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Closing Europe's innovation divide: Horizon Europe funding alone is not enough  
​​ While welcoming the expected increase in funding for Horizon Europe –framework programme for research and innovation in the EU's next long-term budget – the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) reaffirms in a fresh opinion that EU's cohesion policy must fulfil its role in supporting research infrastructure in all EU regions. Cities and regions also emphasize the importance of creating European networks of regional innovation ecosystems and hubs.

The opinion prepared by Eamon Dooley (IE/Renew Europe), member of Offaly County Council, outlines that research infrastructures are critical for regional development and competiveness, extending from scientific output to the impact on educational ecosystems, as well as for combating global challenges linked to climate and the environment.

However, the share of research funding by the government sector in the EU has stagnated at a little over 2%. There is also an imbalance at regional level: just 31 out of 281 NUTS 2 regions reported R&D investments above the EU target of 3.0% in 2015. There are clear research-intensive clusters located mainly in Northern and Western Europe whereas other regions are lagging behind, as the European Commission's Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2019 shows.

"There is the risk of growing inequalities between cities and regions that benefit from the increased Horizon Europe research and innovation funding, and the others, who will suffer the consequences of the likely fall in cohesion policy budgets. This particularly concerns the newer Member States which have been the main recipients of structural and investment funds, while most of the Horizon Europe funding is concentrated in regions that excel", rapporteur Dooley stresses.

Mr Dooley's opinion points out that specific funding models are required across the whole R&I lifecycle to address funding gaps where European, national or other funding sources are insufficient. This could include more creative use of funds from structural funds, Horizon Europe and loans from the European Investment Bank, as well as Erasmus, Digital Europe, COSME, the Connecting Europe Facility, LIFE and other instruments, potentially using a co-funding model with national research funds.

Even though the foundations for the European Research Area (ERA) were laid back in 2000, the opinion expresses concerns over various shortcomings in the ERA framework regarding research infrastructure that reduce its potential benefits and efficiencies.

"To address grand challenges such as climate change", Mr Dooley points out, "research infrastructures must be capable of integrating with those of neighbouring regions, thus creating greater knowledge-sharing and contributing to interdisciplinary research. R&I policy must be linked the development and implementation of smart specialisation strategies, as these are innovative approaches to boosting economic growth, job creation based on identified regional needs, linking and involving regions in R&I activities".

Mr Dooley's opinion on Research Infrastructures – the Future of the European Research Area (ERA) from a Regional and Cross-border Perspective is set to be adopted on 9 October at the CoR plenary session, which also features a debate with the current EU budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

Contact:

Lauri Ouvinen
Tel. +32 22822063
lauri.ouvinen@cor.europa.eu