EU regions want to play a bigger role in FP10 (2024)

The call comes as the European Commission admits the are persistent regional disparities in research and innovation performance

EU regions want to play a bigger role in FP10 (1)

Committee of Regions (CoR) building in Brussels, Belgium. Photo credits: European Union

EU regions want a bigger role in the design and implementation of the next framework research programme, FP10, with an opinion paper adopted last week by the Committee of Regions (CoR) saying the Horizon Europe successor should prioritise and support local innovation ecosystems.

The rapporteurAnne Besnier, vice president of the Centre-Val de Loire region, said FP10 should “fully acknowledging the key role of regions and cities in its strategic programming and implementation and the significance of regional and local innovation ecosystems,”

Regions say the support the European Commission currently gives to help poorer member states and regions lift their innovation performance is not sufficient. They recommend the Commission separates the Widening programme from a big cluster of calls focused on strengthening the European Research Area (ERA).

“[Horizon Europe] allocates a very limited part of its budget to a specific programme which seeks to increase participation in countries that are performing less well, and questions the relevance of connecting the two topics of ‘widening participation’ and ‘strengthening the ERA’ within the same programme,” the paper says.

Regional members insist FP10 should promote the participation of less advanced regions in research and innovartion. As it stands, “[the Widening] programme does not reflect reality when it comes to research excellence at regional level.”

In the Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU (SRIP) report published last week, the Commission notes “a clear innovation divide among European countries” between 2000 and 2022, with innovation leaders and strong innovators primarily located in northern and western Europe.

The same report notes that between 2014 and 2023, some European regions improved their research and innovation performance, while others were left further behind, creating a pattern of regional differences. “There is evidence of regional gaps in R&I collaborations, spending, and employment over the last decade,” the report says.

The Commission admits Horizon Europe funding is concentrated in richer regions and that this can contribute to further increasing disparities across the bloc. But EU funding can also help narrow the research and innovation divide, because low performers get more structural funding to support their R&I systems than top performers.

A bigger budget

Also, regions are calling for a much bigger and more stable budget to ensure the EU remains a global leader in innovation. The current budget of €95.5 billion “is inadequate to satisfy all eligible projects,” local and regional leaders said.

In addition, the paper reminds member states to honour their commitment to allocate 3% of their GDP to research and development by mobilising both public and private funds. Most member states have failed to reach that target despite making a series of non-binding commitments for the past 24 years.

“Getting to 3% would be good, but that is still too low,” Besnier told Science|Business. The economic and societal challenges facing the EU are too big and require even more R&D funding, she said.

However, there is increased hope the EU could finally make good on an older proposal to create a ‘fifth freedom’dedicated to research, innovation, knowledge and education. That, along withsetting clear R&I targets in the EU’s economic outlook – also known as the European Semester – would enable the Commission to get a tighter griponhow member states prioritise research and innovation.

Besnier says member states will need to be convinced of the value of R&D investment, because any coercive mechanisms might backfire. “Member states need to be convinced that R&D investmemts will improve their economies. Forcing them is complicated,” she said.

AI and regions

In the meeting last week, regions also discussed the role of regions in the development of artificial intelligence (AI), in a draft opinionby Emil Boc, Romania’s former prime minister who is now mayor of Cluj-Napoca, the country’s second largest city.

“By supporting interregional AI projects, creating local talent hubs, and developing AI sandboxes, we can transform cities and regions into leaders in AI technology,” said Boc.

The report calls for targeted regional funding for artificial intelligence research. This would “empower member states and regional players to lead in AI. In addition, the regions also want a CoR representative on the governing board of theEuropean High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking.

EU regions want to play a bigger role in FP10 (2024)
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