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Drafting of the strategic plan of Horizon Europe for the period of 2025-2027 is already starting, and together we must make sure that Horizon Europe delivers real impact, while keeping up with the environmental, geopolitical, technological, social and economic developments that have accelerated or changed course since the adoption of the current strategic plan.

A major recent tragic development is evidently Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has put the notion of the EU’s open strategic autonomy even more in the spotlight. In the current plan for Horizon Europe, strategic autonomy has a lot to do with the EU’s industrial leadership and technological sovereignty. Even if we agree that this is very important, we strongly believe that the core of Europe’s long-term open strategic autonomy is research excellence, collaboration, world-class innovation ecosystems and competitive education and training systems. Let’s make sure that the next Horizon Europe strategic plan is very clear on that. Horizon Europe should also support strong interaction between the European Research Area (ERA) and the European Education Area (EEA). We need more systematic coordination of education and research strategies, policies and investments to empower Europe’s citizens and underpin knowledge as a basis for democratic, resilient and inclusive societies.

We are convinced that Europe more than ever needs strong, international partnerships with like-minded actors working for solutions to shared global challenges. This is how we build our resilience and ability to tackle unforeseen crises in the future. A strategic priority for Horizon Europe in the coming years must be for international collaboration to become an even more integrated part of the programme. We also have to make sure that political negotiation challenges will not stand in the way of extremely valuable long-term R&I collaboration with trusted partners such as Switzerland or the UK.

For CSC it is evident that the fast development of emerging technologies, such as AI and quantum, will be key for Europe’s future technological competitiveness. By developing a comprehensive and sustainable ecosystem of interoperable, federated digital research infrastructures, where high-performance computing, cloud, quantum, artificial intelligence, data management and network connectivity work in convergence, Europe will create opportunities for growth and jobs through research, competence development and innovation. Horizon Europe needs to recognize that a world-class European Research Infrastructure landscape is a strategic asset, which require sustainable funding models and scalability according to the needs of research and society.

In the next Horizon Europe strategic plan, we would also like to see more convergence between the two successful initiatives European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) and the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU). We have to make sure that these digital, cross-disciplinary infrastructures work jointly towards advancing sustainable growth and that ambitious, large-scale research missions are supported by the large-scale research infrastructures that they are in need of.

Finally, Horizon Europe must take clear responsibility of the climate impact of research itself. Next-generation tools which are instrumental to advance climate research and green innovation, are often e-infrastructures with high energy consumption. Therefore, they must pay attention to their own carbon footprint and take decisive action to make it is as small as possible. When evaluating the footprint, all factors and indicators must be taken into account: the whole lifecycle of any large RI construction, purpose of use, total cost of ownership, energy efficiency, possibility to waste heat utilisation and supply of renewable energy sources. These factors make a huge and direct impact on the environmental burden, energy security and cost for whole Europe. We were very happy to see Open Science being recognised as the modus operandi in the current Horizon Europe strategic plan. Now it is time to make comprehensive climate criteria and full climate impact assessment a similarly integral part of Horizon Europe.

Kimmo Koski
Kimmo Koski is Managing Director at CSC

Marie Sandberg
The author works as a Senior Policy Specialist at CSC