HORIZON BLOG: Research and innovation in the new seven-year budget

15 Jun 2021 | Live Blog

On 2 February, the European Commission announced the official launch of Horizon Europe, the EU’s next R&D programme.

But, before any of the €95.5 billion budget can start flowing, there remain many administrative and legal steps still to complete. The Commission has yet to launch the first formal call for grant applications.

This blog will keep you apprised of all the details as they unfold.

Tips are welcome at [email protected].

You can read the full archive of this blog here.

 

Spain will offer alternative funding to its start-ups that fail to secure funding from the EU’s new start-up financing programme, the European Innovation Council.

In the next two years, companies that don’t make the cut in EIC Accelerator calls for start-ups but receive the EU’s “Seal of Excellence” consolation prize for excellent proposals will have the chance to secure national grants.

All this is in line with the country’s new R&I strategy, which outlines research aims and instruments for 2021-2023. Adopted today, the strategy focuses on health, green and digital R&I, fosters more top-down research than its predecessor, and outlines the country’s role in the creation of the future EU single market for research, the European Research Area.

 

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s pilot call for testing new approaches to boosting the innovation capabilities of universities received 64 applications from networks uniting almost 750 institutions.

Back in March, the EIT, the EU’s innovation agency, launched a €9 million pilot project looking for universities to put forward plans to strengthen their links to business and research organisations and improve their entrepreneurial education. A total of 319 universities from 36 countries responded with proposals, together with 429 companies, research institutes and other organisations set to help the universities on their journey.

The 24 winners will be announced on 12 July. They will then get €400,000 for the first six month to draft plans and begin the work. If successful, they will secure a further €800,000 to continue improving their innovation capacity.

The pilot project is one of the first initiatives of the revamped EIT, which launched this Monday.

 

Germany today announced it will almost double the budget of its €50 million COVID-19 therapeutics research programme, adding a new €40 million call. 

The programme will complement the country’s vaccination efforts. “In addition to the availability of vaccines, the successful development of effective therapeutics is crucial in order to be able to cope with the corona pandemic in the long term,” said Germany’s research minister, Anja Karliczek.

The first call launched in the beginning of 2021. But upon receiving the first project proposals, the evaluators realised some good ideas needed more time to crystalise before they can be funded. The new tranche of funding will enable these ideas to come to life, with researchers and companies invited to apply for funding by 23 August.

 

The European Commission has launched its Horizon IP support scheme which will help start-ups and SMEs take advantage of intellectual property rights in joint innovation projects.

Companies in projects funded by the EU research programme will now be able to get help from local IP experts across Europe to learn how to better protect their existing IP and exploit new IP generated in their projects.

 

More than 1000 students in Spain will be able to secure loans for their education and training as well as career coaching and support thanks to a €4 million agreement between the European Investment Fund and the fintech company, StudentFinance.

The company, which received backing from the Fund, is building a tool allowing all kinds of education providers, from boot camps to universities, to offer deferred payment schemes to their students.

Today’s deal will serve more than 100 students in Spain, which will be able to repay their loans when they get a job and earn above a certain pre-determined amount. In the future, StudentFinance hopes to offer its services to students in Germany, Belgium, Poland, Italy and the Netherlands.

“Education and skills are key elements to promote economic efficiency, social inclusion, growth, competitiveness and, of course, self-development, all in the context of an ever-changing world,” said Alain Godard, chief of the European Investment Fund. “The agreement signed with StudentFinance goes exactly in this direction, enabling students to invest in their future while offering targeted training opportunities, career coaching and mentoring.”

 

The European Commission expects to spend €13.1 billion on research and innovation in 2022, with most of the funding, €12.2 billion, set to come from the EU research programme, Horizon Europe.

How most of this money will be spent will be outlined in the Horizon Europe work programmes, due to be published in the coming few weeks.

On top of the proposed budget, R&I projects could  see €1.8 billion top-up coming from the €750 billion EU recovery fund.

Overall, the proposed research spending makes up almost 8% of the funding of the EU’s €167.8 billion budget for 2022 revealed today.

 

The European Commission should launch the next call for new EU-supported university alliances next year, says the university association, the Coimbra Group.

If it waits until 2024, the project seeking to form cross-border university alliances across the EU will lose momentum, making it more difficult “to maintain the levels of cooperation and inclusiveness”, according to the group’s statement.

There are currently 41 university alliances testing the waters. In the next seven years, the Commission hopes to roll our and scale up these networks which will key in building up EU cooperation in education. The next call, funded by Erasmus+, will add more alliances to the mix.

The Coimbra Group also encourages the Commission to stick to the principles of flexibility, inclusiveness, creativity and bottom-up nature as the project evolves and calls for extended and long-term funding to follow the pilot phase of the alliances.

 

The European Research Council, the EU’s frontier research funder, has presented a new plan for boosting gender equality in its bottom-up calls for projects in the EU research programme, Horizon Europe.

In the next seven years, the ERC hopes to attract more female applicants than before. In Horizon 2020, 28% of all applicants were female. In the previous seven-year programme, women made up a third of all applicants. Now, the ERC wants to further boost the figures.

While the pool of female applicants is limited, “where we hope to advance in the next few years is understanding what makes highly qualified women, who are already in that pool, not apply for ERC grants, and then developing targeted encouragement actions for them,” said Barbara Romanowicz, member of the ERC Scientific Council and chair of its Gender Issues Working Group.

The new plan largely mirrors its Horizon 2020 predecessor, but this time the agency’s toolbox for fighting gender inequality will be strengthened by “ERC ambassadors”, members of the Scientific Council and volunteer grantees who will help promote gender equality at events and forums.

 

The European Innovation Council (EIC) has launched a new mentorship programme to help women entrepreneurs enhance their skills and network.

The scheme is open to all women that are part of EIC-funded projects, but this time around, only 50 of them will be able to secure tailor-made training with personal mentors and coaches. In the future, the mentorships will be extended to women from outside the EIC circle as part of  the WomanTechEU programme foreseen to be launched in late June.

To mark the launch of the mentoring scheme, on the same day, the EIC advisory board called on the EIC and other organisations to act now to achieve gender balance in the innovation ecosystem.

 

The European Commission has picked the 72 winners of its €1 billion Green Deal call for research tackling the climate crisis – the last big Horizon 2020 funding call.

The 72 selected proposals bring together almost 1800 research, public, private and civil society organisations to tackle challenges such as the green energy transition, circular economy, energy efficient buildings, sustainable mobility and preserving biodiversity.

The projects were selected out of 1550 candidates and are expected to sign grant agreement this September.

 

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