EU's biggest research programme yet takes shape

The European Union's three governing institutions - the Parliament, Council and Commission - reached agreement in the small hours of 20 March on the outline of the EU's next seven-year research-funding programme. But the institutions are yet to settle on a budget for the scheme - called Horizon Europe and due to launch in 2021 - which has been proposed at around €100bn and is expected to be the largest EU research programme yet.

“Europe wants to go big on research,” says European Parliamentarian Christian Ehler, who is one of the rapporteurs for Horizon Europe.

The agreement marks the end of a series of tough negotiations between the three EU bodies, which began in January to resolve sticking points in the Commission's original proposal that was published last June. The framework's structure must please both Parliament and the EU's individual Member States. The agreement's details show that at least half of Horizon Europe's money will be spent on collaborative programmes, in which academic scientists, research institutes and industry work together. These will include heavily financed 'mission' programmes that target specific societal problems, akin to the billion-euro flagship schemes in the current EU research programme, Horizon 2020, that focus on the brain, graphene, and quantum technologies. The topics of Horizon Europe's missions are yet to be decided. Most of the rest of the money will go to familiar, prestigious programmes for discovery science such as the European Research Council and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie programme, which trains young scientists and promotes mobility, and to programmes to support innovation. The European Commission had proposed a budget of €94.1bn, a 22% increase on Horizon 2020's funds, but the Parliament has called for €120bn.

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