HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

27 May 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.

Last Friday, the Commission authorised €350 million German State aid measure to support the production of up to 75,000 tonnes of ‘renewable’ hydrogen, an action that will help reduce Russian fossil fuel imports.

Projects selected through a competitive bidding process supervised by the European Climate, Infrastructure, and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) will be supported via an “Auctions-as-a-Service” system within the European Hydrogen Bank. 

“This €350 million scheme is an important step in boosting renewable hydrogen development,” said Margrethe Vestager, Commission executive vice-president in charge of competition policy. “The scheme will support the most cost-effective projects in Germany, reducing costs for taxpayers and minimising possible distortions of competition.”

Read the full announcement here.

 

Science Europe, an umbrella body of major public funders and research organisations, has released a guide for its members to help them develop their ‘science for policy’ activities, meaning using evidence-based research to inform policies. 

“In an era of unprecedented global societal challenges, the role of scientific research in informing decision makers has never been more critical,” said Mari Sundli Tveit, president of Science Europe. “This guidance represents a milestone in our [Science Europe’s] ongoing efforts to improve science–policy interactions.”

Read the guide here.

 

The German Research Foundation (DFG) plans to boost cross-border cooperation with funding organisations in Europe, according to a new strategy paper published on Wednesday.

Key elements of the strategy paper include expanding research cooperation, and actively participating in developing the new EU Framework Programme.

“Research funding and research policy have long ceased to be confined to a self-contained national space,” said DFG president Katja Becker. “As we see it, the European Research Area is particularly strong if in addition to the EU framework programmes dedicated to research and innovation there are also effective and autonomous national research and funding systems in place, each with their own priorities, funding strategies and opportunities for cooperation.”

The DFG’s Europe Strategy will operate until 2030.

More details here.

 

Venture capital investment in the UK cleantech sector reached £2.6 billion in 2023, matching 2021 levels but slightly down on 2022, according to the latest progress report published by the Cleantech for UK initiative.

“This resilience underscores the sector’s stability amidst broader declines in total venture capital investment in the UK,” the report states. Energy and power was the only sector to benefit from increased investment, from £0.68 billion in 2022 to just over £1 billion last year.

But the report warns that securing funding remains difficult, particularly at the first-of-a-kind stage, and that the main UK political parties have scaled back their climate ambitions, resulting in an uncertain environment for investment.

Read the full report, including policy recommendations, here.

 

The European Commission has announced a new partnership with Japan on advanced materials signed in Tokyo today.

According to the Coommission, the EU-Japan Enhanced Dialogue on Advanced Materials aims to strengthen collaboration in key sectors like renewable energy, batteries, zero-emission buildings, and semiconductors, as the EU wants to secure a steady supply of advanced materials it needs to deploy new digital and low-carbon technologies.

"The new dialogue on advanced materials strengthens our cooperation with Japan in research and innovation. These materials are critical for our transition to a green future, and by joining forces, we can get there faster. I look forward to seeing the results of this new cooperation with Japan," said research commissioner Iliana Ivanova.

The announcement is a further sign that policymakers in Brussels and Tokyo are moving towards closer cooperation in science and technology. Such efforts have so far fallen short of a full participation of Japan as an associated country in the Horizon Europe programme. 

Read the full announcement here.

 

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), one of Germany’s largest research funders, announced the approval of a €56 million fund for 13 new Research Units, including one Clinical Research Unit and two Centres for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.

The new networks will help researchers investigate and pursue innovative pathways in topics ranging from applied humanities, bone diseases, robotic construction sites, and the evolution of early land vertebrates.

More details here.

 

The EU and the Republic of Korea recently convened their second Digital Partnership Council in Brussels, led by internal market commissioner Thierry Breton and Lee Jong-Ho, Korean Minister for Science and Information and Communication Technology.

The two blocs reiterated their dedication to collaborating on vital digital technologies, assessing advancements since the inaugural council, and outlining future areas of cooperation. This includes ongoing efforts in semiconductors, 5G, quantum technology, AI, cybersecurity, and new fronts like network connectivity.

"The EU and Korea are leading digital economies and strategic like-minded partners. Today, we took steps to further work together on crucial areas such semiconductors, 5G/6G, cybersecurity, AI, online platforms and connectivity, and joined forces on research projects. Together, we can promote global standards, support innovation and competitiveness and create further opportunities for our economies," said Breton.

More details here.

 

The European Commission has given the green light to a French initiative worth €900 million. This program aims to assist businesses in adopting biomass and renewable hydrogen technologies for energy and fuel manufacturing.

The French scheme’s goal is to facilitate the transition to a carbon-neutral economy, aligning with the objectives of the Green Deal Industrial Plan.

“This €900 million scheme will help companies to increase the use of energy and fuels produced from biomass and renewable hydrogen. By reducing the reliance on imported fossil fuels, it will contribute to the achievement of the EU’s goals. This measure is an important step in the transition to a net-zero economy, while protecting the level playing field in the Single Market,” said Margrethe Vestager, Commission vice-president.

Read the full announcement here.

 

The European Research Council (ERC) has allocated over €2 billion since 2007 to support cutting-edge research in artificial intelligence (AI), a new ERC report reads.

Significantly, the document highlights a considerable array of initiatives in healthcare and environmental sustainability, encompassing studies on clinical procedures, diagnostic automation, biomedical exploration, as well as endeavors focused on climate action and the shift towards renewable energy sources.

A recent published Science|Business analysis on AI funding in Horizon Europe shows the pace of AI-related research grants accelerating. A large proportion of projects approved are in healthcare, in topics such as breast cancer and cardiac arrhythmia.

"The report underscores the indispensable role of ERC-funded frontier research in addressing societal, economic, and ethical challenges posed by AI. Acknowledging the rapid pace of advancements in the field, particularly in generative AI, the ERC Scientific Council remains vigilant, stressing the importance of researcher accountability. We must ensure that we stay ‘smart in a smart world," said Gerd Gigerenzer, Vice-President of the ERC Scientific Council.

Read the full ERC report here.

 

A Brussels think tank has set out a series of policy idea to regulate five new and potentially destabilising technologies, including advanced biotechnology and mind-reading neurotechnology.  

Ahead of a new Commission taking office later this year, the Brussels-based International Centre for Future Generations, has released an overview of the state of play in neurotechnology, biotechnology, climate intervention tools such as geoengineering, quantum technology, and advanced artificial intelligence.  

“This new wave of emerging technologies obliges the EU to move even faster and more effectively to govern technological progress within the rule of law and with an eye towards human well-being,” urges Five Emerging Technologies to Act On Now.  

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