on.

Top of the list are green-focused areas, but there are also Canada-specific topics too, like fisheries and aircraft. The country has a strong aerospace industry, including Bombardier, which is headquartered in Montreal.

During Horizon 2020, institutions in Quebec were the most active in striking up partnerships with Europe. This could help explain why France was such a strong collaborator overall.

With relatively few projects started under Horizon Europe, the data for the current framework programme is thin so far. But Sherbrooke University and the University of British Columbia have made a strong start, both participating in three projects.

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