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

20 Sep 2021 | Live Blog

In June, the European Commission has published the official work programme, detailing budgets and deadlines for calls over the first two years of Horizon Europe. This blog will keep you apprised on the rollout of the EU's €95.5 billion R&D programme.

Tips are welcome at [email protected]. You can read the full archive of this blog here.

 

Vandewiele, a Belgian technology company active in the textiles sector, is set to receive its second €100 million loan from the European Investment Bank to boost its investments in research, innovation and development.

The new tranche of funding will support ongoing digitalisation efforts, development of new innovative products and the company’s efforts to lower its environmental footprint.

 

EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel today met with a new expert group on equality in investments in education and training to identify policies that could boost education and training outcomes in Europe.

The group will focus on the quality of teachers and training, education infrastructure and digital education. By the end of the year, it is expected to present an interim report on how the EU can best innovate its education landscape. The final report, which will contribute to the Commission's aims to create a single market for education, the European Education Area, by 2025, is foreseen at the end of 2022.

 “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how critical teachers, schools and universities are to our society,” said Gabriel. “Today, we have the chance of rethinking the EU's education and training sector, and put it back at the core of our economies and societies. Therefore, we need clarity and solid evidence on how to best invest in education.”

 

Starting today, the EU supercomputing research partnership, EuroHPC, will drive its €8 billion mission to pool European and national resources to procure and deploy world-class supercomputers from new headquarters in Luxembourg.

The inauguration of the headquarters is the latest step in launching EuroHPC under the new research programme, Horizon Europe. Next, the Council is expected to finalise its regulation to enable a €8 billion investment in the partnership, which hopes to help Europe secure a place in the global supercomputer race.

“Supercomputing is key for the digital sovereignty of the EU,” said EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton at the inauguration event. “High Performance Computers are crucial to harness the full potential of data — notably for AI applications, health research and industry 4.0. We are massively investing in this cutting-edge technology for Europe to remain ahead of the global tech race.

 

The European Commission today launched a public consultation on the European Health Data Space, a tool for facilitating health data sharing in the EU for research, treatment, diagnosis and prevention.

Access to data is key to enabling health innovation but the EU’s current data protection rules are currently throwing up barriers to data sharing. The new health data space will seek to create a single market for public and volunteered health data. The Commission is asking stakeholders to send in their ideas for the new tool by 26 July.

 

The European Commission today published a study on novel genome editing techniques, ruling that the EU genetically modified organism (GMO) regulation is outdated to deal with them. The Commission now plans to review EU policy on plants derived using certain new genomic techniques.

The current GMO legislation was adopted in 2001. Since then, many new gene editing techniques have emerged, some of which are already on the market outside the EU. The research community has been calling for a debate and review of the legislation on genome editing, to ensure better monitoring of regulatory and scientific developments in the field.

The Commission’s latest report ruled there are legal uncertainties when it comes to novel genomic techniques and suggested that regulation should be adapted in line with scientific and technological progress, in particular, when it comes to plant mutagenesis, a technique that does not require insertion of genetic material, and cisgenesis, the rearrangement of genetic material of the same organism.

Now, the Commission will hold debates with EU policymakers and other stakeholders, and start working on an impact assessment of the potential changes. There is not concrete timeline,  “but we have come to a point where a lot of knowledge and intelligence went into this study, and it’s not the moment to sit on these findings,” an EU official said.

 

The new cohesion funding tool for innovation, the Interregional Innovation Investments (I3), should have a stronger focus on technology infrastructures and their role in enabling innovation development and market uptake, according to the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations and the Vanguard Initiative, which unites Europe’s industrial regions.

The I3 is a newly-introduced instrument in the the new seven-year EU budget period, aimed at supporting interregional partnerships delivering innovation and reinforcing globally competitive EU value chains. The two organisations believe technology infrastructures will play a key role in allowing SMEs to demonstrate and pilot their activities funded through the programme, and therefore should be given stronger focus in it.

The joint paper also suggests the funding for I3 projects should be given as a lump-sum, lowering the administrative burden and risks for the beneficiaries, calls on the Commission to clarify potential issues when it comes to state aid rules, and asks for a timeline for the implementation of the tool.

 

EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel today met with a group of investors who seek to strenghten women’s participation in the venture capital industry in Europe, the European Women in Venture Capital Group, to work on creating a more gender-balanced EU innovation system.

“We need women’s creativity and entrepreneurial potential to create jobs and growth. If we want more women innovators in Europe, we need to invest more and provide them with the right education and support early on,” said Gabriel.

The meeting is the first in a series of meetings between the investors and the commissioner and part of the Commission’s efforts to foster gender equality in the EU research programme, Horizon Europe. Earlier this year, the Commission also launched an entrepreneuship training initiative for female start-up founders, Women TechEU.

 

EIT Digital, an EU-supported innovation community, will offer deferred payment schemes for students partaking in its innovation and entrepreneurship courses to improve access to education and help close the digital skills gap in Europe.

The €2.5 million scheme facilitating access to training for around 500 people will be funded by the European Investment Fund as part of a new EU initiative dedicated to stimulating access to finance in education, training and skills.

Currently, four our of ten adults in the EU lack basic digital skills. EIT Digital courses are one of the EU‘s many initiatives partly aimed at closing the gap. "The digital transition profoundly changes the way we live, study and work,“ said Margaritis Schinas, vice-president of the European Commission. “We must equip people with the right skills to master this transition and make the most out of the opportunities the future brings.

 

University associations are calling on the European Commission and EU member states to redraft the new pact for improving research and innovation in Europe.

In a joint letter, CESAER and LERU expressed concern about the draft text of the pact that will seek to reaffirm member states’ commitment to dedicating 3% of their GDP to public and private research spending. The two associations hope policymakers will redraft the pact following the public consultation which launched last week making it more legally binding and involving more research stakeholders in the re-development of the pact. 

The Guild, separately, called for the final version of the pact to more prominently address how to strengthen Europe's research capacity, the key aim of the European Research Area

“We see this letter as a wake up call to the European Commission to go back to the drawing board and come forward with improved texts and stakeholder engagement,” said David Bohmert, secretary-general of CESAER. 

“[…] LERU wonders what is the added value of this process, which will just repeat, confirm at best, but even weaken in some places what we already know, aimed for and have realised?” pondered Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of LERU. “And we, leading research-intensive universities, are here to help you."

 

The European Commission today launched the first competition call looking for project examples showcasing the values of the New European Bauhaus, an EU-led project aiming to put a green twist on Europe’s buildings and culture.  

The projects are expected to reflect the principles of the New Bauhaus – sustainability, aesthetics, and inclusion – across 10 categories, such as green techniques, materials and processes for construction, places demonstrating circularity principles, regenerated places, modular living solutions, and others.

There are two parallel competitions. One for existing demonstrations of the new Bauhaus, with a prize fund of €30,000 in each of the 10 categories. The second competition seeks new concepts and ideas from people under 30, with 10 prizes of €15,000 set aside for the winners. The deadline to submit applications is 31 May.

The Commission is currently working on shaping the concept of the New European Bauhaus. The latest competition is part of the efforts to define the movement and find existing demonstrations of its principles. This phase will culminate in a launch of the first call for proposals for five projects, bringing the concept to life this autumn.

 

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