HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

03 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.

If you have any tips, please email them at [email protected].

You can read the full archive of this blog here.


Construction work has started at both Australian and South African sites of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s biggest radio telescope.

Over the past 18 months, the observatory has signed over 40 contracts worth more than €150 million. On Monday, major new construction contracts worth over €300 million were announced at construction launch ceremonies.

The SKA Organisation (SKAO) also announced major contracts worth €100 million to manufacture the antennas for both telescopes, bringing the total amount of construction funds allocated so far by the observatory to close to €500 million.

The telescopes require vast infrastructure. Australian construction company Ventia will cover electricity lines and optic fibre infrastructure. South African electrical engineering company Power Adenco will build gravel access roads, cast dish foundations, lay on power and optical fibre networks, and put up security fencing.

Competitive tendering also took place to procure the antennas and dishes needed for the telescopes.

Italian company SIRIO will build the low-frequency antennas for the SKA-Low telescope in Western Australia, with important participation from the UK. In China, one of the Observatory’s long-term partners, CETC54, will manufacture the SKA-Mid telescope’s dish structure. Other parts will be produced in several countries, including Italy, Spain, and South Africa.

More details about the SKA project can be found here.


The European Space Agency and a consortium led by German telecoms giant T-Systems have signed a contract for a new data access service for Copernicus satellites data.

According to the Commission, the deal will allow researchers to access large amounts of earth observation data from Copernicus Sentinel satellites.

The new service will be fully operational in July 2023, but users will be given sufficient phase-out time to move from the current data distribution service.


The EU and Japan have signed a cooperation deal to spur innovation and develop an international hydrogen market, the European Commission has announced on Friday.

According to the document signed in Japan on Friday, the two parties will encourage industrial players, research institutions and local authorities to work together on low-carbon hydrogen research, development, applications and demonstration projects.  


The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has reiterated its view that the goals set out in the EU’s New Innovation Agenda for Europe can only be achieved by reducing fragmentation between projects and increasing cooperation between businesses, academia and regional and local authorities.  

The opinion was drafted by Finnish politician Markku Markkula, president of the Helsinki Region, and was adopted at the CoR plenary session on 1 December. 

The CoR is calling for two innovation gaps to be closed: Europe trailing behind the US and China and also regional disparities within the EU. It states that the best performing regions in the EU are up to nine times more innovative than the least performing regions.  

“As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis, we should discuss the type of innovations needed for a resilient European society", Markkula said. "In this situation, creative tension and creative destruction must be translated into profit: something completely new is needed, with the joint development of potential breakthrough initiatives.  

“The European Commission should take measures, without delay, that draw on and complement the new European Innovation Agenda, and provide new solutions to acute societal challenges."  

The European Commission adopted the new European Innovation Agenda in July this year with the aim of helping Europe develop new technologies and to bring them to market.  

As part of the agenda there is a plan to create regional innovation valleys to help countries channel €10 billion to interregional innovation projects, with the goal of connecting innovators in Europe, including in lagging regions.   

Mr Markkula welcomed this step, saying “a change in mindset is needed”. “The aim should be for researchers, students and businesses to experiment together and pilot the latest technologies in a new entrepreneurial and innovation culture," he said.

The new steering board of the Constitutive Assembly of the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA) was announced on Thursday, 1 December, with Rianne Letschert, president of Maastricht University, chosen as its chair.  

The new board also includes two vice-chairs and is made up of representatives from research institutes, associations and universities from around Europe. 

More than 300 organisations were represented at the assembly, where CoARA’s governance documents, rules of procedure and code of conduct were also adopted. Science Connect was also formally appointed as the CoARA Secretariat. 

This marks the next phase in efforts to reform research assessment in Europe.  

An Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment was adopted in July, drafted by a team of representatives from the European University Association (EUA) and Science Europe, together with Karen Stroobants, a former chemistry researcher who is now a policy adviser to various research institutions in Europe. The European Commission took on the role of “facilitator”. 

Letschert, speaking at the assembly, said that “we need a better balance in how we recognise and reward academics”. She also highlighted an urgent need for more “diversity in career paths in academia”.  

Amanda Crowfoot, Secretary-General of the EUA, said that the selection of the steering board marks the beginning for CoARA as it “starts its own life”.  

“We have already started to develop our CoARA work plan for 2023. We will also continue to liaise with all our members to ensure they are included in future discussions on reforming research assessment,” she said.  

Signatories of the agreement have committed to sharing their progress on research assessment reform by the end of 2023, while another review is scheduled for the end of 2027, five years after the signing of the agreement.  

Read full details of the new steering board here.  


EuropaBio, Europe's largest biotech industry group, presented its EFIB Vilnius Statement to European policymakers this week, setting out its priority requests for 2023. 

This year’s statement builds on 2021’s inaugural EFIB Statement, which centred on three long-term goals: Modernising regulation and policy; Education and awareness; Financing innovation. 

Claire Skentelbery, director general of EuropaBio, said the launch of the document came at a “critical time” with the world facing challenges such as recovering from Covid, food supply issues and energy security. 

“Delivering on EU Green Deal objectives whilst strengthening resilience and independence of European industries is essential and industrial biotechnology and biomanufacturing are part of the solution,” she said.

The new statement document was officially handed over to Simonas Šatūnas, head of cabinet for Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment.

Read the full statement here.


The European Commission has adopted the second European drone strategy, setting out the vision for further developments in the market, with a focus on large-scale commercial drone operations.  

The strategy contains 19 operational, technical and financial flagship actions, including developing a strategic roadmap to identify priority research and innovation areas in the sector.


French company Arianespace will perform six Vega-C launches for the EU earth observation programme Copernicus in the next three years and cover launch service needs for the next five years.  

The contract is part of the Commission’s efforts to make the EU an anchor customer for the procurement of EU launch services, in an attempt to strengthen the sector’s strategic autonomy.  

The EU’s current constellation includes seven operational Copernicus Sentinel satellites, which provide data and services for agriculture, crisis response, and the fight against climate change, among others. 


Kurt Vandenberghe was today named new director general of the European Commission’s climate directorate, DG CLIMA.  

Earlier this year, Vandenberghe's name was floated around as a potential candidate to head the Commission’s research directorate (RTD). At RTD, he played an instrumental role in shaping Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe at RTD under the leadership of former director-general Robert-Jan Smits.

Vandenberghe held various positions in the research directorate, in charge of climate action and resource efficiency as well as policy development of coordination. Most recently, the Belgian served as adviser for the green deal in the cabinet of Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. 

Vandenberghe will be in charge of leading the Commission’s efforts to fight climate change from 16 January 2023. 


The European Commission has unveiled new rules it says will make it "cheaper, quicker and more predictable" to protect industrial designs in the EU. 

Industrial designs are the outer lines, contours and shape of a product. The Commission wants to make it simpler to submit industrial designs for protection, and lower the fees paid for the first ten years. 

It also wants to introduce an EU-wide "repair clause" that increase competition in the spare parts market. In the car repair sector, this should make it easier to product matching body parts to restore cars to their original appearance. 


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