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.

 

During its six-month presidency of the EU, which started this month, France promises “to back the building of a real European Innovation Area.”

Taking a concrete step towards the goal of establishing a single European market for innovation, the presidency will organise a conference on 11 May to discuss the plans.

While France takes the reigns of the Council of member states, the European Commission is gearing up to publish a new European strategy for innovation in the coming months, aiming to boost Europe’s global standing in breakthrough innovation.

 

The conference in Marseille on 8 and 9 March will promote balanced cooperation in research and innovation with countries outside the EU.

“It will underscore the need to uphold the EU’s values and interests, as well as the requirement for global standards, in particular for intellectual property, to assert the EU’s role as a driving force and initiator of these standards,” the French Council presidency’s plans say.

The EU’s openness to science cooperation with other countries has suffered several blows this year after Switzerland was denied access to the EU’s research programme Horizon Europe while the UK’s participation in the programme continues to hang in the air.

 

The Irish government on Tuesday approved a bill which will seek to provide a new governance, performance and accountability framework for higher education institutions. 

"This legislation will introduce a co-governance model. Institutions will remain autonomous but it will ensure the investment the government is making in the sector is safeguarded and there is accountability for that funding,” said minister Simon Harris. 

While universities will remain in charge of their governance, the new rules will add new reporting requirements to protect the government’s investments and ensure accountability.  

The legislation will also include reforms to the strategic planning for tertiary education, engagement with students, equity of access and participation in the higher education sector, lifelong learning and the collection of data for advice, planning and research.  

 

The European Commission today launched a call looking for experts to advise it on delivering the new Horizon Europe missions. 

The selected experts, invited to apply by 2 February, will be asked to join the Mission Boards for each of the five research missions, where they will be tasked with raising awareness among citizens and give advice to the Commission. Each board will consist of up to 15 members from business, public administration, science, culture, citizen engagement and civil society organisations.  

The missions are the newest addition to the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme that aim to mobilise EU-wide action to address five global challenges by 2030: adapting to climate change, tackling cancer, restoring oceans and waters, leading 100 cities to climate neutrality and caring for soil health. All five officially got off the ground in September with a budget of €1.9 billion following a year-long creation process within the Commission, advised by the first constellation of the mission boards.

 

The Portuguese government has set out to boost research spending to 3% of GDP by the end of the decade, in line with the EU’s ambition to improve research funding across the bloc.  

To reach the goal, over the next eight years, public and private research spending share will have to almost double, from 1.62% of GDP in 2020 to 3% in 2030. 

EU member states renewed the ambition to increase EU research spending to 3% of GDP by the end of the decade last year as part of the plans to form a single market for research, the European Research Area. 

 

Austria’s universities will receive €12.3 billion in funding from the government over the next three years, €1.3 billion more than in the previous three-year period. 

With the help of the budget boost the government hopes to hire more staff, attract more students and fund more research. Medical universities are set to secure the biggest boost, with 33% more funding. 

“Despite the corona pandemic and all its follow-up costs, the budget for the universities, above all for the medical universities, was able to be increased significantly. This is an important step for Austria as a location for science and research and its excellent universities,” said Minister Martin Polaschek. 

 

The European Association for Bioindustries is urging the European Commission to ensure its upcoming update to the EU pharmaceutical strategy reposition the EU as a global leader in cutting-edge health R&D. 

The association argues streamlined, flexible and coherent regulations are needed to increase the EU’s attractiveness in the field and to solve issues stemming from different national pricing and reimbursement policies in member states.  

“In the context of global challenges and accelerated science, the ambition of the pharmaceutical legislative revision should be to transform the EU’s strong research base into breakthrough innovation to better address the health needs of Europeans and to regain EU’s global leadership as a home for R&D and cutting-edge industry,” said Bernard J. Grimm, Healthcare Biotechnology Director. 

 

The UK's top research universities have reiterated calls for London and Brussels to sign off the UK's association to Horizon Europe. 

Although association was agreed in theory almost a year ago as part of a wider Brexit package, the European Commission has said it will not rubber stamp this deal until wider political issues, like a dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol, are resolved. 

“Almost a year on that association has not been finalised, putting at risk all of the benefits being part of a major international collaboration brings for all of those involved," said Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group in a statement today. 

"Now is the time for all parties to set aside wider disagreements and secure the UK’s association, which would be a win-win for the UK and our collaborators across Europe," he said.

Pan-European health organisations have also added their voices to the call. "Patients mustn’t become collateral damage in EU-UK relations," tweeted the European Health Stakeholder Group. "This is why we are calling for formal association of the UK to the Horizon Europe research programme." 

Universities need additional funds to address the environmental sustainability of their operations, as they are faced with declining levels of public investments in higher education, a survey by the European University Association (EUA) has found.

Meaningful plans for reducing the carbon footprint of university campuses require upfront investments in major infrastructure changes. However, the report says “General underfunding and the lack of specific funding incentives were identified as the two main obstacles in addressing environmental sustainability.”

Many EU governments have not been able to return to pre-2008 investment levels in higher education, while the COVID-19 crisis has further increased the financial strain in the university sector. A total of 20% of the respondents to the EUA survey said they have fewer financial resources because of the pandemic, limiting their ability to plan for investments in greener campuses.

The report is available here.

 

The League of European Research Intensive Universities (LERU) said an exception that gives EIC inventors “indefinite access rights for exploitation purposes at non-profit legal entities” could be counterproductive.

According to a statement by LERU, the 23 research universities in the lobby group agree that EIC inventors can help exploit research results. However, they fear the provisions “will be counterproductive and will lead to less rather than more valorisation, given the uncertainty they cause,” the research lobby group said in a statement.

The group warns that the scheme is problematic for most universities with well-established technology-transfer offices, as it may clash with internal IP rules. According to the statement, exemptions need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, as institutions hosting several EIC projects would have to deal with a considerable increase in paperwork.  

“LERU is convinced that universities should be stimulated to exploit research results. “Potential income from those results can support investments and activities for which universities otherwise have little to no funding,” the research lobby group said.

The full statement is here.

 

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