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Horizon Europe: Photonics and Optical Technologies

February 2021
Author: Moritz Förster
Company: VDMA Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau e.V.
Horizon Europe: Photonics and Optical Technologies

At the beginning of the year 2021, the ninth research framework program of the European Union started with the name Horizon Europe and a duration until the end of 2027. The European photonics industry and also the European leading association of mechanical engineering have been working for two years with considerable attempts to influence the future position of optical technologies on the EU level.

The strong lobbying by the association and renowned scientists from the circle of the technology platform "Photonics21" showed clear successes in the course of 2020. Thus, the general position of photonics has improved significantly: optical technologies have their own entry in the corresponding cluster in the current draft of Horizon Europe and there are sufficient research calls for the first years. Thus, the relevance of photonics and research projects has been increased compared to the first draft of Horizon Europe. Another important point is the continuation of the public-private partnership of the European photonics industry.

However, there is one factor that is not yet entirely satisfactory for all parties involved: as is currently the case in almost all areas of the European Union, the budget has not yet been finalized. Negotiations are suffering equally from Brexit and the Corona pandemic. This affects both the Photonics21 partnership and the entire Horizon Europe package.

A budget of €100 billion was originally set for the research framework program. Whether this sum can be realized at the start of the program ultimately remains questionable. The European technology platform was funded with a total of €700 million from 2014 to 2020. The European photonics industry called for a whopping increase in funding to a total of €1.4 billion for the period from 2021 to 2027. It is therefore not surprising that the developments in the budget negotiations to date - a funding volume of just €500 million is currently being discussed - are meeting with resistance. Especially with regard to funding sums in the billions for the partnerships in robotics, high-performance computing and microelectronics, the budget for photonics seems insufficient.

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