HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

28 Sep 2022 | 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 Center for Environmental and Technological Ethics (CETE-P) will investigate ethical problems associated with climate change, the development of artificial intelligence and other new technologies.  

To be established under the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences, the centre will offer advice to the Czech state administration, aid in the development of public policies and contribute to public debates.  

Ondřej Ševeček, director of the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences, says the centre is one of the first of its kind in central and eastern Europe and offers unique opportunities to the region. 

 

Success rates are not down but research and technology organisations point to four issues that must be tackled immediately to improve the seven-year research programme.  

In an answer to an EU consultation on the interim evaluation of Horizon Europe, the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO) calls on the European Commission to: 

  • Publish the final version of the Annotated Model Grant Agreement, an explainer that compliments the model grant agreement all beneficiaries must signed 
  • Improve the quality of the evaluators’ reports summarizing their assessments of proposals 
  • Ensure that the mid-term Horizon Europe evaluation covers all key issues  
  • Fix IT glitches on the participants’ portal 

In addition to issues to be addressed immediately, EARTO recommends hopes the Commission will look into the instability of the research and innovation budget in the EU framework, the launch of the new EU strategy on technology infrastructures, use of lump sum funding and achieving balance between different technology readiness levels within the programme. 

 

A new higher education law would allow national research institutes and universities to merge and consolidate their research capacity, according to a plan debated on Monday by rectors and policy makers.

The reform plan also includes a provision that would allocate the co-funding needed by universities that join EU-funded research consortia. According to the government, the reform would help universities improve their research performance and engage more in international partnerships.

However, universities demand the reform plan should include a clear commitment to raise public investment in fundamental research, along with a dedicate budget for research in universities.

 

The European trade association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO) says rules for intellectual property rights for the European Innovation Council (EIC) are not compliant with its members’ policies as they give more rights to inventors than their research organisation.

In a position paper published today, EARTO says giving “extensive rights to inventors will have some serious negative side effects on the valorisation’s efforts done by research and technology organisations.”

The new model grant agreement for Horizon Europe includes IPR provisions for EIC Pathfinder and Transition programmes which EARTO and other research lobbies say are inconsistent with other EU policies.

EARTO says “ill-thought” provisions for intellectual property rights will slow down the implementation of EIC projects, as inventors would have to negotiate with their technology transfer offices the conditions for sharing IP.

The EARTO paper is available here.

 

The European University Association (EUA) has established a new task force to help Ukraine rebuild its higher education system. 

The task force is to provide strategic advice and guidance to Ukraine's higher education sector and help universities recover from the effects of the war in the country. The group will also work on a future plan for the reconstruction and long-term development of the higher education system in Ukraine.

The task force has been established for a period of two years and will be chaired by Ivanka Popović, former Rector of the University of Belgrade in Serbia and EUA Board member.

Read more about the task force here

 

The country’s research and education ministry this week published the Hydrogen Atlas Germany detailing the current status, regional progress and opportunities for the use of hydrogen gas in the green energy transition.  

The publication estimates the potential consumption, costs and emission reductions of various hydrogen applications in Germany’s regions. It can be used by projects planners, investors and local governments to plan their hydrogen-related work.  

As part of the EU-wide push to decarbonise the economy, Germany hopes to become a leading hydrogen market. The gas promises to play a pivotal role in decarbonising sectors such as heavy-duty transport, industry and power generation, but the green version of the gas is still expensive to produce. To make the technology needed to start up a hydrogen economy, Germany is investing billions in hydrogen research, development and commercialisation.

The project, funded by the ministry, was managed by the Regensburg University of Applied Sciences. 

 

The status of researchers in Spain is set to improve after the Senate voted to approve a new bill aimed at improving careers, pending a follow-up vote at the Parliament.  

The Senate approved the long-awaited bill that foresees the introduction of indeterminate contracts for young researchers but amendement the text to allow temporary contracts for jobs supported with EU money. 

The previous version of the bill had passed through the Parliament, Spain’s other legislative branch, but the bill will now have to face another vote before it enters into force. It is unclear whether the Congress will support the amendment, which the research minister Diana Morant called ‘an error.’ 

The bill is a reform of a 2011 that hopes to improve the lives of researchers and stop brain drain. It will see young researchers getting permanent contracts, recognition of experience gained abroad and new labour rights.  

In addition to improving careers, the reform promises to increase Spain’s public and private R&I spending to 3% of GDP, in line with the EU-wide target for research spending. 

 

Italy’s public spending on research and development should be stabilised at least at 0.7% of GDP starting in 2027, a group set up by research minister Maria Cristina Messa has concluded.  

R&D spending in the country is set to rise between 2023 and 2026, but experts fear it could subsequently decrease once the current seven-year research programme runs its course in 2027. To avoid a fall in funding, the group recommends stabilising expenditure in following years.  

According to current estimates, in 2027, Italy is set to spend €15.7 billion on research, up from €12.7 billion in 2022. This would bring expenditure up to the desired 0.7% of GDP. 

The guidance comes as Italy’s government is on the verge of collapse, with the coalition led by Mario Draghi facing a confidence vote later this afternoon.  

In 2020, EU member states set a joint goal to boost public and private research spending to 2% of GDP by the end of the decade. The same year, Italy’s expenditure hovered at around 1.5% of GDP. To meet the EU goal, the country’s private spending on research will have to grow in addition to the foreseen boost of public spending to at least 0.7% of GDP. 

 

The first 61 collaborative research projects under the new European Defence Fund (EDF) are set to receive almost €1.2 billion.  

The projects will support the development of next generation of fighter aircrafts, tanks and ships, and critical technologies such as military cloud, AI, semiconductors, space, cyber or medical countermeasures.  

The €7.9 billion EDF builds on previous EU defence programmes. It aims to reduce EU dependence on dual use technologies from outside the bloc by enabling to enabling cross-border cooperation. 

 

Horizon Europe calls in 2023 and 2024 should focus on intensifying collaborative research in cancer, two coordinators of the European Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee urge the Commission.  

In a letter to research commissioner Mariya Gabriel, MEPs Christian Ehler and Maria da Graça Carvalho cite complaints about the new Horizon Europe cancer mission shifting the focus of cancer-related projects towards dissemination, promotion and networking activities, away from fundamental research. The MEPs want the balance restored in the next Horizon Europe work programme. 

“There is the need to change this trend and include a special focus on cancer research into the next 2023-2024 work programmes,” they told Gabriel. 

 

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