HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

07 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.

 

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.”

The European Commission’s initiative aimed at giving the EU Green Deal a cultural spin is gaining traction with 600 official partner organisations involved and over €100 million in European funding spent, according to the first progress report.

Numerous projects are on the way and more are foreseen, with all EU countries including references to the New European Bauhaus (NEB) in their current cohesion policy programmes. A further €106 million will be allocated to NEB calls under the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme in 2023 and 2024.

The initiative has found support in the European Parliament, which recently called for a dedicated ‘mission’ to be set up for NEB under Horizon Europe. Welcoming the report, MEP Christian Ehler called the NEB “the intellectual complement to the European Green Deal," and noted that while a lot has been achieved, there’s more that can be done.

Brussels has signed off on a huge Danish investment in carbon capture and storage technology. 

Copenhagen will spend €1.1 billion in aid to encourage the technology's development through a competitive bidding process that concludes this year. 

"This €1.1 billion scheme will enable Denmark to capture and store a significant amount of CO2, preventing its release into the atmosphere," said competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

It is hoped that the scheme will prevent the release of 8 million tonnes of CO2 over twenty years. 

Canada has unveiled its quantum strategy, designed to strengthen the country's quantum computing hardware, software, communications and sensor technology. 

Quantum technologies refer to tools that take advantage of the properties of quantum mechanics, and have been touted as a major industry of the future - although there are sceptics that say the field is overhyped. 

On 13 January, Canada's science minister, François-Philippe Champagne, announced the launch of the strategy, that will pour hundreds of millions of Canadian dollars into new research programmes, talent acquisition and retention programmes, and commercialisation benefits. 

The country had already announced CAD$360 million in funding for quantum, but this strategy fleshes out how it will be spent. 

The US has released a new framework to ensure government agencies abide by scientific integrity, responding to Donald Trump-era meddling in scientific advice. 

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy wants a consistent definition of scientific integrity across all federal agencies, as well as a designated scientific integrity official for each agency. 

"This first-of-its-kind framework will strengthen the ability of agencies and federal scientists to produce critical scientific information for evidence-based policymaking," the office said. 

In 2019, the former president once falsely claimed a storm would hit Alabama. After he doubled down on his assertion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a statement in support of his claim, which triggered a series of investigations into administration pressure on the scientific agency. 

A group of Ukrainian mathematicians have come together to create the new International Centre for Mathematics in Ukraine with hopes that it will help boost science and research in the domain and play a role in the country’s eventual post-war reconstruction.

An initial support meeting for the centre was hosted by the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques on Thursday, 12 January, with representatives of leading European mathematical institutes and the Ukrainian government in attendance.

French mathematician Jean-Pierre Bourgoignon, former head of the European Research Council, has been elected as the first member of the centre’s board of trustees. The new centre is currently looking for new donors to contribute to the €1 million in matched funding that has already been committed by algorithmic trading company XTX Markets.

A French scheme set up in 2020 to preserve jobs industry research and development jobs as the pandemic hit the economy has helped save 1,400 jobs, according to the government.

The scheme was set up to help companies continue investing in young graduates in R&D roles as they adjust to a worsening economic outlook. Measures included allowing industry workers to work in public research laboratories and partly funding researchers on joint projects run by companies and public labs. This has cost the government €149 million, financed through the EU’s recovery fund.

Iris.ai, a European company developing an AI engine for scientific text understanding, is set to receive €2.4 million in grants and up to €12 million in equity investments from the EU’s €10 billion start-up fund, the European Innovation Council (EIC). 

The company was selected for funding in the latest round of the EIC’s Accelerator programme for promising deep tech companies. With the new investment, it will get a boost in the race against competition from the US and China in the AI sector. 

The company’s tool helps researchers find relevant papers in a sea of content faster by using AI language models to categorise, navigate, summarise and systematise data from academic papers, patents and other sources. 

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