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Canada to sign off Horizon Europe association

 Image: European Union

Deal gives Canada access to EU research and innovation programme’s collaborative second pillar

Canada is making its association to the EU’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme official by signing off on the deal, having informally agreed it in November last year.

Association to EU R&I programmes gives countries access on almost equal terms with EU member states, in exchange for a budget contribution. It has traditionally been reserved for countries in the European region, or less-developed countries, however, and Horizon Europe is the first EU R&I programme that has opened association to developed nations around the world.

Canada is associating to only the second pillar of the programme, which funds collaborative research focused on societal challenges and industrial competitiveness. This pillar has an allocation of €52.4 billion from of the total 2021-27 Horizon Europe budget of €93.5bn.

“Canadian entities will now be able to join and lead research consortia with some of the world’s best research organisations to tackle global challenges together. They will have the opportunity to be funded directly by the programme, while Canada will contribute to its budget,” the European Commission said on 3 July when it announced the signing.

A transitional agreement had been in place enabling Canadian researchers to apply to and be evaluated for funding from the programme from 2024.

Going global

In associating to the second pillar, Canada is following in the footsteps of New Zealand, which was the first developed country outside the European region to associate to an EU R&I programme.

South Korea agreed to associate to the pillar earlier this year but has yet to formally sign off on the deal. Informal talks are underway with Japan and Singapore, which would both also associate to pillar two.

Research Professional News exclusively reported last month that Australia had broken off talks on its potential association to the programme.

By contrast, formal negotiations are underway with Switzerland for its association across the whole programme, akin to that agreed with the UK.

The Canada deal will be signed by EU R&I commissioner Iliana Ivanova, who is currently visiting the country, and by its science and innovation minister, François-Philippe Champagne. It was scheduled to take place in a ceremony followed by a press conference at 5pm CEST.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau (pictured) issued a joint statement welcoming the signing.

“By combining the strengths of our research communities, we can accomplish greater scientific breakthroughs and technological progress, and become better equipped to meet today’s global challenges and succeed in the green and digital transitions,” they said.

“Canada’s association to Horizon Europe will allow us to build on our R&I cooperation in crucial areas such as oceans, health, raw materials, energy and bioeconomy, as well as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and digital infrastructure.”

Sectoral welcome

When the informal agreement was announced last year, European R&I leaders welcomed the news.

“Canada becoming an associated country is excellent and I think it is highly significant as many researchers in Europe closely collaborate with colleagues across the Atlantic. A huge win-win for both sides,” Mattias Björnmalm, secretary general of the Cesaer group of European science and technology universities, said at that time.

“Horizon Europe has many features that makes it an excellent platform for international research cooperation and having Canada in there is good for everybody,” said Thomas Jørgensen, director of policy coordination and foresight at the European University Association.

In announcing the latest news on social media, the EU R&I commissioner Iliana Ivanova shared quotes from researchers in Canada welcoming the signing.

“Horizon Europe association is a transformative opportunity for my research,” said Hector De la Hoz Siegler, who is studying algae at the University of Calgary.

“Being eligible for funding will enable us to contribute more substantially to cutting-edge R&I, facilitating profound and impactful collaborations.”

Update 3/7 – This article was updated with more information from the Commission and the quotes from the joint statement