Broadening Europe’s Research Horizons

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-05-02-2019, Volume 43, Issue 5

Horizon Europe gains parliamentary endorsement, bringing it closer to becoming a reality.

Editor's Note: This article was published in Pharmaceutical Technology Europe's May 2019 print issue.

In June 2018, the European Commission proposed a new future programme for European funding, Horizon Europe, with an increased budget on its predecessor programme, Horizon 2020 (1). Key objectives of this €100‑billion research and innovation programme have now been agreed upon by the European Council (2), news that has been applauded by many in the European pharmaceutical and health industries.

Six undersigned European health industry associations, including the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), noted in a joint statement, “We welcome the overall structure and ambition of Horizon Europe. Europe has been at the forefront of life‑science research, and a health mission is a palpable signal that it intends to keep on striving for excellence and impact” (3).

Evolution, not revolution

The purpose of Horizon Europe is to strengthen the European Union’s science and technology sectors and thus help the region maintain a robust position within research and innovation. If fully confirmed and approved, the programme will go live as soon as Horizon 2020 expires and will run through 2021 until the end of 2027.

Based on the mantra of ‘evolution, not revolution,’ Horizon Europe will build upon the successes of the Horizon 2020 programme, maintaining some key aspects and introducing a few new features. One of the main new features is the European Innovation Council (EIC), already running in a pilot phase, which is aimed at bridging research and market application by funding and helping innovative start-ups and companies.

“While only an idea a couple of years back, we’re now setting up a fully operational EIC based on the experience of the already successful pilot, which is funding promising innovators,” said Carlos Moedas, commissioner for research, science, and innovation in a statement (2). “The EIC will not only boost funding for innovation but also crucially help to create a whole innovation system linking early research and market application. The commission will also launch research missions with bold and ambitious goals to tackle issues that affect our daily lives.”


Brexit: The ‘elephant in the room’

Obviously, Brexit has been a major consideration for all those involved in Horizon Europe. So much so, in fact, that there was a workshop held in November 2018 to assess the impact of Brexit on the programme in more detail (4). 

One of the speakers during the workshop was Elizabeth Kuiper, executive director public affairs at EFPIA, who specifically focused on the potential impact of Brexit on European pharmaceutical R&D. In her presentation, Kuiper highlighted the fact that the United Kingdom makes up 10% of the European Union’s total pharmaceuticals production and contributes to approximately one-fifth of the region’s total R&D (4). She surmized that the level of contribution by the UK to global research means a preferred future scenario is one where the country can continue to access EU funding and participate in region-wide collaboration programmes for science, such as Horizon Europe.

Additionally, during the debate on ‘Establishing Horizon Europe,’ which took place in the European Parliament on 16 April 2019 (5), the minister for European Parliament for South East England, John Howarth stated, “Mr President, the ‘elephant in the room’ during many of the discussions on this Horizon programme has been, of course, the position of many UK institutions that contribute in such a major way to the predecessor programmes. It’s not the fault of the rapporteurs or the negotiators that the situation over Brexit is yet to be resolved, but it is at last now clear that even this UK Government will seek closely to associate whatever the outcome of Brexit with this programme.

“I’m glad to see, however, scientific excellence maintained as a key criterion for Horizon Europe funding,” he continued. “Excellence is not enhanced by throwing money around, it is enhanced by collaboration with excellence. The contribution of the UK’s world-class research community makes Horizon Europe a bigger, better, and more successful programme.”


1. European Commission, “EU Budget: Commission Proposes Most Ambitious Research and Innovation Programme Yet,”, Press Release, 7 June 2018.
2. European Commission, “Statement by Commissioner Moedas on the European Parliament’s Vote on Horizon Europe,”, Press Release, 17 April 2019.
3. EFPIA, “Health Industries Welcome Unprecedented Progress Leading to an Adoption of Horizon Europe, its Areas for Missions and Partnerships,”, Press Release, 17 April 2019.
4. European Parliament, “Brexit and Horizon Europe,”, Workshop Proceedings, January 2019.  
5. European Parliament, “Establishing Horizon Europe-Laying Down its Rules for Participation and Dissemination,”, Debate, 16 April 2019.

Article Details 

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 31, No. 5
May 2019
Page: 5


When referring to this article, please cite it as F. Thomas, “Broadening Europe’s Research Horizons,” Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 31 (5) 2019.