Since launching of the EU Green Deal in late 2019, it has strongly influenced all EU policymaking and the EUs multi-annual research & innovation budget (Horizon Europe). Indeed, Horizon Europe, with a budget of roughly 100 billion euros over seven years, is one of the biggest carrots the EU has to offer for implementation of the Green Deal.

To mobilise enough momentum and support for the economic transition, an increasing part of Horizon Europe  is set up to leverage additional private financial investments through public-private partnerships and public-public partnerships (set up between the EC and EU Member States). Besides the partnerships, also other financing structures have been set up to involve new constellations of actors and also leveraging funding. For example, the European “Missions” and the “Knowledge and Innovation Communities (EIT KICs)”.

One can surely ask whether Horizon Europe is able to match the ambitious policy objectives of the European Green Deal? Does it offer enough of a “carrot” as it is implemented today?

Despite of some of Horizon Europe´s short-comings, e.g. challenges in creating impact, I believe that one of the most important resources needed to realise the European Green Deal is to activate the ingenuity of the people in the forest-based sector. Thus, the forest-based sector should apply for the Horizon Europe funding, as they are most competent to develop the production facilities to be CO2 neutral and best suited to manage future forest in a sustainable way.

For a Finnish forest-sector company or forest owner, applying for Horizon Europe funding might seem like a big step away from the comfort zone of the core business. However, companies that have a dedicated strategy to apply for Horizon Europe funding are generally positive to the system, and also have some great EU projects to show for it. We often hear from the Forest Technology Platform FTP members that the Horizon Europe funding offers a de-risking of strategic investments that otherwise would not be bankable. Horizon Europe also offers an opportunity for cross-sector collaborations, creating additional synergies and technology transfer.

So, I would still advice forest-based businesses to consider Horizon Europe funding as part of their research and innovation strategy. When the regulatory “whip” is certain, it is smart to at least have a go at getting the “carrot” offered be EU-funded research programmes.

Overcoming the first obstacles in the form of inexperience, limited staff resources, and the risk that a proposal will fail to receive the EU-funding is probably the hardest barriers to overcome. So, to lower the entry barriers, FTP offers support and advice to our members.

For instance, we regularly analyse the many hundreds of Horizon Europe Calls launched each year and identify those that are of relevance to the forest-based sector and share those with our members. Typically, we are talking of between 70-80 calls per year, so there is usually something for every interest. We also follow up on the projects that are funded and how they match the needs of the sector. We are a valuable first-stop advisor to anyone interested in EU-funded research and innovation. On the other hand, we are also advising the European Commission on the research and innovation priorities of the forest-based sector, so that coming calls will be as relevant to us as possible.

One last thing important to consider is that Horizon Europe projects also produce policy advice and reports aimed at EU policymakers. They will shape and support future legislative processes. The question to ask yourself might therefore be: If the forest-based sector is not actively participating in Horizon Europe, who will then be participating in instead and what kind of policy recommendations will they put in the hands of the decision makers in Brussels.

Johan Elvnert, Secretary General of the Forest-based Sector Technology Platform,