Horizon Europe Regulation
Horizon Europe continues to take shape, with some initial milestones in the legislative process achieved before the end of last year: both the Council of the European Union and European Parliament have agreed positions on the Horizon Europe Regulation in principle (with some outstanding issues, including the budget and rules around association). This has paved the way for the so-called “trialogues”, where the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU (represented by the current Romanian EU Presidency) negotiate the final text. Trialogues have started this week and three further meetings are currently planned in February and March. The official meetings are complemented with more frequent technical meetings looking at different aspects in more detail.
The “Specific Programme”
The European Parliament has now voted on their position on the Horizon Europe Specific Programme (which looks in more detail at the implementation and intervention areas of the programme, including strategic planning, mission-oriented funding, funding for partnerships and the design of each of the pillars). However, it is likely that the Parliament will lose its direct say on this part, as the Council is still intent on changing the legal base, and thereby changing the file from a co-decision between Council and Parliament to a Council decision with Parliament consultation. The Council is still discussing the Specific Programme at regular Research Working Group meetings and we understand there are plans to achieve a (possibly more limited) Partial General Approach (PGA) at the Competitiveness Council on 19 February. Outstanding issues remain around strategic planning, how the mission-oriented funding will be implemented, the future of funding for partnerships (both public-public and public-private) and the design of the European Innovation Council.
European Parliament position
The European Parliament has voted on its position on both the Regulation and the Specific Programme. Both sets of proposed amendments have significant cross-over and focus on many of the same themes across multiple amendments. The main points of focus of the amendments are:
- Emphasising the role of the following:
- Scientific excellence
- Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement
- Citizen science, gender and disability
- Supporting the full range of research and innovation, from low to high Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) across the scheme
- Creating separate Society and Security clusters
- Increasing the overall budget to €120 billion (2018 prices)
- Providing more structure to the Missions proposal, with a number of requirements, checks and evaluations
- Encouraging synergy between the European Innovation Council (EIC), the European Institution of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and InvestEU
- Allowing restrictions on the schemes certain Associated Countries can participate in (particularly monobeneficiary schemes) based on the impact on European interests
- Requiring consortia to have a minimum of three participants from Member States and Associated Countries and a minimum of two participants from Member States.
- Continuing the 3-phase SME Instrument across all clusters
- Processing 15% of the total budget as fast track 6-month-to-grant awards
Compared to previous iterations of the Parliaments amendments, the approved version has significantly scaled back the increased focus on European Added Value and has softened the restrictions for Associated Countries.
Horizon Europe from a UK perspective
The UK has clearly stated that it would like the option to associate to Horizon Europe after Brexit. The current drafts provide for association of third countries under certain conditions. While still an EU Member State, the UK continues to be fully involved in the Horizon Europe legislative process, both within the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. The rules for association to Horizon Europe have not yet been agreed and are currently on hold until further notice. It is understood that there is an aim to harmonise rules for association where possible across EU programmes, which is reflected in the current draft texts across the different EU programmes, including Erasmus+ and other programmes.
If all goes to plan, trialogue meetings should end in early March, with a PGA on the Specific Programme also reached before then. This would mean that the European Parliament could vote on the final text in their last plenary sessions in March or April, before Parliament breaks up before the European Elections. If there is a delay, this would mean that work could not recommence until after the European elections, realistically not before autumn 2019 as the initial focus of the new Parliament would be on confirming the new college of European Commissioners, expected to be put forward by the EU Member States over the summer.