HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

07 Feb 2023 | 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 European University Association has drawn on members’ experiences of pursuing their innovation mission in line with local, national and European developments, to draw up an overarching innovation agenda. This outlines the key themes and objectives for the university sector as a whole and for EUA specifically, taking into account the diverse profiles and innovation activities of its membership and of European universities at large. The document will help to ensure that the importance and value of university innovation for society are recognised and strengthened by national and European policy makers, funding agencies, and universities themselves.

The Guild, a network of research-intensive universities in Europe, has stressed the critical need for greater investment into health research in a new position paper that it will submit to the European Commission as part of a call for feedback on the Horizon Europe programme. 

The network also brings attention to the need for more appropriate data sharing, multinational clinical trials and greater access to digital solutions to make healthcare more affordable. 

The UK has created a new ministerial department dedicated to science, innovation and technology, pulling the fields out from under the domain of the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, where they previously lay. 

Michelle Donelan, who has been announced as the ministry’s new secretary of state, said it was a sign of the importance the government places on science and innovation. 

“This new secretary of state position can help ensure cross-governmental buy in and support by championing science at the cabinet table, whether that is in investment, skills development, or from elsewhere,” she said. 

“This support will be essential in tackling the big issues and uncertainty currently facing the sector, such as reform of R&D tax relief system and access to European research programmes.”

Discussions over the UK’s association to Horizon Europe, the European Union’s key funding programme for research and innovation, remain at a stalemate due to a deterioration of relations between London and Brussels, in particular the UK’s threat to override the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

Along with the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, the UK government has also announced the creation of the department for Energy Security and Net Zero, a combined Department for Business and Trade, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 

The changes are designed to boost five goals set out by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: To halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut health treatment waiting lists and stop the boats bringing over migrants illegally.

The UK government will put £10 million towards a new research hub dedicated to innovation in the field of transport decarbonisation. A call for organisations to host the hub was launched on 2 February. 

The project is part of the UK’s drive towards net-zero emissions by 2050, with transport accounting for 27% of the country’s emissions, according to the UK government. 

Work will include research into building better transport infrastructure, street design, assessing the impact of the climate on certain areas and working on ways to speed up the process of turning research on infrastructure into policy

The hub will be funded by a combination of the UK Government, via the Department for Transport, UK Research and Innovation and organisations in the Transport Research and Innovation Board, with the remaining 20% covered by the organisation selected to host the hub. 

The European Commission has announced a new Horizon Europe office will open in Kyiv, Ukraine in the middle of this year. It follows on from a move to fast track Ukraine into Horizon Europe and the the Euratom nuclear fission and fusion research programme last year at no initial cost in a bid to help support researchers and scientists, in particular those who have remained in the country.

The new office will provide support to National Contact Points in the country and serve as a connection between Ukrainian and European research institutions. Research Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said, “the Horizon Europe Office in Ukraine will support its participation in the programme, safeguarding the country’s research and innovation capacity and creating stronger ties between the EU and Ukrainian research and innovation communities”. 

Dedicated support measures have also been established to help Ukraine, including ERA4Ukraine, ERC4Ukraine, the €25 million MSCA4Ukraine fellowships scheme, the €20 million EIC4Ukraine scheme, etc. 

It is thought that around 15% of Ukraine’s research infrastructure has been affected by Russia’s whole-scale invasion of the country, which began in February 2022. 

The first EU-Ukraine joint committee meeting following Ukraine’s association to Horizon Europe was held in November last year in which both sides agreed to continue strengthening research and innovation ties. 

The EU today formally launched a network of 18 laboratories set to provide scientific information in support of EU’s preparness and response to cross-border health threats.

The network, DURABLE, will be coordinated by Institut Pasteur under the European Commission’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA).

“The HERA laboratory network will reinforce the EU's capacity to collect and share data, better assess emerging health threats and identify effective medical countermeasures, while enhancing collaboration at EU and global level,” said Stella Kyriakides, EU health commissioner.

The Board of the European University Association (EUA) is calling on the Hungarian government to protect the institutional autonomy of its universities.

The call comes after including 21 universities were cut off from Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ funding over ongoing concerns about rule of law breaches in the country last month.

“The steady decline in university autonomy observed in Hungary in recent years has damaged university communities in the country. This latest development is perhaps the clearest illustration yet of how this dynamic has negatively impacted institutions, their students and staff,” the Board’s statement says.

Last week, in a meeting in Brussels, the Hungarian government signalled willingness to reform the controversial structure of its public trust foundations overseeing the 21 universities that has caused concern. The EUA Board urges Hungary to further clarify what this would mean in practice.

The Guild of European Research Intensive Universities wants to see social sciences, arts and humanities play a bigger role in the EU’s €95.5 billion Horizon Europe research programme.

The university group believes a deeper understanding of cultures and politics is needed to help the EU deal with the various crises it faces, such as the war in Ukraine and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Guild urges for better integration of such research in Horizon-funded big collaborative projects. In particular, the group wants to see funding for projects that enable a deeper interdisciplinary understanding of market imbalances and behavioural reactions to them as well as greater pluridisciplinary depth in research on cultural heritage.

New rules are needed to govern research with potentially harmful bacteria, viruses, and other agents that could risk creating bioweapons, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) in the US urges in a new report.

The recommended new rules for potentially dual use technologies would introduce stricter reviews of all federally funded research involving any human, plant, and animal pathogens.

Biosafety and biosecurity has become a cause for concern in recent years as some allege the COVID-19 virus originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

The European Research Council’s (ERC) latest €657 million funding round is set to disburse €657 million to 321 leading scientists undertaking fundamental research projects.

The scientists, who all have 7 to 12 years’ experience after their PhDs, will receive so-called Consolidator grants to pursue their most promising ideas in all disciplines of research from engineering to life sciences to humanities from the EU’s €16 billion basic research fund.

The scientists will be based in 18 countries, with most located in Germany (62 projects), France (41) and Spain (24). They come from 37 countries, notably Germany (52 researchers), Italy (32), France (31) and the UK (31).

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