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Only 14% of EU Covid fund R&I milestones hit so far

Image: Supamotionstock.com, via Shutterstock

Sluggishness means member states have received just 12 per cent of €48 billion for R&I

Member states have so far implemented only 14 per cent of the research and innovation milestones required to receive related sums from the EU’s Covid-19 recovery fund.

A report by the European Commission published on 5 June said that, of 613 agreed R&I-related reform and investment milestones, member states have met only 87 of them.

Consequently, member states have so far received only €5.98 billion (12.5 per cent) of the €48bn devoted to R&I in the fund.

The milestones are conditions for receiving payouts from the €648bn Recovery and Resilience Facility, which was created during the pandemic to help with the economic recovery.

Milestones for the RRF have been negotiated individually with member states, who are meant to reach them to receive a combination of grants and loans before the funding expires at the end of 2026.

They are intended to produce reforms expected to contribute to economic growth, bolstered by the extra investment.

Horizon Europe success rates

The report on the Commission’s R&I work in 2023 also set out data on the EU’s Horizon Europe R&I programme.

It said that the success rate for proposals had increased to 17.3 per cent compared with only 11 per cent under the 2014-20 programme—although a fact sheet published on the same day put the average success rate at 16 per cent because it included data from the European Innovation Council Accelerator scheme that was missing from the report.

Success rates varied for proposals to particular Horizon Europe instruments, with that for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions scheme for doctoral and postdoctoral training at 16.5 per cent and that for the European Research Council funder of basic research sitting at 14.2 per cent.

The success rates for the different thematic clusters within the second pillar of the programme, focused on societal challenges and industrial competitiveness, also varied widely. The cluster on civil security had a success rate of 14.5 per cent, while the one on agriculture and the environment had a rate of 26.2 per cent.

Commission officials and sector representatives alike have lamented that Horizon Europe, which has a 2021-27 budget of €93.5bn, has been able to fund only about a third of the high-quality proposals it receives; it would have needed an additional €54.4bn to close the gap over its first three years alone.