13 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.

 

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.

 

The Human Brain Project, the EU’s €1 billion brain research initiative, is calling on researchers to propose new projects looking into the impact of COVID-19 on brain disorders and mental health issues.

Research topics include exploring the changes in brain structure and function in people that have been injected with COVID-19, modelling and simulation of COVID-19 disease scenarios, and research into the effect of COVID-19 vaccines on the brain and mental health.

There is €450,000 in the funding pot, and up to €225,000 are available per project. Proposals should be submitted by 30 April 2021.

 

Austria is investing €146.5 million in three companies carrying out research and innovation in microelectronics, as it joins the €1.75 billion Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) in the field.

The country’s investment in Infineon Austria, AT&S Austria and NXP Semiconductors Austria was greenlighted by the Commission today and is expected to unlock €530 million of additional private investments in microelectronics research.

Austria is the fifth country to join the IPCEI, which was set-up in 2018 by France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom to boost strategic transnational microelectronics innovation.

 

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is putting €50 million in risk financing towards the Bavarian venture capital fund, Wachstumsfonds Bayern 2, providing impetus for the German venture capital market.

The Bavarian fund provides scale-up financing to innovative start-ups in robotics, digital technologies, industrial manufacturing processes, artificial intelligence and life sciences.

Venture capital investments in Germany remain below the EU average, and the investment will help inject much-needed funding into the country’s start-ups. The fund’s target size is €165 million, with €115 million already committed by LfA, a specialist promotional bank of Bavaria.

 

The European Commission today launched a free service advising SMEs how to manage and valorise intellectual property (IP) in collaborative research and innovation projects.

The new service, Horizon IP Scan, will provide assessments of each SME’s intangible assets, teach companies how to protect their existing IP when starting a research project with other entities and assist in developing IP management strategies.

Horizon IP Scan is available to SMEs taking part in projects under one of the EU’s research programmes, Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe, given they apply right before or up to six months after signing the grant agreement.

The launch comes just a few days after the EU start-up fund, the European Innovation Council, announced its 2021 calls for proposals.

 

Europe needs a societal debate on the science, regulation and global governance of genome editing, according to the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, an independent body of experts advising the European Commission.

The debate should lead to joint learning and monitoring of the latest regulatory, scientific and governance developments in the field of genome editing, the advisers said.

Today, genome editing in the EU is restricted, and the pressure to lift the restrictions is mounting as scientists, policymakers and civil society organisations demand the EU to review its legislation on genetically modified organisms. The advisers’ call is the latest development in the scientific community’s discussion on the ethics and regulation of genome editing.

 

R&D spending in Europe is increasing, largely driven by Germany, but growth remains slower than in China and the USan early analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows.

The incomplete analysis of 2020 business and government spending on research and development suggests R&D budgets in the OECD have increased by 6.2% in the last year, continuing the trend of strong growth in research funding since 2017. The sharp increase in investment could be a result of enhanced emergency funding for health-related research in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the OECD noted.

Overall, the United States remains the top investor in research, with China in second place, reaching 80% of US spending, up from 26% in 2005.

 

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