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Research and development

The legal bases for current European Union (EU) research and technological development (RTD) and space policy are Articles 179-189, introduced under Title XIX of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The policy’s main aims, under Article 179 TFEU, are:

  • to achieve a European research area in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely; and
  • to strengthen EU scientific, technological and innovative excellence to ensure competitiveness at global level and to help the EU to deliver on its strategic priorities.

Over the years, the policy has evolved significantly, particularly since 1984 when the first multiannual European framework programme (FP) for research was launched. The first FPs had the modest aim of supporting cross-border cooperation in pre-competitive research and development (R & D conducted jointly by usually competing organisations for the purpose of developing new commercially applicable technologies from which they could each benefit). The 9th and latest FP, Horizon Europe, which will run for the 2021-2027 period, is now the world’s largest research and innovation programme.

In line with Article 182(3) TFEU, the FP is implemented through specific programmes (SPs) that define the detailed rules for carrying out the FP within each activity, fix its duration and set a budget for its implementation.

In addition to seeking to boost EU competitiveness, EU research programmes promote collaboration and inclusion by:

  • involving a variety of types of organisations, ranging from research institutes, industry, small and medium-sized enterprises and academia, as well as individuals, from a geographical spread of countries (EU and non-EU countries); and
  • building RDT capacity in less-advanced regions as part of the EU’s structural and cohesion policy to remove disparities between regions.