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How we speed up Swedish participation in the EU's framework programme

Published: 9 June 2023

A little more Norwegian bastards embrace, and why not learn from Finnish experiences? Despite a national strategy to get more actors to participate in Horisont Europa, and many clear advantages, there is more to be done to increase Sweden's participation in the EU's framework program, both for the government, authorities, companies and academia.

This web page has been machine translated. If there are any uncertainties, please refer to the Swedish text.

That and other things were discussed during a seminar linked to the report Mervärden of participating in the EU's framework programme, that is, the EU's research and innovation programme.


- I always want more Swedes in Brussels, we need to be more active. But I meet many more of other nationalities, such as Greeks, Spaniards and now Finns also take many of the positions within the partnerships, says Mats Rosenquist, who works with public partnerships and project at Volvo Group.

His comment comes during the seminar organized by Vinnova on the theme of the added value of participating in the EU's framework program, on the occasion of the publication of the report of the same name. For Volvo Group, explains Mats Rosenquist, it is an important strategic decision to be involved in the partnerships within the EU's ongoing framework program Horisont Europa, which runs from 2021 to 2027.


Mats Rosenquist, public partnership and project, Volvo Group

- We have chosen to get involved in a number of these new partnerships to work systematically and strategically with competitors and the research world, but also with suppliers, technology consultants and authorities. The entire transport industry is facing a huge challenge with the ongoing electrification, new fuels and a completely new system approach. Working in the partnerships gives us an opportunity to sharpen our own strategy. We don't do that by sitting at home at Hisingen, says Mats Rosenquist.

That's why the actors want to be involved

In the report "Additional value of participating in the EU's framework program", Faugert & Co Utvärdering, on behalf of Vinnova, analyze the Swedish participation in the framework programs Horizon 2020 and Horisont Europa and what drives companies, as well as universities and public actors to participate. In what way is added value created for Swedish actors, when research organisations, universities, companies, authorities etc. meet in the framework programs in different ways? The partnerships that Mats Rosenquist talks about are one of the forms where the actors together take on common challenges and promote development and innovation.

The report confirms many of the added values that Mats Rosenquist describes; the benefits of networking at the EU level, which in turn leads to new customers and suppliers, skills development and the importance of knowing what is going on, what needs are in the future and being able to participate and influence when the European Commission designs new laws and rules and plans new ventures and programme. And although funding is a naturally important factor that enables greater risk-taking for researchers and companies, access to internationally leading competence and the opportunity to develop international competitiveness are some of the most important added values, according to the actors who have been interviewed during the report work.

- Especially for large companies, we see how they see added value in the longer term, such as securing their own competence development in the long term, gaining an understanding of societal development and needs throughout Europe and having the opportunity to influence legislation and standards, says Tomas Åström, who led the report work.

But just as Mats Rosenquist comments, the Swedes are not always that active, the report authors state.

- Although it is easy to identify the potential added value of participating on an overall societal level, it is not always as easy to convince individual actors of the benefits. The added values are not universally valid and their extent varies considerably, says Tomas Åström.

The development of a Swedish national strategy for how Swedish participation in Horisont Europa is to be strengthened has thus been welcomed, especially considering that Sweden has historically performed worse under the two previous framework programs than comparable countries. However, the report authors question whether the strategy's level of ambition is sufficient to produce the desired effects. Tomas Åström points as an example of how one of the goals of the strategy is for Sweden to receive at least 3.7 percent of the total granted funds.

- If we had the same level of ambition as Norway and Spain, the financial targets would have been just over 6 percent, says Tomas Åström.

From strategy to action

The national strategy will also be one of the seminar's main discussion points. How do we go from strategy to action? And how do we stimulate increased Swedish participation and involvement in the program?

- A national strategy is absolutely needed, but you can't just be satisfied, but must connect action plans, measurable objective and follow-up, says Anna Wibom, program manager for the strategic innovation program Smarter electronics system.

Britta Fängström, senior advisor at Formas, a research council for sustainable development, also points out that we can learn a lot by carrying out better national follow-ups and evaluations of the Swedish participation.


Britta Fängström, senior advisor at Formas

- If we get better at follow-up and evaluation of Sweden's participation, we create a good basis for learning and developing working methods and support systems as is done in other countries, which the report also highlights, she says

She emphasizes the importance of communicating more about the societal benefits of Swedish actors participating in the program.

- From Formas, we think it is very funny that the report highlights that mutual learning and a broadened perspective is one of the most important reasons for international collaborations. Together in international collaborations, we can solve the intractable problems facing society, from which everyone has a lot to gain. she says.

How are our neighboring countries doing?

In the report, the working methods of other countries are taken up as examples. Alongside ambitious information and education initiatives, Norway, for example, has several different types of funding to actively stimulate applications for EU project.

"Norway is a particularly interesting example with a real hell-bent attitude to maximize the benefit of its membership fee to Horisont Europa," says Tomas Åström during the seminar.

And with regard to how Swedish programme have been designed, it would have been good to look at the Finnish experiences of how national funding does not automatically lead to actors also seeking European funding, but rather the other way around, the authors of the report state.

- The national programs are often necessary to create conditions for participation in the framework programs, but they are not so connected to international perspectives. Here they would have to improve, but claim that they need at least one more head per office to be able to participate, says Tomas Åström.

At the same time, Britta Fängström is very hopeful about the future based on the systematic and strategic work that takes place on Sweden's side to create valuable synergies between our national research programs and the international initiatives within Horisont Europa.

- However, these are relatively slow processes. It will take time before we see measurable effects, so we need to think long-term and strategically. But we can already see today an increased interest and commitment to work internationally in areas where we have potential to become more active. We are not finished, but we are still very well underway, she says.

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Last updated 8 September 2023

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