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Launch of Horizon Europe work programme 2021-2022 and synergies with Erasmus+

In a long-awaited announcement by the sector, the European Commission adopted the main work programme of Horizon Europe for the period 2021-2022, shortly before the EU Research and Innovation Days on 23 and 24 June 2021. The work programme outlines the objectives and specific topic areas that will receive a total of EUR 14.7 billion in funding. Similar to the current Erasmus+ work programme (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, March 2021), the Horizon Europe work programme will focus on green and digital transitions, and on Europe’s recovery and resilience following the pandemic.

  • Nearly 40% of this budget - around EUR 8 billion in total - will be invested in research and innovation to support the European Green Deal and the Union's commitment to make the EU climate-neutral by 2050 (e.g. climate change research and solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changing climate).
  • The development of core digital technologies will be supported with around EUR 4 billion over 2021-2022.
  • Direct investments of around EUR9 billion will help repair the immediate economic and social damage brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dedicated actions are planned to support and strengthen cooperation through multilateral initiatives in areas such as biodiversity and climate protection, environmental observations, ocean research or global health. It also includes targeted actions with key non-EU partners, including the 'Africa Initiative'. Stronger research cooperation with Africa has lately been advocated for by 20 national rectors’ conferences, the signatories of the European-African Cooperation Statement, in cooperation with the European University Association.

While the full roll-out of the European Universities Initiative (EUI) is currently being prepared by the Commission, jointly with the national policy makers and key stakeholders under new Erasmus+, the Horizon Europe work programme for 2021-2022 offers some concrete opportunities for enhancing synergies with higher education via its European Excellences Initiative, implemented under “Widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area”. Pending the evaluation of the European Universities pilot alliances in 2021-2022, the European Excellence Initiative in 2021 will focus on capacity building for networks of higher education institutions and partners in the local ecosystem, with special focus on widening countries, with a view of preparing the networks towards the full roll-out of the EUI in the years to come.

The European Commission is organising the first edition of Horizon Europe Info Days in the period between 28 June and 9 July in order to inform potential applicants about specific themes and participation requirements of the new Horizon Europe work programme.