The European Commission’s proposal for the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (Horizon Europe) shares broad similarities with Horizon 2020, but there are some significant differences that should be pointed out.
In addition to continuing its emphasis on strengthening European science and technology by supporting cutting-edge research, Horizon Europe will focus on mission-oriented research to address global challenges and will foster European industrial competitiveness through the European Innovation Council and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.
The Commission has proposed a budget of €100 billion for 2021-2027 for Horizon Europe and the Euratom Research and Training Programme. Having observed the trends in in the current Programme, as well as the macro-architecture of its successor, Horizon Europe is expected to be more competitive. Until now, higher education institutions have taken a high percentage of funding from Horizon 2020 and its predecessor programmes. However, Horizon Europe is likely to favour translational and applied research, meaning the funding share of the non-academic sector is expected to be higher than in the past.
This change signals a key message for the academic research community: the environment has fundamentally shifted and academic institutions will need to adapt to the future. While many will find this unpalatable, there is a great opportunity for the research community – one that will require a shift in focus and, more challenging, a change in engagement. Regarding the latter, this will mean more interaction with the non-academic community on understanding and seeking to solve the problems facing societies at large. It will also require an understanding and appreciation (from all sides) on the drivers and needs of specific groups (industry vs academic). We will need a new kind of “academic”, one that will not work solely within the confines of the academic community, rather act as the conduit for new knowledge generation. In this regard, an opportunity exists for academic researchers to be at the forefront of addressing global societal challenges and industrial competitiveness.
Another key message for the academic community is the Commission’s apparent focus on applied and translation research. This suggests a challenging environment ahead for the social sciences and humanities community. This is disappointing, particularly given the findings of the European Commission’s first report on the integration of such disciplines in Horizon 2020, which highlighted many shortcomings and issues. It is noteworthy that among the 2014 calls addressing Europe’s major societal challenges, the share of budget going to partners in social sciences and humanities was only 6%. Addressing complex societal challenges and missions will require this kind of expertise and the research and innovation chain, to use the Commission’s language, will benefit as well.
If Horizon Europe is to be truly transformative, it must involve all disciplines. It must also be seen by the academic community as an opportunity to embrace a rapidly-changing landscape and take the lead in shaping a better future.
All views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of EUA.
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