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.

 

Simona Kustec, Slovenia’s science minister, says Europe must put global cooperation and open knowledge at the heart of its acitivities.

“Our competitive advantage does not come from public subsidies but from our capacity to create knowledge. This is where Europe is unbeatable,” said Kustec.

 

Executive vice president of the European Commission, Margrethe Vestager, says Important Projects of Common European interest (IPCEIs) will play a key role in Europe’s green transition by encouraging knowledge sharing.

A recently launched IPCEI on batteries raised €2.9 billion of public investment and crowded in €9 billion in private investment. “The thing that comes with this €2.9 billion of public investment is a degree of openness you never otherwise see,” said Vestager.

The businesses that are involved with the projects “oblige themselves to share in conference, in workshops, in publications the knowledge being created, but also to enable SMEs to use some of the sites for piloting their own projects.”

 

Kicking off the second day of the annual Science|Business conference, vice president of the European Commission Margrethe Vestager said strategic autonomy and Europe’s openness go hand in hand.

“I would never say strategic autonomy without open in front of it,” said Vestager. “I recognise a good merger when I see it.”

Regulation is key, but “If you want to be a good regulator, you need to know quite a bit about the things you are regulating,” Vestager noted, adding that right now, democracy still needs to catch up with the technology.

 

The European Commission today proposed to set up new research partnerships with member states and industry to help the EU iinnovate ten key industries.

The Commission hopes to provide €10 billion for the ten public-private partnerships from the EU’s research programme, Horizon Europe, with an equivalent or bigger contribution matched by industry and member states.

The proposal for the ten research partnerships will now go into the hands of the EU Council and the European Parliament which will negotiate the final terms of the partnerships.

The ten partnerships will aim to improve EU preparedness for infectious disease outbreaks, develop low-carbon aircraft, create an EU-wide health R&I ecosystem, accelerate clean hydrogen innovation, improve the sustainability of bio-based industries, digitise and automate Europe’s rail, support Europe’s technology sovereignty and stimulate metrology research.

Earlier this month, MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho was selected to represent the Parliament in the negotiations with the Council on the details of the partnerships.

 

Research institutes and private companies call on the EU to strengthen international research cooperation.

"It’s not ideal to sketch ways out of this crisis in terms of going back to national or regional options, but rather strengthen this international collaboration," said Mathias Rauch, director for research strategy and policy at Fraunhofer.

"The absence of barriers, that’s our key thing that we look for," said Ronenn Roubenoff, global head for translational medicine discovery at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. "When there are things that make it more difficult to work in one place, we’ve had to go somewhere else," Roubenoff said.

 

The European Commission is to launch a data gathering campaign on researchers’ mobility to learn more about research career paths and to mitigate brain drain.

“We would like to broaden the scope toward assisting researchers and their families for smooth, integration in the labour market in the country where they are,” said Gabriel.

 

Speaking at the Science|Business annual conference, EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel said she will present a new strategy for international cooperation on research and innovation, to replace current rules which were first put in place in 2012.

“Horizon Europe will remain open to international cooperation, but at the same time, geopolitical changes are real, and we should not be naïve,” said Gabriel. “We should use the new power to limit cooperation or sensitive technologies."

According to Gabriel, about a quarter of all Horizon Europe calls will be also open for international cooperation. 

 

The Science|Business annual conference has kicked off with EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel announcing when the first funding calls in Horizon Europe will be launched.

According to Gabriel, €120 million will be made available in March for Covid-19 research through an emergency procedure. The European Research Council will also publish its first call for proposals under Horizon Europe later this week.

In March, the Commission will finalise the Horizon Europe strategic planning, said Gabriel. While in May and June, it will finalise implementation plans for the research missions.

All work programmes should be published by April, Gabriel said. Around that same time, the Commission will launch 11 co-programmed research partnerships, including artificial intelligence, robotics, batteries and photonics.

 

The first funding call under EU's new research framework programme Horizon Europe will open on 25 February, the European Research Council (ERC) has announced today.

According to the ERC work programme published today, the ERC will open the Starting Grant with a deadline for submitting proposals extended until 8 April. The deadline extension is intended to give researchers enough time to prepare their proposals, while keeping the call within budget and without delaying the evaluation calendar. The ERC's Consolidator Grant call will open on 11 March and the Advanced Grant on 20 May 2021. The Synergy and Proof of Concept calls will not open under this year’s work programme.

ERC president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon said the delayed political agreement on the EU multiannual budget has impacted the timing of the first Horizon Europe calls, but the Commission has been able to maintain original timelines for evaluations. "The European Commission’s commitment, and the outstanding dedication of the Executive Agency staff, have enabled us to maintain the original planning for the evaluations, in particular for the 2021 Starting Grant call," said Bourguignon.

According to Bourguignon, until negotiations on association in Horizon Europe are complete, applicants based in the UK and other countries associated to Horizon 2020 will still be able to apply for ERC grants "on a conditional basis". "The ERC is now very hopeful for a timely conclusion of Horizon Europe association negotiations in order to be able to fund successful applicants," he said.

In 2021, the ERC will make available €1.9 billion for some 1,000 top researchers to pursue frontier research. Two thirds of the funding is earmarked for early- to mid-career scientists and scholars. The funding will also support jobs for an estimated 6,860 postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and other research staff employed in ERC-funded teams.

 

EU education ministers today passed a resolution establishing the framework for EU cooperation in education and training for the next decade, taking a step towards creating a European Education Area.

The resolution “represents a very significant milestone in the achievement of the European Innovation Area,” said EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel.

By the end of the year, the European Commission will set up a governance structure with member states to coordinate efforts. The new body will allow member states to work together towards five strategic priorities, including improving the quality and inclusiveness of education, boosting access to lifelong learning and mobility, reinforcing higher education and teacher training, and support the green and digital transition through education and training.

“This is a challenge. We will have to ensure we maintain a high level of ambition without putting any additional pressure on national structures,” said Gabriel. To achieve the goals, she reminded ministers, education must be well-funded and appealed to member states to boost investments in education with funding from the EU’s €750 billion recovery package. To help member states spend money wisely, the Commission will set up an expert group on quality investments in education.

 

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