HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

18 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 European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, the first Important Project of Common European Interest (‘IPCEI') to support research, innovation and the first industrial deployment of healthcare products, as well as innovative production processes of pharmaceuticals.

The project, called ‘IPCEI Med4Cure', was submitted by Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia and Spain.

The six countries will provide up to €1 billion in public funding, which is expected to unlock additional €5.9 billion in private investments. As part of this IPCEI, 13 companies with activities in one or more Member States, including nine SMEs, will undertake 14 projects.

More details here.

 

In a paper published this week, the German Research Foundation (DFG) says the next EU framework programme for research and innovation should have an ambitious budget and continue focusing primarily on excellence and openness.

DFG also calls for a dedicated budget reserve for emerging R&D priorities, a special intervention fund to support researchers at risk, and more targeted integration of adequate framework conditions for research in FP10.

According to the DFG, under the current framework programme Horizon Europe, research proposals that have been classified as excellent did not receive funding due to budget shortages. “This shows what an enormous demand there is for research and innovation in the EU,” said DFG president Katja Becker.

DFG is also proposing two new funding instruments for FP10. One of them would enable researchers to work on topics of their own choice in bottom-up, transnational research consortia. A second instrument proposed by the DFG seeks to achieve greater flexibility in the administration of joint calls for proposals through EU partnerships.

The full paper is available here.

 

Today, the European Commission announced the launching of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Office to promote the development, deployment, and use of AI.

The new AI office is one of the components of the EU’s AI Act, a new regulation that aims to harmonise rules on AI systems across 27 member states, protecting fundamental rights and EU values from the risks posed by the technology, while also boosting European innovation in the field.

“Together with developers and a scientific community, the office will evaluate and test general purpose AI to ensure that AI serves us as humans and uphold our European values,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president in charge of competition policy.

“With the new AI Office and its 140 talented women and men, the Commission will have the necessary expertise to drive the implementation of the AI Act and to reinforce Europe's role as a global standard-setter in AI,” said Thierry Breton, EU commissioner for internal market.

More details here.

 

The European Commission has announced €608.6 million in funding for consortia recruiting and training doctoral candidates as part of a new call for Doctoral Networks under the Horizon Europe’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).

With this money, the EU hopes to fund 160 doctoral programmes across various scientific fields, which would provide employment, training, and skills development opportunities to around 2,400 researchers.

“These innovative networks provide researchers with transferable skills, enriching their career opportunities and boosting their international connections,” said EU research commissioner Iliana Ivanova.

More details 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

 

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