- Commission adopts €1.2B European Defence Fund work programme
- Commission launches €100M call for small-scale clean-tech projects via Innovation Fund
- ERC announces 218 new winners of Advanced Grants
- Tech companies partner with EIT to train 500,000 people in deep tech by 2025
- High level of female leaders among 32 winners of latest EIC Accelerator competition
- Commission announces call to support Regional Innovation Valleys initiative
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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The European Commission’s newly adopted annual work programme for the European Defence Fund (EDF), worth €1.2 billion, includes a 50% funding boost for non-thematic R&D activities in calls aimed at SMEs and research organisations.
The new work programme was adopted today. Calls for submissions will be opened in mid-June, with a deadline of 22 November.
The calls under the work programme aim to “prepare the ground for the development of next generation fighter systems, main battle tanks, European indirect fire capabilities, as well as strategic air transportation of outsized cargo, a core capability for rapid mission support worldwide”, a Commission press release states.
The European Commission has today launched its third call for small-scale projects under the Innovation Fund, offering projects working in various fields of the clean energy sector the opportunity to win up to €100 million in financing.
The projects eligible should have a capital expenditure of between €2.5 and €7.5 million, with the Innovation Fund money permitted to finance up to 60% of a project’s capital expenditure.
The Innovation Fund provides investment for the development and deployment of new technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.
It is financed through the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS). This works by setting a cap on the amount of emissions that certain companies produce. Those that produce fewer emissions than the set limit can sell their unused allowance to other companies. The EU is able to use some of that revenue to pump into the Innovation Fund.
The European Research Council (ERC) has announced 218 new winners of its Advanced Grants, worth a total of €544 million. The prestigious grants are given to experienced scientists or researchers who have made significant strides already in their fields.
The majority of the winners will base their research in Germany, with 37 choosing it as their host country. This is followed by the UK with 35, France with 32 and Spain with 16.
There are 36 German winners, 32 French winners, 21 Italians and 19 British.
The UK is currently still not associated to Horizon Europe, with talks between Brussels and London ongoing after Brexit. It means that any projects based in the UK will not be eligible for the funding unless the association negotiations are successful before the grant agreement needs to be signed, or the winners choose to move their project to another associated country.
Female researchers made up 23% of the winners, which makes it the highest proportion ever in the Advanced Grant call.
Maria Leptin, ERC President, welcomed this progress, saying she was “especially pleased” to see a high number of female winners.
“We look forward to seeing the results of the new projects in the years to come, with many likely to lead to breakthroughs and new advances,” she added.
In total there were 1,650 applications for Advanced Grants, meaning the success rate was 13.2%.
Technology companies and institutions around Europe have pledged to train up to 500,000 people in deep-tech linked skills by 2025 in an initiative led by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT).
Abodoo, Computer Vision Center, Generation, Intel Corporation, JA Europe, the Tampere University of Applied Sciences, and the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca have all signed up to support the EIT’s Deep Tech Talent Initiative.
“The EIT and our new partners all share a vision where deep tech like AI – which is changing the world as we speak – is developed and used first and foremost to help humanity with challenges like climate change, sustainable food production, and health crises,” said Nektarios Tavernarakis, chair of the EIT governing board.
“I look forward to working together with our new pledgers to develop the talent that will carry out this vision.”
A group of 32 companies have been selected as winners of the first European Innovation Council cut-off of the year and will receive a total of €195.8 million in funding. Of those companies, 40% have a female CEO, CTO or CSO – the highest proportion so far in the competition’s history.
There were a total of 476 applicants for the first cut-off which closed in January, with that number gradually whittled down to the final 32. The winners include a quantum technology company from Poland, a nano-coatings technology company from Latvia and a Swedish company developing a new softener for bone cement that will help in the treatment of patients with vertebral fractures.
A further 126 companies that did not receive funding but did meet all the criteria at the remote evaluation stage will receive a Seal of Excellence to prove their company’s worth when applying for other grants.
Another EIC Accelerator cut-off also just closed on 22 March, with 551 applicants.
The European Commission has launched a call for expressions of interest as part of a plan to establish 100 Regional Innovation Valleys, in which regional stakeholders collaborate with cross-border partners.
The programme is part of the New European Innovation Agenda that aims to make the EU a leader in deep-tech innovation.
The call for expression of interest for Regional Innovation Valleys was announced at an event in Brussels today to promote another initiative, the Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRIs).
The Valleys initiative is meant to build on both the Smart Specialisation initiative and the PRIs.
“Innovation is Europe’s best response to the challenges of the green and digital transitions. For the first time, Cohesion Policy Funds and the Horizon Europe programme [will] work closely together to support interregional cooperation for innovation,” said Elisa Ferreira, European commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms.
“With the Regional Innovation Valleys we aim to establish a community of regions that meet local challenges and needs whilst contributing to the EU’s strategic priorities,” EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel said announcing the call.
“Committing to become a regional innovation valley means building resilience in the face of global competition. We call on regions to join forces and develop a robust European innovation ecosystem,” Gabriel said.
A new report by the European Parliament has identified concerns over government interference in the affairs of universities and research institutions in Hungary, Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Legal changes to the governance relationships between the government and universities in these countries could enable politicians to interfere in institutional matters in academia.
Members of the European Parliament have been sounding the alarm over declining academic freedom in the EU, after Hungary managed to force the Central European University to move from Budapest to Vienna.
In this report, the Parliament calls for a common definition of academic freedom across all member states and for a new monitoring system, including a bigger role for the Parliament's STOA committee as an "academic freedom clearing house".
The report also calls on the European Commission to introduce new calls in Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ for research projects on academic freedom.
Europe must jump onboard of the ongoing human space exploration revolution and increase investment to secure its space autonomy, leading space experts told the European Space Agency (ESA).
The panel of 12 experts presented their independent report on the state of European space exploration to the ESA Council in Paris last week.
“Europe’s goal should be to capture one third of this future market,” the report says. “Countries and regions that will not secure their independent access to space and its autonomous use, will become strategically dependent and economically deprived of a major part of this value chain.”
Today, Europe has no independent human launch capacity and relies on non-European partners to send humans to space. This must change if Europe wants to be a leading space economy.
The European Commission has published the latest edition of its regional competitiveness report, according to which, regions in Bulgaria and Romania score the lowest in the innovation sub-index.
Capitals Sofia and Bucharest are getting closer to EU average innovation performance, but regions outside the capitals are ranked well below EU and national averages.
The average innovation performance of the Warsaw region in Poland is also dragged down by lower scores in other regions.
Overall, the report shows regions in central and eastern Europe continue having difficulties in catching up with innovation performance in the rest of the bloc.
The report is available here.
EU-US technology and innovation working group meets to discuss cooperation in nuclear fusion research
The technology and innovation working group of the EU-US Energy Council has met earlier this month to discuss cooperation in nuclear fusion research.
The meeting was co-chaired by Maria Cristina Russo, director for global approach and international cooperation in research & innovation at the European Commission and Joshua Volz, deputy assistant aecretary for Europe, Eurasia, Africa, and Middle East, at the US Department of Energy.
A new Model Project Agreement (MPA) is to allow the EU and the US broaden the scope of joint research activities on fusion, and increase the number of fusion projects financed.