HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

18 Jun 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.

Last week, Switzerland renewed its participation in the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, France, securing access for Swiss scientists to a premier neutron source and over 40 experimental stations from 2024 to 2028, with a potential extension to 2033.

The renewal, backed by a CHF 12 million commitment and potentially increasing to CHF 26.4 million, underscores the vital role of ILL's facilities in Swiss research, fostering numerous high-quality publications and collaborative projects.

The ILL's high-flux reactor supports advanced instruments crucial for diverse scientific fields such as materials science, chemistry, and molecular biology, reinforcing its status as an essential infrastructure for cutting-edge research.

More details here.

 

On Monday, the Commission launched the initial Destination Earth (DestinE) system, initiative aimed at creating a highly accurate digital twin of the Earth using Europe's high-performance computers to simulate climate change and extreme weather effects.

DestinE is designed to enhance Europe's preparedness for natural disasters, climate change adaptation, and the assessment of socioeconomic and policy impacts, with plans to achieve a complete digital Earth replica by 2030.

“The launch of the initial Destination Earth (DestinE) is a true game changer in our fight against climate change,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age.

“This first phase shows how much we can achieve when Europe puts together its scientific excellence and its massive supercomputing power. Today, the future is literally at our fingertips,” she said.

More details here.

 

Today, the Commission's Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) signed a contract to supply up to 665,000 doses of the Zoonotic Influenza Vaccine, with an option for 40 million more, to participating EU Member States to prevent avian flu.

The vaccine is aimed at high-risk groups like poultry farm workers and veterinarians and is the only preventive avian influenza vaccine currently authorized in the EU.

“Today we announce an agreement on behalf of participating countries to secure access to over 40 million doses of avian influenza vaccine,” said health and food safety commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

“Our European Health Union serves to protect people’s lives and livelihoods, and being prepared for health threats is at the core of our work,” she said.

Read the full announcement here.

 

On Wednesday, EIT Health, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology network of health innovators backed by the EU, announced the winners of the 2024 EIT Health Catapult programme, a competition and training initiative for start-ups tackling biotech, medtech and digital health.

The three winners - CELEX Oncology (UK), Acorai (Sweden), and Dymium (Germany) - were selected from nine finalists at the health.tech conference in Munich.

The EIT programme awards the best business concepts, fast-tracking start-ups to become part of the EIT Health Community. Also, industry leaders from EIT Health Catapult’s Industry partners, such as AstraZeneca, will provide additional support to finalists and winners.

“Every year, EIT Health Catapult discovers start-ups from across Europe that have the potential to positively change the lives of millions of people around the world,” said EIT Health CEO Jean-Marc Bourez.

“Announcing CELEX Oncology, Acorai, and Dymium as the three primary winners of the 2024 edition of the programme is yet another step on the journey of European healthcare innovation, that we at EIT Health are as proud as ever to be backing,” he said.

Read the full announcement here.

 

The US National Science Foundation said that, in the fiscal year beginning 1 October, it will start piloting new procedures for checking that research it funds isn’t taking unnecessary risks with national security.

Its new “Trusted Research Using Safeguards and Transparency (TRUST) framework” will help its grant officers check research projects on three levels: “assessing active personnel appointments and positions,…identifying instances of noncompliance with disclosure and other requirements,…(and) inclusion of potential foreseeable national security considerations.”

It didn’t provide more details about exactly how it will operate, beyond saying that it will start testing the new procedures on quantum science-related grantees before expanding it to other sensitive topics.

The initiative is the latest ratcheting-up of research security measures in the US, in the wake of mounting anxieties in Washington about China or other nations stealing sensitive scientific or technology secrets through collaboration with American researchers.

The NSF was mandated by the 2022 CHIPS & Science Act to raise safeguards. Most US allies, including the UK, EU, Canada and Australia, have also started toughening research security in measures coordinated through the Group of 7 leading industrial nations.

Read the NSF announcement here.

 

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) calls for more collaboration between research infrastructures (RIs) and academia to address the digital transition.

According to ESFRI’s Landscape Analysis 2024, “Competence development gaps, recruitment problems and the evolving nature of digital infrastructures underscore the necessity for RI-oriented prioritised skill development and training programmes.”

According to ESFRI, the European research ecosystem needs more strategic alignment, a deeper engagement with societal challenges, and support for cross-disciplinary research.

Read the ESFRI Landscape Analysis 2024 here.

 

Today, the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and other European research and innovation stakeholders released an open letter calling for increased R&I funding in the EU.

Investing in research and innovation is essential to address complex challenges like climate change, AI, and cybersecurity, and to ensure Europe's competitiveness and wellbeing, LERU says.

While North America and Asia have significantly increased their investments in R&I, LERU says, Europe is at risk of falling behind.

Since mid-May, some research lobbies have teamed up to make their requests louder and stronger under the Research Matters campaign.

The initiative urges European leaders to boost R&I funding by ring-fencing and doubling the budget for FP10, due to start in 2028, and increasing national funding for R&D, to reach over 3% of GDP in the EU27 and other European countries.

Read the full open letter here.

 

Today, the European Commission launched a new pilot programme to support the EU hydrogen market.

This mechanism will operate for five years under the European Hydrogen Bank, which will provide detailed market data on hydrogen supply and demand.

The procurement process for developing an IT platform to manage this mechanism has begun, with operations expected to start by mid-2025.

“Hydrogen is a strategic part of the EU's clean energy transition. It is vital not only for hitting our net-zero targets, but also for maintaining our competitiveness and preserving Europe's position as a leading global economic power,” said Maroš Šefčovič, executive vice-president for the Green Deal, interinstitutional relations and foresight.

“By facilitating the matchmaking between suppliers and consumers, we will contribute decisively to accelerating the development of Europe's nascent hydrogen sector,” Šefčovič said.

Read the full announcement here.

 

Today, the Commission announced that the Unitary Patent system launched in June 2023 registered over 27,000 patents in its first year.

The Unitary Patent system was designed to enhance the EU's innovation landscape by completing the Single Market for patents, simplifying the process for companies to protect their innovations, and reduce paperwork and administrative burdens for inventors.

Currently 17 EU Member States participate in the Unitary Patent system.

"Patents are essential for European innovation and competitiveness. The new Unitary Patent system provides a one-stop shop for the registration of  patents in Europe, making patent protection stronger, simpler and less  expensive – to the benefit of all companies, in particular SMEs," said Thierry Breton, EU commissioner for the internal market.

More details here.

 

Today, the European Commission approved a €2 billion Italian state aid measure to build and operate an integrated chip manufacturing plant for silicon carbide power devices by STMicroelectronics in Catania, Sicily.

Silicon carbide is a compound utilised in the production of wafers, which are foundational for certain microchips used in high-performance power devices like those in electric vehicles, fast-charging stations, renewable energy systems, and various industrial applications.

The €2 billion grant would contribute to the €5 billion overall budget of the project.

“The €2 billion Italian measure approved today supports a unique integrated facility for silicon carbide chips. It will strengthen the European semiconductors supply chain and ensure our access to a reliable source of power efficient chips used for example in electric vehicles and charging stations,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president in charge of competition policy.

Read the full announcement here.

 

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