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

20 Oct 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 new framework of Euratom, the EU‘s nuclear research and training programme, entered into force today with a reduced budget of €1.38 billion (in current prices) for the next five years.

Using the same instruments and rule of participation as the research programme Horizon Europe, Euratom will invest €583 million in fusion R&D and €266 million in nuclear fission, safety and radiation protection, while the rest of the money will fund nuclear research-related activities of the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission‘s science hub.

The money is ready to flow but the work programme, which outlines the calls that will be launched as part of Euratom in the next two years, is yet to be published, however, the Commission has shared a February draft of the document.

The new Euratom programme is significantly smaller than its predecessor which had a budget of €1,6 billion (in 2018 prices). The Commission had initially proposed to slightly increase the budget compared to the previous framework but backed down last May when it revised its EU budget proposal following the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis.

Despite the reduced budget, the EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel is confident the programme will manage to support Europe‘s ambitions. „Thanks to the newly adopted Euratom Programme, Europe will maintain world leadership in fusion, nuclear safety, radiation protection, waste management and decommissioning, safeguards and security,“ she tweeted.

 

This year, Spain’s science budget will be 60% higher than in 2020 thanks to a €3.38 billion contribution from the €750 billion EU recovery fund.

The money will be spent between 2021 and 2023, giving a €1.5 billion boost to the country’s research agency, financing more postdoctoral programmes, and handing a €1.5 billion top-up for public-private research and innovation projects.

Spain’s science and innovation minister Pedro Duque warned that maintaining high investment in research and innovation will be key once the recovery money dries up and urged the government to ensure continuous growth in public research funding, aiming to reach a level of public and private investment amounting to 3% of GDP by 2030 – in line with the renewed EU pact for research.

 

The European Parliament’s culture and education committee (CULT) today adopted the regulation of the EU’s new €26 billion education programme Erasmus+, ahead of the Parliament’s final vote on the programme next week.

The negotiations on the details of the programme were finalised in December. The final agreement promises to benefit 12 million people in Europe, three times more than its predecessors and ensure quicker access for those coming from disadvantage backgrounds, such as participants with disabilities, those coming from remote locations and migrants.

The Commission launched the programme in March ahead of its legal approval, and the first calls are now open. Once the programme is fully adopted following next week's vote, the money can start flowing to finance selected projects around Europe.

"Although the programme is not as financially ambitious as the CULT committee would desire, it will enjoy an impressive 60% budget increase over the 2014-2020 budget,” said Elżbieta Kruk, shadow rapporteur for the Parliament’s Eurosceptic group, the ECR. “The new Erasmus+ programme will reach more people than before, many of whom would have been inaccessible via the previous programme. It is a big step forward.”

 

Germany on Friday revealed its plan for boosting high-performance computing capacity in the country, including over €300 million investment for the next four years.

The funding will be used expand the country's supercomputing infrastructure and launch its first exascale computer, which can perform over a billion billion operations per second.

The hope is that boosted infrastructure and massive computing power will help scientists conduct research, enable the creation of complex simulations of the climate, human organs and pharmaceutical ingredients as well as power artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analysis.

The first calls will launch this summer.

 

The EU start-up fund, the European Innovation Council, announced it will not be able to assess new project proposal for its €1 billion Accelerator call in time for the 16 June deadline and asked entrepreneurs to refrain from submitting new proposals until 22 June.

The call for EIC Accelerator opened a month ago, and start-ups were invited to submit short pitches. Successful candidates were then expected to be invited to submit full-length proposals mid-June. However, any companies that submit short pitches after 7 May will now not be able to secure funding until the second cut-off date, 6 October.

At first, the problem appeared to be technical, however, the European Commission has since clarified that submissions were frozen due to the fact no more applications can be assessed in time for the deadline.

This comes just two weeks after the EIC extended the cut-off date by one week, to 16 June. 

Innovators on Twitter were not happy with the decision. “[…] this means that [more than 1 billion] could be uneffectively invested in innovation and startups this year. A very bad decision that damages the already questioned reputation of the EIC,” tweeted David Arias, founder of Strata.

 

The European Commission has pre-selected the players for ‘Team EU’ in the upcoming first edition of the International Cybersecurity Challenge, which brings teams from around the world to compete in a series of challenges such as web application and system exploitation, cryptography, reverse engineering, hardware challenges, forensics and escape rooms.

A total of 36 players between the ages 18 and 26 from 17 EU countries were pre-selected. The contestants will now undergo online and offline training in Estonia before 15 are selected to form the final ‘Team EU’ in October.

The EU is currently working on stepping up its cybersecurity ambition but for the efforts to succeed will have to address a massive skill shortage in the field. “The young people selected to represent the EU at the first International Cybersecurity Challenge will be part of the solution and our future workforce and hope that the EU can continue to excel in cybersecurity”, said European Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas.

 

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.

 

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