HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

02 Dec 2022 | 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 Association of ERC Grantees (AERG) will offer membership to UK-based European Research Council (ERC) grant winners who had to turn down their grants after being cut off from Horizon Europe. 

The move opens the doors to at least 115 researchers who won the EU’s prestigious fundamental research grants last year but were asked to give up the grant after choosing to not relocate to the EU.  

“With this temporary solution, we hope to maintain the links between successful UK applicants and the wider European science environment, including ERC, that those applicants expressly applied to join,” the association’s statement says. 

The UK negotiated its membership in Horizon Europe as part of its trade and cooperation agreement with the EU, but the European Commission has since tied the country’s participation in the programme to broader political disagreements, blocking its researchers and innovation off partaking in Horizon Europe calls on an equal footing with EU member states. For ERC applicants based in the UK, this means they can no longer hold the grants if they do not relocate to a Horizon Europe country.  

 

Lithuania is set to invest €77.7 million in mission-oriented research by 2026, with the help of the EU recovery fund. 

The country’s three missions will aim to create a safe and inclusive information society, foster smart and climate-neutral development in the country, and produce healthcare innovations.  

The idea behind mission-oriented research involves employing research and innovation to tackle major societal challenges by setting up seed projects aimed at addressing selected issues in the hopes of mobilising further action beyond the programme. The European Commission runs five such climate and health-oriented missions under the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme. Over the past few years, more and more EU member states have been trying out the new approach.  

Lithuania’s missions will be closely tied to the private sector and thus promote public-private research projects, help commercialise new business ideas, support applied research, improve skills and fill existing gaps in science infrastructure. The programme will be largely managed by the country’s new innovation agency, which will be responsible for mobilising businesses and research institutions to action, selecting proposals and overseeing the implementation of the projects.  

 

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has announced €22 million in financing to Ryvu Therapeutics, a Polish clinical-stage drug discovery and development company working on to new therapies to treat severe blood cancers and solid tumours.

"It is great news for Europe's competitiveness and its location as a research hub for innovations that change and save people's lives," said Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission.

In 2021, the EIB Group's overall financing for innovation, digital transformation and human capital projects reached €20.7 billion worldwide, of which €1.5 billion went to Poland (up from €1.2 billion in 2020).

Ryvu Therapeutics is one of the main employers of highly qualified researchers in the Polish biotech sector. With R&D activities based in Kraków, the additional investment in Ryvu will contribute to the creation of new highly skilled jobs and encourage economic growth in the region, the Commission says.

 

The UK has launched formal consultations with the EU to end the 18-month delay to the UK’s association to the EU’s €95.5 billion research programme, Horizon Europe.  

The agreement was negotiated under the EU-U.K. Trade and Cooperation Agreement back in 2020 but later got caught in a political dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Until the wider issues are resolved, the Commission is refusing to allow the UK to join the science programme on an equal footing with EU member states.  

Liz Truss, UK foreign secretary and the favourite to win the ongoing Tory leadership race, launched the formal consultation last night, officially accusing the EU of blocking the UK’s access to its science programmes.  

“The EU is in clear breach of our agreement, repeatedly seeking to politicise vital scientific cooperation by refusing to finalise access to these important programmes. We cannot allow this to continue,” said Truss. 

The frustration over the dispute has been growing over the summer. In June, 115 UK-based grantees of the European Research Council (ERC) lost their grants for fundamental research projects. The same month, the then-science minister George Freeman said the UK would walk away from Horizon Europe if the deadlock does not end before Autumn.  

Truss launched the consultation – a formal mechanism to resolve disputes under the TCA – a day before the next Tory leadership debate is set to take place in Northern Ireland.  

 

Portugal’s research and development spending reached €3.5 million, representing 1.69% of the country’s GDP, 10% more than it spent in 2020, according to provisional data. 

Research spending went up in all sectors, with companies leading the charge with 14.5% growth. They represent 59% of national expenditure, equal to 1% of GDP. In the higher education sector, investment went up by 3.4%.  

The boost in funding has allowed the country to increase the number of researchers employed by 5% compared with 2020. Portugal now has 69,628 people working in full-time equivalent positions in research and development.

