Horizon Europe: The new framework programme for research and innovation must be closely connected to a strong cohesion policy  

Christophe Clergau

​The rapporteur, Christophe Clergeau, calls for the level of scientific excellence to be improved in Europe as a whole and not in just a few large regions and cities.

With an opinion drawn up by Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), Member of the Pays-de-la-Loire Regional Council, the European Committee of the Regions reiterates its call for a comprehensive approach to the Union’s financial effort for research, training and innovation and warns of the consequences of the fall in cohesion policy budgets, which is in danger of increasing disparities between European regions. The opinion , which was adopted unanimously at the plenary session on 9 October, underlines the need to formally recognise the role of regional ecosystems and innovation hubs and strengthen links with smart specialisation.

In the context of the next long-term EU budget (2021-2027), the European Commission proposes EUR 100 billion for research and innovation through the new Horizon Europe Framework Programme. The European Committee of the Regions — Europe's assembly of local and regional elected representatives — welcomes this budget increase but is concerned at the risk of inequalities growing between cities and regions that benefit hugely from the framework programme for research and innovation, and the others, who will suffer the consequences of the fall in cohesion policy budgets.

The rapporteur, Christophe Clergeau, is disappointed that “the steps taken to close the gaps between regions and to promote access for all to Horizon Europe are insufficient to improve the level of scientific excellence in Europe as a whole and not just in a few large regions and cities."

Dan Nica (RO/S&D), the European Parliament rapporteur, addressed the plenary session and stressed that his report shares the concerns of regions and cities. “Referring to the lessons learned from Horizon 2020, we firmly believe that Horizon Europe should be simpler, clearer and more accessible and that the initiative should facilitate fair, transparent participation. For the EU to maximise its potential in R&I, it must distribute excellence more equally across the EU as a whole and close the research and innovation gap between Member States and between regions."

To this end, cities and regions are asking to be fully involved in the planning and implementation of research and innovation policies as stakeholders in the strategic planning of the future European Innovation Council forum.

Moreover, the European Committee of the Regions is disappointed to note the lack of recognition of the territorial roots of scientific excellence and the contribution made by regional ecosystems and innovation hubs that bring together public and private actors from quadruple-helix networks (academia, industry, public policy-makers, civil society), structured at regional and local level. These actors coordinate R&I activities and speed up the dissemination among themselves of the results, knowledge transfer, innovation and the development of new economic activities and services. Although support for "European innovation ecosystems” is envisaged, the amount is conditional and, the Committee believes, too low.

For cities and regions, it is particularly important to strengthen ties with smart specialisation strategies and develop synergies with other EU programmes and with national and regional programmes. According to the rapporteur, Mr Clergeau, “these synergies should be built in a way which makes it possible to share the choice of major objectives, to combine and rationalise resources, to ensure a clear division of roles, to design, finance and pilot projects together and to recognise the role of local collective initiatives.”

In this sense, cities and regions strongly oppose the fact that the option of transferring a share of cohesion policy funds to the Horizon Europe programme is systematically decided by the Member States and not by the managing authority concerned, which is often a region.

The opinion also stresses that any additional funding should be deployed according to the same rules of application. It fully supports the new European partnerships and co-financed actions, which can “become the main funding tools for trans-regional cooperation and programmes run by consortia of regional ecosystem and innovation hubs (a process to connect territories)”.

Contact:

Lauri Ouvinen

Tel. +32 22822063

lauri.ouvinen@cor.europa.eu