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 House of Lords’ science and technology committee has urged the UK government to come up with an implementation plan for its ambitious science and technology ambitions, or they risk becoming “empty slogans”.

In a report published today, the Lords' science committee says the priorities outlined in the strategy are too broad and do not set specific targets. “There should be a clear implementation plan including measurable targets and key outcomes in priority areas, and an explanation of how they will be delivered,” the report says.

Last year, the UK government announced a strategy aimed at turning the country into a “science and tech superpower by 2030.” Also, in its 2021 spending review the government announced public investment in R&D will rise to £20 billion by 2024 from £9 billion in 2017.

According to the committee, the UK government had an “inconsistent approach” to international cooperation in science and technology collaboration. The failure to secure association in Horizon Europe has damaged the UK’s reputation. “A cross-government science strategy must recognise the importance of international collaborations and steps must be taken to rebuild the UK’s reputation as a partner,” the report says.

The report laments the UK’s lack of progress in talks with the EU to join its €95.5 billion programme as an associated country. Before Brexit, researchers in the UK scooped up €7 billion from Horizon 2020, representing 12.1% of all the awarded funds.

 

Last year, EU governments spent €109 250 million, or around 0.8% of their GDP, on research and development, 6% up from almost €102 791 million the year prior. 

Luxembourg was an overall leader in terms of expenditure per person at €689 per person, followed by Denmark at €530 and Germany at €471. But the differences between member states are stark, with Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia all investing under €50 per person in research last year.  

While slowly, EU public spending on R&D research is increasing. Average government expenditure in the EU stood at €244 per person last year, up from €184 per person a decade earlier. Countries such as Latvia, from €14 in 2011 to €45 in 2021, Greece from €58 to €152.  

The data published by Eurostat today is preliminary and will be updated in January 2023 but it gives a glimpse at the changing R&D funding landscape. In 2020, EU member states agreed to boost public and private research investments in research to 3% of GDP by the end of the decade. To meet the target, they will need to pick up the pace of investing further. 

Eurostat figures

 

 

COST, EU-supported researcher networking association, has assured research and innovators based in the UK and Switzerland that they are fully eligible to participate in its programmes.  

In a statement last week, COST specified that both countries, although left out of the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme, are full members of COST, which gives their researchers full participation rights.  

This means they can get reimbursed for participating in networking activities, can be the main or secondary proposers in COST calls for new actions, are eligible to lead ongoing actions, may hold grants and get reimbursed for participating in activities organised by COST.  

 

The independent committee will monitor the emergence of new health risks and inform government policy, replacing two previous groups that steered the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The new committee’s work will be closely linked with the country’s research and innovation system and existing agencies. The committee will be made up of 16 science and health professionals and patient and citizen representatives, to be appointed shortly.  

Two previous committees finished their mandates on 31 July as the state of health emergency came to an end in France. During the last two years, they helped inform the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its vaccine strategy.  

 

Spain’s State Research Agency will invest almost €18 million in 91 international research projects this year, thanks to the EU’s pandemic recovery fund.

The funding aims to promote Spain’s presence in the international research and innovation scene. In a previous edition of the competition, the country’s research ministry financed 71 projects with €14.3 million. 

Spain has been actively using its €69.5 billion share of the EU's recovery fund to boost investments in research and innovation.

 

EIT Health and EIT Raw Materials will continue to receive EU support to run innovation training and support initiatives after passing an assessment of their work.  

The review evaluated the work of the two knowledge and innovation communities (KICs) run as part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). It found over the past seven years both KICs achieved the goals set in their business plans and strategic agendas. As a result, their partnership with the EIT has been extended for another seven years. 

There are a total of seven sector-specific KICs in areas such as health, climate and manufacturing, which receive funding from the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme to run education and business support services and projects in a bid to foster innovation across the bloc. Another KIC in the creative and cultural sectors and industries is set to fully launch next year.  

 

Portugal’s Foundation for Science and Technology is set to support 630 research projects in all fields of science. 

The competition for research and development funding in this year’s state competition was fierce, with only 8.3% of applicants receiving grants. For 'exploratory' research projects, which look into innovative ideas, the success rate was much higher at 29%. 

Women researchers will lead more than half of the selected projects.  

 

A Polish programme that has supported 111 researchers fleeing the war in Ukraine has been extended to students and PhD candidates.  

Applications for six-to-12-month scholarships can be submitted by universities and other research centres. Each applicant can get up to 5,000 zlotys (€1,000) in funding. 

The programme for researchers was started by Poland’s National Science Centre just days after Russia started its attack on Ukraine in February. It is funded by the EEA and Norway Grants, a fund set up by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to reduce disparities strengthen bilateral relations with other countries. 

 

The Center for Environmental and Technological Ethics (CETE-P) will investigate ethical problems associated with climate change, the development of artificial intelligence and other new technologies.  

To be established under the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences, the centre will offer advice to the Czech state administration, aid in the development of public policies and contribute to public debates.  

Ondřej Ševeček, director of the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences, says the centre is one of the first of its kind in central and eastern Europe and offers unique opportunities to the region. 

 

Success rates are not down but research and technology organisations point to four issues that must be tackled immediately to improve the seven-year research programme.  

In an answer to an EU consultation on the interim evaluation of Horizon Europe, the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO) calls on the European Commission to: 

  • Publish the final version of the Annotated Model Grant Agreement, an explainer that compliments the model grant agreement all beneficiaries must signed 
  • Improve the quality of the evaluators’ reports summarizing their assessments of proposals 
  • Ensure that the mid-term Horizon Europe evaluation covers all key issues  
  • Fix IT glitches on the participants’ portal 

In addition to issues to be addressed immediately, EARTO recommends hopes the Commission will look into the instability of the research and innovation budget in the EU framework, the launch of the new EU strategy on technology infrastructures, use of lump sum funding and achieving balance between different technology readiness levels within the programme. 

 

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