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

16 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.

 

A “pre-draft” of the simplified version of the Horizon Europe model grant agreement, the legal document setting out the terms and conditions of EU grants has been published by the European Commission.

The document will help applicants who struggle to understand legal language behind a Horizon Europe proposal. It explains details of the grant process, such as calculating personnel costs, security, protecting intellectual property rights and clauses on confidentiality.

The first Horizon Europe calls have been published in June but the Commission has yet to come up with a final version of the model grant agreement.

The biggest change is the way personnel costs will be calculated. A variety of different ways to calculate employee costs will be replaced with one daily rate formula. The daily rate will be calculated by dividing the annual costs for each person by a fixed number of days, 215.

 

The European Union is to award €118 million for 32 small innovative projects located in 14 EU Member States, Iceland and Norway.

The selected projects aim to bring low-carbon technologies to the market in energy intensive industries, hydrogen, energy storage and renewable energy.

In addition to these grants, 15 projects located in 10 EU member states and Norway will benefit from project development assistance worth up to €4.4 million.

The grants and the assistance packages are part of the first funding round under Innovation Fund, a scheme dedicated to the commercial demonstration of innovative low-carbon technologies.

“With today's investment, the EU is giving concrete support to clean tech projects all over Europe to scale up technological solutions that can help reach climate neutrality by 2050,” said EU executive vice-president Frans Timmermans.

 

Spain is to increase the budget for its science and innovation missions programme by 41% in 2022, science and innovation Diana Morant has announced on Monday.

The government will allocate a total of €141 million for the 2022 call, €19.5 of which will go to projects carried out by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

The bigger budget for themissions is "an incentive to bring together public and private efforts to address urgent social needs and projects that will prepare us for the challenges of the future," said Morant.

Money from the missions programme will go to projects in combating climate change, speeding up the transition to less harmful energy sources, the circular economy and the digitization of industry.  

“The pandemic has convinced society that innovation, with the clear example of vaccines, solves immediate problems,” said Morant. “A programme like missions is an opportunity for our economy and for the Spanish system of science, technology and innovation to address far-reaching research with great social impact,” she added.

 

“We have to introduce the principle of competitiveness in all sectors of the economy, including in research,” Romanian prime minister Florin Câțu told a meeting organised by the French chamber of commerce in Bucharest last week.

Câțu said researchers should compete among themselves and only those who deliver results should receive public funding.

According to Eurostat Romania has the lowest R&D public and private expenditure in the EU. In 2019, only 0.48% of GDP was invested in research and development. The EU average is 2.2%.

Universities and researchers have previously complained about the lack of predictability of funding competitions. Earlier this year, Romanian researchers have signed a petition asking the government to establish a new national Research Council, which they say, will end the confusion and inefficiency that has plagued the national funding system for years.

Researchers say a new funding agency should be based on the “Haldane principle”, which holds that decisions on funding research are best taken through peer review rather than top-down political decisions.

“We have to find those centres where development can be done through research,” said Câțu. “Depending on results, we can introduce more resources.”

The European Commission and Parliament are now trying to convince member states to raise national investments in R&D to at least 3% of GDP by 2030. Member states are expected to commit to that target by signing pact for research and innovation this autumn. The pact was drafted at the initiative of EU research and innovation commissioner Mariya Gabriel and is part of a broader plan to renew the European Research Area, a single market for European research.

 

Policymakers should consider the role of non-profits, such as research and technology organisations and universities, in industrial EU research partnerships when designing them, says the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO).

The EU member states, with the help of the European Parliament, are currently hashing out the details of the rules governing 10 new industrial partnerships in fields like hydrogen, rail and health innovation, and EARTO is urging them not to forget the specificities of the non-industry members of the partnerships in the process.

The association wants non-profit partners to have laxer and clearly defined rules for in-kind contributions and encourages the partnerships to keep a fair balance between different technology readiness levels among other asks.

