HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

20 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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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.’ 

 

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. 

 

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