Technology and innovation set for boost as EU neighbours sign up to Horizon Europe

Start-ups and researchers in several non-EU member states in emerging Europe will be able to tap Horizon Europe’s 95 billion euros budget under the same conditions as entities from within the EU.

Five countries in the Western Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia), together with Georgia, this week joined the European Union’s Horizon programme, the bloc’s research and innovation programme that tackles climate change, helps to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and boosts the EU’s competitiveness and growth.

Researchers, innovators and research entities from the Western Balkans and Georgia (as well as Moldova and Ukraine, which joined in October, and Armenia, which joined in November) will now be able to participate in the programme – whose 2021-72 budget tops 95 billion euros – under the same conditions as entities from EU member states.

Albania is also expected to join Horizon Europe in the coming weeks.

Membership allows researchers and innovators in participating countries to develop projects, technologies and conduct research that will contribute to tackling key global challenges. Their participation will also further reinforce their capacities and support the further integration of the Western Balkans, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine into the European Research Area.

“I welcome these countries to Horizon Europe,” said Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. “We can attract investment, develop human capital, support start-ups and create the necessary conditions for growth by working together.”

Success stories

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia were already fully associated to the previous EU research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. Western Balkans partners received 170 million euros in direct EU contributions, with approximately 1,000 organisations participating. Kosovo is a newcomer to the programme.

Multiple success stories arose, including ANTARES, a project developing smart sensors and big data technologies that could help farmers produces more food in a way that is sustainable for society, farm incomes and the environment; CROSSBOW, which proposes a shared use of resources to foster cross-border management of variable renewable energies and storage units; and ROCK, a project that aims to develop an innovative, collaborative and circular systemic approach for regeneration and adaptive reuse of historic city centres.

Armenia and Georgia had been associate members of Horizon 2020 since 2016, and they too have seen a number of successes, including E-FIX, a project which focuses on improving energy efficiency and financing sustainable energy projects in Central and South Eastern Europe, HYMADE, developing new ways of delivering drugs for people with cancer or inflammatory diseases, the Europe Enterprise Network (EEN) Armenia Horizon 2020, where EEN Armenia established services in Armenia to enhance the innovation capacity of SMEs with real potential for international growth, and the Black Sea Horizon project, a joint Georgian-Armenian initiative which aims to sustainably enhance bi-regional science, technology and innovation cooperation between the EU and the Black Sea region.

Besides becoming a member of Horizon Europe, Ukraine also in October joined the Euratom research and training programme, which aims to improve and support nuclear safety, including the safe and secure use of nuclear power and of non-power applications of ionising radiation.

Relations between the EU and Ukraine in the field of research and innovation date back to 2002 when a first agreement on cooperation in science and technology was signed.

Ukraine became fully associated with Horizon 2020 in 2015.

Several success stories have resulted from past cooperation, covering a variety of scientific areas such as: DIABOLO, developing harmonised information for forest ecosystems management, SENSKIN offering new maintenance techniques in transport infrastructure, RESPONSE to find eco-solutions to power the cities of the future, and EURAD, to handle radioactive waste management.

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