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R&D features in Belgian, Polish and Slovenian recovery plans

Countries’ draft plans join others targeting part of their Covid-19 funding to research and innovation

More EU member states have said they intend to use part of their share of the EU’s Covid-19 recovery fund to support R&D, with Belgium, Poland and Slovenia setting out such intentions in draft plans they have passed to the European Commission for scrutiny.

The Commission said on 1 May it had so far received plans from 13 EU countries detailing how each would spend its share of the €750 billion Next Generation EU fund, which is being shared out based on countries’ GDP and unemployment levels, among other factors.

Poland is allowed to request up to €23.9 billion in grants and €12.1bn in loans from the fund. Research, innovation and education are dotted throughout its draft plan as ways to achieve broader goals for investment and reform.

The draft aims to boost cooperation between Polish research institutes and industry, including through the Łukasiewicz network that links small companies and specialist institutes. It also seeks to strengthen academic and industry links to improve vocational education.

Innovation areas proposed for investment include robots, drones and agriculture. The draft also sets aside €150 million for a national system to encourage greater commercial use of satellite data.

Slovenia’s draft plan has research, development and innovation under a single focus area, and says funding and reforms will align with a long-awaited R&D law that will make structural changes to the country’s public funding system.

Slovenia can claim up to €3.2bn in loans and €2.1bn in grants. Its draft says funding for R&D—€132 million in grants—will be used for structural reforms and to co-finance individual R&D projects that serve wider EU goals, like environmental sustainability, digitalisation and researcher mobility. The fund will also be used to set up a national research institute on food.

Belgium’s draft plan for its €5.9bn allocation in grants has a particular focus on the development of energy technologies. It includes setting up an energy transition research platform and funding calls for hydrogen R&D.

Fellow EU member state governments and the Commission must now judge whether the plans meet overall and country-specific criteria, such as targets for spending on environmental sustainability and digitisation. The Commission said it will “continue to engage intensively” with those countries that have not yet sent in their draft plans.