The European Commission’s new framework programme is set to look like an evolution of the current Horizon 2020 programme, rather than a revolution. In a leaked draft paper obtained by Science Business it is said that “the vast majority of the parts and features of Horizon 2020 will be continued, albeit with several optimisations and minor redesigns,”.
Arguably, a reflection of this continuation is the recent news on the new framework branding. In an attempt to build upon the successful Horizon 2020 name, European Commission officials are pitching “Horizon Europe” as a replacement name for “Framework Programme 9”.
It is hoped that a catchier name for the programme will help lodge EU research more firmly in to the public consciousness, in a bid to ensure that EU funded research gets the recognition it deserves. However, the continuation of the Horizon branding does not mean more of the same in all areas in the new framework.
A more integrated approach
Jean-Eric Paquet, the newly appointed EU Director General for Research and Innovation proposes a more integrated approach between different policy areas such as regional development, energy, transport and digital technologies to ensure better links between science and policy. In a recent press briefing he stated that “there is no magic formula” but for starters, he intends to develop interdepartmental “teams” that can cut across the different sectoral areas of the current Framework.
The more integrated approach between science and policy is in line with the political ambition that the Juncker Commission is aspiring to; it strives to find research topics that will connect directly with prime political issues in the European economy and society.
The Pillar structure
Under the new FP9/Horizon Europe structure, Pillar one would continue to house the European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and research infrastructures.
The most substantial change is proposed for the second pillar which would mix together elements from the current ‘societal challenges’ and ‘leadership in enabling industrial technologies’ sections. Under this pillar, the seven existing societal challenges in Horizon 2020 would now be “rationalised” into five broad topics, namely: health, resilience and security, digital and industry, climate, energy and mobility, and food and natural resources.
The pillar would also continue and possibly expand on the “missions” funding formula to apply science and technology to solving big problems. The concept may now be split into accelerator missions that “would speed up progress towards a set technical and societal solution” and transformer missions “focus on transforming an entire social or industrial system within an established timeframe”.
According to the latest leaked draft, the new configuration of the research areas “will better address EU policy priorities, including meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, and support industrial competitiveness”, provide “higher visibility for industry’s role in solving global challenges”, and offer “simplified partnerships”.
Central to pillar three is the new European Innovation Council which is described as a “streamlined and simple portfolio of support actions dedicated to the emergence and scaling-up of innovative enterprises”. The main reasoning for creating the new council is that the current programme “does not support enough SMEs that develop breakthrough innovation”.
Open access and substantial changes to international cooperation
The draft says that the next programme intends to “go beyond Horizon 2020” on open access, requiring immediate open access for publications and data – with “robust opt-ups” for the latter – and data management plans.
The document also outlines a change of the rules governing international participation, so that “all countries with excellent R&I capacities” can join or collaborate with the programme more easily. The new approach may benefit the UK, which wants to continue participating in future EU research programmes after it leaves the bloc next year. Access to EU research funding for foreign countries could go from being “rare and exceptional” to “broad and conditional” – a position also supported by Zabala.
Increased demand requires increased budget
Many studies that have documented the positive achievements of Horizon 2020, say that they expect the number of proposals for FP9 “to be larger.” As demand for the already popular programme grows even further, the average success rate may be pushed down even lower than the current 12.6 per cent.
To counter this trend, as Zabala outlined in its recent position paper and as also argued by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), a doubling in the new Framework budget could help achieve a higher success rate. A return to a success rate of between 15 to 20 per cent, the average range of success for researchers during 2007-2013, would be “ideal”, CNRS says.
There are currently 3 possible budget scenarios: a steady-state plan of about €80 billion and increases to €120 billion or €160 billion (H2020 is €77 billion). At this point it is not possible to say which option will prevail, however the Commission’s proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (i.e, the EU budget for 2021 – 2027), is likely to be announced on the 7th of June, according to the most recent indications. The final decision on the FP9 budget will be in the hands of the member states and the parliament. With EU parliamentary elections in Spring 2019 we hope the debate will close before end 2018, before MEPs go on recess in view of the upcoming EU elections.
Based on over 30 years of experience in the management of European Framework Programmes, ZABALA has shared its vision for an ideal FP9 will allow innovation to flourish. Our key recommendations to the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament can be found here.