HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

17 May 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 country’s VTT Technical Research Centre is investing €18 million in a new centre for piloting carbon neutral innovations for transport and industry, to be completed in the city of Espoo in 2024. 

The goal is to give companies a space to scale innovation to the market in hydrogen, clean and energy-efficient transport, industry and built environment sectors, facilitating the transition towards clean energy domestically and enabling exports.  

“We will have people working on things like the interplay of traffic, households, industry and energy production in the energy system of the future, all under one roof,” said Jussi Manninen, executive vice president at VTT. “The development of winning solutions requires close cooperation between industry, start-ups and research actors, and the piloting centre will provide a good framework for that.”   

 

The country is considering reforming laws governing science careers to improve stability, reduce administrative burdens and reinforce the transfer of knowledge, and asks citizens to have their say on how this should be done. 

Proposed changes include reducing the age of entry for postdoctoral researchers, introducing a new type of indefinite work contracts and reducing the precarity faced by early-career researchers.  

Spain’s reforms aim to boost the attractiveness of research careers as countries around the world enter ‘a war for talent’ trying to lure researchers through new academic recruitment programmes, visa schemes and open-door policies.  

 

Europeans are invited to submit existing sustainability, inclusiveness and aesthetics projects that reflect the goals of the EU’s green deal to this year’s New European Bauhaus (NEB) Prizes contest. 

In this year’s competition, 18 winners will be selected to receive up to €30,000 across four categories: reconnecting with nature; regaining a sense of belonging; prioritising the places and people that need it most; and fostering long-term, lifecycle and integrated thinking in the industrial ecosystem. 

The European Commission invites candidates of all nationalities and backgrounds to submit their examples of inspiring green transformations until 28 February.  

The NEB is the Commission’s attempt to put a cultural twist on the EU’s green deal, and the prizes awarded in this competition celebrate existing projects that are in line with the NEB’s purpose. 

 

The €5 million Horizon Prize for breakthrough early-warning technologies for epidemics was awarded to the EarlY WArning System for Mosquito-borne Diseases (EYWA) project.  

EYWA helps fight mosquito-borne diseases by enhancing the surveillance and control of the mosquitoes’ abundance and pathogens’ transmission using entomological, epidemiological, Earth Observation, crowd and ancillary geospatial data. It has been deployed in thousands of villages where is has proven to help prevent the spread of diseases.  

The €5 million prize was launched by the EU’s innovation fund, the European Innovation Council, in 2018 to find and award breakthrough innovations in early warning systems for vector-borne disease epidemics that affect over 1 billion people each year. 

 

Creative Europe, the EU’s programme for cultural and creative sectors, is set to disburse €385 million to help the sectors recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, €100 million more than in 2021. 

The money will be spent on calls for various cultural projects, the audio-visual value chain and cross-sectortal innovation projects, including those contributing to the New European Bauhaus, the European Commission’s programme seeking to give the EU’s green deal a cultural dimension.

 

The League of European Research Universities (LERU) says universities can provide expertise on export controls and input on challenges that would come up when implementing the Council’s guidelines in universities. 

In a new statement, LERU argues research-intensive universities face unique challenges when it comes to “dual use export control regulations” as their work, which involves cutting edge technologies, relies on free, and often international, exchange of ideas. 

The EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) launched in 2021 in a bid to improve cooperation on ten trade, competitiveness, and technology issues, including export controls. 

 

Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, the climate investment fund founded by Bill Gates, has published a call for proposals for large-scale deep green tech projects based in Europe.

The call is the first to be launched under the EU-Catalyst partnership, a €820 million joint initiative by the European Commission, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Bill Gates, aimed to speed up the scale-up of critical climate technologies developed in the EU and create markets for them.

The Commission is using money from Horizon Europe to back the partnership with Gates, but member states have openly criticised policymakers in Brussels for using the €95.5 billion EU research programme as a piggy bank for Commission’s pet projects.

Back in November, EU research ministers warned the Commission to make sure any new initiatives that involve taking money from Horizon Europe are first subject to political discussions within the EU’s formal decision-making process.

Read more details about the EU-Catalyst partnership here.

 

The new EU SME fund will offer vouchers for EU-based SMEs to help protect their IP for the next three years as they recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. 

At varying rates, the fund will reimburse the money companies spend on IP scan services, trademark and design registration, and getting international trade mark and design protection from the World Intellectual Property Organisations. In 2022, the fund will also reimburse 50% of the fees charged by national patent officer for registering patents. From 2023, more services will be added to the list. 

SMEs can secure the funding by submitted a proposal through one of the European Union Intellectual Property Office’s calls, the first one of which launched today. 

“New ideas and expertise are the main added value we have in the EU. With this fund, we want to support SMEs to face those peculiar times and remain strong and innovative through the decades to come,” said the European Commission’s Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager. 

 

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is loaning Danish company Haldor Topsøe €45 million to prop up its research and development in carbon reduction technologies.  

With the help of the funding from the EU’s fund for strategic plan, the company aims to develop new technologies and catalysts to help boost the use of renewable energy, including hydrogen. 

“The additional funding will be devoted to research aimed at developing innovative hydrogen technologies and contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions,” said Commission executive vice president Valdis Dombrovskis.  

 

The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities joins a chorus of organisations raising the alarm about the potential unintended effects of a broader introduction of lump sum funding in the EU research programme Horizon Europe, and calls on the European Commission to consult universities before making the move. 

While the Guild supports cutting heavy paperwork associated with Horizon projects, it urges the Commission to first consult university grant and financial managers to determine whether lump sums “provide a simplification from a university management perspective and if they are suitable for all research types.” 

The Commission announced plans to introduce widespread lump sum funding to Horizon Europe from 2023 after a recent pilot scheme concluded that the lump sum approach is fit for wider use. However, critics in the research community warn the plans are ‘premature.’ 

 

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