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Association to Horizon Europe ‘will be at pillar level’

Image: European Commission

Countries will not be able to pick and choose individual funding schemes, says R&D commissioner

Countries that associate to the EU’s next R&D programme will have to associate to entire programme ‘pillars’, rather than more granular funding schemes, the EU’s R&D commissioner Mariya Gabriel (pictured, left) has said.

Association of non-EU countries to the 2021-27 Horizon Europe programme “will be with respect to a whole pillar and not just little bits picked out”, Gabriel said in a press conference on 28 February, following a meeting at which EU research ministers discussed international cooperation.

Gabriel used the second pillar of the programme, covering global challenges and industrial competitiveness, as an example. She said countries will not be able to pick and choose from the pillar’s planned thematic clusters, which seek to encourage public-private collaboration in areas including health and energy.

Horizon Europe will have three main pillars, with the first covering excellent science and the third covering innovation. Regarding the third pillar’s European Innovation Council funder in particular, Gabriel stressed the need for association agreements to defend the EU’s values by maintaining principles such as reciprocity.

Precise rules for association are yet to be agreed by member states, with further talks due in the coming months. Agreements with specific countries will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis, Gabriel stressed.

Croatia’s science minister Blaženka Divjak (pictured right), who chaired the meeting as part of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU, praised the “open and fruitful” meeting but emphasised that ministers had only set out their initial views on association.

Facing a flurry of questions from Swiss journalists, Gabriel said that continuity of international cooperation would be “very important”, while Divjak emphasised that ministers “appreciated” a long tradition of collaboration with countries including Switzerland.

Speaking to Research Professional News before taking part in the meeting, Czech deputy prime minister Karel Havlíček, who has responsibility for R&D, said that “of course” countries like the UK should be allowed access to all parts of Horizon Europe.

He added: “UK activity in R&D and the university sector is so important for Europe that I cannot imagine the UK will not participate [in Horizon Europe]. In R&D we have to collaborate.”

This article was updated on 28 February with the comment from Karel Havlíček.