HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

23 May 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.

The UK will award £100 million to biotech projects to develop new technologies that will help prepare for pandemics, innovate farming, and protect against floods, the government’s Science and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, has announced.

The money will support six new Engineering Biology Mission Hubs, to be led by UK universities, and 22 Mission Award projects. Full details of the recipients are available here.

Donelan also announced an additional £21 million for the UK Biobank, which will be invested in a new robot freezer, to store 20 million samples of biological data.

Technology and scientific advances are “the true engine room of growth”, and the investments will contribute to “cementing the UK as a science and technology superpower by 2030”, Donelan said.

 

Countries in advanced talks to join the European Union need to have a voice in the planning of the EU’s next research and innovation programme that will run between 2028-2035, Anastas Mishev, a professor at the North Macedonian University of Ss Cyril and Methodius, North Macedonia, told a Science|Business conference today.   

“Our biggest hope is becoming part of the union,” Mishev said. “But until then, it is important for us to be asked to be a part of what is being planned, to have our say and not to be outsiders waiting to join like it was with all the previous programmes.”  

He added that western Balkan countries have been heavily reliant on funding support from EU R&I framework programmes over the years, and that support needs to continue. “We want to avoid a two-speed Europe,” Mishev said, emphasising the importance of investing in all countries and regions of Europe.   

Monica Dietl, executive director of the Initiative for Science in Europe (ISE), speaking on the same panel said that the possibility of new member states joining the EU should be considered when planning the budget for the next framework programme.     

“The more countries there are, the more budget we need,” she said. “We know that currently, many excellent projects are not funded. The guideline should be, being able to fund all excellent projects all over the programme.”  

Mishev and Dietl were speaking during a panel discussion on EU enlargement during a Science|Business’ conference celebrating 40 years of EU framework programmes. 

 

The European Defence Agency (EDA) has published a new call for applications to its research, technology, and innovation papers award.  

The competition, now in its second year, focuses on innovative technologies, processes, and applications for enhanced future defence capabilities.  

EDA is looking to receive applications from early career researchers until 29 March 2024. The awards will be presented at Eurosatory in Paris in June with each winner receiving €4,000. 

This year, selected papers will focus on research ideas which, if implemented between now and 2035, would contribute to enhance specific EU defence capabilities.

 

The Guild of European research-intensive universities is calling on national governments and universities to join forces with the European Commission to boost funding for European Universities alliances 

According to a statement by The Guild, the EU should provide “comprehensive support to university alliances” but EU funding alone is not enough. “The sustainability of the initiative will require concerted efforts of national governments and institutional commitments,” the Guild said.  

“The alliances differ in scope and modus operandi,” said Ole Petter Ottersen, acting secretary-general of The Guild. “This is how it should be: there is not a single way forward, but many, and they should all be explored in the living experiment that the university alliances represent,” he said.  

The full statement is available here.  

 

The European Innovation Council (EIC) has launched the SPIN4EIC Strategic Innovation Procurement Programme, a new initiative aimed at helping innovators access procurement markets in Europe and beyond. 

EIC beneficiaries will get tailored assistance to learn about procurment opportunities and take part as bidders in public or private tenders. The programme will also help public and private buyers connect with innovators.  

A launch event of the programme will take place on 22 February.  

 

The Joint European Torus (JET), the EU-funded large infrastructure located in the UK, has demonstrated the ability to reliably generate fusion energy whilst simultaneously setting a world record in energy output.

After running since 1983, JET has reached the end of its lifespan and is due to be decommissioned, but in a swansong on what it has achieved, it was reported that in the final deuterium-tritium experiments (DTE3), high fusion power was consistently produced for 5 seconds, resulting in a ground-breaking record of 69 megajoules using a mere 0.2 milligrams of fuel.

Fernanda Rimini, JET senior exploitation manager, said, “We can reliably create fusion plasmas using the same fuel mixture to be used by commercial fusion energy powerplants, showcasing the advanced expertise developed over time.”

Ambrogio Fasoli, programme manager at EUROfusion, which oversees the EU’s Euratom programme said, “Our successful demonstration of operational scenarios for future fusion machines like ITER and DEMO, validated by the new energy record, instil greater confidence in the development of fusion energy. Beyond setting a new record, we achieved things we’ve never done before and deepened our understanding of fusion physics.” 

Over 300 scientists and engineers from EUROfusion – a consortium of researchers across Europe, contributed to the landmark experiments at the UK Atomic Energy Authority site in Oxford.

 

The Young European Research Universities Network (YERUN) ahs published a list of three policy steps needed to improve careers in academia, in response to a call for evidence by teh European Commisison.  

The three steps are: 

  • Step 1: Celebrating diversity of contributions and creating paths for talent to grow 

  • Step 2: Creating adequate support systems for continuous skills development 

  • Step 3: Empowering universities with adequate framework conditions to support diverse career developments. 

Read the full paper here

 

The European Parliament has adopted its position on the Commission’s proposal on New Genomic Techniques (NGTs), which are more targeted and precise than first-generation genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but are currently subject to the same restrictive rules.

MEPs agreed with the proposal to split NGTs into two different categories. NGT plants which are equivalent to plants which could be obtained by conventional breeding would be exempted from the requirements of the GMO legislation.

MEPs also voted to ban patents for all NGT plants, plant material and processes.

“I hope member states will soon adopt their position so we can adopt the new rules before the European elections and give the farmers the tools they need for the green transition,” said rapporteur Jessica Polfjärd MEP.

“The successful integration of new genomic techniques into farming practices will not only drive economic growth but also pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient agricultural sector,” said Garlich von Essen, secretary general of industry association Euroseeds.

 

The Chips for Europe initiative moves forward with a second round of funding calls worth €216 million under the Chips Joint Undertaking (Chips JU), the European Commission has announced today. 

The new calls are aimed at giving a boost to the European semiconductor industry. The goal is to move technologies from the lab to manufacturing faster, as the EU is scrambling to secure a domestic development and production of advanced microelectronics and semiconductors.  

The calls target consortia organised around EU companies that are active in these fields. More details about deadlines and how to apply are available here.

 

Subscribe to Live Blog Entries