HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

03 Feb 2023 | 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.

 

Internal market commissioner Thierry Breton and international partnerships commissioner Jutta Urpilainen are set to tour Southern Africa this week in a bid to shore up the EU's supply of hydrogen fuel and raw materials. 

They will visit Namibia to meet with the country's president Hage Geingob, and try to take forward previous deals that secure access. 

The trip is part of the EU's Global Gateway initiative, an attempt to rival Chinese influence in Africa and elsewhere through infrastructure and other investment.

Dependence on China for raw materials used in manufacturing has become a key issue in EU policy. Meanwhile, the bloc is also looking to sunny countries like Namibia as potential producers of clean hydrogen fuel using solar power. 

The European Union has signed 16 new grant agreements for large-scale projects through its Innovation Fund, which provides investment for the development and deployment of new technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.

The total investment in the 16 projects is worth €1.8 billion.

It brings the number of large-scale projects to receive funding from the scheme up to 23, while another 30 small-scale projects have also received investment. 

The Innovation Fund is itself financed through the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS). This works by setting a cap on the amount of emissions that certain companies produce. Those that produce fewer emissions than the set limit can sell their unused allowance to other companies. The EU is able to use some of that revenue to pump into the Innovation Fund. 

Kurt Vandenberghe, head of the European Commission’s directorate general for climate action, said that the newly funded projects will “reduce greenhouse gas emissions and act as industry trailblazers on our path towards decarbonisation”. 

“They illustrate the EU has everything it takes to be successful in the clean-tech race,” he said. 

The European Commission has published a list of high-value datasets that public sector bodies managing them will have to make free to use within 16 months. 

It includes data sets in the fields of geospatial technology, earth observation and environment, meteorology, statistics, and companies and mobility. 

The Commission notes that high-value datasets can be a vital tool for small- and medium-sized enterprises to help them “develop new digital products and services”, therefore making them more attractive to investors. 

Thierry Breton, internal market commissioner, described data as a “cornerstones of EU industrial competitiveness”, adding that making the datasets public will help to unlock a large amount of public data “for the benefit of all”. 

Europe’s Clean Hydrogen Partnership has launched a €195 million call for proposals to support the development of new hydrogen technologies.

It is part of the EU’s goal of reaching 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen production by 2030 and importing an equivalent amount. This is a sizable objective, given green hydrogen currently accounts for only around 1% of current production globally.

The deadline for proposals is 18 April this year. More information on the topics the call targets and details of how to apply here.

A new study shows that 40% of projects funded by the European Research Council (ERC) have been cited in patent applications around the world.

That highlights the importance of basic research in driving technological development, the ERC claims. Its report is based on data from 6,671 projects funded since 2007. It found that 172,683 papers cite these basic research projects, while 34,513 patent applications cited them as references.

The most common field cited in patents was life sciences, followed by physical sciences and engineering.

Maria Leptin, president of the ERC, said policy makers must understand the important role basic research plays in innovation.

“Researchers funded by the ERC are not ivory tower academics. They have founded hundreds of companies, and applied for impressive numbers of patents, trademarks and other intellectual property rights,” she said.

Canada has announced that it is joining the First Movers Coalition, which acts as a platform for businesses around the world to work together to create market demand for green technology.

The coalition was launched in November 2021, at COP26 in Glasgow.

“Canada’s participation in the FMC is aligned with the government’s commitment to advance the adoption of clean technologies and to forge ahead on the path to industrial decarbonisation,” the government said.

The country joins Denmark, Norway, Germany, Singapore, India, Sweden, Italy, the UK, Japan and the US in FMC.

FMC also has private company members in seven different sectors: aluminium, aviation, carbon dioxide removal, cement and concrete, shipping, steel and trucking.

A new cooperation agreement is set to facilitate the sharing of earth observation data between the European Commission and Japan.

Under the new arrangement, signed off this week, Japan will gain access to data and services from the EU’s earth observation programme, Copernicus. In return, it will provide free and open access to data from its non-commercial Earth observation satellites to the European Commission.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is set to loan €40 million to the Punch group, a developer of propulsion and control systems for hybrid and electric vehicles, to fund its research and development activities.

The money will be invested in the company’s Turin and Strasbourg offices, to develop technologies for hydrogen engines and fuel cells.

The EU has high ambitions for green hydrogen power to partly fuel its transition to a net-zero economy, aiming to produce 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU by 2030.

Alexander Pym will join Wellcome as the new director of infectious disease, supporting research to reduce the risk and impact of escalating infectious diseases.

Pym, who has extensive experience in molecular microbiology and translational medicine, currently leads the discovery and development of new drugs for tuberculosis and related diseases at the pharmaceutical company Janssen.

Infectious disease is one of Wellcome’s focus areas, alongside mental health and climate and health. Together with a broad programme for research into life, health and wellbeing, the UK-based research foundation is set to spend £16 billion on its mission over the next decade.

EU council president Charles Michel calls on member states to discuss setting up a potential EU Sovereignty Fund in the next meeting of heads of state.

The fund, spearheaded by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, would enable equity investments into “strategically important projects in green energy, digital technology and defence.”

Michel hopes the fund would spur private investment helping the EU catch up with competitors such as China and the US which have been making headway in the race for global clean tech leadership. “Europe must remain a continent of production and innovation,” Michel said in an op-ed ahead of the February council meeting. “Supporting our businesses and ensuring our global competitiveness — this will require new ways of thinking and a can-do attitude from all of us.”

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