The main research program of the European Union, Horizon Europe, opens new avenues to strengthen digitization and rural technologies in the agri-food sector through international projects and funds beyond those already foreseen in the Common Agricultural Policy (PAC).
Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding program for research and innovation. It has a budget of 95.5 billion euros for 2021-2027 – the unprecedented multiannual budget for research – which represents an increase of 30% compared to the previous budgetary framework.
This amount includes 5.4 billion euros from the NextGenerationEU instrument, the historic stimulus package to help different sectors recover from the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
A total of 8.95 billion euros will finance projects in the fields of food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and the environment, which are among the priority areas included in the second pillar Horizon Europe which will address global challenges and European industrial competitiveness.
The projects of this second pillar will have an international vocation and will focus on national consortia of beneficiaries who will guarantee collaboration between researchers and organizations from different countries, according to sources from the European Commission.
Horizon Europe funds are not allocated to Member States. Instead, the national amount will depend on how countries participate in EU funded programs. For example, Spain has been particularly active recently, being the fourth EU country with the highest economic performance in the 2014-2020 budget.
According to the Governmental Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), under the previous EU research program called Horizon 2020, Spain received 4.76 billion euros (10.1% of the budget total research), behind Germany (16.4%), the United Kingdom (14%), and France (12.3%), based on figures up to 2019.
Also for CDTI, Spain received grants worth € 1.1 billion in 2019 alone, the highest amount Spain has drawn from the research framework program in a single year. .
Innovative solutions for sustainable agriculture
Horizon Europe is intended to generate knowledge and innovative solutions to accelerate a transition towards sustainable management of resources. This includes measures to stimulate environmental change and climate neutrality in agriculture and food systems, livestock, forestry and fisheries.
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is an independent body of the EU which manages part of EU research funds, like Horizon Europe.
Divided into eight communities, the EIT integrates companies, educational centers and research laboratories, representing a community for the agri-food value chain and the main food innovation initiative in Europe.
The EIT Food Center for Southern Europe is based in Biscay and its director, Begoña Pérez-Villarreal, told EFEagro that Horizon Europe means “a lot” and stressed that “the challenge lies in the capacity of the actors. food industry to create consortia and seize opportunities “.
The world of agribusiness entrepreneurship, she added, has seen “great improvement” over the past three years: “It’s an unstoppable race.
EIT Food helps companies to enroll in open innovation to promote their integration into the industrial fabric, she adds.
Pérez-Villarreal explained that EIT Food has worked as an accelerator for projects developing support plans for women entrepreneurs, SMEs and start-ups in agriculture, paying particular attention to technologies for using the ‘water.
The main focus of the initiative is business-to-business (B2B) operations, connecting new technology companies with traditional open-minded agribusiness companies.
According to Pérez-Villarreal, Horizon Europe opens another financial door for agriculture in a competitive environment, where the best technological ideas will get the grant if they are deemed to have a national or international impact.
“The agricultural sector is open but must open up even more [to work this way]», She concluded.
[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna/Zoran Radosavljevic]