HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

26 Nov 2021 | 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.

 

UK Research and Innovation has launched a £20 million call for R&D projects developing digital applications that aim to make factories more sustainable and smarter. 

The call is open to consortia of UK-registered businesses and other organisations. They can apply for £1 million to £8 million grants for projects running up to two years and tacking topics such as reducing in-process material losses, better sequencing manufacturing operations to reduce energy consumption. 

“Digital technologies have the power to radically transform how we manufacture and deliver the products and services of the future and deliver a more sustainable, resilient, prosperous economy with fundamental changes to the nature of work. The Sustainable Factory competition will support digital innovation that helps accelerate the journey to net zero,” said Chris Courtney, challenged director for made smarter innovation at UKRI. 

 

Moldova has become the newest country to associate to the EU’s €95.5 billion research and innovation programme Horizon Europe. 

Moldovan researchers will now be able to take advantage of the research programme under the same conditions as their EU counterparts.  

“Under Horizon 2020 Moldovan participants received €7.4 million in areas such as researcher mobility, health, food, and the environment. I look forward to its continued success in Horizon Europe,” said EU R&I Mariya Gabriel. 

 

The Spanish State Research Agency is handing out €1.3 million to 13 fundamental research projects that did not manage to secure funding from the EU’s basic research fund, the European Research Council (ERC). 

The projects were originally submitted to the ERC’s calls for projects from early-career and experienced researchers but were not selected for financing due to limited funds. The ERC’s success rate currently lies at 12%, which means many excellent proposals are turned down. Earlier this week, the incoming president of the funding agency Maria Leptin told Science|Business a doubling of its €16 billion budget could help tackle the issue. 

In other parts of EU research funding, the European Commission recognises worthy proposals that could not be funded with the Seal of Excellence, which is meant to help the projects attract funding elsewhere. However, the success of the Seal of Excellence programme has been questionable, with few countries providing alternatives to recipients of the badge. As of 2021, applicants for ERC funding can only benefit from the badge under the Proof of Concept programme for exploring the commercial and social innovation potential of ERC funded research. 

 

The European Parliament’s research and industry committee wants more to be done to improve women’s representation in research and innovation. 

MEPs highlighted a number of areas where improvement is yet to be seen, such as gender balance in the boards of the European Commission’s partnerships with the private sector as well as the trend for women to have more precarious work contracts in academia. “Obviously, this is why women are less active in research and innovation. We need to work together to ensure fair working conditions,” said left-leaning MEP Marisa Matias. 

Representing the Commission, the chief of the directorate for research Jean-Eric Paquet shared figures on the progress, highlighting that 36% of Horizon 2020 supported researchers were women, slightly more than the percentage of women researchers which stands at 33%. In certain parts of the programme, such as the researcher mobility initiative the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, the figure of women research fellows was as high as 42%.  

The new EU research programme Horizon Europe will take mainstreaming gender to a new level by demanding all applicant institutions to present gender equality plans as part of their proposal for funding. The new rule, which was met with some resistance from the research sector, will come into effect next year.  

 

Hungary’s National Office for Research, Development and Innovation (NKFIH), the ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM) and the ministry of Finance have concluded a cooperation agreement to support research and development and innovation with the help of EU funds.

Balázs Rákossy, Hungarian minister for EU funds has announced Hungary is planning to invest €1.6 billion from EU structural funds in R&D projects over the next six years. Under the previous seven-year EU financial framework, Hungary spent a little under €1.5 billion in structural funds on national R&D projects.

The government hopes the slight raise, along with planned increases in the national budget and investment from the private sector, Hungary could reach the EU’s R&D spending target of 3% of GDP by 2030.

 

The European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) said open access scientific publishing is at risk of becoming a hollow promise if inequitable structures within academic research get reinforced.

The “gold” open access route requires authors to pay substantial “article processing charges” to get their work published in immediate open access. While for obvious reasons this route is promoted by commercial publishers, it effectively replaces a barrier to access with a barrier to participation, ALLEA said.

Read the ALLEA statement here.

 

The European Commission today launched a €1.5 billion call for low-carbon technology demonstrator projects, the second such call financed by auctioning the EU’s emission allowances.  

This call will finance innovations for renewable energy, energy-intensive industries, energy storage, and carbon capture, use and storage in all EU member states, Iceland and Norway. Applications can be submitted until 3 March. 

"These investments will support the decarbonisation of the European economy, paving the way for climate neutrality in 2050 and strengthening European technological primacy on a global scale," said Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

Taking lessons from the first Innovation Fund call, which garnered overwhelming interest from around Europe, the Commission has introduced a simpler one-step application process to reduce waiting times between applying and receiving the grant.  

 

Finnish biotech MetGen has been announced this year’s winner of the Innovation Radar Prize, the European Commission’s award for innovations emerging from EU-funded R&I projects.

The winning company produces a sustainable bio-based additive for fibre-based cardboard packaging which makes the material stronger and more resistant to moisture.

Three more prizes were awarded in sustainability, health and disruptive innovation categories. C2CA Technology from the Netherlands received the green award for a patented system for recycling construction materials. In the health category, React4Life from Italy was awarded for a organ-on-a-chip solution that supports development of personalised drugs, while a Czech company Kypo won a prize for its disruptive open source cybersecurity training platform.

 

The European Commission has adopted its 2022 work programme, a document that lists its policy priorities for the next year.

According to the document, “Research and innovation will play a key role in responding to the challenges facing us today.”

The Commission hopes investments in research and innovation will help the EU to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and boost the development of technologies needed in a green and digital economy.

In the plan, the Commission also says it will prepare a defence package which will include a roadmap for boosting research, technology development and innovation and reducing the EU’s strategic dependencies in critical technologies and value chains in the security and defence sectors.

The Commission also hopes a new regulation for the pharmaceutical industry will “kick-start research into game-changing medicines and enable citizens to exercise more control over their health data.”

The work programme is available here.

 

The new “Discoverer” supercomputer of the European Joint Undertaking in high performance computing has been inaugurated today in Sofia.

“With the EuroHPC Discoverer, Bulgaria can foster research and be better integrated in pan-European innovation ecosystems,” said EU commissioner for research and innovation Mariya Gabriel.

Euro HPP Discoverer will be capable of more than 4.5 petaflops (or 4.5 million billion calculations per second) of processing power. It will help boost research in the EU by, for example, providing high-powered modelling of molecular interactions, or running seismic wave impact simulations, as well as many other research applications in the areas of health, energy, or engineering.

“This new supercomputer will aid European users in driving research and innovation, regardless of where they are located in Europe,” said Gabriel.

Discoverer is the third supercomputer inaugurated by the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking this year. It has previously inaugurated two other petascale supercomputers: MeluXina, in Luxembourg and Vega, in Slovenia. Four more supercomputers are underway: Karolina, in Czechia, Deucalion in Portugal, LUMI in Finland, and LEONARDO in Italy.

In July 2021, the Council adopted the new EuroHPC regulation, bringing a further investment of €7 billion to provide the newest supercomputers and quantum computers.

 

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