HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

27 Feb 2024 | 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.

If you have any tips, please email them at [email protected].

You can read the full archive of this blog here.

According to a new monitoring report by the European Commission, hydrogen projects funded through the EU framework programmes for research and innovation are largely concentrated in a few countries in north-west Europe.  

Most of the EU’s contribution to the development of hydrogen technologies in Europe is funnelled through institutionalised public-private partnerships, the so-called Joint Undertakings, the report says.  

Since 2007, the Commission financed nearly 800 projects, with more than €2.9 billion. While a large share of funding focuses on mobility applications, particularly in the field of aviation, projects targeting all parts of the hydrogen value-chain have been financed 

Participants are mainly located in the north-west of Europe, and Germany, France and Italy are key players in hydrogen research.  

Hydrogen valleys are also blossoming in Europe, with 17 hydrogen valleys funded by the R&I programmes, the report says.  

The full report is available here.  

 

The European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) has announced it will increase its efforts to boost innovation capacity in EU outermost regions: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion, Martinique, Mayotte and Saint-Martin (France), the Azores and Madeira (Portugal), and the Canary Islands (Spain). 

The plan is part of the EIT regional innovation scheme (RIS) which was launched in 2014 and expanded in 2021, with the aim to lose the innovation gap between European countries, boosting the performance of areas scored as 'modest' or 'emerging' innovation ecosystems. 

The EIT plans help EU outermost regions strengthen their technology transfer capacity, and come up with a tailored fundraising programme for start-ups in need of financing. 

More details are available here.  

 

In a new report published by the European Research Council (ERC), president Maria Leptin lists the main outcomes of the funder’s recent assessment of grant evaluation procedures.  

In the past year, the Scientific Council of the ERC introduced changes in the evaluation processes and evaluation forms for the 2024 calls for research proposals. 

In a report dedicated to that process, Leptin explains the reasoning behind the changes and the decisionmaking process that led to them.  

The report is available here.  

 

The European Parliament this week approved the new Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP), the EU’s plan to mobilise investments in the digital, deep tech, cleantech and biotech sectors, as part of wider agreement on the mid-term revision of EU’s long-term budget (MFF).  

It follows an agreement on the MFF budget between the European Council and Parliament earlier this month.  

STEP was originally intended to be a €10 billion package but with budgets across the bloc stretched, especially in light of a €50 billion package to support Ukraine, it was trimmed down to just €1.5 billion, all of which will be channelled through the European Defence Fund (EDF). Read more about the cuts to step here.

 

France is cutting €900 million from its research and higher education budget for 2024 in line with wider spending cuts totalling €10 billion in an effort to reduce its budget deficit with economic growth slower than expected.  

The government is also slashing €2 billion from environmental and energy transition programmes.

 

Only 9% of life science researchers understand EU and US legislation on artificial intelligence, according to a new survey of 125 life science professionals carried out by the Pistoia Alliance.  

The EU is on the verge of passing its groundbreaking AI act designed to create the world’s first regulatory framework around uses of the technology. Member states reached a unanimous agreement on the content of the act earlier this month, but it still must pass through more steps before final approval that should come later this spring.  

The US, on the other hand, has loose regulation of the technology and is only in the early phases of creating legislation.  

The new survey found that as much as 35% of life science professionals surveyed have “no understanding at all” of AI legislation. On top of this, 21% said that existing regulations were blocking their research.  

Read the full report here.

 

Industry association DIGITALEUROPE has published a series of recommendations aimed at making the European single market fit for the digital age.

“We applaud the push for common data spaces, robust cybersecurity and responsible AI development,” said director general Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl in her forward to the report.

“However, the devil lies in the details. Inconsistent digital laws and fragmented regulations in crucial areas have resulted in a labyrinth of burdens, deterring investors and stifling innovation,” she said.

The publication explores 10 obstacles, including connectivity, disparate data laws, and inconsistent procurement rules, and recommends solutions.

 

Representatives from the biotech industry and beyond have come together to call on the European Commission to be ambitious in its forthcoming Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative.

Europe is slow to translate biotech R&I into industrial application and manufacturing at scale, says a position paper signed by organisations including EuropaBio, Good Food Institute Europe, and the European Confederation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs (EUCOPE).

The initiative, due to be presented in the coming months, is “a unique opportunity for the EU to build on its strong research and innovation base towards clear industrial, societal and market targets,” it reads.

The organisations offer five core principles which they say should underpin Europe’s approach to biotechnology and biomanufacturing. These include ensuring competitive market access for products in Europe, unlocking the full potential of the single market, and creating attractive investment frameworks.

You can read the position paper here.

 

The winners of this year’s EIT Awards were announced at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Summit in Brussels on Tuesday.

The winners were recognised for their ground-breaking innovations in four categories: the Changemaker Award, the Innovation Team Award, the Venture Award, and the Public Award. They specialise in technologies from sodium-ion batteries to sustainable biofoams. Learn about the winners here.

The ten finalists for the European Prize for Women Innovators, awarded by EIT and the European Innovation Council (EIC), were also announced at the Summit, with the winners set to be revealed at the R&I Week opening on 18 March. See the full list of finalists here.

 

Climate investments in the EU economy grew by 9% in 2022, but must still double for Europe to hit its 2030 climate targets, according to a new report from the Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE).

The report tracked public and private investments in 22 sectors that are critical to the transformation of energy, building and transport systems, which totalled €407 billion in 2022, or 2.56% of GDP. At least €813 billion of investment, or 5.1% of EU GDP, are needed every year in those sectors, it calculates.

“Given the scale of the current deficit, and the expected reduction in EU climate funding in the years to come, some additional EU public funding is likely required to contribute to closing the Climate Investment Deficit,” the authors write.

You can read the report here.

 

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