“It is essential to ensure that the measures taken to boost private co-investments and reporting do not create unintended barriers to entry for non-profit RD&I actors in European partnerships,” the association says.

 

Austria wants the European Commission to immediately start talks with Switzerland on its association to the EU research programme Horizon Europe, EU research ministers heard in an informal Council meeting earlier this week.

“Switzerland is in the heart of Europe and shares our values and principles,” Austrian research minister Heinz Faßmann told his counterparts. “Close research cooperation with Switzerland is obvious in the best sense of the word and a continuation of this partnership is in the interests of both sides.”

Switzerland was associated to the Horizon Europe predecessor, Horizon 2020, which gave the country full access to the programme on the same footing as EU member states. But the country was barred from securing its place in the new research programme and has been left with limited access after the Swiss government blocked its €1.2 billion contribution to the EU cohesion funds.

The country has expressed willingness to start the talks as soon as possible but the Commission is holding out for the outstanding payment to the cohesion funds.

The Austrian minister noted the contribution must be made but a close cooperation in research could help rebuild the strained relationship between the EU and Switzerland. “With research, we can build a bridge,” said Faßmann.

 

A construction of a new research and data centre for climate change and adapted land management started today in Burkina Faso, with a €7 million investment from Germany.

The new competence centre will be part of the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL), enabling it to become a leading regional climate change research institution in the region

Germany has invested over €120 million since 2012 in its partnership with 11 West African countries that are part of the WASCAL community. Most recently, the country invested €12.5 million in training programmes for climate protection and adaptation specialists.

“We need strong strategic partnerships on an international level in order to contain climate change and advance climate adaptation. The laying of the foundation stone for the new WASCAL climate competence center in Burkina Faso is an important sign of the joint commitment with our West African partners against climate change,” said German research minister Anja Karliczek.

 

The College of Commissioners today appointed Joanna Drake deputy director general in charge of implementation, impact and sustainable investment strategies at the European Commission’s directorate for research.

Drake will replace Patrick Child who will in turn take her position as deputy director general for mobility and environment at the directorate for environment, where she is among other initiatives responsible for resource-efficiency policies.

As deputy director general, Child managed the cancer mission and was responsible for climate action, clean energy and mobility technologies.

 

Switzerland is ready to start negotiations on its association to the EU research programme, Horizon Europe, state secretary Martina Hirayama told EU science ministers at an informal meeting organised by the Slovenian presidency of the EU Council on Monday.

The future of Switzerland’s association to Horizon Europe which allows the country to participate in the programme on an equal footing with the 27 EU member states is uncertain due to political disagreements relating to the country’s contributions to the EU budget.

Talks about potential associations are on hold at least until the Swiss parliament votes to unlock the country's €1.2 billion contribution to EU cohesion funds. Until then, Swiss researchers will be seen as third country participants if they apply for funding from the research programme, limiting their participation.

Hirayama stressed the importance of global research cooperation in view of future challenges during the meeting, and welcomed the Slovenian presidency’s ambition to get all EU member states to sign a non-binding agreement to do more in the fight against gender inequality in science.

 

The European Research Council, the EU’s fundamental research funder, is urging scientists to stress the importance of science and share ideas for improving it during the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The conference is a year-long series of debates where citizens of the EU share their ideas for shaping the future of the bloc, including potential changes to its policies and institutions. These public debates focus on a number of priority areas such as health, education and climate change.

Science is not one of the conference priorities, but the ERC encourages scientists to nonetheless stress the importance of fundamental research for the green and digital transitions and tackling future crises.

“Thus, we, the members of the ERC Scientific Council, urge Europe’s scientists and all those who believe in the positive power of science to make your voices heard and share your ideas on how we can improve science by all means available,” said a statement by the agency’s governing group.

Contributions can be made by submitting ideas online, organising events and getting involved with citizen panels during the conference.

“It is absolutely critical that Europe continues to support and promote the value of science and in particular to ensure that research remains an attractive career for its next generation,” the statement concluded.

 

Subscribe to Live Blog Entries