Europe is preparing to deploy the plan with which it intends to make a new leap in the scientific and technological fields. Brussels will launch Horizon Europe this semester, which with an endowment of 95,500 million euros is consolidated as the largest transnational research and innovation program in the world. With an endowment 30% higher than the plan that preceded it between 2014 and 2020, the European Union wants to underpin scientific research and technology transfer from the university to the company and launch a new package to promote innovation. For now, the European Commission has already approved this week the strategic plan that sets spending priorities.
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The launch of the Horizon Europe program, which will be piloted by the Bulgarian commissioner Mariya Gabriel , comes at a key moment for the community bloc. The EU is preparing to launch the post-pandemic reconstruction fund – dubbed Next Generation EU -, which aims to bring about a major transformation of the European economy through digitization and the fight against climate change. The heir to Horizon 2020 plan, which may begin to be fully implemented when countries ratify the approval of new taxes, can be a catalyst that favors this change
The EU maintains as the first pillar of the plan the programs to achieve scientific excellence , what Brussels calls the Nobel factory . This package revolves around three axes: the European Research Council (ERC, for its acronym in English) , which will have 16,000 million euros for the best projects presented by European researchers; the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, endowed with € 6.4 billion to give scientists new knowledge through mobility and training, and the funding of research infrastructures, for which € 2.4 billion will be earmarked. These contributions must be increased by other countries outside the EU – such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland or Norway – that also participate in the program.
The aid of this block of Horizon Europe, for which there is strong competition, is granted to researchers, and not to university centers. With this decision, Brussels wants to empower the scientist, giving him the opportunity to choose his team and those teams that he considers the best in order to carry out his work. The ERC has already opened a call to begin making more than 1,900 million euros available to a thousand researchers this year. Specifically, these are grants of up to 2.5 million euros for a period of five years
Promotion of competitiveness
The second major leg of Horizon Europe, with more than 50,000 million, is destined to save that valley that is still draws from the university to the company. According to the European Commission , the EU produces about 20% of all global research and development and a third of scientific publications. However, the amount allocated by its companies to R&D is equivalent to only 1.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), compared to 2% in the United States, 2.6% in Japan or 3.3% South Korea
The EU finances, in this case, cross-border partnerships made up of at least three entities from three different countries. Brussels covers 50% of the project that is presented, while the private sector assumes the other half. In any case, it is these associations that fix the financing agreements. The Union has established eight areas for research: health, culture and social inclusion, security, digital and space industry, climate and energy and agriculture and food.
Leap in innovation
Brussels is committed to a new pillar, aimed at innovation, which is It will only be reserved for EU partners due to its strategic nature. If the first, dedicated to science, is a kind of factory for Nobel prizes , this is called to be a factory for unicorns (companies valued at more than 1,000 million euros) . It is a question of the EU hitting a stretch especially in the creation of startups and a certain advance in the so-called deep tech , towards which countries like France have expressed a special interest by understanding areas such as artificial intelligence or technology for electric vehicles . Still, the EU wants to give researchers flexibility. "We expected flying cars and we found 140 characters", summarizes in Brussels on the complexity of the paths that technology will take.
These most innovative programs will be developed around three axes: the European Innovation Council (10 billion), European ecosystems (500 million) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (3 billion). The last of the three packages wants to undo one of the main knots that the EU runs into: access to talent. For this, the idea of the association or partnership is taken to the extreme, since the beneficiary company must use that money in order to be self-sufficient in a period of time. The EU already has success stories within these programs, such as that of the German energy company Skeleton Technologies , which has become one of the longed-for unicorns. The ecosystem program, on the other hand, does not go to startups, but to entities that build innovation environments and whose financing can be co-financed with cohesion funds.
The European Innovation Council, however, is called to be the great piece to promote to ideas that can have a commercial path or accelerate their arrival on the market. The agency will finance up to 2.5 million euros to the so-called series A startups , which have already raised one million euros. In addition, Brussels will be able to inject up to 15 million euros by acquiring shares in the company through a community fund, thus obtaining a stake of between 10% and 15% of the company. The EU does not set a time or economic horizon for exiting this company in order to give the company stability and time to attract private capital. The Commission has already carried out pilot tests and has found that 1 billion euros represented the arrival of another 5 billion to the beneficiary firms
The EU wants to give maximum flexibility to its researchers, but has emphasized the three main axes on which the community bloc is advancing: the health field and the fight against the pandemic, with 5.4 billion euros from the Next Generation EU recovery plan, the green economy and digitization. Likewise, it sets five major priority areas that it has called missions : climate change, cancer, oceans, smart cities and food. The idea, which was presented by the economist Mariana Mazzucato at a council of ministers in Helsinki in 2019, seeks to create a critical mass of research in the continent on these matters. The European research scheme closes with an amount of about 3,000 million destined to close the gap that still exists between the Eastern countries and the rest of the EU.
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