Despite the cold spring in Brussels, Horizon Europe is finally starting – or is it? It seems that new challenges are always emerging in preparation as a continuation to the previous ones. While waiting for the beginning of the new period of the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, researchers and businesses should now, at the latest, familiarise themselves with the existing call texts and gather their troops in order to launch well-thought-out applications in due course.
A cold and stiff spring
Brussels has experienced the coldest, rainiest and slowest arrival of summer within living memory. With strict restrictions, coronavirus statistics have gradually become more tolerable throughout the country, and at the arrival of June, at least 50% of the population of just over 11 million have received a corona vaccine at least once.
Restaurants and cafés have been opened to a limited extent, but for the time being only in the open air. In the street view, this has meant that many new terraces appear even partly on the road. Work at the offices has been started with caution, initially in small groups during alternate weeks. Lunch outdoors has been exciting: Just as lunch has been ordered in the sunshine and the hungry mind is full of expectations, a rain shower, which quickly fills the water glasses, may have appeared from nowhere – unless the place has been able to offer shelter from the gusts of wind as well.
As echoing the spring weather, the launch of the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, has seemed equally cold and stiff. During the three years of preparation, there have been plenty of challenges from Brexit to Covid-19. At the last minute, we have also stopped to ponder about how open international cooperation outside Europe can ultimately be. This has focused on the most sensitive topics, such as quantum and space research and cyber security. In applying for a balance with sufficient transparency and the EU’s technological sovereignty and competitiveness, negotiations on the EU’s associated countries’ agreements have also been delayed and slowed down the start of Horizon Europe as a whole.
Optimism is in the air, and the whole programme is expected to start in mid-June. It will then be possible to participate in the joint development of the framework programme on EU's research and innovation days just before Midsummer. The Commission has also announced new dates for the remaining Horizon call information days: It is therefore a good idea to save the dates from 28 June to 9 July 2021 and familiarise yourself with the content of the info days.
Why is EU funding important for Finns right now?
It is now increasingly important for Finns to be involved in European research funding and the opportunities for cooperation arising from it. Finnish expertise has a great deal to offer for the challenges of implementing the digital green transition, and it is not worth losing the momentum at hand. It is also important to have international visibility for the research that EU funding will bring. The research, development and innovation expertise that we already have in our country is now needed to solve the cross-disciplinary challenges more extensively. And vice versa: The expertise that we may not have had yet, but which is now available, is also suitable as keys for domestic solutions.
Part of Horizon Europe’s overall funding is the so-called Next Generation EU funding for actions aiming at rapid results to cope with the pandemic through digital green solutions. Part of the same entity is also the recovery funding to accelerate the green and digital dual transition as well as to reform structures and infrastructures in Finland soon to be allocated through the Academy of Finland and Business Finland. The best way to emerge from the pandemic is when the funding distributed nationally and through the EU is complementary.
How to prepare for calls?
When preparing for funding calls, the old albeit somewhat boring advice applies: Read the call text in good time with thought and familiarise yourself with the evaluation criteria. Also consider what the funding is targeted for and what is intended to be achieved with the results. In addition, accept all assistance available either in your organisation or nationally.
The Academy of Finland employs about half of the national contact persons in Horizon Europe who also implement the Academy’s calls or other tasks. All actors related to Horizon Europe calls can be found through Business Finland in the EU's research and innovation services. The machinery is therefore ready and alert to share the latest information on what’s going on. From the Finnish Liaison Office for EU R&D in Brussels we help both background organisations as best we can in acquiring proactive information through peer networks.
Right now, it seems that the summer has finally arrived in Brussels. Welcome also to Horizon Europe!