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 by April, when the Commission aims to launch the first formal call for grant applications.
This blog will keep you apprised of all the details as they unfold.
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The EU has made little progress in improving adult citizens’ digital skills since 2010, with 75 million Europeans still lacking basic competences, EU auditors found.
While education and vocational training are in the remit of member states, the European Commission has actively supported and issued guidance on digital literacy. Yet, EU funding for adult digital upskilling was relatively low. Between 2014 and 2020, only 2% of EU structural funds were spent on digital skills despite it being a priority area.
With over 90% of jobs requiring at least basic digital skills, in the next seven-year EU budget, the Commission has set out to increase the proportion of digitally literate citizens from 56% in 2019 to 70% in 2025. But the report notes that reaching the objective may be challenging due to the amount of funding allocated to the cause in EU programmes, the definition of sub-objectives and milestones, and difficulty of assessing skills in a rapidly changing digital environment.
To prepare for the next pandemic, emerging disease R&I and coordination must be flexible, ambitious and have a long-term view, says Olivier Charmeil, executive vice president for general medicines at the French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi.
The new the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) will be key to contributing to the long-term vision, he added.
Public-private partnerships will be the major instrument of the new EU pandemic preparedness agency, the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), according to Isabelle Bekeredjian-Ding, head of microbiology at the Paul Ehrlich Institute.
Bekeredjian-Ding noted the public-private partnerships in HERA, the EU equivalent for BARDA in the US, will be very different to the Innovative Medicines Initiative, the EU’s long-running industry partnership for pharmaceuticals, as pandemic preparedness is a less competitive area.
In the end, the new agency for which the Commission will put forward a proposal by the end of the year will “have to be an institution that actually serves the member states,” said Bekeredjian-Ding.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for solidarity and coordination, and “this is characteristic of how the EU has moved in the past year,” says EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
Next, Europe must increase its preparedness for future outbreaks. “I believe that what we need to do is really to focus not only on exiting the pandemic but preparing for the next one,” Kyriakides said. To do so, the European Commission plans to put forward a proposal for establishing the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) by the end of the year.
The success of the record time development of a COVID-19 vaccine owes to decades of investment in basic research, Nobel Prize winner Edvard Moser tells Science|Business conference.
In Europe, the European Research Council was a gamechanger for bottom-up basic research, he later added, it is “that type of basic knowledge that allows us to solve problems in the world.”
Europe should establish a biomedical research lab to boost infectious disease research post-pandemic, emulating the UK’s Francis Crick Institute, Nobel prize winner Michael Houghton said in an interview which aired during this week’s Science|Business conference.
Modernising Europe’s approach to biomedical science, the EU version of the Francis Crick Institute could carry out and translate infectious disease research.
Houghton believes European institutions like Berlin’s Humboldt Institute, the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory are “very strong” but says that research translation is “not as good in Europe as in the US or the UK.”
The current education and training system teaches innovators to improve existing technology rather than produce breakthrough innovations, says Ilkka Niemelä, the president of Aalto University.
“We still often in engineering and education train people towards the incremental improvement, but we should be thinking about the real big breakthroughs as well,” he said.
Innovation projects improving existing products also have a competitive advantage in the market as they often readily fit health and environment regulations, Niemelä added.
It is the responsibility of policymakers to prevent brain drain and ensure young innovators can find opportunities in all European regions, MEP Iskra Mihaylova told the Science|Business conference.
Policymakers must ensure synergies between different regional, national, and EU instruments to give regions an opportunity to use a variety of them, argued Mihaylova. “I know that the opportunities in each one of the regions in Europe are huge,” she added.
Huiyao Wang, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, tells Science|Business conference more tolerance to different value systems is needed to boost global research cooperation.
While China’s values differ from Europeans values, China has been effective in lifting million from poverty and tackling other pressing challenges, noted Wang. “Values matter but they can be interpreted differently by different people,” he said.
When tackling the next big challenge, climate change, China’s hybrid economy could be an advantage, according to Wang.
Research and innovation cooperation should be more open if the world wants to successfully tackle climate change, according to Rémi Quirion, chief scientist of the Province of Quebec.
“We need to make sure science is open, innovation is open if you want to face this challenge,” said Quirion.
Huiyao Wang, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, added that cooperation between industry, policymakers and international organisations must also be strengthened to better address pressing challenges.