HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

27 Jun 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.

 

Switzerland’s research spending shrunk by 16% in 2021, compared with 2019, as a result of its exclusion from the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme.  

In 2021, the country spent CHF 2.2 billion on research and development, CHF 413 million less than in 2019, the last year observed.  

While Switzerland has been a long-running participant of the EU framework programmes, the European Commission did not allow it to associate to its newest seven-year rendition due to wider political disputes. The Swiss government says this is the main reason for the fall in R&D spending. 

 

Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council announced 23 June more than C$506 million (€371 million) in research grants.

“We are doubling down on science,” Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canadian minister for innovation, science and industry, said at a University of Ottawa event announcing the results of NSERC’s Discovery research programmes. Over the past five years, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been boosting federal R&D funding as Canadian tech companies in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and climate tech gain greater international attention.

Most of the awards are to individual researchers over five years, and are intended to provide long-term, supplementary funding for their general research aims rather than pay for a specific project. Fields covered include climate change, chemistry, biology, mathematics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and engineering. The grant awards also included C$73.8 million for one-year extensions to grantees whose work was disrupted by the pandemic.

 

EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel has announced a new network of innovation-focused institutions that will help the EU craft its innovation and universities strategy. Speaking today, she launched the European Network of Innovative Higher Education Institutions, which will become the “tip of the spear” in making sure Europe comes up with new ideas and products.

Gabriel did not announce which institutions are part of the new network, but told delegates at the Education and Innovation Summit that they would report with “concrete recommendations” for policy at an education summit in December. Network members are nominated by member states and by the European University alliances, 41 groupings of universities the Commission has helped set up since 2019.

“In order to succeed, we need people with both entrepreneurial and technical competence in deep tech domains, because we require both start-up founders and start-up workers with the appropriate deep tech technical background,” she told the summit. “But to achieve this objective, we must operate at the elementary, secondary and university levels.”

The network should sit at the intersection of two policy areas currently being pushed in Brussels. In January this year, the Commission launched a European strategy for universities. And next month it is set to launch an innovation agenda, with five initiatives to make the EU a leader in strategic fields.

 

A 50 organisation-strong group led by Fraunhofer-Gesellschafthas been selected to launch the European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s (EIT) newest innovator community for the creative and cultural sectors.  

The Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) on Culture and Creativity will the EIT’s ninth sector-specific innovation network that will train and support entrepreneurs around Europe helping them turn research and ideas into products.  

The new KIC will aim to boost the innovation potential of the cultural and creative sectors and industries, speeding up their recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic which brought much of an industry to a months-long halt.  

The Fraunhofer-led group was selected through a call of proposals launched in October last year. It will get a grant of up to €6 million to get the KIC off the ground, which will grow to around €70 million per year once the community offers educational, support and business creation and acceleration programmes across Europe. The KIC is also expected to raise additional funding from the public and private sectors. 

 

The European Commission and EU member states are starting discussions on creating a Collaborative Cloud for Cultural Heritage to digitally safeguard European culture.

The infrastructure will provide technologies for digitising artefacts, researching artworks and documenting data. This promises to enable transdisciplinary and large-scale collaboration between cultural heritage scholars, curators, archivists and conservators, allowing smaller and remote institutions to participate in joint projects.

By 2025, the EU is set to invest €110 million in the initiative as part of the Horizon Europe research programme.

 

WomenTechEU, the EU’s support scheme for early-stage women-led start-ups, is set to provide grants and business services to 130 companies this year.

The second rendition of the programme will have a budget of €10 million, more than double the money spent in its pilot phase last year.

The scheme is one of the EU’s key projects aiming to tackle the gender gap in the bloc’s start-up scene. Today, only 6% of start-ups are founded by all-women teams, and women obtain only 10% of patent applications in the EU. Countering the long-standing trend is one of the main goals of the current EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel.

 

Hungary plans to increase its spending on research, innovation and development from 1.6% to 3% of its GDP by the end of the decade, the country's innovation minister János Csák revealed in an award ceremony for young science talents last week.

The ambition is in line with the EU’s goal to invest 3% of GDP in research and innovation as part of the recently renewed push to create a single European market for research. In 2020, the year the goal was set, only 5 countries hit the mark, with total EU investments averaging out at 2.3%.

 

The European Commission today signed off 28 new nuclear research projects and a new partnership on radiation protection and detection of ionising radiation. 

The Commission is spending €100 millionfrom the EU’s five-year €1.38 billion nuclear research and training programme Euratom on the 28 projects. The projects will contribute to nuclear safety, radiation protection, and safe use of nuclear power and of non-power applications of ionising radiation. 

The new partnership, PIANOFORTE, is one of the three initiatives through which the Commission is disbursing the Euratom research funds. Two more partnerships, EUROfusion and EURAD, cover fusion energy and radioactive waste management research projects.  

 

The EU has selected Bull SAS, a subsidiary of the French IT and consulting giant Atos, to build and deliver its newest supercomputer, MareNostrum 5.  

Starting in 2023, the supercomputer, to be located at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), will be used to facilitate drug research, vaccine development, and virus spread simulations, among other medical uses. It is expected to be one of the five fastest supercomputers in the world. 

The EU’s €7 billion supercomputing programme, EuroHPC, will contribute half of the €151 million investment, with the rest covered by a Spanish-led consortium. 

EuroHPC already runs five supercomputers in Europe, with the newest one, LUMI, launched earlier this week in Finland. Another two are currently being built, while five new hosting sites were announced yesterday.  

 

The European Commission is looking to pilot a joint European degree label and test instruments for long-term transnational cooperation between universities, such as a giving a legal status for EU-supported university alliances, in a new Erasmus+ call for proposals

The aim of the call is to pilot approaches for deepening transnational cooperation between universities in Europe, building on existing Erasmus+ funded European university alliances. 

“With this Erasmus+ pilot, we seek to progress on the flagship initiatives of the European strategy for universities and take transnational cooperation to the next level,” said EU research and education commissioner Mariya Gabriel.  

The call has a budget of €2 million and is open until 6 October.  

 

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