On 8 April 2021, the European Commission has launched a public consultation inviting interested parties to submit their comments on the proposed revision of the State aid Framework for research, development and innovation, that was adopted in 2014 for an indefinite period and under reserve of regular evaluations.

The Commission has therefore recently conducted an assessment of the current Framework and it appears that the latter is overall an effective tool for encouraging undertakings to lead research, development and innovation projects.

However, the assessment also highlighted that several provisions need to be updated due to the latest regulatory, economic and technological developments. In addition, the Framework needs to be modified given the Union’s new strategic priorities, such as the European Green Deal and the Union’s Digital Strategies.

The Commission therefore proposed the following revisions for the RDI Framework:

  • Updating the definitions of research and innovation activities that may benefit from aid within the meaning of the Framework, in particular with regard to digital technologies and activities related to digitalisation. This revision will improve legal certainty and facilitate RDI investments, thus contributing to the digital transformation of undertakings in the Union.

  • The possibility of granting aid in favour of “technology infrastructures” in particular in order to allow SMEs to have faster and more affordable access to innovative technologies, which will contribute to the Union's digital transition objective.

  • The simplification of certain provisions of the Framework to facilitate its practical application. The Commission thus proposes to introduce a simplified method for calculating indirect costs in order to determine the eligible costs for aid covered by the Framework. Indeed, the Commission’s assessment shows that the current method in some cases created an excessive administrative burden for undertakings and managing authorities.

The public consultation therefore concerns these proposed revisions and is addressed to all citizens, organisations, undertakings and public authorities who wish to contribute.

Observations can be submitted online on the Commission website until 3 June 2021.

Contributions will be published on the Commission website unless they have been clearly marked as confidential by their authors. In this case, the latter must also submit a non-confidential version which can be published.

Note that in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the European Commission has relaxed an eligibility condition provided in the Framework. Indeed, undertakings in difficulty are, in principle, not eligible for RDI aid. Following a modification of the Framework in July 2020, companies which were not in difficulty on 31 December 2019, but became so after that date, are eligible for the aid under the Framework until 30 June 2021.