Informal video conference of research ministers, 26 February 2021

Met dank overgenomen van Raad van de Europese Unie (Raad) i, gepubliceerd op vrijdag 26 februari 2021, 17:00.

Main results

Research and innovation in the recovery and resilience plans: investments and reforms

Ministers held a policy debate on how the recovery and resilience facility (RRF) can contribute to the further development of the European research area (ERA).

Research and innovation spearhead efforts towards economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. They can not only spur economic activity but also accelerate the green and digital transitions and strengthen the resilience of our economy. The Recovery and Resilience Facility offers a unique opportunity to strengthen the European Research Area and to make it more impactful - and vice-versa.

Manuel Heitor, Portuguese Minister for Science and Technology and Higher Education

Ministers stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the importance of research and innovation in the fight against the current health and economic crisis, as well as its potential to prevent vulnerabilities in future crises. Moreover, it was widely acknowledged that research and innovation are crucial in achieving the green and digital transitions.

As the RRF offers a unique opportunity to strengthen the ERA and to make it more impactful, ministers broadly agreed that investments and reforms in research and innovation systems should be appropriately reflected in the national recovery and resilience plans that are currently under elaboration in the member states.

There was consensus that structural reforms and smart investments in the context of the national recovery and resilience plans should focus on research and innovation in the most promising areas, such as green hydrogen, high performance computing and quantum, artificial intelligence, space systems and innovation hubs. Several ministers pointed out that it is essential to speed up the entry into the market of innovative solutions.

Building on the strong assets of the ERA, namely pan-European infrastructures, human resources, transnational research cooperation and open science, the EU and its member states can greatly reinforce inclusion and boost economic prosperity through excellent science. In this respect, a number of ministers highlighted the need to modernise universities and research careers, underlining the importance of investing in human capital and the development of skills.

Many ministers stressed the importance of supporting innovative start-ups and SMEs by simplifying procedures to access funding. To maximise leveraging, synergies should be sought between national funding and the various European programmes, in particular Horizon Europe, as well as private sector investment, while avoiding duplications. Several ministers also mentioned the role played by partnerships in public-private cooperation and in cross-border projects. In this context, there were several calls for guidance and expertise from the Commission to achieve the degree of coordination required for the successful implementation of cross-border and multi-country projects.

The Portuguese presidency announced that the outcome of the debate will feed into the upcoming discussions of the Heads of State and Government at the EU spring summit on 25 and 26 March.

Any other business:

  • a) 
    State of the play in the Council regulation on establishing the European high performance computing joint undertaking

Ministers were informed by the Portuguese presidency of progress achieved so far in the examination of the proposed regulation within the Council’s preparatory bodies. The proposal is currently being discussed in the research working party.

  • b) 
    The ERA forum for transition and the pact for research and innovation in Europe

Ministers were briefed by the Commission on the activities of the ERA’s forum for transition, which was created in January. It was noted that the Commission intends to make by July 2021 a proposal for a pact for research and innovation, intended as the centrepiece of the future ERA governance framework.

  • c) 
    Proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and the Council on the participation of the Union in the European partnership on metrology jointly undertaken by several member states

The Commission presented (in public session) its proposal for a decision enabling the EU’s participation in the European partnership on metrology, which was tabled on 23 February.

  • d) 
    Proposal for a Council regulation establishing the Joint Undertakings under Horizon Europe

The Commission presented its proposal for a Council regulation establishing the Joint Undertakings under Horizon Europe, also known as the "Single Basic Act", tabled on 24 February.

  • e) 
    Information on the scientific opinion on biodegradability of plastics in the open environment

Ministers were informed by the Commission of the scientific opinion of the Commission’s group of chief scientific advisors on the biodegradability of plastics in the open environment. The opinion provides recommendations on the criteria to be used for maximising the environmental benefits of biodegradable plastics over conventional ones. According to the Commission, the group recommends a global reduction in the use of plastics.

  • f) 
    Horizon Europe partnership on pandemic preparedness

Ministers were informed by the Commission of the latest state of play in the preparation of a Commission proposal for a European research & innovation partnership for pandemic preparedness under Horizon Europe. The partnership, announced by the Commission in April 2020 as part of the actions established in the ERA vs. Corona Action plan, aims to enhance the potential of a coordinated European response to the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of research and innovation.

Meeting information

  • Meeting n°VC-COMP-260221
  • Video conference
  • 26 February 2021
  • 10:00

Preparatory documents

Outcome documents


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