HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

01 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.

If you have any tips, please email them at [email protected].

You can read the full archive of this blog here.

 

The European University Association (EUA) has established a new task force to help Ukraine rebuild its higher education system. 

The task force is to provide strategic advice and guidance to Ukraine's higher education sector and help universities recover from the effects of the war in the country. The group will also work on a future plan for the reconstruction and long-term development of the higher education system in Ukraine.

The task force has been established for a period of two years and will be chaired by Ivanka Popović, former Rector of the University of Belgrade in Serbia and EUA Board member.

Read more about the task force here

 

The country’s research and education ministry this week published the Hydrogen Atlas Germany detailing the current status, regional progress and opportunities for the use of hydrogen gas in the green energy transition.  

The publication estimates the potential consumption, costs and emission reductions of various hydrogen applications in Germany’s regions. It can be used by projects planners, investors and local governments to plan their hydrogen-related work.  

As part of the EU-wide push to decarbonise the economy, Germany hopes to become a leading hydrogen market. The gas promises to play a pivotal role in decarbonising sectors such as heavy-duty transport, industry and power generation, but the green version of the gas is still expensive to produce. To make the technology needed to start up a hydrogen economy, Germany is investing billions in hydrogen research, development and commercialisation.

The project, funded by the ministry, was managed by the Regensburg University of Applied Sciences. 

 

The status of researchers in Spain is set to improve after the Senate voted to approve a new bill aimed at improving careers, pending a follow-up vote at the Parliament.  

The Senate approved the long-awaited bill that foresees the introduction of indeterminate contracts for young researchers but amendement the text to allow temporary contracts for jobs supported with EU money. 

The previous version of the bill had passed through the Parliament, Spain’s other legislative branch, but the bill will now have to face another vote before it enters into force. It is unclear whether the Congress will support the amendment, which the research minister Diana Morant called ‘an error.’ 

The bill is a reform of a 2011 that hopes to improve the lives of researchers and stop brain drain. It will see young researchers getting permanent contracts, recognition of experience gained abroad and new labour rights.  

In addition to improving careers, the reform promises to increase Spain’s public and private R&I spending to 3% of GDP, in line with the EU-wide target for research spending. 

 

Italy’s public spending on research and development should be stabilised at least at 0.7% of GDP starting in 2027, a group set up by research minister Maria Cristina Messa has concluded.  

R&D spending in the country is set to rise between 2023 and 2026, but experts fear it could subsequently decrease once the current seven-year research programme runs its course in 2027. To avoid a fall in funding, the group recommends stabilising expenditure in following years.  

According to current estimates, in 2027, Italy is set to spend €15.7 billion on research, up from €12.7 billion in 2022. This would bring expenditure up to the desired 0.7% of GDP. 

The guidance comes as Italy’s government is on the verge of collapse, with the coalition led by Mario Draghi facing a confidence vote later this afternoon.  

In 2020, EU member states set a joint goal to boost public and private research spending to 2% of GDP by the end of the decade. The same year, Italy’s expenditure hovered at around 1.5% of GDP. To meet the EU goal, the country’s private spending on research will have to grow in addition to the foreseen boost of public spending to at least 0.7% of GDP. 

 

The first 61 collaborative research projects under the new European Defence Fund (EDF) are set to receive almost €1.2 billion.  

The projects will support the development of next generation of fighter aircrafts, tanks and ships, and critical technologies such as military cloud, AI, semiconductors, space, cyber or medical countermeasures.  

The €7.9 billion EDF builds on previous EU defence programmes. It aims to reduce EU dependence on dual use technologies from outside the bloc by enabling to enabling cross-border cooperation. 

 

Horizon Europe calls in 2023 and 2024 should focus on intensifying collaborative research in cancer, two coordinators of the European Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee urge the Commission.  

In a letter to research commissioner Mariya Gabriel, MEPs Christian Ehler and Maria da Graça Carvalho cite complaints about the new Horizon Europe cancer mission shifting the focus of cancer-related projects towards dissemination, promotion and networking activities, away from fundamental research. The MEPs want the balance restored in the next Horizon Europe work programme. 

“There is the need to change this trend and include a special focus on cancer research into the next 2023-2024 work programmes,” they told Gabriel. 

 

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) research mobility programme strongly contributes to attract and retain talents in Europe but more can be done, a study by the European Commission shows.

According to the study, Most MSCA researchers move to a handful of countries. The United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands hosted almost 60% of all incoming long-term MSCA researchers under Horizon 2020.

Moreover, only 12 regions hosted 30% of long-term MSCA fellows. All these regions are in so-called “non-widening” countries, which already perform well in research and innovation, and include major European cities such as Barcelona and Paris.

Read the study here.

 

The first research projects under the Quantum Austria programme have kicked off. The Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) are working together on a €107 million plan to increase the country’s capacity in quantum technologies, thanks to funding provided by the EU through the Next Generation fund.  

In the first part of the project is worth €20 million and is aimed at expanding Austria’s high performance computing infrastructures.

“With Quantum Austria, we are increasing the chances of success for Austria's researchers in the future-oriented field of quantum research,” said science Minister Martin Polaschek.

To date, the FWF has approved ten research projects worth€3.1 million at Austria's universities. Other applications are currently being reviewed and will be decided in the coming weeks.

 

The German government has decided to cut the budget of the Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

The cuts apply to DAAD’s institutional funding from the German Federal Foreign Office. The funding will be reduced from €204 million in 2021 to around €195 million euros this year. A further cut to €191 million euros is foreseen in 2023.

The DAAD has announced that scholarships and mobility funding in projects at German higher education institutions “must be significantly reduced at short notice”, meaning some 6,000 scholarships could be cancelled.

“The cuts to our core funding from the Federal Foreign Office decided by the Federal Cabinet represent a substantial reduction in the DAAD’s financial resources and thus in its global activities,” said DAAD president Joybrato Mukherjee.

“These cuts will also have a negative impact on the international attractiveness of Germany and its higher education institutions as a research location, especially at a time when international academic policy suggests it is particularly important for Germany to be a role model and to provide leadership,” Mukherjee said.

 

The European University Association (EUA) has picked 11 policy actions in the new European Research Area (ERA), as member states are set to decide on which of the 20 items listed in the ERA Policy Agenda will be taken up for implementation.

“EUA looks forward to the announcement of the commitments made by member states and hopes that these commitments meet the expectations of R&I stakeholders, and even more importantly, the great challenges faced by European R&I,” the association said.

More information about the ERA policy actions can be found here.

 

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