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The EU has adopted a new funding programme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, which will be in place form 2021-2027.

The programme has an overall budget of €95.5 billion which will be spent on ensuring the effective implementation of EU policy priorities, such as the digitalisation and green transition of the EU economy. 

The budget is divided into six clusters, with one, Cluster 6 specifically focused on “Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment”. It has a budget of €9 billion and will be hugely important for the sector in enabling the necessary research and scaling up of innovative practices to reach the EU Green Deal objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

There are 7 headings within the Cluster, under which the calls for proposals will fall:

  • Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services;
  • Fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food systems from primary production to consumption;
  • Circular economy and bioeconomy sectors;
  • Clean environment and Zero Pollution;
  • Land, ocean, and water for climate action;
  • Resilient, inclusive, healthy, and green rural, coastal and urban communities;
  • Innovative governance, environment observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal.

The first calls for funding are expected to open in the coming weeks (here) and further opportunities will come later in the year, covering topics from animal welfare, blockchain technology in the agri-food sector, small-scale bio-based solutions for rural areas, and resilient livestock.  

Additionally, under Horizon Europe, five specific “mission areas” have been identified, to increase impact and visibility and with carry an additional budget of approximately €4.7 billion.

One specific mission of interest for Irish dairy co-operatives is mission area: Soil Health and Food.

It aims to raise awareness on the importance of soils, engage with citizens, create knowledge and develop solutions for restoring soil health and soil functions. The overall goal is to “ensure that 75% of soils are healthy by 2030 and are able to provide essential ecosystem services”, such as the provision of food and other biomass, supporting biodiversity, storing and regulating the flow of water, or mitigating the effects of climate change.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive