HORIZON BLOG: European R&D policy newsbytes

02 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.

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You can read the full archive of this blog here.


In a speech at the University of Fribourg on Wednesday, European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič said a fresh start in EU-Swiss relations would also include Horizon Europe association.

“Swiss association in Horizon Europe, the EU's key research and innovation funding programme of some €95.5 billion, would be a priority in the joint way forward,” Šefčovič said.

However, he warned that progress Switzerland’s participation in Horizon Europe would need to “move at the same pace on all underlying issues in our relations.”

Switzerland has been locked out of the programme due to broader political disagreements between Brussels and Bern that began unfolding in 2021 when Switzerland abandoned talks on an overarching agreement with the EU.


Germany’s audit office has found Fraunhofer, Germany’s largest applied research organisations, to have wasted large sums of its budget on luxury dinners, cars and hotels.  

The December report had initially been classified but Tagesspiegel leaked the story. On Tuesday, the auditors published the report. 

Federal research minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger reacted, saying the report “raises numerous and serious allegations” against Fraunhofer and its board.” She added that the ministry has asked Fraunhofer to improve its compliance management system. 

Here is the report in German.


Open access publishing is on the rise in France, with 67% of scientific publications published in 2021 found in open science journals as of December 2022.  

This marks a five point increase compared to the previous year and 29 points since 2028, according to the latest edition of the Open Science Barometer. And there’s progress in all fields of science: at least half of all 2021 publications are available free or charge in each discipline.  

France, much like the rest of the EU, has been pushing for more open access publishing in recent years. EU governments are currently debating a joint position on advancing open access in the EU Council of member states, to be adopted before July. 


Spain is set to trial a new science funding programme, which will provide researchers with stable funding for four years to explore their ideas, without being tied to specific projects. 

The soon-to-be-launched pilot will have a budget of €30 million and finance around 72 health research groups this year, each with around €100,000.  

The government promises the new type of non-prescriptive funding will be more flexible and less bureaucratic, and will complement project-based financing for science.  

Following the trial period, the programme is expected to grow to €700 million a year by 2033. This will cover 70% of all research groups in Spain, as the government estimates there are around 10,000 consolidated research groups in the country.  

The new programme is part of Spain's new science law, which aims to tackle precarity of research careers in the country, a growing concern in the EU.


The European Commission wants stakeholder feedback on the work of its six executive agencies, to feed into their three-year evaluation. 

For research stakeholders, the agencies in question are the Research Executive Agency (REA), which manages a large portfolio of Horizon grants, the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA), and the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EISMEA), whose brief includes large parts of the European Innovation Council (EIC).  

The consultation is open until 7 April.  


The 2023 STI Outlook report on global trends in science and technology (STI) is set to be out on Thursday.  

The OECD’s flagship biennial report is a key source informing STI policy, as it tracks global patterns and their potential implications on and for national and international policies. 

This year, the focus will fall on the transformation of energy, agrifood, and mobility systems, boosting investments in low-carbon technologies, and international cooperation amid rising geopolitical tensions.  

The European Commission and the OECD will hold a public event exploring the implications of the global trends detailed in the upcoming report on Thursday afternoon. 


EU commissioner for research and innovation Mariya Gabriel is planning a series of events in San Francisco next week, as companies and tech investors are struggling to cope with the sudden collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank, one of the biggest tech lenders in the US. 

Gabriel will bring along a delegation of more than 40 representatives of the EU research and innovation community, from mayors to start-up founders and rectors for the EU Innovation Forum, and hold a roundtable on how European companies can tap into the Silicon Valley innovation pool.

She previously visited Silicon Valley in October last year to promote the EU’s new innovation agenda and to hold meetings with academics, start-up founders and venture capitalists.


The EU is to consider creating an EU Space Law to bring consistency to the European space sector in terms of security, safety and sustainability. 

The announcement was made today in a first-ever joint communication on a European space strategy for security and defence between the European Commission and the high representative. 

Aside from a common space law, the strategy proposes the creation of an analysis centre looking at space capabilities and to increase Europe’s space technology autonomy. 

The joint communication follows on from an agreement made last year between EU leaders to identify space as a key strategic area. 

The Commission and the High Representative will soon present further details to member states on implementing the strategy. 


Switzerland has launched a consultation on changes to its Federal Act on the Promotion of Research and Innovation (RIPA) to make sure the laws support new projects at CERN. 

The country’s Federal Council announced the consultation today and will send an eventual bill on amendments to the RIPA to the Swiss parliament by the end of the year. 

In a statement, the Federal Council stated that it was drawing up a plan to make sure that new CERN projects will be compatible with “the objectives of Swiss research, host state, environmental and spatial planning policies, and that they are implemented in the best possible administrative conditions”. 

For this plan to go ahead, changes to the RIPA are required. 


The contest is open to all cities in EU member states or in countries associated to Horizon Europe with a population of at least 50,000. Six prizes will be given out under the categories of ‘European Capital of Innovation’ and ‘Rising Innovative City’. 

The winner of the European Capital of Innovation will win €1 million. Last year, the award went to Aix-Marseille Provence metropole in southern France, while the Rising Innovative City award was won by Haarlem in the Netherlands. 

European research commissioner Mariya Gabriel said, “Cities play a key role in creating a supportive and inclusive ecosystem, where innovation is designed to benefit its citizens. [They are] a place where technology, innovation, learning and knowledge are fostered by bringing together different partners, from civil society and universities to local businesses, SMEs or start-ups.”

The call for applications is open until 29 June.


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