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.

 

Spain is investing €160 million from the EU recovery fund to support industry-led aeronautics research and innovation and help the industry recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

The programme will support aeronautics research until 2023, investing in the development of carbon-neutral aircraft, new multipurpose aircraft and systems, and boosting Spain’s capacity in the field of unmanned and intelligent aircraft. The first call for projects will be launched this year with a budget of up to €40 million.

The EU recovery money, including Spain’s €160 million in aeronautics research, will start flowing in the summer after member states submit their plans for how they want to spend the €672.5 billion funding pot.

 

EU ambassadors today confirmed the deal on the future of the European Institute of Innovation Technology reached by policymakers last month after a year and a half of talks.

The final deal gives the EIT’s public-private partnerships more control over their own budgets and sets out the EU innovation agency’s priorities for the next seven years.

Next, the European Parliament will adopt its position on the deal, which will then have to be formally approved by the Council.

 

The European Commission plans to use its annual flagship conference on R&D policy - brought forward from September to June – for ‘celebratory’ official launch of the new seven year research programme 

A newsletter sent by the Commission on Monday says the 2021 edition of the Research and Innovation Days, an online event scheduled for 23 and 24 June will “mark the official launch” of Horizon Europe.

The announcement comes only a couple of weeks after the Commission and the Portuguese presidency of the Council organised a joint event to launch the research programme on 2 February.

At the time, research stakeholders said the event was a symbolic launch of the programme, marking the end of the lengthy preparations and negotiations, since terms for public private partnerships and the scope of the research missions are yet to be agreed.

Also, official work programmes listing research calls for the first two years of the programme won’t be released until April. The European Parliament is still waiting for the Council to come to an agreement on the second part of the Horizon Europe legislation, which is spells out details on the specific goals of each component of the programme.

Research and Innovation Days is the Commission’s flagship event on R&D policy, usually taking place in September. This year, the event has been moved to June, shortly after the Commission expects most details of Horizon Europe to be settled and when it will be able to launch the first calls.

According to the Commission, the event’s agenda will “focus on new initiatives to strengthen the European Research Area and it will highlight the importance of collective research and innovation in the coronavirus recovery and for a greener and more digital future.”

According to one source in the Commission, the June conference will count as the “celebratory official launch” of Horizon Europe.

According to Thomas Estermann, director for governance, funding and public policy development at the European University Association, the Commission will most likely use the June event to debate and shape the future of research and innovation in Europe and beyond. But “If the [Commission] would design the R&I days as an exclusive Horizon launch event, then it could be confusing,” he said.

Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general at the League of European Research Universities has voiced his disappointment that the Commission and the Portuguese presidency did not invite representatives of research-intensive universities to speak at the February 2 event. In an email to Science|Business he noted that these are the people, “who at the end of the day will make the programme a success, or not.”

In the statement published on Monday, EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel invited researchers to join the June event, to share their thoughts on how the EU can overcome the pandemic and pave the way for a green and digital economy. “The 2021 edition of the European Research and Innovation Days could not have come at a more important time,” she said.

 

The European Research Council (ERC) is launching a new mentoring scheme to help scientists from countries that struggle to secure financing from the EU's basic research funder. 

Researchers from countries where the levels of participation and success rates in ERC calls have been modest will receive support from ERC grantees and former evaluation panel members.

The ERC hopes the new scheme will help widen participation in ERC calls, which often disproportionally award researchers in Western European countries.

 

Science policy should move towards more horizontal approaches and agility while taking advantage of the COVID-19 momentum to provide solutions to other pressing societal challenges, a Commission webcast hears.

Building on the findings of the OECD STI Outlook report which concluded that last year science saw unprecedented mobilisation, showed research is the only way out of the crisis, and stretched R&I systems around the world to their limits, on Friday science policy experts reflected on the key transformations awaiting science policy.

Clara Eugenia García, coordinator for science policy at the Spanish Representation to the EU, said science is facing new types of challenges, and the policy mix must change completely, not just play with a set of existing instruments. Spain’s science policy today is vertical but the problems the country faces, such as climate change, are horizontal. “Our structures and institutions are not equipped to deal with them,” argued García.

Daniel Dufour, director of external relations at the science and research policy branch in the government of Canada, underlined the importance of increasing policy agility to meet current challenges. “It may sound obvious but it’s a tremendous challenge for governments,” he said.

 

On the day of Women and Girls in Science, the research community is celebrating female researchers but heads of EU science admit more work needs to be done to harness their full potential.

In a video message, EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel praised Europe for nearing an even gender split in the number of PhD graduates, with 48% now being women, but encouraged Europe to continue closing the gap as only 33% of researchers in Europe today are female. “We need to encourage women to develop skills in science […] so we can finally take advantage of all our talent and diversity,“ Gabriel said.

Germany’s research minister Anja Karliczek applauded an increase in female professors in the country’s universities, the percentage rising from 16% to 25% since 2007, but noted she can still see room for improvement. To further foster equality, the country is launching a new €41 million research funding programme for increasing the visibility of women in science and innovation.

The European Commission’s research chief, Jean-Eric Paquet, tweeted, “While we’ve made a lot of progress, we must continue.“ One of the Commission’s new tools for better inclusion will be using gender balance in research groups as a tie-breaker when selecting projects for funding, Science|Business reports.

 

Portuguese MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho will be the European Parliament’s rapporteur in the negotiations on the the EU’s public-private partnerships under the new research programme, Horizon Europe.

Carvalho will lead the Parliament’s efforts in negotiating the terms of nine Horizon Europe partnerships with industry, covering clean aviation, hydrogen, circular economy, the railways, innovative medicines and global health.

“The priority will be to ensure greater simplicity, more openness, simpler rules and more synergies with other funds, such as Next Generation Europe and regional funds,” said Carvalho.

In Horizon Europe, there will be a total of 49 partnerships that together with the research missions make up around 30% of Horizon Europe spending. Nine of the partnerships require the Commission to submit legislative proposals which must then be negotiated and adopted by the Parliament and the Council.

 

The European Innovation Council announced on Friday 35 winners of a €3.5 million funding call for projects helping turn breakthrough research results into marketable products.

The winning higher education institutes, companies and research organisations will receive €100,000 each to develop business plans, commercialise products, assess technology levels and consolidate intellectual property rights.

Building on the experience of this Innovation Launchpad call, in the new research programme, Horizon Europe, the EIC will offer the new Transition Grants worth up €2.5 million each to translate research into innovation.

 

The EU research mobility programme, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA), is set to distribute €328 million in grants to 1,630 post-doctoral researchers at universities, research organisations and private companies as part of the last MSCA Individual Fellowships funding round in Horizon 2020.

The awarded fellows in organisations around the world will help address pressing challenges, such as climate change, health and migration, and contribute to the upcoming Horizon Europe missions mobilising researchers to create Europe’s first smart cities, save its soils and oceans, and fight against cancer.

Of the 1,630 post-doctoral researchers, 46 will be awarded funding through the pilot Widening Fellowships programme, which gives out grants to researchers from European countries that secure fewer MSCA grants.

 

EuroHPC, the EU public-private partnership for supercomputing, has acquired Deucalion, a supercomputer capable of performing 10 million billion calculation per second to be located at the Minho Advanced Computing Centre in Portugal.

Deucalion, made by Japanese IT multinational Fujitsu, employs an ARM processor currently used by Fugaku, the world’s fastest supercomputer.

Funded by the partnership, Portugal and EU structural funds, it is the fifth petascale supercomputer acquired by EuroHPC, which will continue expanding Europe’s supercomputing capacity over the next seven years with a budget of €8 billion.

 

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