The COVID-19 pandemic had clearly demonstrated the need for the European Union and its Member States to invest more in research and development. As Rapporteurs for Horizon Europe – Europe’s research and development programme – we strongly urge the Council and its Member States to ensure that the new research programme is duly financed with EUR 120bn, as requested by the European Parliament. Horizon Europe’s focus on research and innovation, addressing also SMEs in a variety of sectors, makes it a key instrument for containing the pandemic and boosting the economical relaunch of Europe.
‘’The lack of budget for Horizon Europe will inevitably lead to the cannibalization of one of Europe’s priorities. We will have to decide between fighting the corona virus, ensuring economy growth, boosting digitalization or reducing CO2 emissions.’’ – said MEP Christian Ehler – Rapporteur for Horizon Europe Specific Programme and EPP Coordinator in ITRE. “Let us learn from this tragedy, that investment in R&I, is not simply a tool to increasing competitiveness but, especially in the health and digital sectors, it is primarily also an issue of saving lives and guaranteeing livelihoods.”
“Europe will never be safe without substantial financing for its applied research and without adequate financing and coordination on the health dimension. The answer to fight COVID-19 is research and innovation. The answer to potential future pandemic is research, innovation and new technologies. Let’s keep in mind that even EUR 10bn less for Horizon Europe would result in loss of 900 patents representing 250 inventions, loss of 80 trademarks, 7.000 prototypes, 12.000 testing activates and 500 clinical trials” – said MEP Dan Nica – Rapporteur for Horizon Europe Regulation and S&D coordinator in ITRE.
Fighting the COVID-19
Several experts believe that the COVID-19 is here to stay. This means that Europe needs to step up and keep its research and innovation efforts for the next years, in order to ensure the pandemic is effectively contained. Europe now relies on R&I to find the best treatment for those touched by the coronavirus and to develop a vaccine to prevent its spread. This is the surest way to avoid further outbreaks.
But this will not be achieved in a few weeks. Experience has shown us that it may take years of wide-spread vaccination to eradicate a disease. Yet, we have seen that Horizon 2020 provides the tools to achieve this and Horizon Europe will further reinforce these efforts.
Adaptation to a post-pandemic reality
After the current pandemic subsides, we need R&I to help us prevent and fight a future pandemic. We need to develop tools that are adapted to our globalized world, for example proving faster symptoms testing at airports or at our borders. This means investing in better monitoring, especially at transportation hubs, developing more efficient early warning systems and finding faster and more effective ways to contain future outbreaks. To achieve all this, we will need to heavily invest in better collecting, processing and sharing of data. Horizon Europe is expected to dedicate some EUR 15bn to its digital cluster, which will be crucial to make this a reality.
R&I in aid of economic and social recovery
Thanks to our researchers, the medical staff and all the brave people working for this cause, Europe will surmount this pandemic. Our economy, however, will be worse for wear after so many weeks of restrictions, business paralysis and social distancing. Innovation will be essential to lift up our companies and save our jobs. Support will also be needed to increase EU production of key products such as medicines, pharmaceutical ingredients, medical devices, equipment and materials.