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

26 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.

 

European universities collaborate with other institutions on teaching, research and knowledge sharing more than universities in other regions, this year’s U-Multirank higher academic ranking found

The finding is in line with the EU’s ambition to create transnational university alliances to enable Europe-wide student, staff and researcher mobility, knowledge sharing and joint research. There are already 41 such EU-supported alliances in the EU bringing together more than 280 universities. Closer collaboration, the European Commission believes, will boost university performance.

U-Multirank is a university ranking started by the Commission in 2011 to give more visibility to European universities, which often do not make it to the top of other league tables. 

 

The UK has begun the construction of its £93 million quantum computing centre, the locus of the country’s 10-year £1 billion programme for the transition of quantum technologies from laboratory to industry. 

The new centre promises to become a world-leading research institution dedicated to accelerating the development of quantum computing. 

“This is an important step forward in the journey towards creating a flagship facility for the UK quantum community to harness the exciting potential of this technology,” said Ottoline Leyser, chief executive of UK Research and Innovation. 

 

Starting today, the European Investment Fund (EIF) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) will share knowledge on financing and innovation opportunities to provide better services and financing for European SMEs and start-ups.  

The EU innovation agency and the fund will share information in areas such as equity investments, climate, energy and environmental technology sectors, strategic digital technologies, educations and skills. The new knowledge sharing partnership promises to boost Europe’s innovation potential for the green and digital transitions.  

“An enhanced access to finance is a core element of any successful innovation policy. By bringing together the EIT and the EIF, we ensure that all innovators and SMEs in Europe that are able to boost the recovery and the green and digital transitions can get the support they need,” said EU research and innovation commissioner Mariya Gabriel. 

 

The EU innovation agency, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, has opened a new community hub for knowledge sharing and business creation and acceleration for healthcare, climate, urban mobility and raw materials sectors.  

The new hub is one of many EIT locations across Europe and beyond, where the agency brings together innovators in a bid to boost the EU potential to innovate thought knowledge sharing. The agency hopes the new location in Hungary will help support more innovators in Central and Eastern Europe.  

“Collaboration makes us stronger: students and entrepreneurs with innovative ideas will benefit from this new Hub and I look forward to seeing the results and more ground-breaking innovations emerging from Central and Eastern Europe,” said EIT Director Martin Kern. 

 

A year after announcing it, the European Commission today outlined how it hopes to deliver the New European Bauhaus, a culture and innovation initiative that will serve as the face of the EU’s Green Deal, starting with a €85 million investment for the next year. 

To get the project fully off the ground, this month, the Commission will launch a call for five demonstrator projects for social, affordable and sustainable housing districts. These first projects will be funded through the EU’s research programme Horizon Europe. Alongside the demonstrators, it will run “a think and do tank to co-create, prototype and test new tools, solutions and policy recommendations”, according to the newly released plans.  

“The new European Bauhaus combines the grand vision of the Green Deal for Europe with concrete changes on the ground. Changes that improve our daily life and that everyone can perceive not only in buildings and public spaces, but also in fashion or furnishings,” said Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. 

The call set to go live this month is only the first step in the Commission’s grand plans for the New European Bauhaus. The new plan promises to integrate the initiative “as an element of context or priority” across many EU-funded programmes. For one, it foresees Bauhaus-themed calls for proposals from the EU’s innovation agencies, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and the European Innovation Council. 

 

Just five to fifteen percent of artificial intelligence applications will be affected by the European Commission’s proposed AI act, according to internal market commissioner Thierry Breton.

“The draft regulation covers a narrow set of applications,” he said. “Most companies will be able to look at the regulation and say, fine, they don’t concern me, and get on with their business,” he told an AI conference on September 15.

Responding to a question about whether the proposed rules, set out in April, will stifle AI development in Europe, he said it was likely to be quite the opposite, especially for small and medium sized businesses, as the regulations would create both “trust” and “legal certainty”.

“Both are absolutely key requirements for any business wishing to invest in a technology,” he told delegates at ‘From Ambition to Action: A High Level Conference on AI’.

He also argued that the EU was leading in the way globally in the push to create ethical rules for AI. “We should not underestimate the advantage of the EU being the first mover,” he said.

 

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council is investing £8 million in five high-risk projects in a bid to advance the understanding of key environmental and earth sciences questions. 

The projects aim to establish whether the Earth’s core has multiple layers by building computer models to explain seismic and magnetic field data, study how the environment affects the way human genes work, investigate whether deep sea hydrothermal vents sustained or even created the first life on earth, assess the limits of stability of marine ecosystems, and examine how single cell super marine organisms use the sun’s energy to transform dissolved ions from the sea back into rocks. 

“The grants are the outcome of an exciting new pilot scheme to encourage and fund some of the UK’s most exceptional environmental scientists to lead more risky and transformational research,” said Robyn Thomas, associate director of research and skills at the Natural Environment Research Council. 

 

The EU should help its start-ups scale up and design innovation-friendly tech regulations to achieve technology sovereignty by 2040, according to the Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) new foresight report on open strategic autonomy.

While EU countries have historically been strong in research and development, they have struggled to translate knowledge into successful innovations. Supporting start-ups in scaling up such innovations in sectors such as AI, quantum and robotics could help Europe secure its spot in the global technology race and ensure its technology sovereignty, the report found.

The new report by the European Commission’s science hub identified emerging challenges in geopolitics, technology, the economy, environment and society, and detailed how they can be best addressed to ensure strategic autonomy by 2040.

All this fed into the Commission’s strategic foresight report produced to inform its decision making, published this week.

The EU wants develop new technologies across many fields to maintain its global economic influence as the world economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic has only strengthened the case for ambitious strategic choices today and this report will help us keep an eye on the ball,” said Commission vice president Maroš Šefčovič.

 

An European-wide public consultation aims to establish a joint strategic research and innovation for green hydrogen, the European Commission has announced.

The consultation is part of a pilot initiative in the new European Research Area (ERA), through which the Commission wants to bring together science, industry, civil society and public administration in a transdisciplinary green hydrogen community in Europe.

The survey takes about 30 minutes for stakeholders to complete and is open until 26 September 2021.

 

The European Commission’s Horizon Europe deputy chief negotiator Anne Haglund-Morrisey concluded the first round of association talks with the North Atlantic archipelago Faroe Islands.

The Commission says “important progress was made” in talks with representatives of the North Atlantic archipelago. “A significant part of the draft Agreement on the participation of the Faroe Islands in Union programmes and its related Horizon Europe Protocol and Annexes were discussed.”

The Commission has already concluded talks with Kosovo, as it is working down a list of 18 countries for which officials have said association is “imminent”.

Talks with Switzerland are still suspended pending broader political talks to resolve a dispute over Swiss contributions to the EU budget.

 

Subscribe to Live Blog Entries