HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

13 Jun 2024 | 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 Commission approved a €4 billion state aid request from France aimed at  helping companies transition to greener and more efficient industrial processes, to speed up the transition to a net-zero economy.

The money will be allocated through direct grants that would cover up to 30% of costs of projects proposed by French manufacturers.

“This €4 billion scheme will support the manufacturing sector in accelerating its green transition. It will provide an incentive to companies to adapt their industrial processes by using less polluting and less energy consuming equipment,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president in charge of competition policy.

Read the full announcement here.

 

Berlin has released its biennial report on the state of Germany’s research and innovation system, which finds that R&D expenditure was 3.13% of GDP in 2022, the latest year for when data is available.  

This is significantly more than the EU average of 2%, but the report shows that this figure has stagnated since 2019. The German government wants to reach 3.5% of GDP by 2025.  

Federal funding for military and security related research has seen a particularly big increase since 2017, nearly doubling to €2.1 billion. Only health and aerospace research receive more federal funding, according to the report

 

Seoul has said it will set up a new AI safety institute focusing on deepfakes, after South Korea hosted a global AI safety conference earlier this week. 

The conference was pioneered by the UK last year, with the aim of creating global consensus on managing the risks of AI. This week, South Korea hosted the second round of the summit.  

Aside from a new institute, the summit also produced a new declaration “safe, innovative and inclusive” AI.  

 

The South Korean government is planning a series of briefing sessions for its researchers to better inform them about how to participate in Horizon Europe, when the country fully joins next year. 

One focused on national institutes is planned for 4 June, and another focused on participants and evaluators will be held at the end of June. 

A session for universities was already held on 16 May, according to the Korea-EU Research Centre.  

 

In the run up to the European elections on 6-9 June, and the formation of a new Commission, the umbrella group France Universités has issued a wish-list for future EU education and research policy. 

Among other suggestions, it wants to integrate skills and employment into the next EU research and innovation framework programme, due to start in 2028.  

It also wants a European “protection mechanism for academic freedom”; systematic consultation with the European University Assocation on any European legislation impacting academia; and a partnership between the Commission and member states to fund research in universities.  

 

The Council of the EU has adopted recommendations on enhancing research security across the block, to enable the European Commission and member states to address risks arising from international cooperation in science and technology.

The recommendation does not contain binding provisions but offers guidance for measures that could be taken by the Commission, the member states and the research community.

"While we are open to knowledge exchange and international cooperation in the field of research, we should not be naïve," said Belgian research and innovation minister Willy Borsus. "The changing geopolitical context urgently requires our joint response to avoid a use of our own research against our security or our values."

The document is available here

 

EU research ministers have reached a political agreement on expanding the objectives of the European High Performing Computer Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC), aimed at boosting Europe’s leadership in artificial intelligence (AI).

EuroHPC supercomputers will now be able to develop and operate AI Factories in support of an artificial intelligence ecosystem in the EU. 

"The main objectives of our political agreement are to launch our artificial intelligence start-ups into the first division of this crucial technology’, support a highly competitive and innovative AI ecosystem and strengthen the EU’s technological autonomy," said Willy Borsus, Belgian minister for economy research and innovation.

More details here

 

Science Europe launched the ‘Vote for Science’ campaign, an initiative aimed at keeping research and innovation policy at the top of the EU legislative agenda for the next five years.

The campaign calls on the candidates for the European Parliament elections and the upcoming leaders of the European Commission to commit to five pledges for research and innovation: including investing in society, culture and competitiveness, integrating science communication and establishing common rules to enable and protect the freedom of scientific enquiry.

The upcoming elections are our opportunity to shape a future where science drives progress and addresses the critical challenges we face, by electing leaders who are committed to funding research, protecting academic freedom, and fostering collaboration and inclusion,” said Lidia Borrell-Damián, secretary-general of Science Europe.

More details here.

 

On Monday, the UK government launched the UK Semiconductor Institute, a new independent institute tasked with building on government’s £1 billion strategy to grow the semiconductor sector.

“Building on the early success of the strategy, the UK Semiconductor Institute will unify the semiconductor sector to focus our talented researchers on securing our status at the cutting edge of semiconductor science. This is a hugely significant milestone on our journey to becoming a science and tech superpower by 2030,” said Technology Minister Saqib Bhatti.

More details here.

 

Today, the Council of the EU approved the Artificial Intelligence Act, a new law aimed at harmonising rules on AI systems across 27 member states and protecting fundamental rights and EU values from the risks posed by the technology.

The legislation employs a 'risk-based' approach, imposing stricter rules for higher risks to society, and aims to set a cross-border standard for AI regulation as the first of its kind worldwide.

“The adoption of the AI act is a significant milestone for the European Union,” said Mathieu Michel, Belgian secretary of state for digitisation, administrative simplification, privacy protection, and the building regulation.

“With the AI act, Europe emphasises the importance of trust, transparency and accountability when dealing with new technologies while at the same time ensuring this fast-changing technology can flourish and boost European innovation,” Michel said.

Read the announcement here.

 

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