What can we except from the new Framework Programme?
According to the leaked draft paper on FP9 and the communications of European Commission officials, the new Framework Programme will be “an evolution, rather than a revolution”. The paper explains, that “the vast majority of the parts and features of Horizon 2020 will be continued, albeit with several optimisations and minor redesigns”. But what kind of changes can we except in the next couple of years? Here is what the paper outlines.
European Commission officials are pitching Horizon Europe as the name for the next research programme. This choice also reflects on the Commission's decision to design the new framework programme as an evolution of Horizon 2020, with the name of Horizon Europe clearly representing a continuity.
Branding and communication is expected to be more emphasised, with more focus on “promot[ing] the fact that the results were obtained with the support of Union funding” through “a targeted use of social media” the draft says. This shift of focus also include more emphasis on open access, as more funding would be put aside for “open access to research results and data, availability to publications, knowledge repositories and other data sources.”
Turning towards a more integrated approach
According to Jean-Eric Paquet, the newly appointed EU Director General for Research and Innovation, a more integrated approach is needed between different policy areas such as regional development, energy, transport and digital technologies to ensure better links between science and policy. In practice it would result in interdepartmental “teams” that can cut across the different sectoral areas of the current Framework.
Redesigned Pillar structure
It is likely that the familiar three-pillar structure of Horizon 2020 (excellent science, industrial leadership and societal challenges) will remain with us in the next framework programme as well, although with not insignificant modifications.
Pillar one is expected to continue to cover the field of excellent science, including the European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and research infrastructures.
Pillar two is more likely to undergo significant modifications, which is reflected in changing the title of the pillar to global challenges. Elements from ‘societal challenges’ and ‘leadership in enabling industrial technologies’ sections are planned to be mixed in this pillar. Moreover, the seven existing societal challenges in Horizon 2020 are to be “rationalised” into five broad topics, namely: health, resilience and security, digital and industry, climate, energy and mobility, and food and natural resources.
Pillar three will put an emphasis on innovative enterprises. The new European Innovation Council will act as its core, which is described as a “streamlined and simple portfolio of support actions dedicated to the emergence and scaling-up of innovative enterprises”. The main reason for creating the new council is that the current programme “does not support enough SMEs that develop breakthrough innovation”.
The draft paper proposes the simplification of research partnerships and aims to create a “clear, easy to communicate architecture under the umbrella term ‘European Partnership Initiatives’”, resulting in sorting out labels like PPP or P2P.
The document puts more emphasis on a portion of the programme called “spreading excellence”. Favoring poorer countries, the paper proposes to “extend” competitions such as teaming, twinning and ERA Chairs, which are designed to those countries to catch up.
The Commission is willing to widen the scope of international participation in the framework programme with attracting rich, foreign countries to participate, because interest in EU research in those countries has fallen dramatically, with the level of third-country participation has nearly halved in Horizon 2020 compared to FP7.
“The programme will extend association to include all countries with excellent R&I capacities and no longer confined to a particular part of the world,” the document says. Possibilities to provide EU funding to non-associated countries will increase, “but only if they are essential for the success of the action, or if the results can be exploited also in the EU.”
Reforming the types of missions
The document distinguishes two types of missions: accelerator and transformer missions.
Accelerator missions “would speed up progress towards a set technical and societal solution”, while transformer missions “focus on transforming an entire social or industrial system within an established timeframe”.
Chances in the future
Numerous reports and studies proved the popularity of Horizon 2020, and the same can be expected from Horizon Europe as well. But as demands for EU research grants grows, average success rates fall with it, as it is accurately reflected in the 12.6% success rate of Horizon 2020.
To counter this trend, a significant budget increase would be required for the new framework programme. At present it is not obvious to tell the most likely scenario regarding the allocated budget for the new framework programme, as the Commission's proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework is expected to be announced in June.
The Commission is also expected to deliver the final version of the paper on the new framework programme in June. Although the final version may be very different, the current one certainly outlines the issues surrounding the new framework programme.