09 Apr 2021

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

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.

Tips are welcome at [email protected].

You can read the full archive of this blog here.

 

Start-ups can now apply for funding from the EU start-up fund, the European Innovation Council (EIC), which launched last month after a three-year pilot phase. This year, there is €1 billion in the funding pot, with €495 million earmarked for green, and digital and health technologies.

SMEs can submit short pitches for grants of up to €2.5 million and equity investments of up to €15 million at any point. The successful applicants will be invited to follow-up with a longer application.

To manage the grants, the Commission has remodelled the Executive Agency for SMEs (EASME) to include the EIC. The new agency, called EISMEA, was launched last week together with a new organisation chart that gives a glimpse into how the Commission will organise the work of the EIC.

The chart shows Viorel Peca, who managed the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme for breakthrough innovations under Horizon 2020, will continue his work in the new agency as head of unit for transition and business acceleration services.

 

The Commission is one step closer to creating the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), a huge repository of research results, after a €30 million project completed its mission to lay the foundations for its infrastructure.

The project delivered nine key results for establishing the marketplace and working environment for the cloud, including developing the EOSC Portal for accessing the resources, defining the architecture of EOSC’s functions and integrating more than 80 service providers into the portfolio.

“The EOSC-hub has laid the foundations and backbone of Europe’s Open Science Cloud, making enormous strides for tackling Europe’s fragmented research ecosystem,” said project coordinator Tiziana Ferrari.

The open science cloud has been in the making since 2015. By 2030, the Commission hopes the EOSC will allow 2 million European researchers to store, share and reuse data in the EU.

 

The Spanish government has published its first €35 million call for proposals as part of a €160 million three-year programme for aeronautical research.

Funded projects will be expected to increase aircraft efficiency with the aim to completely eliminate pollution from air traffic, strengthen national research capacity in the sector and promote multipurpose aircraft and systems.

The call is open to consortia of private companies with the possibility to subcontract research organisations. Applications are accepted until 7 June.

 

The European Commission is asking all interested stakeholders to comment on a proposed revision of the EU state aid rules for research, development, and innovation.

The state aid rules provide a framework for using public funds to support research, development and innovation activities in areas where the market fails. The current rules work well but are partially out of date. The Commission now wants to simplify them, introduce provisions for supporting technology infrastructures and clarify certain definitions.

All stakeholders are invited to provide feedback to the Commission on the foreseen changes by 3 June 2021. Following the consultation, the Commission hopes to adopt the new state aid rules in the second half of this year.

 

The first €123 million emergency call for projects under the new EU research programme, Horizon Europe, will open on 13 April, inviting researchers to advance the development of novel therapeutics and vaccines for fighting COVID-19.

Originally foreseen to launch in March, the call aims to forge ahead with the development of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines by funding clinical trials, supporting and developing large-scale international COVID-19 cohort studies, and reinforcing data sharing and research infrastructures. Applications will be accepted until 6 May 2021.

The funded projects will be expected to tackle short to medium-term threats and boost Europe’s pandemic preparedness as part of the €150 million HERA Incubator, a bio-defence programme for tackling emerging coronavirus variants. The incubator is a first step towards the creation of the proposed European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), an EU agency modelled after the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

 

Spain’s national business R&D funder, the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology, today announced it will award €76 million to 161 industry research and development projects.

A total of 168 companies will participate in the funded projects, four of which will address the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic, developing plastic laminates with antiviral properties, transparent silicone masks, disinfection tools, and automated manufacturing systems for protective garments.

 

Cyprus yesterday launched a €15 million programme aiming to strengthen its national research and innovation ecosystem.

As part of the programme co-funded with the help of the EU’s regional funds, Cyprus will invest €10 million in various research projects, €3.6 million in business R&D, while the rest of the funding will be available for initiatives aiming to commercialise research results and investigate industrial applications of new technologies. Four calls for proposals are already open and another two are expected to go live by the end of the year.

To help researchers access the funding, the national foundation managing the programme revamped its policy allowing more young researchers to lead projects and providing incentives for collaboration with private companies.

The aim of the calls is to enhance the R&I ecosystem in Cyprus, one of the smallest EU countries, where funding for research has been significantly lower than EU average. While the country’s scientists tend to do well in the EU’s research programmes, in 2019, the country invested merely 0.63% of its GDP in research, according to the OECD.  

 

EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel today discussed the experiences of scaling-up European start-ups with the founders and CEOs of 35 ‘unicorns’, companies valued at over $1 billion.

The meeting will feed into Gabriel’s planning for future support for the European innovation ecosystem, paving the way towards the EU goal to double the number of unicorns to around 250 in Europe by 2030.

"We need European unicorns to ensure EU leadership in deep tech start-ups to pave the way towards Europe's sustainable and resilient recovery, accelerate the green and digital transitions, innovation cohesion across EU, and ensure Europe's technological sovereignty," said Gabriel.

After a three-year pilot phase, the Commission earlier this month launched the EU start-up fund, the European Innovation Council, which will work together with the EU innovation agency, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, to help entrepreneurs speed up the deployment and scaling up of innovations across Europe.

 

Germany has launched a €15 million funding programme for cross-border research projects into green hydrogen in hopes to boost the country‘s strategic cooperation with international partners in the sector.

The first call for proposals opened yesterday for joint projects between Germany and New Zealand. The applicants can request up to €400,000 until 4 June for projects investigating the production of green hydrogen; its integration in the heating systems and gas networks; supply and transport challenges; and material innovations for increasing the efficiency of production.

The call is the latest move in Germany‘s recent push for a creating a leading hydrogen economy.

 

The European Commission has awarded 2,885 researchers, who applied for the 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) individual grants, the Seal of Excellence Certificate, a consolation prize for proposals that scored high but could not be financed due to a lack of sufficient funds.

The seal of excellence is meant to help researchers secure funding from alternative sources, such as EU regional funds and national programmes. The seal does not guarantee funding, but twelve EU countries have special schemes to support the awardees.

The 2021 call for the MSCA individual grants, now called postdoctoral fellowships, which finance training and mobility of researchers of any nationality, will run between 18 May and 15 September, inviting researchers with up to eight years of post-PhD research experience to apply.

 

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