The new European Union Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, is due to launch in 2021. Although its preliminary structure and budget were announced in 2018 and a political agreement was reached in 2019, its final budget is still under construction.
The initially proposed budget allocation of €100 billion for 2021–2027 included €97.6 billion under Horizon Europe and €2.4 billion for the Euratom Research and Training Programme. Some scientists and researchers are advocating for a higher budget of at least €120 billion to reach the ambitious goals outlined in the programme. Some Member States are supporting the idea that the budget should amount less than proposed by the European Commission or the European Parliament. To make things more complex, Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic are also having their impact on the ongoing budget discussions.
As of May 2020, the proposed budget for Horizon Europe is €94,4 billion of which €13,5 billion comes under the new EU Covid-19 recovery instrument called ‘Next Generation EU’, as part of a massive €1.85 trillion, seven-year EU budget plan to help recover from the Covid-19 crisis. Final approval on the budget for the next multiannual financial framework will require a unanimous agreement of the European Council (expected end of July 2020) and approval of the European Parliament.
Pending the political agreement, let’s take a closer look at a core, new component of the Horizon Europe program: the European Innovation Council (EIC).
Answering to the challenges of global competition and the need to deepen innovation and risk-taking capabilities to compete on the market of new technologies, the EIC will aim to turn Europe’s scientific discoveries into businesses that can scale up faster.
The EC highlights several deficits holding European innovation back: a lack of breakthrough and disruptive innovations that create new markets (performance), a financing gap between R&D grants and private investment for scaling up innovative start-ups (funding), and the fragmentation of national and local ecosystems at European level (ecosystem).
Piloted in the last 4 years of Horizon 2020, following measures were already introduced (non-exhaustive): open competitions and face-to-face interviews to identify and fund Europe’s most innovative start-ups and SMEs; appointment of 15 to 20 innovation leaders to evaluate, improve and champion the initiative; and additional programme managers selected to provide full-time, hands-on support for projects.
When Horizon Europe kicks off in 2021, the EIC will have the ambition to shorten the timelines from idea to investment and to focus on the deficits (see above). A quick glance over the process to help innovators find investments:
Find more information on the Pathfinder and Accelerator here.
To summarize, the EIC in 5 core ambitions and components: