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Changes arise for industry and non-EU roles in FP9

The EU’s next R&D funding programme might provide more diffuse support for industry and be more open to non-EU countries, a document apparently leaked from the European Commission suggests.

The document, which appears to be a draft Commission impact assessment for the EU’s R&D Framework programme, was published by the news website Politico this week. Research Europe has not been able to verify its origin. If it is genuine, the Commission is considering proposing that Framework 9, which is set to run from 2021 to 2027, would have no dedicated industry pillar and would allocate funding more freely to non-EU countries.

The document says that the three-pillar structure of Horizon 2020 should be kept in Framework 9 but be redesigned to better address three main needs. These are: an increase in knowledge creation, more adoption of knowledge and innovations by industry, and a bigger role for research and innovation in policymaking. Framework 9’s pillars should all contribute to meeting these needs and should be better connected with each other, the document says.

Specifically, a frontier science pillar would house the European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and infrastructure instruments, and would put more emphasis on open science.

A global challenges pillar would combine Horizon 2020’s Societal Challenges pillar and its Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies instrument to cover five topics: health; resilience and security; digital and industry; climate, energy and mobility; and food and natural resources. It would also include the Joint Research Centre, which provides evidence for policymaking, and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, which supports knowledge exchange for innovation.

The third pillar, for open innovation, would include the European Innovation Council, which aims to support market-creating, entrepreneurial innovation.

“The whole programme will contribute to industrial competitiveness,” the document says. Integration of the Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies instrument into the global challenges pillar would increase the visibility of industry’s contribution to solving Europe’s major societal challenges, it adds.

Such proposals might not be welcomed by industry, however. Last month, the industry advocacy group Business Europe wrote an open letter to the research commissioner Carlos Moedas in response to a leaked document it said it had seen. The letter said that the loss of a dedicated industry pillar would be a “worst-case scenario” for businesses and would eliminate certainty around support for cross-border industry research.

The European Commission did not respond to a request for comment before this article was published.

The document also suggests that Framework 9 will be more open to participation by non-EU countries. Whereas Horizon 2020 provides funding to industrialised non-EU countries only in rare and exceptional circumstances, Framework 9 should allow “broad conditional use” of EU funds by these countries, it says.

“The programme will extend association to all countries with excellent research and innovation capacities and no longer [be] confined to a particular part of the world, to make cooperation and funding of joint projects as smooth as possible,” the document says. “Possibilities to provide EU funding to non-associated third-country participants will increase, but only if they are essential for the success of the action, or if their results can be exploited also in the EU.”

If adopted, this change would be greatly welcomed by the UK, which has been told by the EU that it will only be able to participate in the Framework programme as a third country after its transition out of the bloc at the end of 2020.

The Commission is due to present its proposal on Framework 9 at the end of May. MEPs and national governments will then debate the plans.