HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

01 Jul 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.

 

New Zealand today signed a science agreement with the UK during a visit to Europe by prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

It will involve joint research projects, the development of new technologies, exchanges of scientists and innovation missions between businesses, according to a UK statement on the deal.

“This is another step in our science superpower mission to widen and deepen our post-Brexit global science programmes,” said science minister George Freeman.

Separately, New Zealand should start formal negotiations to join Horizon Europe in the autumn, according to a joint statement between Ardern and Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The two leaders said they expected association talks to be “concluded swiftly”.

The biggest research universities in the UK and Germany have signed a joint agreement pledging to make sure their work together is “not affected by politics”.

On June 30 the UK Russell Group and Germany’s U15 announced that they had inked a deal earlier in the month.

They said they would create a new framework to facilitate collaboration, which they said could also be deployed by other universities in other countries.

Their agreement comes as hopes fade that the UK will be able to associate to Horizon Europe, the EU’s research and innovation framework programme. Association has been a victim of wider tensions between Brussels and London over the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

When it comes to technology sovereignty and international science collaboration, Finland’s IT Center for Science (CSC) wants to see changes in the second half of the EU’s €95.5 billion seven-year research programme.  

In a recent statement, CSC outlined its demands for the 2025-2027 Horizon Europe strategic plan: shifting the focus of the pathway to strategic autonomy from industrial leadership to research excellence and collaboration; stronger links between the European Research Area (ERA) and the European Education Area (EEA); a focus on climate impact of research; and building up international partnerships with like-minded partners, with a focus on continuing  collaboration with Switzerland and the UK, among others. 

On a more operational level, the CSC hopes to see Europe’s research infrastructure landscape recognised as a strategic asset as well as more convergence between the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) and the supercomputing partnership, EuroHPC. 

 

The Irish government is teaming up with industry to recruit 400 PhD students to undertake research in the country in a bid to attract and retain talent. 

The selected Irish and international students will receive a stipend of €28,000 to conduct research tackling major national and global challenges, including climate change and adaptation, pandemics, and water poverty. 

The government is set to invest millions of euros in the scheme over a number of years, to be matched by private investors.  

The first call for proposals aimed at higher education institutes is currently being draft and will open later this year.

The new talent scheme complements Ireland’s recently announced Impact 2030 research and innovation strategy. “This programme will establish Ireland as a globally renowned hub of talent development and knowledge creation," said Simon Harris, minister for further and higher education and research. 

 

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is set to fund eight new research groups with €31.4 million to boost artificial intelligence research in the country.  

The eight groups will cover AI uses for horticultural crops, biomedical data and chemical process engineering, among others.  

“The aim is for these Research Units [is] to engage and network with each other and with other national and international actors in the field – not only at their universities but also at various events,” said DFG President Katja Becker. 

The scheme is part of the DFG’s €90 million two-part AI initiative approved in 2019. The second part of the project funds 15 junior research groups aiming to attract the next generation of academics with a research focus on AI methods.  

 

The EU’s Horizon Europe research programme is ‘progressively’ turning into a source of funding for the European Commission’s political priorities, EuroTech Universities Alliance said in a recent statement.  

With the digital and green transition at the forefront of Europe’s future ambitions, EU policymakers are diverting money from bottom-up science to policy-driven projects, setting benchmarks for digital and green spending in the Horizon Europe budget. This has already led €1 billion from the research budget to be diverted to the European Chips Act, the Health and Emergency Response Agency and the Hydrogen Valley initiative, universities claim.  

The alliance demands more transparency in how the Horizon Europe budget is being spent and advocates for an additional set of indicators to be added to the Horizon Europe Dashboard to enable real-time assessment of the spending. 

 

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), EU innovation agency, has selected 26 new consortia to partake in its higher education initiative.

The initiative aims to help universities improve their entrepreneurial and innovation capacity. The 26 winners, which bring together almost 300 higher education institutions and their partners, will receive 31.2 million to do the job.

This is the second cohort of organisations taking part in the flagship scheme. A third call for proposals is set to be announced later this year for projects starting in 2023.

 

The European Association of Innovation Consultants (EAIC) has released the third edition of its guide to the EU’s €750 billion recovery fund, Next Generation EU. 

A year since the launch of the recovery plan, the report is updated with concrete examples of projects on the ground to help industry understand how the money is being used. The guide also summarises the open and planned calls for proposals in each country.  

Unlike with the main EU budget, each member state gets to decide how it spends the money, with the European Commission’s approval. This may make it more difficult for industry to keep track of where the investments are going; the guide aims to fill the knowledge gap. 

 

Research and innovation ministers from the 42 countries of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) signed a declaration on exploiting the potential of research and innovation to increase the resilience of the Euro-Mediterranean region against environmental, food security and socioeconomic challenges, as well as to promote science diplomacy.

It is the first time ministers meet in this format. They agreed on three research and innovation roadmaps on climate change, renewable energy and health.

“The scale of the current global challenges and their impact on our fragile regional ecosystem call for us to leverage the potential of research and innovation in finding new solutions to the climate crisis and transforming our energy and health systems,” said UfM secretary general Nasser Kamel

“The future lies in working together, building closer ties and finding innovative solutions to the shared climate, energy and health challenges. This is and will continue to be at the heart of our partnership and supported by Horizon Europe to respond to the three research and innovation roadmaps,” said Mariya Gabriel, EU commissioner for research and innovation.

 

The European Commission has amended the work programme for 2021-2022 of Euratom to include new funds for researchers displaced by the war in Ukraine.

The amendment provides an additional €2.5 million for the EUROfusion consortium. The money could be used on direct support for Ukraine’s fusion scientists and engineers and for buying equipment and hardware.

The Commission has introduced a new innovation action backed by €10 million in EU money. The scheme will be launched to improve the supply of nuclear fuel for 35 Russian-designed water-water energetic reactors operating in the EU and Ukraine.

“With this revision of the Euratom Research and Training Work Programme, we will support the Ukraine-based researchers and researchers displaced by the war to continue their important work on nuclear research and innovation,” said Mariya Gabriel, EU commissioner for research and innovation.

 

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