HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

08 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.

 

The European Commission has launched the network of National Contact Points (NCPs) for EU research missions. 

The launch was announced on Wednesday by Julien Guerrier, director of the common policy centre at the Commission's research directorate. 

The experts will help researchers and innovators participate in the EU's five research missions.

The Commission has proposed five research missions under Horizon Europe, with the aim to bring together researchers and innovators who want to work on concrete projects for five societal challenges: climate change, cancer, clean oceans and waters, climate neutral cities and healthy soils. 

 

Electricité de France (EDF) is set to receive €50 million in state aid for research into small nuclear reactors, after the European Commission cleared the investment under EU state aid rules today. 

The project will look into the processes for the design and conception of small reactors based on a simple and modular design, which allows mass production. 

In parallel, the US has recently announced it will begin testing small modular reactors at a site in Romania.

 

The European Research Council's Scientific Council guiding the direction of the EU’s €16 billion frontier research fund will be joined by five new members for four-year terms starting next year.  

The new members are Harriet Bulkeley, professor at Durham University, whose research focuses on environmental governance and the politics of climate change, energy and sustainable cities; Thomas Henzinger, founding president and computer and communication sciences professor at Austria’s Institute of Science and Technology; Leszek Kaczmarek, neurobiologist at the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology at the Polish Academy of Sciences; Luke O’Neill, leading immunologist at Trinity College Dublin; and Björn Ottersten, professor and founding director of Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust at the University of Luxembourg.  

The council has a total of ten members, with another five members’ terms renewed for another four years. These are professors Geneviève Almouzni, Ben Feringa, Mercedes Garcia-Arenal, Eystein Jansen and Jesper Qualmann Svejstrup. 

 

The EU’s doctoral and postdoctoral training programme Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) will have a budget of €1.75 billion for the next two years.  

Under the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme, MSCA will provide over €856 million in 2023 and €902 million in 2024 to researchers at all stages of their careers as well as doctoral, postdoctoral programmes and collaborative research and innovation projects. 

The details on what calls exactly the money will be spent can be found in the MSCA work programme for 2023/24, released yesterday. 

 

The new ‘pilot environment’ foreseen in Espoo will focus on pre-commercial development of microelectronics and quantum technology, building on the city’s existing research infrastructure.  

The new hub will contribute to the European push for technological sovereignty and is foreseen to be partly funded under the EU’s Chips Act, a plan to make the bloc a leader in the semiconductor industry.  

“We want to further strengthen Finland's capabilities in open technology development and build new cleanroom facilities that enable industrial scale scaling, as well as an ecosystem that aims at growth and the creation of new high-growth companies,” said Erja Turunen, executive vice president of digital technologies at VTT, the country’s biggest applied research centre.  

The project is jointly developed by VTT, the city of Espoo, Aalto University and the semiconductor industry group Technology Industries of Finland. 

 

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.  

 

Subscribe to Live Blog Entries