A brief overview of EU research policy shows that as far back as the 1950s provisions for research were included in the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) treaties.
But we have to wait until 1984 to have in place the first “framework programme (FP)”. This became the main funding instrument for research and innovation. Since then, the European Union has run its research and innovation policy and funding on the basis of multiannual framework programmes (7 years each). Eight framework programmes (FP1–FP8) have run between 1984 and 2020, all of them approved by EU Member State governments and the European Parliament. The second to last one, Horizon 2020, had a budget of almost €80 billion designed for implementing the Innovation Union and to establish the EU as a leading knowledge-based economy and was based on three pillars: excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges.
Horizon Europe is the EU’s research framework programme for the 2021 – 2027 period. The programme was conceived to strengthen Europe’s research and innovation leadership by fostering European networks of research excellence and social impact. Pending formal approval by the European Parliament and Council, the new EU research and innovation programme has a budget of around €95.5 billion for 2021-2027 that includes €5.4 billion from NextGenerationEU (the EU recovery fund aimed at repairing immediate economic and social damage brought about by the coronavirus pandemic) to boost our recovery and make the EU more resilient for the future. This represents a 30% increase vis-à-vis the previous research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020 and makes it the most ambitious research and innovation programme in the world (read more here).
Figure 4. Preliminary structure of Horizon Europe (read more, here)
The ambitious EU research and innovation framework programme aspires:
As a cross-cutting issue of broad relevance, social sciences and humanities research is fully integrated into each of the general objectives of Horizon Europe.
R&I Missions will be an integral part of the Horizon Europe framework programme beginning in 2021. The European 5 missions’ areas will focus on ambitious, time-bound and achievable goals to deliver on common European goods (Figure 5). They aim at achieving by 2030 3 million lives saved from cancer diseases, 100 climate neutral cities, healthy oceans, seas and internal waters, healthy soils and food, and regions resilient to climate changes.
Addressing the big challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change, the increasing loss of biodiversity and environmental quality, demographic changes, shaping the industrial and digital transitions as well as ensuring the long-term sustainability of the European quality of life requires a new ambition for European science.
It is assumed that only at the level of the EU, with its long experience of operating within a multilevel governance system, can the scale and diversity of talent and ideas be found to make real progress against global challenges. A new way of working is also necessary, with scientific disciplines joining forces to bring holistic responses.
Lastly, training and career development helps produce leading researchers prepared to face global challenges. The EU offers support through Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions to early-career and experienced researchers through training or periods of placement in another country or in the private sector, providing them with opportunities to gain new knowledge and experience, allowing them to reach their full potential.
You may watch the following videos to learn more about Horizon Europe and the R&D Missions.
Horizon Europe – the next EU research and innovation programme (2021-2027)
Missions in Horizon Europe (Link) – Let’s fulfil our EU missions
– Mazzucato, Mariana (2019). Governing Missions in the European Union. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. DOI: 10.2777/014023. (Link).
In 2000, the Treaty of Lisbon strengthened European Union action in research and agreed to work towards a European Research Area (ERA) meant to be a unified research area open to the world and based on an internal market in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology can circulate freely (read more, here). Since 2009, achieving the ERA became an explicit Treaty objective.
In 2000 six priorities of the ERA were set:
Since 2000, significant progress has been made in achieving the ERA objectives. The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) resulted in the development of different European Research Infrastructures across all fields of science. The coordination and pooling of resources to jointly addressing common challenges through research programmes is a reality. Progress has also been made in removing geographical and cultural barriers to researchers’ mobility in Europe. Lastly, the Open Science initiatives have enhanced access to open, free of charge, re-usable scientific information.
However, according to the European Commission, more progress should be expected in key areas such as the EU research and development investment % of its Gross Domestic Product, a more even distribution of science quality or innovation activity within the Union, a better translation of R&I results into the economy or full gender equality in research and innovation.
In 2020, the European Commission issued a new Recommendation in which the European Research Area vision, priorities and objectives are set within a new context. This context includes deep societal, ecological and economic challenges, aggravated by the coronavirus crisis, and where delivering on Europe’s recovery is crucial, while the green and digital transitions (twin transition) are expected to become fundamental.
Thus, the EC proposes a partnership with Member States in order to achieve a new vision based on the following strategic objectives:
|Read more about the European Research Area!|
– European Commission (2020). A new ERA for Research and Innovation. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the committee of the regions. (Link)
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