HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

02 Dec 2021 | 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’s €300 billion Global Gateway initiative, designed to rival Chinese infrastructure investment, will include a role for research and innovation – although it is unclear whether the announcement amounts to any new research funding.

Brussels wants to fund projects in partner countries that will improve their digital connectivity, renewable energy, transport systems, healthcare, and research and education. The move is an explicit attempt to counter Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative.

Responding to the trillions of dollars Beijing has poured into global infrastructure over the past decade, “the EU will work with partner countries to strengthen cooperation on research and innovation”, a communication from EU institutions said on December 1.  

The communication references existing programmes and their global research. The Erasmus+ mobility programme “has a strong international dimension,” it says. Horizon Europe, the EU’s new research framework, “offers researchers and innovators outside Europe the opportunity to participate in EU-funded collaborative research and innovation actions,” it adds.

Universities should play a bigger role in shaping EU’s data policy, the League of European Research Universities (LERU) said in a statement published today. 

The EU is now working on major changes to its digital laws and LERU says the impact on universities is not being taken into consideration.

According to LERU, the current approach to data policy puts too much focus on private companies, allowing them to define and steer universities’ digital architectures through hardware and software technologies. "A lack of clarity in relevant (EU) data legislation further complicates the picture," said Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of LERU. "The current position is untenable and drastic action needs to be taken, both practically and in legislation, to restore universities’ independence of action and to help them deliver on their goals in support of knowledge creation for the benefit of society.”

The statement calls on stakeholders to draft measures that would ensure:

  1. Public storage and access to research data organised by universities and public infrastructures.
  2. Freely accessible university research publications, all underlying data, algorithms, metadata and software tools, with no embargo.
  3. University input and control over digital learning and research tools, such as productivity tools, learning environments, video conferencing. 

The full statement is available here.

 

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland this week launched the country’s first quantum computer in a bid to learn and develop expertise in next-generation computing.  

Built together with the quantum computing hardware startup IQM, the new 5 quantum-bit supercomputer is the first step towards the partners’ ambition to produce scalable and easier to manufacture quantum computers. By 2024, VTT and IQM aim to build a much more powerful 50-qubit quantum computer to secure Finland’s expertise in the field.  

While Finland ups ambition, the EU has been playing catch up with China and the US by boosting investments in quantum computing and setting up a €7 billion public-private supercomputing partnership under the Horizon Europe research programme.

 

Pierre Delsaux is set to serve as director general of the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), a new body within the European Commission which will coordinate EU response to health emergencies.  

HERA, modelled on the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, will aim to improve Europe’s capacity to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to cross-border health emergencies. The authority is due to launch next year with a budget of €6 billion for the first six years, including a €1.7 billion contribution from Horizon Europe for research into health emergencies. 

Pierre Delsaux is currently deputy director general in DG SANTE, the Commission’s directorate for health and food safety, where he led the work on reinforcing the EU’s health agencies and contributed to the creation of the HERA incubator. Delsaux has also held deputy director general positions in the directorate for defence industry and space (DG DEFIS) as well as the directorate for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW). 

 

The European Commission has announced a new Erasmus+ call for proposals to boost the the European Universities initiative.

With a total budget of €272 million, the 2022 Erasmus+ call on European Universities will close on 22 March 2022. The money is set to help higher education institutions to boost their performance and international competitiveness.

The European Universities initiatives kicked off with two pilot calls in 2019 and 2020. It helped set up a total of 41 transnational alliances involving 280 universities in the EU and Iceland, Norway, Serbia, Turkey and the UK.

The 2022 will help existing alliances boost their cooperation efforts, but higher education institutions can team up to create new European Universities.

 

There’s 297 million in the budget of the 2022 call for small teams of researchers working together on fundamental research projects, but only 33 projects out of 358 submitted will be able to secure funding from the EU’s fundamental research agency. 

Low success rates have been haunting the ERC for several years now and were a central argument for more funding to be allocated to the agency during the fight for a bigger budget for the Horizon Europe research programme. The agency’s president at the time Jean-Pierre Bourguignon warned low chances of success may deter excellent researchers from spending their time applying for the grants, which will in turn hurt fundamental research in Europe. In the end, the ERC managed to secure a budget of €16 billion until 2027 but the programme still risks becoming oversubscribed. 

This year, the call also received attention from researchers based in the UK despite remaining uncertainties of the country’s participation in Horizon Europe, with 147 principal investigators in submitted projects based in UK institutions.

 

The first international framework on open science aims to boost cross-border cooperation and make science more equitable and inclusive.  

The recommendations call on all 193 United Nations member states to invest in open science infrastructures, set up targeted regional and international funding schemes and ensure all publicly funded research respects open science principles. 

Today, around 70% of scientific publications are hidden behind paywalls, making them inaccessible to many of the world’s scientists that could be building on the knowledge to speed up research and innovation. The UNESCO guidelines hope to initiate a stronger shift towards using open science as a tool to further scientific progress and reduce inequalities. 

 

Students and academics can now apply for the EU’s 2022 round of academic exchange programme worth €3.8 billion, the European Commission has announced.

The Erasmus+ programme will enable students and university staff to go abroad to study and learn new skills. “We want to give the opportunity to a greater number of people to take part and benefit from what Erasmus+ has to offer,” said Mariya Gabriel, EU commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth.

In addition to the general call, the 2022 Erasmus+ work programme also includes other actions to be launched separately, such as the European Universities initiative.

 

New rules are set to apply starting next year to big cross-border innovation and infrastructure projects that aim to tackle European market failures.

Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEIs) will now have to be more transparent and inclusive to all EU member states, encourage the participation of small and medium sized enterprises, and align their objectives with current EU priorities.

IPCEIs are funded and defined by member states and operate under their own state aid rules allowing government subsidies in key sectors such as microelectronics, batteries and hydrogen.

 

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