HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

03 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 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).

European Commission’s research chief Signe Ratso is in South Korea today discussing R&I cooperation and the country’s potential association to the Horizon Europe research programme.

A week after visiting Japan to discuss deepening cooperation, Ratso met South Korea’s first vice minister for science and information and communications technologies, Oh Tae-Seog.

Similarly to Japan, South Korea has been in talks about potentially joining the EU’s €95.5 billion research programme, but the discussions are yet to move to full negotiations. Last week, EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel told the European Parliament there may be movement soon. “As for Japan and South Korea, we are getting closer to the end of exploratory discussions," she told MEPs on Tuesday.

EU’s internal market commissioner Thierry Breton is in Canada this week reaffirming the EU’s commitment to strengthen cooperation on clean technology, raw materials, semiconductors and advanced manufacturing.

In a joint statement with Canada’s industry minister François-Philippe Champagne, Breton stressed willingness to work together on ensuring both sides’ resilience in strategic sectors and move towards an upcoming EU-Canada Digital Partnership, which will focus on digital privacy, artificial intelligence, research and innovation on next-generation networks and cyber security.

Eric Lander, the former White House science adviser who resigned last year after allegations of bullying, has returned to the Broad Institute, a biomedical collaboration of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Lander quit in February 2022 after an internal investigation found evidence of "disrespectful interactions with staff". 

He will resume work at Broad from next month as a core institute member and founding director emeritus. Acknowledging the scandal, an official announcement from Broad about his return said that his "departure from Washington last year stimulated important and often tough discussions about academic culture here and across the nation". 

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