The digital sector is crucial to ensuring a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and building a sustainable future that supports people and businesses. The new multiannual financial framework (MFF) ensures that it has the support to do so. It includes instruments and funding programmes such as:
- the Digital Europe Programme
- the Connecting Europe Facility
- Horizon Europe
- Creative Europe
The entire budget of the new MFF stands at €1.21 trillion. In addition, the Commission proposed a new recovery instrument called Next Generation EU. This is worth €806.9 billion and will run from 2021-2024. Next Generation EU will feed into some of the digital strands. For example, the digital strand of the Invest EU programme.
The 7 main EU budget programmes
Digital Europe Programme
The Digital Europe programme (DIGITAL) is the central programme for digital in the MFF. It aims to accelerate economic recovery and drive the digital transformation of Europe.
The Digital Europe Programme will strengthen investments in a range of areas, including:
- supercomputing and data processing capacities;
- core artificial intelligence (AI) capacities such as a data spaces and libraries of AI algorithms;
- digital skills, expanding the best use of digital capacity in EU’s society and economy;
- support to the digitalisation of businesses and public administrations
The Digital Europe Programme is designed to fill the gap between research and deployment of digital technologies. It will bring the results of research to the market for the benefit of Europe's citizens and businesses, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises SMEs).
Digital Europe Programme: Worth €7.6 billion in current prices.
Connecting Europe Facility - Digital
The Connecting Europe Facility supports trans-European networks and infrastructures in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors. It is investing in broadband networks, as a part of the EU’s wider efforts to build infrastructure that can handle emerging and future processes and applications
Connecting Europe Facility – Digital: Worth €2.07 billion in current prices.
Horizon Europe is a 7 year funding programme for research and innovation that will continue the work of Horizon 2020. It will fund vital research in health, resilience and the green and digital transitions.
Horizon Europe includes a dedicated budget for ‘Digital, industry and space’. This budget will develop research and high-end innovation in enabling technologies, such as:
- artificial intelligence and robotics
- next generation Internet
- high performance computing
- big data
- key digital technologies
It will also aid research into combining digital with other technologies. Overall, it is expected that around 35% of Horizon Europe will support work for the digital transition. The work of Horizon Europe will be complementary to that of the Digital Europe Programme.
Horizon Europe: €95.5 billion in current prices.
InvestEU will provide crucial support to companies in the recovery phase and ensure a strong focus among private investors on the EU’s medium- and long-term policy priorities. In particular, the European Green Deal and digitalisation. At least 10% of the programme will feed into digital goals.
InvestEU: EU Budget guarantee of €26.2 billion with the aim of mobilising more than €372 billion in public and private investment.
Creative Europe MEDIA
The MEDIA Sub-programme of Creative Europe will support European film and other audiovisual industries. It provides funding for the development, promotion and distribution of European works within Europe and beyond.
Creative Europe MEDIA: Worth €1.4 billion
EU4Health is a new programme intended to strengthen health security and prepare for future health crises. Approximately 10% of this programme will be used for digital transformation of the health sector.
EU4Health: Worth €5.3 billion
Recovery and Resilience Facility
Supporting digital transformation is key to building resilience and advancing recovery. The Recovery and Resilience Facility is a new programme that will offer financial support for investments and reforms, including in relation to the green and digital transitions and the resilience of national economies. It will be linked to the European Semester.
The Commission has proposed that each recovery and resilience plan include a minimum level of 20% of expenditure related to digital.
Recovery and Resilience Facility: Worth €672.5 billion
There are many ways to access funding in the EU, and each programme has its own procedures for applying to calls. For an overview of what support is available and where to apply, businesses and individuals can use the access to finance portal or contact their local managing authorities.
Access to finance
The access to finance portal helps businesses and entrepreneurs find financial support. This could be through loans or equity finance. The portal directs you to local financial institutions where you can apply for EU financing.
Regional policy is the EU’s main investment area, covering one third of the EU budget – and it includes digital projects.
Businesses, organisations, administrations and citizens can contact their local managing authority to obtain grants or loans. This funding could cover one or several regions, or even cross national borders.
One example in Portugal is the Operational Programme COMPETE 2020, which focuses on research and development support to SMEs and entrepreneurship.