EU launches Ukrainian research aid scheme as it boosts Horizon Europe budget

10 May 2022 | News

Funding for researchers from Ukraine to study abroad is part of a €562M increase for Horizon Europe this year

Photo: Claudio Centonze, European Union

The European Commission officially launched a €25 million direct aid package of Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) grants for researchers from Ukraine, as it announced a €562 million increase for the Horizon Europe budget in 2022.

The Commission expects the demand for research grants from Ukrainian scholars to increase in the coming months. As the Russian invasion continues, researchers who are displaced will be able to use EU funds to continue their research in member states or countries associated to Horizon Europe.

Researchers will also be allowed to use the money to re-establish themselves in Ukraine and help strengthen the country’s research and innovation sectors. In addition, they will be able to apply for family allowances.

The €25 million for the MSCA4Ukraine scheme will be managed by organisations in the Inspireurope consortium. The Commission says it needed to come up with the quickest way to help Ukrainian scholars and the consortium already has extensive experience helping scholars at risk, having previously received a MSCA coordination and support grant under Horizon 2020.

The willing partners in the consortium will coordinate and organise calls which will be open to any organisation in Europe and will abide by criteria that are consistent with MSCA evaluation principles. The Commission sees the consortium as an intermediary for delivering financial assistance to Ukranian researchers as soon as possible.  

However, it will take another few months for the Commission to iron out administrative wrinkles and come up with a rulebook for institutions planning to host researchers under the scheme. The Commission says it will publish information on implementation after the summer.

EU commissioner for research and innovation Mariya Gabriel is spearheading the initiative and said “Ukrainian excellence in research deserves our support in these extremely difficult times.”

However, the European Parliament is now trying to negotiate the establishment of a permanent funding scheme for scholars at risk. Leading MEP Christian Ehler told Science|Business in an interview last month that the current €25 million plan is “just a torch in the dark.”

Budget increase

Science|Business first reported on the imminent launch of the Ukraine scheme last month. However, at the time, there were no details available about the source of the funding. According to a statement published today, the Commission says the €25 million will be made available through amendments to the Horizon Europe work programme for 2021-22, which add up to a €562 million increase in the budget. The overall Horizon Europe budget for 2021 and 2022 is now nearing €16 billion, of the €95.5 billion available until the end of 2027.  

The bulk of the increase for this year will go to the EU’s research missions, five policy priorities set by the EU to advance scientific and technological breakthroughs with immediate societal and economic impact.

According to the new work programme, the missions will see their budget increase by €507.1 million. “These additional investments in research and innovation will help us to deliver on key policies,” said EU executive vice president Margrethe Vestager.

This year, the Commission will spend €126.2 million on the climate adaptation mission, €129.56 million on cancer research, €117.9 million for the oceans mission, €95 million for soil biodiversity and €119.37 million for climate neutral cities.

In addition to the top-ups for the five research missions, the bigger budget allows to Commission to triple spending on women-led startups under the WomenTechEU scheme. Meanwhile, in the culture cluster, €6 million has been allocated for building collaborative platforms and networks for the culture and creative industries; €3 million for assessing the social impact EU’s green deal policy; another €3 million for research into the future of democracy; and €1.5 million for a new observatory for innovation in the public sector.

The amendments to the updated Horizon work programme also stipulate that legal entities established in Russia, Belarus, or in Ukrainian territories which are not controlled by the government, are not allowed to participate in the research programme.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated 12 May to clarify the role of the Inspireurope consortium in the MSCA4Ukraine funding scheme.

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