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

18 Jun 2021 | Live Blog

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. The Commission has yet 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.

 

UK Research and Innovation, the country’s research funder, is investing €30 million in a new research programme that aims to catalyse a shift to a more circular economy.

The research effort will employ 34 universities and 200 industry partners to find ways to help businesses and society use fewer resources as well as reuse and recover products and materials.

“The UK economy consumes over 1 billion tonnes of materials every year, or around 17 tonnes per person, contributing to carbon emissions, a huge amount of unnecessary waste and environmental damage,” said Peter Hopkinson, co-lead of project coordinator, the National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Hub led by the University of Exeter. “This is set to continue to grow unless we take radical action to shift the current linear economy towards a circular economy. This programme will show how this can be done at speed and scale.”

On the other side of the Channel, the EU is also boosting R&I efforts to propel the block towards a more circular economy. The new EU research programme, Horizon Europe, is expected to support demonstration projects and large-scale solutions applying circular economy methods to plastic, construction, electronics and textiles sectors. A draft work programme reveals the European Commission is planning to allocate €230 million over the next two years to such projects. Meanwhile, to help close the loop in the bio-based industries, Horizon Europe will co-fund a €2 billion research partnership with industry aiming to improve the circularity of production and consumption systems in the sector.

 

The EU innovation funding agency, the European Innovation Council, is looking for 15 to 20 members for its new Board to guide the work, advise on strategy and calls for projects, aiming to maximise impact.

The call is open to entrepreneurs, investors, corporate leaders, researchers and academics with expertise in breakthrough innovation, emerging technologies as well as starting and scaling up businesses until 30 June.

The new Board will be appointed for two years starting this September and will replace the EIC Advisory Board that guided the EIC during its three-year pilot phase in the lead up to the 2021 launch of the full-fledged €10 billion programme under the new EU research framework, Horizon Europe.

 

In anticipation of the next pandemic, France is investing €140 million in two new infectious disease research programmes set to launch this autumn as part of the country’s new strategy for the prevention of new health crises.

One of the programmes, PREZODE, will focus on understanding and preventing the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases that spill over from animals. With a budget of €30 million, it will bring together ten research organisations in France, Germany and the Netherlands. Building on the efforts, the French Development Agency that promotes sustainable development in developing countries will mobilise a further €30 million to support countries at high risk of emerging zoonotic diseases as part of the project.

The second project, MIE, will have a budget of €80 million to design treatments and vaccine strategies to tackle emerging infectious diseases, integrating the work of numerous French research institutes, universities, university hospitals and patient organisations.

 

Eva Zažímalová, president of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and Eric F. Lambin, professor of Geography and Sustainability Science at the Université catholique de Louvain and Stanford University, have been appointed to the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.

Over the next three years, they will contribute to delivering scientific opinions to inform policymaking and improving the interaction between policymaking and scientific advice in the EU.

Zažímalová and Lambin, who were nominated by European research organisations and appointed by the EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel, replace outgoing members Carina Keskitalo, professor at Umeå University, and Paul Nurse, head of the Francis Crick Institute.

 

The European Innovation Council, EU start-up funder, last week launched a €100 million EIC Transition call targeting projects translating research into market, with some money fenced for medical devices and energy harvesting and storage technologies.

The call is open to researchers, SMEs and small consortia who wish to build on existing research funded by the EIC Pathfinder programme for breakthrough innovation and the European Research Council’s Proof of Concept grants. They can request up to €2.5 million until 22 September.

The call is largely bottom up, with €59.6 million fenced for projects in any field, but €40.5 million will be allocated to innovation medical devices and energy harvesting and storage technologies.

The new call opens as researchers applying for the EIC Pathfinder funding continue facing technical issues on the European Commission’s submission platform. Last week, the call was extended until 25 May to give innovators more time while the Commission continues addressing the problems.

 

The European Research Council, EU fundamental research funder, today launched its first €626 million Advanced Grants call under the research programme, Horizon Europe.

Researchers with a track record of at least ten years can apply for up to €2.5 million, with the option to request a top-up of up to €1 million. The deadline to submit proposals is 31 August, after which around 250 winners will be selected.

This year, the evaluation process is changing slightly. In the second step of the process, principal investigators will be invited to present their project to the evaluation panel – until now this step was reserved for early and mid- career researchers.

 

The European Innovation Council has extended the call deadline for the Pathfinder programme, which funds high-risk breakthrough innovation projects in any field, to 25 May ‘due to technical problems’.

The Twitter announcement comes in the morning of 19 May, the day of the original deadline. It does not specify what the technical issues are.

The call was launched earlier this year with a funding pot of €168 million to be awarded in grants of up to €3 million.

Earlier this month, the EIC also unexpectedly closed its €1 billion Accelerator programme for start-ups to first-stage applicants, causing frustration among potential applicants.

 

The European Commission today adopted a new global research agenda, outlining the criteria the EU will use for picking international partners in research and innovation. The Commission will prioritise international partnerships with countries that recognise “academic freedom, gender equality, research ethics, open science and evidence-based policymaking.”

The Commission’s last strategy for international R&I cooperation dates back to 2012 – and the revamped plan shows Europe’s ambitions have since shifted. There’s a stronger focus on strategic cooperation around the dual green and digital transitions and the Commission now leaves the possibility to limit openness to international cooperation in areas where the bloc’s has strategic interests, such as quantum computing, space and microprocessors.

Science|Business got a glimpse of the leaked draft of the strategy last month. You can find the story here.

 

The European Research Council and the European Innovation Council are exploring possible avenues of collaboration to help turn frontier research into innovation – and boost Europe’s deep tech industry.

The ERC Scientific Council and the EIC Advisory Board met yesterday to discuss the opportunities and promote joint efforts. Working together, the agencies hope, they can reap the fruits of the ERC-supported fundamental research and turn their scientific findings into innovative products with the help of the EIC.

“Research results may take some time to find their paths to transform into innovations and the process to achieve that is rarely linear,” their statement says. “It is therefore increasingly important for Europe’s future that the EIC and the ERC serve the needs and specificities of the worlds of research and innovation, while bringing them together as a community in full compliance with the respective institutional mandates.”

The first steps have already been taken. The EIC Transition grants already fund initiatives taking the ERC’s Proof of Concept project results closer to the market, and the two agencies have organised joint thematic workshops on energy storage and cell and gene therapy to enable researchers and innovators to share ideas and build networks. What new joint action will follow is yet to be announced but the agencies say they are “fully committed” to ensuring the best support for European talent.

 

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.

 

Subscribe to Live Blog Entries