Last year, the Portuguese government pledged to almost double public and private R&D spending, in line with the EU-wide 3% of GDP target. To reach the goal, private spending will have to double by the end of the decade, while public spending will have to increase to 1% of GDP. The boost in funding is set to be accompanied by reforms in the R&D sector.  

 

Till Mansmann has been named new green hydrogen innovation officer at Germany’s education and research ministry, replacing Stefan Kaufmann. 

Mansmann, a member of the Bundestag with experience in development and finance, will be responsible for steering the country's hydrogen research and development efforts, the translation of R&D results and cooperation with stakeholders outside the ministry.  

 

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), EU agency for innovation ecosystems, will establish a community hub in Serbia in 2023. 

The hub will be tasked with increasing engagement with the EIT’s activities in the country, representing all eight (soon to be nine) sector-specific knowledge and innovation communities (KICs) that make up the EIT’s network.  

The eight KICs in sectors such as health, digital, raw materials and urban mobility provide training and business development support for innovators and entrepreneurs across the EU. While their presence is strong in some European regions, others barely get coverage. To involve more regions and divert money to less innovative regions, in 2014, the EIT launched its Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS), which has been reinforced in 2021. The new hub is part of the scheme, aiming to increase the EIT’s presence in Serbia, where by the end of 2020, the EIT, established in 2008, had channeled €1.2 million to innovation projects, resulting in over €9 million of raised investment.  

 

The European Commission today published new EU guidelines on how to increase the social and economic impact of research results in a bid to help member states align policy principles and measures.

The guidelines aim to assist research and innovation organisations in leveraging the value of their intellectual assets as well as recommend the development of management strategies and promotion of skills to aid the efforts. 

The proposal is part of the plan to revive the European Research Area (ERA), the EU’s single market for research, which the Commission first introduced in September 2020. Boosting knowledge valorisation is a key pillar of the plan which policymakers hope will help the bloc harness the results of research and innovation to deliver solutions for its green and digital transitions.  

Drafted by the European Commission, the guidelines are set to be adopted by EU member states later this year.  

 

The first year of the EU’s new Horizon Europe research programme saw the launch of over 100 calls for proposals but the late start of the programme meant only 19 grant agreements, representing a €245.6 million EU contribution, had been signed in the first year of the programme.

The numbers summarising the first year of the €95.5 billion research programme are now available in a European Commission report that looks at the EU’s 2021 R&I efforts. 

There is not much to say about the EU’s big research programme yet but first impressions show it may be as competitive as its predecessors. While the 17.3% success rate in 2021 was higher than the 14% average, a whopping 66% of the eligible proposals were good enough to receive funding based on quality. This means many excellent projects submitted last year have gone unfunded. And the success rate may keep falling; as of summer 2022 the updated success rate currently stands at 15.8%.

The new report also provides preliminary numbers on how much money is set to be spent on Horizon Europe’s two biggest policy priorities: the European Green Deal and digital competitiveness. The estimates show 33 calls worth around €4 billion deal with the green transition, while 29 calls worth €2.2 billion will fund projects relevant to the EU’s digital goals. 

In 2021, as part of the work programme, €3 billion has been dedicated to fundamental science, €5.6 billion to big collaborative research projects, and €1.6 billion to disruptive innovation. 

Under the Horizon Europe umbrella, the Commission has also launched 23 public-private partnerships launched, leaving at least another 26 to go, concluded 18 negotiations on association to the programme with non-EU countries, nine of which have been signed off, and launched five research missions, spending a total of around €541 million to get the new type of programmes aiming to mobilise action beyond the EU research framework off the ground. 

 

Nineteen governments around the world and the European Commission have signed a call for open access to scientific data and publications on the monkeypox virus as the outbreak continues to worsen.  

The signatories call on scientific organisations, publishers and authors to share their research on open access repositories with permissions for reuse and secondary analysis.  

Back in 2020, research into the COVID-19 virus was similarly made available to scientists around the world in a move which enabled the rapid development of vaccines and drugs.  

Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox has been around for decades and has been studied extensively, with vaccines available, but much remains to be learned about how the epidemic may evolve and spread to more parts of the world.  

 

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