European Commission starts planning for €91.4 billion Horizon Europe implementation

The planning process for the implementation of Horizon Europe has begun, with a first meeting of the shadow programme committee, responsible for overseeing the preparation of the plan.

A preliminary outline of the plan, dated 8 May, was prepared by the Commission for consideration by EU member states, and will be subject to substantial revisions over the coming months; three revised public drafts will be released from June to October.

Amongst other aspects, the plan will define the research “missions” and partnerships in Horizon Europe, set goals for the programme, and clarify how Horizon Europe’s various parts will fit together in practice.

The Commission has proposed a budget of €94.1 billion, which the European Parliament would like to see increased to €120 billion. The final amount must be decided by national governments as part of a unanimous agreement on the EU’s next long-term financial plan.

Missions and partnerships

One of the core tasks in planning for the start of Horizon Europe will be agreeing how the new large-scale R&D programmes, or missions, are shaped. Before the 8 May document, the only indication of future partnerships was a list of eight very broadly-worded partnership areas, agreed by EU policymakers in March. The current preliminary plan includes new suggestions for 18 more specific topics for partnerships and provides the first ideas of where they might fit into Horizon Europe’s structure.

Only one of the 18 suggested partnership areas is explicitly marked as a replacement for an existing partnership funded under the current Horizon 2020 programme. The document proposes that the €3.7 billion Bio-Based Industries public-private partnership be replaced with a new partnership: Circular bio-based Europe: sustainable innovation for new local value from waste and biomass.

Planning for Horizon Europe will also involve drawing up future objectives for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), to take forward the work of its industry partnerships, the Knowledge and Innovation Communities, each of which is focused on a particular field, such as improving urban mobility and developing raw materials.

Shadow planning

The drafting process is steered by 31 experts appointed to the shadow programme committee.

The first public draft of the plan, due to be published in mid-June, will form the basis of the public consultation. This will include a conference in Brussels on 24-26 September, when the Commission will present a second consultation document and host workshops focusing on different industry sectors.

A third consultation document, to be published in October, will be open for comment from umbrella organisations and international actors with a stake in Horizon Europe.

After the new set of commissioners take office at the start of November, an official draft of the strategic plan must be approved by the programme committee before the Commission can adopt it. For Horizon Europe to begin on time, member states need to agree and formally adopt the EU budget, the Horizon Europe legislation, and the strategic plan – in that order – by the end of 2020.