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.

 

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on a new pact for European research and innovation, in a bid to convince member states to sign up to a renewed commitment to increase investment in R&D.

The pact will seek to revive the plans for a single market for research and reaffirm the EU’s 3% public and private R&D spending target first floated in 2000. Only a handful countries have reached the target since massive research budget cuts following the 2008 financial crisis watered down the ambitions. Now, the Commission wants member states to sign a new pact promising to reach the 3% target.

The consultation, which seeks opinions from research stakeholders on what the pact should entail, is open until 13 May.

 

The EU science hub, the Joint Research Centre, is calling for a mapping of primary forests in Europe, which currently account for 3% of the EU’s total forested area, in a new report published on Earth Day.

There are about 4.9 million hectares of primary forests in Europe, which exist in their original condition, follow natural dynamics and are largely untouched by humans. The report calls for a robust and up-to-date mapping of these forests to help policymakers and scientists understand how best to protect them.

"European untouched forests are natural treasures that have been providing benefits to humans for centuries and are vital for our health, biodiversity and climate,” said EU commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius. ”That is why mapping and monitoring remaining primary forests in the EU is an important contribution to the next step - their strict protection.”

 

The European Commission has launched a call for applications to select members of the InvestEU investment committee, a group of 12 experts which would decide on investments in innovation and digital and green technologies. The deadline for submission is 7 May.

The Commission has also adopted Investment Guidelines of the InvestEU programme, with detailed information on the requirements that financing and investment operations must satisfy in order to receive support from the InvestEU.

Another document adopted by the Commission lays down simplified rules for the functioning of the database of investment opportunities within the EU.

The InvestEU Advisory Board will convene for the first time at the end of April. Next, the Commission is expected to conclude the guarantee and advisory agreements and the selection of implementing partners other than the EIB Group.

 

The EU basic research funder, the European Research Council, received 24% more applications than last year in its latest €619 million Starting grants call, which awards early career researchers. The increase signals dropping success rates for ERC funding.

The first starting grants call under the new EU research programme, Horizon Europe, closed last week after receiving 4,056 applications. Last year, researchers submitted 3,272 applications, 13.3% of which secured financing. But the budget earmarked for the call is slightly lower this year at €619 million compared with €677 million last year.

The ERC is a lifeline for basic research in the EU but few researchers can get funding. Some fear if it becomes increasingly difficult to secure grants, excellent researchers will stop applying and focus their time and energy elsewhere. However, the ERC budget may increase once more non-EU countries join the new Horizon Europe research programme, enabling the fund to better meet the demand.

 

The EU-funded network of health innovators, EIT Health, is urging healthcare providers to invest in AI and technology following the pandemic to prevent healthcare systems from struggling over the next decade.

In a new report, EIT Health says growing and ageing population is bound to put a strain on healthcare services. AI, other technologies, and data-sharing across borders could help relieve the stress by delivering helpful innovations.

To take full advantage of AI and data, the report recommends improving collaboration and exchange of best practice across the EU, building on existing networks and infrastructures to support AI integration, improving education and skills, and developing value-based financial models that incorporates AI and acknowledges the longer-term cost saving. 

“We already know that AI has the potential to transform healthcare, but we need to work quickly and collaboratively to build it into current European healthcare structures,” said Jan-Philipp Beck, CEO of EIT Health.

 

Germany's largest research funding organisation, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), has adopted a charter of ten principles for more effective career support for young researchers. 

The DFG hopes the principles would help create better framework conditions for attractive careers in research.

“The DFG aims to clearly convey to its members, applicants and reviewers how careers can be supported most effectively, providing them with guiding principles for this purpose,” said DFG vice president Marlis Hochbruck.

“The DFG seeks to use the recommendations as a way of helping to ensure that the appropriate measures and structures for supporting early career investigators are increasingly well established and ultimately become the norm," Hochbruck said. 

 

 

The future governing board of the European Cybersecurity Competence Centre, a new cybersecurity research centre, today is meeting for the first time to discuss the preparations and next steps for the centre.

The centre, which is foreseen to launch in June, will aim to strengthen European cybersecurity capacities, boost research excellence and the competitiveness of the EU industry in this field. It will be established in Bucharest, Romania.

The informal meeting will be attended by representatives from the European Commission, EU member states and the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity.

 

Estonia is spending €10 million to support research and development of products for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, such as vaccines, medicines, medical devices, and disinfectants. Today, the European Commission gave a green light to the programme which falls under the EU competition rules and requires the Commission’s approval.

The funding will be available to Estonian companies of all sizes in grants between €20,000 and €500,000 until the end of the year.

 

The European Commission and Japan are jointly investing €10,7 million in three joint research projects in advanced biofuels and alternative renewable fuels as part of the their science and technology cooperation agreement.

The EU is contributing €9,5 million from the EU research framework, Horizon 2020, while Japan is investing a total of €1,2 million in projects focused on focuses on renewable methanol that could be used to decarbonise heavy duty road transport, low or net-zero emission fuels for air transport and synthesizing renewable ammonia from nitrogen and H2O to fuel ships.

The projects are part of the EU and Japan's long-lasting cooperation in the field of science and technology, which has seen Japanese researchers sign over 130 grants project agreements under Horizon 2020.

 

The Spanish government today approved a new call for proposals that will give out €64.5 million euros in grants and €43 million in loans to ‘strategic’ collaborative projects between companies and research organisations.

There are 24 strategic lines of action the funded projects should address, including emerging animal diseases, marine ecosystem observation, batteries, smart building technologies and sustainable fuels. Each consortia must have at least two entities and can request between €400,000 and €2 million for three-year projects.

 

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