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  • Post published:30.11.2023

Where is the funding for the geospatial experts?

Finding funding for geospatial projects is not always easy. In this article, EU funding experts take a look at the Horizon Europe programme. As you can see, sometimes it can be a matter of approaching the calls from the right angle.


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Horizon Europe is the major funding programme for research and innovation in Europe. The programme provides plenty of funding opportunities for different types of activities, ranging from basic research to close-to-market innovations.

Horizon Europe consists of three pillars. As EU funding specialists, we have been mostly working with the Pillar 2. Through this, the European Commission provides funding for collaborative projects that unite diverse actors to develop solutions for global challenges and to increase the competitiveness of European industries. Overall, Horizon Europe is a strongly impact-oriented programme, and it especially promotes technological innovation.

Horizon Europe 2021 - 2027 consists of three pillars.
Horizon Europe is the major funding programme for research and innovation in Europe. Pillar 2 focuses on global challenges and industrial competitiveness in six thematic clusters. Image: European Commission

How to find the right calls?

Where could experts in the geospatial domain find funding opportunities? Where are geospatial data, geoinformation, and spatial analysis methods relevant? Let us look up these terms among the hundreds of call topics available in Horizon Europe’s Pillar 2.

A simple Ctrl+F exercise on the work programme documents that include all the call topics  provides us with zero results for ‘spatial data’. The same goes for ‘geoinformation’. Does the European Commission not consider a location-based approach relevant for solving global challenges? The Pillar 2 work programmes sum up to over 2,000 pages describing the responses the European Commission expects from research and innovation in solving the global challenges and keeping the EU at the scientific and industrial forefront. Would be reasonable to expect to find something, right?

The geospatial knowledge is also placed at the “heart of tomorrow’s sustainable digital society” in the white paper by the Geospatial World and the United Nations from 2021. The size of the geospatial business – $1.44 trillion by 2030 – also makes it presumable to see it mentioned.

Maybe we just chose the wrong words for our exercise. Trying out ‘geospatial’, ‘spatial’, and ‘geographic information’ results in around 40 topics, for example. Half of them are in cluster 6 (Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment). It seems a geospatial response is expected to be helpful in solving environmental challenges, at least.

Location as an approach

With this short exercise we want to show that research funding calls in Horizon Europe seldom explicitly mention any geospatial buzz words. This is why in order to identify the funding opportunities relevant to the geospatial domain, it is useful to think of geospatial analysis methods, or even more simply location, as an approach to different phenomena.

Indeed, the geospatial approach is sector-independent: it can bring value to addressing a wide range of different call topics. We believe that a geospatial approach brings the most value when location- and time-based information are linked to different types of substance data and the geospatial competence is coupled with expertise from other fields. This also beautifully manifests the idea of multi-actor interdisciplinary collaboration.

By the way, the report by the Geospatial World and the UN is titled ‘The Power of Where’. To paraphrase the title, as EU funding specialists, we aim to locate where the relevant funding is for our organisations and navigate our researchers towards it. This way, we enable innovative research.

Based on our experience, there are good funding and collaboration opportunities for the geospatial domain currently in Horizon Europe. Moreover, Horizon Europe’s successor, the European Commission’s still innominate 10th framework programme for research and innovation is expected to start in 2028. We are convinced that the location-based approach will be well-founded for quite a many call topics also in the future.

So stay tuned!