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.

 

Poland and Ukraine are embarking on a new three-year research cooperation , which will include joint expeditions, researchers exchanges and information sharing.

Under the agreement signed by the presidents of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, up 20 Ukrainian scientists under 35 will visit the Polish institution each month. The two academies also hope to jointly participate in the EU research programme, Horizon Europe, as well as other international research projects.

The two academies have been working together to boost their scientific efforts since 1997, and the new agreement will further deepen the ties.

 

Poland is increasing its research funding for this year by €6.5 million, or 30 million złoty, to ensure more eligible early-career researchers can secure grants from its National Science Centre.

In the last few years, the percentage of applicants that are awarded grants by the country’s main research funder has drastically decreased from 25% to around 15%, which means some worthy proposals may be missing out on funding due to low national research budgets. The top-up – the first of a number of foreseen steps to increasing science funding in the country – will allow the centre to finance more projects and stop success rates from falling further.

The extra money will be directed to two of the country’s leading funding programmes for early-career researchers and those aiming to secure their first grant from the National Science Centre.

 

Germany is investing €16 million in 53 projects taking inspiration from nature to develop novel materials in a bid to strengthen the country’s technology sovereignty.

“We have to develop new, innovative materials in order to be able to further develop other promising key technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing or battery technologies and to help shape them internationally. It is therefore very important to me to tread innovative paths in materials research and to benefit from impulses from related scientific disciplines such as the biosciences,” said German research minister Anja Karliczek.

The projects are expected to take lessons from nature and biology to develop materials such as a novel coating for joint implants modelled after the human cartilage helping reduce the wear and tear of implants as well as self-healing plastic for rotor blades in wind turbines that would help lower maintenance costs.

 

This year’s edition of the Shanghai ranking of world universities sees American institutions triumph, taking 16 out of the top 20 places.

The oldest global ranking rating universities based on a variety of indicators, the Shanghai list is topped by Harvard University, followed by Stanford University, while the University of Cambridge takes third place -- mirroring the results of the previous four editions. 

The EU’s sole entry in the top 20 is the Paris-Saclay University, which has climbed up by one spot to number 13 since last year. The French minister for higher education and research Frédérique Vidal welcomed the result, crediting the country’s revamped university policy which has seen smaller universities merging to form bigger, more powerful insitutions, including the Paris-Saclay University. “More than ever, the new university models put in place in 2018 are proving their worth: three of the four French universities ranked in the top 100 have thus resulted from this policy of regrouping institutions,” said the minister.

 

Germany is investing €1.9 million in four climate change adaptation projects as it deepens its commitment to helping its regions deal with the consequences of a warming climate after deadly floods hit the country last month.

The four projects will help several of the country’s regions better manage heavy rain, floods and extreme heat as well as develop a monitoring system for assessing climate adaptation measures in different regions.

The ministry of research has already funded the initial phases of the four projects, which are now moving towards implementation, as part of the country’s €4 billion five-year research for sustainability plan. 

The new funding comes after parts of Germany suffered from deadly megafloods last month, exposing the threats of extreme weather. “Every municipality must therefore now think about how to better prepare for extreme events in the local area,” said Anja Karlizcek, Germany’s research minister. “The diverse research projects have already helped numerous cities and municipalities to develop their adaptation strategies.”

Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Commission is currently drawing up a plan for a research mission that will aim to prepare Europe for climate change. The plans are in the making but it is still unclear whether the massive research effort foreseen to involve regions around the continent will go ahead, with the Commission expected to reveal its decision in September.

 

The G20 ministers of research, together with OECD and UNESCO, adopted a joint declaration on leveraging research, higher education and digital infrastructures to contribute to a strong and resilient recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Ministers agreed that research collaboration and the use of common digital infrastructures are needed to enhance the reproducibility of scientific results and strengthen public trust in researcg.

EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel told ministers the declaration will enable countries to better exploit the full potential of digitalisation of higher education and research. “We want to develop a highly-skilled digital workforce and an ecosystem of digital research infrastructures based on open science principles and common ethical principles,” she said.

Ministers also want to find ways of addressing the changing nature of skills and how to harness the potential of digital technology whilst upholding ethical principles and values; how to leverage common digital infrastructures to support research collaboration, open science and higher education.

 

The European Commission has launched a survey to gather views on how to improve the EU's innovation ecosystem and boost performance across all regions.

The survey is part of a broad consultation by the Commission aimed at gathering views from ministries, regional and local authorities, venture capital companies and business angels, universities and research organisations, businesses, SMEs, and start-ups, NGOs civil society organisations and individuals in shaping a robust European innovation ecosystem.

Commission staff will analyse the survey results and publish a  a summary report highlighting key insights.

The survey is available here.

 

The Polish Academy of Science says the government should establish a new body that would monitor upcoming health risks and communicate to the public about how to prepare.

The academy says the new institution should gather a multidisciplinary team of experts independent from the government.

The academy notes that public trust in health advice has declined sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, only one in four Poles trusted that the government was fighting the pandemic effectively. After a year and a half of pandemic, a significant part of the population in Poland believes the pandemic is a conspiracy by politicians or large pharmaceutical companies, the virus does not pose a threat, and vaccinations are harmful to health.

“Errors in the information policy so far have led to so many people in Poland ignoring the threat of a pandemic and abstaining from vaccination against SARS-CoV-2,” the academy said.

The academy hopes a new, independent institution would be able to set up transparent and responsible communication channels and boost trust in health and science advice.

 

Europe’s largest biotech lobby group says the European Commission’s proposed Health Data Space initiative is a good opportunity to reverse the declining trend of international biotech research conducted in Europe.

“EuropaBio believes it is extremely important for the EU to encourage the return of many research programmes and clinical trials to the EU,” the association said in a statement on Thursday.

The Commission is now gathering input from stakeholders on its plan to establish common rules for storing and sharing healthcare research data in the EU.

According to EuropaBio, access to the harmonised collection and analysis of interoperable datasets across the EU can also help researchers working on rare diseases. The data space could also make the EU more attractive for public and private investments in healthcare research.

 

The European Commission has appointed 12 external experts as members of the investment committee of the InvestEU Fund for a term of four years.

The 12 members of the Investment Committee – four permanent and eight non-permanent members – were selected and appointed by the Commission at the recommendation of the InvestEU Steering Board.

The committee decides on giving out the EU guarantee to investment and financing operations under InvestEU. It will operate in four compositions, corresponding to the four policy windows of InvestEU: sustainable infrastructure; research, innovation and digitalisation; small and medium-sized companies; and social investment and skills.

In April, the Commission has 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.

 

Subscribe to Live Blog Entries