HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

02 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 Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has announced it is teaming up with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to offer joint funding to natural science and engineering projects. 

It comes as Switzerland continues talks with the EU over association to Horizon Europe, which have been ongoing for some time. Switzerland was also recently ejected from the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures because of its lack of Horizon Europe association. 

Matthias Egger, president of the SNSF, said the new collaboration with Canada will “contribute to increasing research capacity in Switzerland and abroad”. 

Meanwhile Alejandro Adem, president of NSERC, said: “We believe that working together with other international agencies and organisations, such as the Swiss National Science Foundation, will lead to great collaborations between Canadian researchers and their international peers.”

Canada is set to become a full member of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO), an international next-generation radio astronomy observatory.

Canada currently holds a cooperation agreement with SKAO, giving its researchers access to the project, but is set to complete the process to attain full membership in the coming months.  

Full membership will give Canadian astronomers a 6 per cent use-share of the observatory, access to a next-generation radio astronomy facility and support the establishment of a domestic regional centre.

Once fully constructed, by 2029, SKAO will operate 2 telescopes in Australia and South Africa to  enable new discoveries about the universe, the fundamental laws of physics and the prospects for life on other planets.

The European Commission’s acting director general for research Signe Ratso is in Japan this week for talks on enhancing R&I cooperation between the EU and Japan.

Talks of Japan’s potential association to the EU’s €95.5 billion Horizon Europe research programme have been going on for a while, after the two officially began exploring the possibility in May, but there has been no breakthrough since.

Maria Cristina Russo, the Commission’s director for global research cooperation, highlighted renewable energy, digital technologies, soil research and automated driving as areas for potential cooperation.

A new EU roadmap published this week calls for a comprehensive approach to developing and adopting circular technologies in the textile, construction and energy-intensive industries.

The report lays out the needs for circular technologies, innovation and business models in the three industries, looking to reducing pressure on natural resources in the bloc and help the EU achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

Today, the EU is home to a third of companies worldwide active in circular economy technologies compared to a fifth in the US and only 4.4% in China.

The European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) has launched a service integrating all of its data in one single portal.

The service will provide researchers, marine managers and policymakers access to reliable and accurate data across seven thematic areas.

More than 120 organisation involved with EMODnet have been working for over a decade to aggregate, process and provide access to marine data from various sources.

The one stop shop will aid the EU in delivering its Horizon Europe Mission to restore the bloc’s oceans and waters by 2030.

The European Parliament’s industry, research and energy (ITRE) today voted through its draft position on the EU’s plans to secure its own supply of semiconductors, in the face of global competition.

The plans foresee giving a boost to production and innovation by addressing skills shortages, setting up competence centres, and increasing investment in research and innovation, as well as setting up emergency measures against shortages. To fund all this, the MEPs hope to see the European Commission committing fresh money to the new initiative.

“Microchips are integral to the EU’s digital and green transitions as well as our geopolitical agenda,” said the Parliament’s rapporteur for the file, Eva Maydell. “We are calling for fresh funding that reflects the strategic importance of Europe’s Chips sector.”

Next, the Parliament will negotiate with the council of EU member states to iron out the final details of the EU’s Chips Act before it is adopted by both institutions.

An index tracking the performance of European space-based companies that are currently listed on the stock market is set to launch today.

The index will help investors monitor the performance of space companies and thus attract additional private capital. It was developed by the European Space Agency, the European Commission and the pan-European stock exchange group, Euronext.

Ninety grantees of the European Research Council (ERC) are set to receive up to €150,000 to turn their fundamental research findings into practical innovations, in the latest Proof of Concept funding round. 

Researchers that already hold grants from the EU's €16 billion frontier science fund can use this type of funding to verify the practical viability of scientific concepts, explore business opportunities or prepare patent applications.

This is the last set of proof of concept grants funded by the 2022 budget, bringing the total number of ERC grantees that received this innovation top-up funding in the past year to 366.

Internal market commissioner Thierry Breton and international partnerships commissioner Jutta Urpilainen are set to tour Southern Africa this week in a bid to shore up the EU's supply of hydrogen fuel and raw materials. 

They will visit Namibia to meet with the country's president Hage Geingob, and try to take forward previous deals that secure access. 

The trip is part of the EU's Global Gateway initiative, an attempt to rival Chinese influence in Africa and elsewhere through infrastructure and other investment.

Dependence on China for raw materials used in manufacturing has become a key issue in EU policy. Meanwhile, the bloc is also looking to sunny countries like Namibia as potential producers of clean hydrogen fuel using solar power. 

The European Union has signed 16 new grant agreements for large-scale projects through its Innovation Fund, which provides investment for the development and deployment of new technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.

The total investment in the 16 projects is worth €1.8 billion.

It brings the number of large-scale projects to receive funding from the scheme up to 23, while another 30 small-scale projects have also received investment. 

The Innovation Fund is itself 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. 

Kurt Vandenberghe, head of the European Commission’s directorate general for climate action, said that the newly funded projects will “reduce greenhouse gas emissions and act as industry trailblazers on our path towards decarbonisation”. 

“They illustrate the EU has everything it takes to be successful in the clean-tech race,” he said. 

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