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

16 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 wants to identify ongoing green hydrogen projects in the EU, and to do so, it is inviting all members of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, an industry and public stakeholder forum for creating a green hydrogen value chain in the EU, to submit their initiatives.

A call for projects is open until 7 May. In June, the alliance will meet to review the submissions and provide matchmaking opportunities for the different projects. “[This call] will help build the project pipeline and assess and address gaps and bottlenecks in the clean hydrogen value chain,” said Thierry Breton, EU internal market commissioner.

Green hydrogen is looked to as key to decarbonising Europe’s energy mix. The Commission hopes to scale up its green hydrogen production in the next three years to 1 million tonnes per year, but huge investments, an estimated €470 billion in investments for the next thirty years, are still needed to reach the goal. The alliance, whose role is to identify and build up a pipeline of viable investment projects along the hydrogen value chain, is one of the key instruments for streamlining and fostering innovation.

 

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is setting up nine new research units in fields ranging from laser beam welding to the immune system of chickens, and a new clinical unit for kidney research, with a budget of €41 million.

DFG-funded research units are teams of researchers working on big collaborative projects that last around eight years and explore novel research directions. There are currently 189 active research units as well as 15 dedicated to clinical research and 17 in the field of humanities and social sciences.

The newly established research units seek to explore the regenerative capacity of former pasture and cocoa plantations in an Ecuadorian forest reserve, study X-rays from the final stages of stellar evolution, improve the quality of lasers used in welding, analyse the evolution of the sexual reproduction of plants, learn how humans develop somatic symptoms, observe the rare decay of a muon elementary particle (Mu) into three electrons, take a deep dive into theoretical linguistics, study self-regulation in teens and young adults, improve translational kidney research and explore the immune system of chickens.

 

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.

 

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