09 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.

 

A more recent Horizon Europe work programme for the health cluster, dated March, is now available on the Science|Business Horizon Papers page.

The updated work programme lists the calls for health research that will be launched under the EU research programme, Horizon Europe, in the next two years. The updated document now includes almost €7 billion for the Horizon Europe missions, including the cancer mission striving to save 3 million lives by 2030, and €120 million to be allocated to projects without a call for proposals in case of public health emergencies.

The latest draft is still subject to change until the Commission publishes the final version of the document alongside the rest of the Horizon Europe work programmes in April.

 

Germany’s ministry of education and research is looking to €15 million in social sciences and humanities research on the social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ministry will fund projects that last up to three years and seek to understand the impact of the pandemic on family relations, employment, education, democracy, and health and health systems. The deadline for project proposals is May 31, 2021.

 

Morocco held “exploratory talks” with EU officials Tuesday about becoming an associated member of the bloc’s Horizon Europe research programme.

The North African country is the latest in a queue of non-EU states inquiring into association membership of the EU’s seven-year research programme, which will get underway in the next few months. Other countries weighing up a deeper research relationship with the EU include Canada and Japan.

The video call was attended by the European Commission’s Signe Ratso, deputy director-general in the research directorate, and chief negotiator for Horizon Europe association. On the Moroccan side was Anass Bennani, director of cooperation and partnership in the government’s Ministry of National Education.

Morocco was not an association partner on the EU’s previous research programme, Horizon 2020, but its science ties with the bloc have grown in recent years, in particular through the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area, or PRIMA – a broad research project that covers sustainable water and food systems in the Mediterranean.

 

Germany is set to establish two new research centres for mental health and children’s health, with the ministry for education and research investing 500,000 euros in each centre.

The new centres, which act as research networks for specific health issues, will aim to improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health illnesses and diseases affecting children and adolescents.

For the next six month, the selected centres, both of which bring together six to seven research institutions, will work on developing a common strategy and goals to advance basic, clinical, prevention and health services research in the two fields.

The country already has six health centres for diabetes, cancer, infectious, neurogenerative, cardiovascular, and lung diseases.

 

The European Space Agency (ESA) is giving three companies €500.000 each to explore the needs of rockets for the coming decades. 

The three space companies – ArianeGroup, Avio and Rocket Factory Augsburg – will attempt to identify and provide early insights into the future trends of space transport with the hopes to give Europe first-mover advantage. Looking into the future, the research will go beyond ESA’s current rockets, Vega-C and Ariane 6, which is still under development, says Daniel Neuenschwander, director of space transportation at ESA.

The work should be completed before the summer and will feed into future proposals for action to be submitted at the ESA Ministerial Council next year.

 

Germany’s ministry of education and research today announced it will invest €56 million in 16 basic research projects exploring the possibilities for future green hydrogen products and applications.

The fundamental research projects will complement three industry-led applied research projects funded by the ministry due to start this spring.

“I want to make Germany the world's largest source of knowledge about green hydrogen,” said the country’s research minister Anja Karlizcek. “I am therefore hoping that basic research will provide valuable insights into the development and further development of products 'Made in Germany' that not only survive in international competition, but can also set new technological standards.”

 

The European Parliament is to conclude negotiations on EU’s flagship investment programme InvestEU, after a vote in plenary today.

The EU will allocate €26.2 billion to a financial guarantee scheme designed help crowd in private investments in innovative companies that work on products and services that would help the bloc recover from the pandemic and build a greener and more digital European economy.

At least 30% of the investments under InvestEU will contribute to meeting EU’s plan to drastically cut carbon emissions by 2050.  

Of the total funding, €6.6 billion are reserved for research, innovation and digitisation projects. Another €9.9 billion will be allocated to projects in sustainable infrastructure, €6.9 billion will finance small and medium-sized companies, while €2.8 billion will go to upgrading skills.  

“The programme will bolster future oriented investments across the EU,” economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told MEPs in a plenary session on Tuesday.

The EU hopes the funding will crowd in at least €370 billion from the private sector, a figure Gentiloni said should be interpreted “with some caution.” We know that in the previous crisis. NET met public net investment. Went practically to zero.

MEPs hope the funding will help member states overcome financing shortages in member states by taking off some of the risk and boost private investments. “Given the fact that there are financial difficulties in member states this fund provides an excellent opportunity,” said the Parliament’s InvestEU rapporteur Jose Manuel Fernandes.

The InvestEU programme will offer follow-up investments for scaling-up start-ups and small and medium-sized companies that will emerge from the European Innovation Council (EIC) under Horizon Europe. The programme will also incorporate InnovFin, a financial instrument set up by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to provide cash to risky research and innovation projects.

Under InvestEU, the EIB seeks to improve its InnovFin scheme to provide small companies with better access to finance at all stages of their development, after a report by the European Court of Auditors recommended the guarantee facility should better target beneficiaries at more innovative companies.

Companies will be able to access the money more easily if their projects would help the EU build strategic autonomy in key sectors.

 

EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel today announced a new initiative, Women TechEU, which will offer coaching, mentoring and funding to promising female tech entrepreneurs.

The first call for start-ups, set to award up to 50 female-led companies, will be launched in June. Meanwhile, the Commission is looking for mentors to support the future awardees, with a call for applications launching today.

Announced on International Women’s Day, this is the EU’s latest move to foster gender equality in the innovation ecosystem. “More efforts are needed to transform the stereotypical image of a tech leader and give more visibility to female entrepreneurs and their companies,” said Gabriel.

Europe’s deep-tech start-ups, valued at €700 billion, make up a quarter of the EU start-up ecosystem, but the market is dominated by men. Three quarters of deep-tech start-ups are founded by men, while female-only founding teams lead only 8% of EU deep-tech start-ups, receiving a mere 1.7% of total funding invested in start-ups in 2020. “Deep-tech remains a man’s world,” said Gabriel. ”The figures speak themselves.”

To help close Europe’s gender gap in innovation, the Commission is also actively helping female-led start-ups reach the interview stage when applying for funding from the EU start-up funder, the European Innovation Council. This has led to an increase in EIC awards for female-led start-ups from 8 to 29% in one year. In the EU’s new research programme, Horizon Europe, the Commission will also ask researchers to submit a gender plan alongside all project proposals.

 

The European Innovation Council (EIC) will be officially launched at an event on 18 March, the Commission has announced on Wednesday. The first calls for applicants are planned to be released during the launch event.

With a budget of €10 billion for the period 2021-2027, the EIC is expected to identify and help scale-up breakthrough technologies and disruptive innovations. The new agency will support startups, SMEs and research teams developing high-risk, high-impact breakthrough innovation.

 

 

Former EU research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was named chair of the governing authority of the National University of Ireland, Galway Wednesday.

Geoghegan-Quinn, the bloc’s research chief from 2010 to 2014 and a Galway native, said in a statement: "The honour in this appointment is obvious. So is the scale of the task. The pandemic has accelerated the urgency to create a new kind of university that accommodates distance while creating a community of scholarship, creativity and ambition...".

Her post runs for four years until 2025.

 

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