HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

06 Jun 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.


A new report by the European Parliament has identified concerns over government interference in the affairs of universities and research institutions in Hungary, Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. 

Legal changes to the governance relationships between the government and universities in these countries could enable politicians to interfere in institutional matters in academia. 

Members of the European Parliament have been sounding the alarm over declining academic freedom in the EU, after Hungary managed to force the Central European University to move from Budapest to Vienna. 

In this report, the Parliament calls for a common definition of academic freedom across all member states and for a new monitoring system, including a bigger role for the Parliament's STOA committee as an "academic freedom clearing house". 

The report also calls on the European Commission to introduce new calls in Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ for research projects on academic freedom. 


Europe must jump onboard of the ongoing human space exploration revolution and increase investment to secure its space autonomy, leading space experts told the European Space Agency (ESA). 

The panel of 12 experts presented their independent report on the state of European space exploration to the ESA Council in Paris last week.  

“Europe’s goal should be to capture one third of this future market,” the report says. “Countries and regions that will not secure their independent access to space and its autonomous use, will become strategically dependent and economically deprived of a major part of this value chain.” 

Today, Europe has no independent human launch capacity and relies on non-European partners to send humans to space. This must change if Europe wants to be a leading space economy.  


The European Commission has published the latest edition of its regional competitiveness report, according to which, regions in Bulgaria and Romania score the lowest in the innovation sub-index.

Capitals Sofia and Bucharest are getting closer to EU average innovation performance, but regions outside the capitals are ranked well below EU and national averages. 

The average innovation performance of the Warsaw region in Poland is also dragged down by lower scores in other regions. 

Overall, the report shows regions in central and eastern Europe continue having difficulties in catching up with innovation performance in the rest of the bloc.

The report is available here.

Chart: Regional competitiveness innovation sub index


The technology and innovation working group of the EU-US Energy Council has met earlier this month to discuss cooperation in nuclear fusion research.

The meeting was co-chaired by Maria Cristina Russo, director for global approach and international cooperation in research & innovation at the European Commission and Joshua Volz, deputy assistant aecretary for Europe, Eurasia, Africa, and Middle East, at the US Department of Energy.

A new Model Project Agreement (MPA) is to allow the EU and the US broaden the scope of joint research activities on fusion, and increase the number of fusion projects financed.


The European Research Council (ERC) has announced plans to restructure some of its evaluation panels and to introduce lump sum funding in Advanced Grants in the work programme for next year.

The ERC work programme for 2024 is to be formally adopted later this year, but the funding agency has decided to publish now details about the changes so researchers can adapt ahead of the publication of individual calls.

More details here.  


A new ERC study that analysed 220 data repositories has found that over 90% of trusted ones are in line with basic open science requirements. 

However, only three of the repositories met all the mandatory requirements for metadata and none of them met all the mandatory and recommended requirements that are set out in Horizon Europe grant agreements. 

In general, the study highlighted how complicated it is to know whether data repositories meet open science requirements. 

To help researchers, the ERC set out a list of repositories that researchers can use to comply with open science rules.


The European University Association (EUA) has called for a holistic assessment of the progress of the European Universities initiative. 

European Universities brings higher education institutions from around 30 different countries to cooperate on education, research and innovation. 

The idea for the initiative was proposed by the Commission back in 2017, with the goal of creating a European Education Area by 2025. 

EUA has said that with the pilot phase of the initiative over, it is now necessary to measure the progress in a wider way, with focus so far too much focused on quantitative measurements. 

It sets out its key considerations in a policy note available here.


A delegation from Switzerland’s Federal Office for Defence Procurement is in Singapore this week to attend the country’s defence technology summit. The trip comes after an invitation from the head of Singapore’s Defence Science and Technology agency, Merwyn Tan. 

The visit will give representatives of both countries the chance to discuss collaboration on defence, defence technology and security. 

The visit comes as Switzerland remains locked out of the EU’s research and innovation programme Horizon Europe owing to an ongoing disagreement about the country’s relationship to the EU. 

It also comes as European countries and the EU in general attempt to ramp up spending on defence in light of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

In 2021, European defence spending reached over €200 billion for the first time, an increase of 6% on 2020. However, just prior to Russia’s invasion, the budget for the European Defence Fund was cut from an initially proposed €13 billion to just shy of €8 billion. Since then, there have been calls from MEPs to increase the budget. 


Federico Menna is to succeed Willem Jonker as CEO of EIT Digital, one of the nine Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

Jonker was at the helm of EIT Digital for ten years, before moving back to The Netherlands to run a new national agency for artificial intelligence. Since his departure, Menna has served as interim CEO.

Newly appointed in the permanent role, Menna says his goal as new CEO is to expand the footprint of EIT Digital in Europe and establish new regional offices. “It is my goal to further expand our strong ecosystem across Europe to ensure that many more partners will benefit from EIT Digital’s impact on digital innovation, entrepreneurship and talent,” he said.


The latest EIC Pathfinder Open call received 788 project proposals requesting €2.4 billion of grant support, thirteen times more than it can fund.  

The European Innovation Council’s Pathfinder programme funds interdisciplinary high-risk science-towards-technology projects in all fields of research. Interest is high, with only 60 applicants, a total of 7.6%, set to receive financing from the indicative €179.5 million funding pot. 

Low success rates are a common problem across EU’s research programmes, and the recently launched EIC is no exception, recording a high level of interest across its calls. 


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