13 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.

 

The success of the record time development of a COVID-19 vaccine owes to decades of investment in basic research, Nobel Prize winner Edvard Moser tells Science|Business conference.

In Europe, the European Research Council was a gamechanger for bottom-up basic research, he later added, it is “that type of basic knowledge that allows us to solve problems in the world.”

 

Europe should establish a biomedical research lab to boost infectious disease research post-pandemic, emulating the UK’s Francis Crick Institute, Nobel prize winner Michael Houghton said in an interview which aired during this week’s Science|Business conference.

Modernising Europe’s approach to biomedical science, the EU version of the Francis Crick Institute could carry out and translate infectious disease research.

Houghton believes European institutions like Berlin’s Humboldt Institute, the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory are “very strong” but says that research translation is “not as good in Europe as in the US or the UK.”

 

The current education and training system teaches innovators to improve existing technology rather than produce breakthrough innovations, says Ilkka Niemelä, the president of Aalto University.

“We still often in engineering and education train people towards the incremental improvement, but we should be thinking about the real big breakthroughs as well,” he said.

Innovation projects improving existing products also have a competitive advantage in the market as they often readily fit health and environment regulations, Niemelä added.

 

It is the responsibility of policymakers to prevent brain drain and ensure young innovators can find opportunities in all European regions, MEP Iskra Mihaylova told the Science|Business conference.

Policymakers must ensure synergies between different regional, national, and EU instruments to give regions an opportunity to use a variety of them, argued Mihaylova. “I know that the opportunities in each one of the regions in Europe are huge,” she added.

 

Huiyao Wang, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, tells Science|Business conference more tolerance to different value systems is needed to boost global research cooperation.

While China’s values differ from Europeans values, China has been effective in lifting million from poverty and tackling other pressing challenges, noted Wang. “Values matter but they can be interpreted differently by different people,” he said.

When tackling the next big challenge, climate change, China’s hybrid economy could be an advantage, according to Wang.

 

Research and innovation cooperation should be more open if the world wants to successfully tackle climate change, according to Rémi Quirion, chief scientist of the Province of Quebec.

“We need to make sure science is open, innovation is open if you want to face this challenge,” said Quirion.

Huiyao Wang, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, added that cooperation between industry, policymakers and international organisations must also be strengthened to better address pressing challenges.

 

Stefan Kauffman, member of the German Bundestag, says future prosperity depends on the balance between openness and need for security in research and innovation.

Kaufmann noted the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the issue of protectionism and exposed the fragility of the global supply chains. Now, it is time to find balance. “This needs to be addressed on an international level,” he added.

 

Ernest J. Moniz, former US energy secretary under Barrack Obama, says the 2020s should be “a decade of supercharged innovation” for climate control.

“This is the time when we really need to juice up that innovation agenda and get through research, development, demonstration and some deployment by 2030. Or the world isn’t going to be able to do the job of massive deployment by 2050,” said Moniz.

To do so, climate R&D funding should triple and the world must be open to exploring a wide range of new technologies, including more controversial options such as nuclear power and carbon storage.

 

Sinan Atlığ, the regional president for vaccines and international developed markets at Pfizer, says the development process of the Pfizer/BioNTech was a chance to “challenge ourselves to find opportunities to do things differently.”

In addition to developing a novel vaccine in record time, the company innovated its system for testing potential candidates, moving from testing to one by one to testing four candidates in parallel.

Pfizer also designed novel packaging and storage for rapid scale-up. “This meant that vaccination could begin in Europe immediately,” said Atlığ.

All of this could not have been done without a fast reaction from regulators, noted Atlığ.

 

Slovenia’s science minister Simona Kustec says the revamped attempt to create a European Research Area (ERA) will succeed because the EU now admits it is better at saying rather than doing.

Kustec also named renewed interest in science following the COVID-19 pandemic and the Commission’s increased commitment to ERA as the driving forces behind the renewed efforts.

 

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