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Beyond the horizon in Europe 

The EU’s ninth framework programme, Horizon Europe, runs 2021–2027. It will soon be time for a mid-term review, and discussions regarding the tenth framework programme are already under way.

There have been framework programmes for research (and innovation) within the EU system since 1984, and they have become an increasingly important source of research funding. The current programme encompasses EUR 95 billion over seven years. And while Europe is certainly a big place, that is a lot of money.

The three pillars of the programme are Excellent Science, Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness (e.g. health and climate), and Innovative Europe. As representatives of the universities, we have many access points into the various pillars, based on research issues, partnerships and forms of funding.

This was very clear during a two-day stay in Brussels.  KTH, Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University jointly make up the University Alliance Stockholm Trio, part of which includes having a shared office in Brussels. The trio also has a research funding collaboration. Taken together, the presence in Brussels and the research funding can be important resources for increasing success within the framework programme. Together, we already have just under 40 per cent of all the funding coming into Sweden via the programme, but of course there’s always scope for more.

During the visit to Brussels, we met people at the Commission and the many organisations that work in lobbying and monitoring, and we attended the Science Business conference. It was very clear that the research profiles represented by the Stockholm Trio were of great interest in Brussels. Sustainable development was discussed at every meeting (!), linked for example to digitalization, health, climate and other areas. What we are doing at KTH and within the Stockholm Trio is of genuine relevance also to the European political system.

One of the key points for the future is to increase the proportion of funding awarded via the European Research Council (part of the Excellent Science pillar), so as to expand the scope of excellent research.

Another is to continue efforts to include non-EU countries in the programme, such as Canada, New Zealand and South Korea. This is a clear signal that research is, by nature, global. The parts of the programme that focus on special societal challenges should have a distinct element of scientific research to ensure that it is possible to find solutions to the major issues.