Views on the upcoming framework programme – Horizon Europe
On 7 June, the European Commission presented its proposal for a framework programme for research and innovation for the period 2021–2027, Horizon Europe. How this is designed will be very important to researchers in Sweden, and to the Swedish research and innovation system. Here you can read Sven Stafström’s comments on the proposals.
Last year, the Swedish Research Council submitted its recommendations for developing the EU’s current and upcoming framework programmes for research and innovation (read the recommendations). Many of the points we highlighted then still apply now, when we have seen a more detailed proposal for the upcoming framework programme.
On 20 June, we and other organisations presented our views on the European Commission's proposal at a consultation meeting arranged by the Ministry for Education and Research and the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation. In July, negotiations relating to the proposal will start, where the Government Offices will represent Sweden.
We think that it is positive that the structure with three pillars is retained from the current programme, as this has helped to clarify the goals for the various prioritisations. The partnership programmes, that is the research programmes funded jointly by the EU’s framework programme and national funding bodies, have been made simpler and clearer, which is also positive. But there are some points that we think should be raised in the negotiations on the framework programme, which will start in July:
- The funding instruments in the pillar “Excellent Research” – ERC, MSCA and research infrastructure – have indicated great European added value. Furthermore, the research funded within these initiatives is of crucial importance for the results within the other pillars. The budget must be strengthened in relation to the other pillars.
- It is important that the role of the ERC is reinforced. In the budget proposal, ERC funding constitutes around 17 per cent of the overall budget for Horizon Europe, which is the same as in the current framework programme. We think that this proportion should be raised to at least 20 per cent, considering the large number of excellent applications that are currently left without funding. Research funded by the ERC is also extremely relevant for solving the great societal challenges.
- Access to research infrastructure has become more important for research and innovation. Research infrastructure is also becoming more expensive to develop as it becomes increasingly advanced. For these reasons, this area needs a larger budget than that proposed by the European Commission. Such an increase would also be well justified, in view of the great European added value linked to the research collaborations and the development work that is conducted, in particular at the large research facilities. The Swedish Research Council has previously recommended that the framework programme shall assume responsibility, not just for the construction of research infrastructure, but also for its operation. The current proposal unfortunately moves in the opposite direction.
- The European Commission proposes that research funding shall focus increasingly on concrete results and societal effects, through a funding format called “missions”. This is an interesting proposal, and the Swedish Research Council would like to take part in developing it further. New ground-breaking knowledge, in many cases of a multi-disciplinary nature, is of central importance in this context, which should also impact on the design of this funding format.
The emphasis of our recommendations to the Swedish Government concern achieving a clearer integration of basic research – which creates the prerequisites for new, ground-breaking knowledge – in the whole framework programme. As a member of Science Europe, we and other research councils in Europe will together also influence the design of the upcoming framework programme in the direction indicated above.
The EU organises European research and innovation collaborations in the form of framework programmes. The current framework programme, Horizon 2020, is in force for the period 2014–2020. On 7 June 2018, the European Commission presented the proposal for the next framework programme for the period 2021–2027, Horizon Europe. The Swedish Research Council works with research issues related to the framework programme in many different ways, and supports the Government Offices in the Swedish engagement in the framework programmes.
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