Andrea Ricci (ISINNOVA), Head of the Expert Group leading the Italian mid-term evaluation of the Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Framework Programme, recently showcased the final assessment report at the European Parliament in Brussels.

The “Towards The Mid-Term Evaluation Of Horizon Europe” report was subject to a twofold presentation. Initially introduced and detailed on November 14th at the Agency for the Promotion of European Research’s (APRE) 2023 Annual Conference in Rome, the assessment report landed on December 5th at the EU Parliament where a delegation from APRE, together with Andrea Ricci, Senior Researcher at ISINNOVA and Chairman of the APRE Evaluation Group of Experts, delivered a presentation of Horizon Europe’s mid-term assessment.

According to Ricci, the report marks the midpoint in Horizon Europe’s ongoing journey. For more information about APRE’s Annual Conference, please click here. Below is a video featuring an interview with Andrea Ricci, which took place immediately after the Annual Conference (the interview is in Italian).

Presenting the Report to the EU Parliament European Convey

A range of pressing topics were addressed during the EU Parliament European Convey sessions which hosted the report’s presentation. Among these were the need to enhance synergies and coherence between various programs and instruments, reduce disparities among EU countries, introduce a 10% reserve fund, adopt methodologies to evaluate the impact of EU projects, and improve the participation of SMEs in EU funding programs.

“The final mid-term report of Horizon Europe was developed using a participatory process,” Andrea Ricci stated.

He emphasized how this approach was crucial to ensure the document reflected the Italian scientific community on the whole. Insights were collected through participatory research methods like surveys and interviews.

“We have identified three main areas”, Ricci further elaborated, “The first domain relates to the strategic aspect of the funding program, the second one focuses on the tools, and the third area addresses operational improvements for the instruments defining Horizon Europe. Following this scheme, the expert team formulated 52 proposals for enhancement, which have been classified in 12 main priority actions.”

“Our job is not over,” Ricci observed, “There is room for further analysis that could benefit the whole Italian research and innovation community, as well as the European Institutions. In 2024, the Group of Experts will engage in future-oriented thinking, looking ahead at the development of FP10, the next framework program.”

Watch the European conference in the video below, made available through APRE’s media channels.

Horizon Europe’s 12 key priorities

Take a look at the 12 priority actions identified in the final report on Horizon Europe’s mid-term evaluation generated by APRE’s Expert Group.

1. Streamline the European research landscape, simplifying its architecture, avoiding redundancies, promoting and further strengthening synergies and coherence between instruments and programmes (not only HE) to enhance the impact of European R&I on strategic priority objectives (green and digital transition, AI, health).

2. Contribute more fully to reducing internal EU disparities in R&I by placing the actions of the ‘Widening participation and spreading excellence’ component on a regional rather than national basis, thus moving from the concept of ‘Widening countries’ to ‘Widening regions’.

3. Use systematic foresight in identifying priorities through backcasting, also to further strengthen the coherence between EU strategic orientations and FP priorities and, at the same time, to increase the involvement in programming of civil society in all its components.

4. Introduce in the FP budget breakdown a reserve fund of 10% of the total annual amount of the Programme, for the funding of research and innovation priorities that emerged after the initial programming phase and are linked to sudden crises and emergencies (geopolitical, health, environmental), also in order to avoid inappropriate budget cuts in the various areas.

5. Complement the ERC and MSCA instruments in Pillar I with the provision of more collaborative research opportunities on low TRL (1-4) in Pillar II, also based on bottom-up proposals.

6. Adopt a methodology for ex-ante and ex-post impact assessment that allows – with metrics that reflect the specificities of the themes – for assessing the economic, social and environmental effects of projects and programmes over their entire life cycle.

7. Present the founding principles of the Missions more clearly, with a single narrative that reaffirms their prevailing R&I dimension and ensures their function of guiding and connecting different European and national actions/instruments on the strategic objective of the Mission itself.

8. Ensure the forward-looking and strategic character of the partnerships, also to guarantee their greater openness and inclusiveness, through a stronger role for the Commission and a rationalisation of their number.

9. Revise the design of the EIC Work Programmes to ensure adequate coverage of “all types of innovation”, in line with legislative texts, and reaffirm the role of the EIC as a driving force vis-à-vis private investors, so as to enhance its capacity to intervene in situations of market failure.

10. Improve the composition of the evaluation panels to ensure their specific skills and interdisciplinarity and promote greater integration and collaboration between officials from the Directorates-General and Agencies in the selection of evaluators and the ex-ante and ex-post evaluation of projects.

11. Generalise, taking into account the programme features, the lump sum financing method to promote a project culture focused on results (the ‘Deliverables’) and no longer predominantly on process.

12. Improve the participation of innovative SMEs, strengthening accompanying and support measures, and facilitating their involvement in collaborative research and partnerships, with an explicit focus on industrial application and market innovations.