New Zealand has officially joined the European Union’s flagship research and innovation program as the first association partner that is not geographically close to the continent.
The country signed up as an associate member of the Horizon Europe program ahead of an agreement between the EU and UK is expected to be announced in coming days. Stakeholders in Canada and Australia are also urging for their respective countries to join the program that has a budget of €95.5 billion until 2027.
The news that New Zealand would join the program first came in December last year.
In November, the EU began formal negotiations with Canada for the North American country to join the program. In Australia, the country’s group of research-intensive institutions, Group of Eight, has urged for the country to become an associate country to the EU program as it would “provide a greater level of access to EU research funding for Australian researchers and businesses”.
Likewise, negotiations launched in May this year with the Republic of Korea, while exploratory talks with Japan also closed in September 2022. Technical discussions with the island country in the Pacific Ocean are ongoing, the partners say.
Association would allow researchers and organisations to participate in the program on “equal terms” with entities from the EU member states and access Horizon Europe funding and research networks in Europe.
The UK is expected to officially sign up for the Horizon program when leaders meet at the NATO Summit in Vilnius today (July 11).
The latest deal marks a “completely new approach” for the EU where it is “strengthening even more its ties with trusted partners that have a solid scientific base and a robust research track record”, the European Commission added.
According to EC president, Ursula von der Leyen, who was together with New Zealand’s prime minister Chris Hipkins and other officials at the signing on July 8, while New Zealand is not geographically close to Europe, it is “very close in so many other ways, including the capacity and willingness to innovate”.
“This is excellent news for researchers in both EU and New Zealand”
“We are looking forward to pooling our best minds and talents to work together on the next generation of clean tech, biotech and digital projects,” she added.
Executive vice-president for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, noted the signing marked a “historic moment in building a new facet of EU-New Zealand bilateral relations”.
“This is excellent news for researchers in both EU and New Zealand. Together, we can tackle the most pressing challenges: climate change and digital adaptation, clean oceans, energy efficiency, public health and so much more,” she said.
The EU and New Zealand have collaborated in research and innovation formally since 2009 when the partners signed an agreement that provided the general framework for cooperation and acted as a forum for regular discussions on research.
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