HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

04 Dec 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 German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) have agreed to intensify their collaboration through the joint funding of German-Israeli research projects.

This will also form the basis for the development of a bilateral review process, the partners announced following the signing of a memorandum of understanding.

“Israeli and German researchers already work closely together. For the first time, this agreement now gives us the opportunity to actually fund research projects jointly in future,” said DFG president Katja Becker.

She added that the agreement was drawn up before the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October. “In view of the current situation in Israel and the region, the deepening of research ties now takes on an added significance, also as a sign of solidarity,” she said.

DFG is also offering support to researchers working on funding projects in the region or whose work depends on cooperation with partners in the region. They can submit supplemental proposals for additional funding.


Applications for European Research Council Starting Grants, which help researchers at the beginning of their careers to launch their own projects, rose by 29% this year, the ERC announced after the 2024 call for applications closed.

The basic research funding body received 3,474 applications, of which 42% were in the domain of physical sciences and engineering, 30% were in social science and humanities, and 28% were in life sciences. Women submitted nearly 40% of proposals, same as in the previous call.

The ERC Scientific Council has earmarked €601 million for an estimated 387 Starting Grants in 2024. The ERC will announce the successful projects in summer 2024.


MEPs and the EU Council have reached an agreement on the Critical Raw Materials Act, which aims to secure Europe’s supply of materials such as lithium and cobalt, key to its strategic autonomy, and to reduce its dependence on third countries such as China.

The policy was announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2022 State of the Union speech. It aims to cut red tape, promote innovation along the entire value chain, and boost research into alternative materials.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton welcomed the deal. “The speed of negotiations and level of ambition demonstrate that raw materials have become essential for Europe’s economic security and resilience,” he said.

The informal agreement now needs to be approved by both Parliament and Council. It will be put to a vote in the Industry, Research and Energy committee on 7 December.


Ireland is set to apply to join the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) as an associate member, after Simon Harris TD, the country’s minister for higher education, research, innovation and science, secured government approval for the application.

Membership would allow Ireland’s researchers to participate in CERN’s scientific programmes, and Irish citizens would be eligible for staff positions and fellowships at the research centre.

“This is a development that has been, for decades, eagerly awaited by our academic community,” Harris said.

CERN will consider the application in mid-December, and the aim is for membership to begin in late 2024, he added.


The EU Council has approved the proposal for a Space Strategy for Security and Defence, which seeks to make space systems and services more resilient, and strengthen the EU’s ability to respond to attacks.

The text reaffirms the importance of space as a strategic domain, with numerous areas reliant on space data and services. It also proposes to maximise the use of space for security and defence purposes.

The Council welcomed the strategy, and proposed a number of actions, including the strengthening of military and civilian intelligence services on space security.


A tool that collects and translates articles about Chinese science and technology has been created by a US research centre to shed more light on the country’s development.

Scout, created by the Emerging Technology Observatory, a centre based at Georgetown University, allows users to filter articles by technology, applications and themes. It provides a translated summary of the article, and editor picks for particularly interesting reads.

“China's science and technology ecosystem produces lots of information […] in outlets from official media, policy documents, and academic journals to ‘netizen’ commentaries and a wide range of private and semi-private news websites,” the observatory said when it announced the new tool. “But unfortunately, this information is often missing from discussions abroad.”


Japan’s basic research institute RIKEN has signed a memorandum of cooperation with Belgium-based nanoelectronics R&D hub Imec in a pledge to explore new R&D opportunities together. 

The two organisations will also look to further knowledge exchange through joint lectures, seminars and symposia. 

“By promoting collaborative research that leverages the strengths of both organisations, the two parties hope to contribute to the advancement of science and technology in their respective countries and benefit the global community,” RIKEN stated.


The risks associated with international cooperation on research and innovation must be balanced with the problems that not collaborating can bring, according to The Guild, an association of research-intensive universities.

In a new statement, the association highlights issues that can arise with open collaboration, such as the potential for research to be weaponised or the problems of misuse of intellectual property. But if global challenges such as climate change and health problems are to be overcome, international efforts are needed, and global cooperation is essential to that. 

“If we were ever in doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic showed that international research cooperation is crucial,” said Ole Petter Ottersen, acting secretary-general of The Guild.

“Exchange of information between scientists from all over the world was a cornerstone in our response to the pandemic.”

Read The Guild’s full statement here.


The German Research Foundation (DFG) welcomes a recent constitutional court decision that emphasises the protection of confidential research data is key to academic freedom.  

The case involved psychology professor who interviewed prisoners for a project on Islamist radicalisation in the prison system. One of the interviewees was a suspected a member of a terrorist organisation. As part of the case, the prosecutor’s office confiscated the professor’s tape recordings and interview protocols. The professor viewed it as a breach of academic freedom and filed a complaint to the court.  

The court dismissed the complaint on 25 September but went on to express its concerns about the seizure of the professor’s research data. Despite the dismissal, the DFG says the decision is important as it provides guidance for similar cases in the future, ensuring that they take into account the principles of academic freedom and research integrity. 


The industry association Digital Europe wants the EU and NATO to spend 25% of their funds on digital policy, as part of a proposed 20-step manifesto to turn Europe into a digital powerhouse by the end of the decade.  

Today, the EU asks member states to spend at least 20% of their share of the €800 billion EU recovery fund on digital. But the target does not appear to be enough, as latest Commission report shows the EU is falling behind on key Digital Decade targets, such as boosting the use of big data and AI.  

Other recommendations include streamlining data rules, compulsory regulatory sandboxing with companies before legislation comes into force and a coordinated fund for investments in green tech.  

The call for new action comes as industry is concerned with a myriad of new EU regulations for the digital space and wants policymakers to shift focus to implementation, incentives for growth and collaboration. 


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