- Ivanova goes to Bulgaria in first international trip as research commissioner
- WIPO report: Switzerland is world’s most innovative country
- U-LAC Digital Accelerator launches call for challenges in smart production
- Chinese students and scholars are mobilised to defend China’s image abroad
- UKRI to improve support for postgraduate research
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 new EU Commissioner for research and innovation, Iliana Ivanova, this week makes her first official international trip since taking up the role earlier this month as she heads to her native Bulgaria.
Today she will meet with Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov and President Rumen Radev. She will also meet with various other ministers in charge of science, innovation, education and culture.
On Friday she will give a speech at the Spinoff Bulgaria conference in Sofia.
Switzerland, Sweden and the US are the world’s most innovative countries in 2023, a new report from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) states.
In its latest edition of the Global Innovation Index, it lists the UK and Singapore as the two other countries to make up the top five. Finland, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and South Korea round out the top 10.
Global government R&D budgets increased between 2021-22, the report says, based on preliminary data. However, this is largely carried by big increases in Japan and South Korea, and to a lesser extent in countries such as Germany. This has made up for budget reductions in many other countries.
Another developing trend is the global value of venture capital investments in innovation, with a big drop off in the past year due to impact by high interest rates.
Read the full report here.
Companies based in Europe, Latin America and/or the Caribbean are invited to share their challenges in the digitalisation of their production processes, in the first call of the EU-LAC Digital Accelerator.
The initiative is funded by the European Commission as part of the Global Gateway EU-LAC digital alliance, which aims to boost business partnerships between the two regions. The first call concerns both primary and secondary sectors.
Selected companies will be put in contact with startups or SMEs which are able to propose innovative solutions by taking advantage of digital technologies. The benefits of participation also include connecting with investors and funding institutions, and customised acceleration services, such as the establishment of a business roadmap, worth up to up to €40,000.
Interested companies can find more information on the initiative’s website.
China uses academics and students abroad to shape public opinion and exert global influence, according to a new report from the Mercator Institute for China Studies.
The report highlights the role of nationalist Chinese students and groups in defending the Chinese government’s positions. Hong-Kong protesters in Europe and elsewhere have previously complained about intimidation from pro-Beijing students. “China’s embassies are in close contact with student associations and have publicly praised efforts to defend China’s image,” the report states.
“With a new Patriotic Education Law in the making, this brand of internalized defensive nationalism is posed to grow.” The draft bill would extend patriotism courses to Chinese communities overseas.
The authors recognise that diaspora groups are also the main victims of surveillance and coercion abroad, “especially students and scholars who research, discuss or advocate on critical issues."
UK Research and Innovation promises to lead the work on reforming support for postgraduate research in the country, in new report outlining the next steps and what’s been done already.
The plan includes a sector-wide commitment to discuss a potential common baseline for a minimum stiped for student’s living costs as well as wider support.
UKRI has already increased the minimum stipend paid to its students by nearly 20% in cash terms between 2022 and 2024, and launched the PGR Funders and Providers Forum to facilitate discussions among funders and representatives from research organisations.
France’s Institut National Du Cancer (INCa) will invest €10 million in research taking on cancer’s toughest challenges through the global Cancer Grand Challenges initiative.
France’s investment will help to fund the next round of teams. There are currently 12 teams shortlisted, each hoping to win up to £20 million in grants when the results come are announced in March.
The initiative was founded in 2020 by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the US.
On 13 October the European Commission will host an event to discuss the latest developments in research and innovation foresight – a form of future gazing to assist policymakers.
The event will share the results of a so-called Mutual Learning Exercise, which seeks to understand how to learn lessons about how to use foresight to support science and research.
It will be held at the Estonian Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels. Registration can be accessed here.
The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities and the African Research Universities Alliance have unveiled three new joint research clusters, focusing on creative economies, engineering, and the politics of sustainable development.
There are now 20 such clusters, bringing together 250 researchers in 60 universities and research institutes. These latest groups are a response to an EU push to strength research and innovation cooperation with Africa, following an African Union-EU Innovation Agenda launched in July.
“At this particular time, when European discourse about Africa is increasingly dominated again by migration and crisis, it is more critical than ever to show how Europeans and Africans can only progress by addressing our common challenges together, in real partnership; and this is what all three Clusters do,” said Jan Palmowski, secretary general of the Guild.
After complaints from health researchers, the US National Institutes of Health announced some changes to a new rule it is planning to require access to foreign grantees’ lab notes.
The original plan, which had followed US government audits of prior NIH grants, would have required foreign recipients of NIH grant “sub-awards” – that is, scientists abroad who are working with US NIH grantees in research consortia – to “provide copies of all lab notebooks, all data, and all documentation that supports the research outcomes as described in the progress report, to the primary recipient no less than once every six months.”
The revised rule, which NIH said was in response to comment it received from the research community, modifies that language to require annual, rather than semi-annual, access. And it says the access can be electronic, rather than on paper.
Either way, the proposed change in the agency’s standard grant terms had stirred alarm among many foreign researchers and ministries, fearful it could compromise patient confidentiality or data privacy regulation – and create a bureaucratic obstacle to health-research collaboration. NIH is the world’s largest civilian funder of health research, and has numerous collaboration agreements with research agencies around the world. These links have been widely credited as a driving factor in the record-fast development of COVID vaccines in 2020 and beyond.
A US think tank has released an analysis mapping out which countries are carrying out gain-of-function research, a technique that enhances the capabilities of pathogens to understand them better.
The research method has come under scrutiny by lawmakers in the US after some journalists and scientists argued it could have been behind the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in Wuhan, China.
But it remains seen as a highly useful scientific tool, and is often used in tandem with so-called loss-of-function research, which strips pathogens of their abilities, the report, from the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, says.
The analysis finds that any regulation of gain-of-function research will prove highly complicated, because scientists cannot always predict whether changes they make will make a pathogen more or less virulent.