Yesterday the European Commission officially launched its proposal for the structure of Horizon Europe, the successor to the current EU research and innovation framework programme Horizon 2020 that we blogged about here.
The proposed budget for the programme is currently around €100 billion. With the UK’s contribution, as well as contributions from other non-EU countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Israel, this funding pot could increase.
The proposals continue much of the same institutions and values of Horizon 2020, whilst also proposing some new mechanisms, and giving some suggestion as to what a future UK-EU research relationship could look like.
What is different from Horizon 2020?
The new programme generally increases the funding of many of the previous aspects of the programme, with the three pillars of the programme now being named as Open Science (for basic research) Global Challenges (to support research relating to societal challenges) and Open Innovation (to put Europe at the forefront of market-creating innovation).
The proposal assigns a large proportion of the funding to “clusters” of policy challenges, under the Global Challenges pillar, in which the Commission intends to promote more research and innovation in search of solutions. The clusters are health; inclusive and secure societies; digital and industry; climate, energy and mobility; food and natural resources.
New institutions such as the European Innovation Council have been set up under the Open Innovation pillar, which offers €2.7 billion in funding for the period 2018-2020, as well as opportunities for networking, mentoring and coaching and strategic advice to upgrade the innovation ecosystem in Europe.
Horizon Europe also includes the proposal that organisations established in the Union must have access to equivalent R&D programmes in countries that associate, a stipulation that was not specified in the Horizon 2020 agreement.
What will be the UK’s association to the programme?
European Commissioner for Science, Research and Innovation Carlos Moedas yesterday stated that under European Council guidance, the working understanding is that the UK will be treated as a third country and that “the doors are open for discussion.”
The published documents propose a change in the rules on third party participation to the programme and is written in a way that leaves the door open for the UK to participate. According to the document, non-EU third countries that wish to participate in Horizon Europe and that fit the general criteria are eligible to associate to the programme. The proposal goes on to say that the association agreement of such countries should ensure a fair balance on the contributions and benefits of the country; lay down the conditions of participation including financial contributions; and should not give the third country a decisional power on the programme. As a third country, the UK will not get out more money than it puts into the programme and vice versa.
Notably, the proposal also states that parts of the programme may be excluded from an association agreement for a specific country, meaning that the UK, and countries such as Switzerland may only be associated to specific parts.
So other international countries will have the same access to funding too?
Potentially, yes. The programme opens up the scope for countries outside of Europe to gain associate membership to the programme, building on Moedas’ concept of Open Science, Open Innovation, Open to the World. Moedas stated yesterday that even without Brexit, the rules for association to the programme would have been opened up.
The proposal’s language allows for the possibility of non-EU third countries such as Canada, South Korea and Singapore to associate to the programme if they have a free trade agreement with the EU and a specific association agreement. As with the UK, as a third country, these countries will not get out more than they put in to the programme and vice versa.
What happens next?
We negotiate. The UK’s participation in this programme is dependent upon the negotiations with the EU generally, as well as the specific association agreement. As we said earlier this week, the government must engage with UK companies and researchers urgently to develop a participation agreement that reinforces the successful UK innovation ecosystem through direct involvement in Horizon Europe.