Advanced air mobility missing from latest Horizon European EU research funding

By Philip Butterworth-Hayes

The latest analysis of the 2025-2027 Horizon Europe Strategic Plan from the European Commission – the second half of its EUR 95.5 billion 2021–2027 research and innovation (R&I) strategy – has highlighted the need for European Union investment funds to be directed towards optimising the de-carbonisation potential of increasing drone use but makes no specific mention of the importance of ensuring eVTOL technologies and wider urban and advanced air mobility concepts are funded.

In terms of directly relating these figures to the drone and AAM industries, EUR 210 million of the 2025-2027 budget is being allocated to research into reducing aviation climate change impacts and emissions, in contrast EUR 513 million will be allocated to battery research, “supporting the creation of a competitive, circular and sustainable European battery-manufacturing value chain.”

Where aviation technology transformation is referenced it is only in the context of large aircraft.

While the Commission acknowledges “there is a need for electric propulsion for large aircrafts (sic), and engines using renewable hydrogen or hydrogen-based renewable fuels of non-biological origin,” no mention is made of eVTOL or regional aircraft technology research.

As the largest European R&I programme, “Horizon Europe has the potential to drive public and private investments towards these challenges, through funding excellent and impactful R&I,” according to the Commission. It also sets out where Europe stands in the global league of innovation in key drone and advanced air mobility areas such as battery technology, artificial intelligence and propulsion systems.

Transport is key to delivering on the EU’s ambitious policy objectives, says the Commission analysis.

“This requires urgent development and deployment of new technologies and solutions, decarbonised fuels and technologies, zero-emission vehicles/vessels, planes and drones, green infrastructures, logistics, traffic management and innovative services, with the aim of (i) decarbonising the energy input, (ii) enhancing the energy efficiency of transport and mobility, and (iii) fully integrating transport and mobility with decarbonised energy systems. To this end, major transformations are needed in all modes of transport (road, rail, air, water), in urban and rural mobility. These transformations call for the development of an integrated, decarbonised and seamless multimodal network at system level, including long-haul transport options. Spatial planning (e.g. the 15 minute city) in urban and rural areas and business model innovation (for transport and other service sectors) have unexploited potentials to reduce the individual demand for transport.”

“The EU is among the world leaders of the green transition but is lagging behind China and the United States when it comes to the digital transition,” says the analysis. “At the same time, some of the other leading countries are seizing the net zero industrial opportunities; for example, China has increased its production of green patents by almost 20 times over the past 20 years.”

And the Commission analysis warns “Europe’s research landscape is fragmented and there is a growing disconnect between industrial and academic AI research, due to the data-needs and high computational demands for modern AI….More efforts are needed to bridge the gap between basic research, innovation and marketable solutions. Even though the EU has a large, qualified scientific base, the United States and China outperform it in terms of patent applications.”

When it comes to green technologies, Europe appears to be leading the way. “From 2016 to 2021, Europe produced 30% of all green inventions worldwide…Japan was second, with 21%, followed by the United States (19%) and China (13%). The European lead is especially strong for domains such as green transport (41%), biofuels (37%) and wind energy (58%).”

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