HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

20 May 2022 | Live Blog

Horizon Europe is well underway, but the world of European R&D policy goes well beyond the confines of the €95.5 billion R&D programme. EU climate, digital, agriculture and regional policies all have significant research and innovation components. National governments often come up with new R&D policies, decide to fund new research avenues, and set up international cooperation deals. This blog aims to keep you informed on all of that and more.

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You can read the full archive of this blog here.

 

The EU has said it will step up research and innovation collaboration with Gulf countries as part of a wider strategy to better engage with the region. 

In a communication released earlier this week, the Commission said it wanted to better support the inclusion of Gulf researchers in the EU's Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions, which offer doctoral training and postdoctoral fellowships. 

The Commission said it would promote research and innovation "openness" with the Gulf, "balanced with greater levels of reciprocity, and will seek a level-playing field based on respect for fundamental principles such as academic freedom, gender equality, ethics, integrity and inclusiveness of research, open science and evidence-based policy-making."

The wider context is that the EU is seeking to diversify away from Russian gas in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, and has turned in part towards Gulf states to fill the gap. 

 

The goal of the strategy is to ensure Ireland’s R&I expenditure makes a difference in addressing societal challenges such as climate change and health emergences.

The strategy includes the creation of a new funding agency, merging the functions and activities of the Irish Research Council and Science Foundation Ireland, and a bigger focus on researchers and entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, among other measures.

"We will create an inclusive research and innovation system delivering the solutions for Irish society and our economy, solving our common challenges through teamwork, and enhancing our reputation,” said Simon Harris, Ireland’s minister education, research, innovation and science.

 

Clean Hydrogen, a €2 billion industrial research partnerships under Horizon Europe, will get a top-up as part of the EU’s new plan to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.  

The top-up will help the partnership, which brings together industry, researchers and the European Commission to jointly advance hydrogen R&I, double the number of Hydrogen Valleys it supports by 2025 and launch a large project to develop skills for the hydrogen economy.  

The goal is to advance green hydrogen technology to boost production from 5.6 million tonnes to 20 million tonnes by 2030.  

Research and innovation will also play a role in Europe’s plan to achieve energy independence by accelerating technology development for solar energy, energy savings, decarbonizing industry and speeding up renewable permitting.  

 

 

Nine renewable industry lobby groups say the EU’s Innovation Fund aimed at financing low-carbon technology demonstrators is failing to advance renewable energy technologies. 

In a letter sent to EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton, the associations argue the award criteria for its calls "put renewable projects at a structural disadvantage.” 

In the first €1 billion Innovation Fund call for large-scale, no money went to renewable energy generation projects and only one renewables manufacturing project won funding. In the second edition of the call this year, proposals for renewable energy projects plummeted, as the sector lost hope in securing funding. The letter suggests this undermines EU’s green energy objectives, which heavily rely on renewables.  

To fix the issue, the associations calls on the European Commission to dedicate the third call for large-scale projects to renewable energy, adjust the award criteria, and create new calls for medium-sized projects, ranging between €7.5 to €60 million.  

 

Bernard Bigot, who served as ITER’s director general for the last seven years, passed away due to an illness last weekend.  

In a statement paying tribute to Bigot, the ITER organisation highlighted his contribution to the field of science and energy and praised work managing the world's biggest nuclear fusion project. 

Bigot’s deputy Eisuke Tada will now lead the project while the ITER Council looks for a long-term successor.  

 

The European Commission and – Leiden European City of Science 2022 have launched a call for the EU TalentON competition for young academics who can contribute to the five research missions in Horizon Europe.

The event is organised jointly with entrepreneurs and representatives of universities and industry. Early career researchers will team up and pitch their ideas to address one of the five EU research missions: fighting cancer, adapting to climate change, protecting the ocean, seas and waters, living in greener cities and ensuring healthy soil and food.

The event is part of the Coommissions’s plan to get young researchers and ordinary citizens involved in delivering the research missions, which are one of the main novelties in Horizon Europe, the EU’s flagship research and innovation programme.

More information is available on the Commission’s website.

 

Maria Leptin, the president of the prestigious EU fund for fundamental science, European Research Council (ERC), has joined the ranks of some of the world's most eminent scientists at the Royal Society.  

“Her leadership in European science builds on her research contributions across fields from immunity to genetics,” tweeted the Royal Society, announcing Leptin’s fellowship.  

The German biologist previously served as director at the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). 

 

Finland is set to access €523 million in EU cohesion money to improve its R&D and innovation systems, the European Commission has announced today.

The funding is part of a broader €2 billion EU investment package for Finland and includes investments in digitalisation and support for small and medium-sized companies. The Finnish government is committed to invest 40% of this round of cohesion policy money from the EU in the green transition. 

The R&D and innovation part of the money pot will be spent in line with Finland’s smart specialisation strategy, an investment plan introduced by the EU to help regions boost their innovation capacity by building on local industrial, educational and research assets.

The announcement adds more weight to plans by the Finnish government to raise its R&D expenditure over the next few years. Political parties in Finland have recently reached an agreement that could pave the way to raise public and private R&D spending to 4% of GDP by 2030.

 

The European Commission has announced a new round of funding under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) programme in Horizon Europe.

The Commission is planning to spend €857 million on MSCA grants this year. Nearly half of the budget (€427,3 million) will go to doctoral programmes that bring together organisations from different sectors to train highly skilled PhD candidates.

Another €257 million will go to postdoctoral fellowships, €77.5 million for MSCA staff exchanges, and €95 million to the MSCA COFUND programme.

More details about the calls and deadlines can be found here.  

 

The European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO) has published an in-depth look at a variety of technology infrastructures as it eyes a role in shaping the EU’s future strategy in the area. 

EARTO believes technology infrastructures will play a vital role in enabling research, development and innovation to deliver the major building blocks for Europe’s green and digital transitions. A future strategy, eyed by the European Commission as part of the European Research Area policy agenda, is therefore necessary to facilitate their role.  

The report can be found here

 

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