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

23 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.

 

The European Commission is trying to tackle gender inequality in the European start-up landscape with the help of a new pilot programme providing funding and mentoring to female-led start-ups around Europe.

Launched today, the pilot will offer grants of up to €75,000 as well as coaching and mentoring services through the European Innovation Council for up to 50 promising deep-tech start-ups. The first call, open to companies founded or co-founded by women, is now live and will close on 10 November.

“Through Women TechEU, we want to increase the number of women-led start-ups and create a fairer and more prosperous European deep-tech ecosystem,” said EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel. “We believe that today’s support to deep-tech female founders will increase their chances of success and boost the overall European innovation ecosystem by drawing in more female talent.”

 

The EU’s public-private supercomputing partnerships, EuroHPC, can now access its €7 billion pot of funding after EU member states gave their final approval to its new legislation.

The partnership between the European Commission, industry and member states, which first launched in 2018, will continue developing Europe’s supercomputing infrastructure and acquire more world-class computers but with a bigger budget at its disposal.

“Today’s decision contributes to the EU’s strategic autonomy and delivery of the European Research Area. The goal is clear: to make Europe a world-leading actor in super computing. It will help tackle global challenges and help ensure the EU's green and digital transitions,” said Slovenian science minister Simona Kustec.

Supercomputers are vital to the success of Europe’s science and industry. They provide computational power that allows to solve hugely complex and demanding problems as well as enable more uses of  artificial intelligence, data analytics and cybersecurity.

 

The European Commission wants to improve its communication on science, research and innovation and is asking citizens how it should do it in new survey.

The short survey asks respondents which science areas are most important to them, what media they prefer, who influences their opinion on research and innovation, and what they see as the main goals of European science projects.

 

The German Research Foundation is set to award €47.4 million to 13 new research groups addressing pressing issues in their subject areas.

The newly funded groups will study the intricacies of lower back pain, dissect the behaviour of DNA viruses, dive into the history of psychiatry, and develop new visual computing simulation and learning techniques, among other topics. They will receive funding for up to 6 to 8 years to carry out their research.

The foundation currently funds 173 such teams of scientists that work on big, long projects that cannot be funded through individual grant programmes.

 

The European Commission has concluded the first round of negotiations for Moldova and Tunisia’s association to Horizon Europe, which would give the two countries privileged access to the research programme.

In the first series of meetings, the Commission explained the details of how the countries will be able to contribute to the programme financially in return for access.

The next round of negotiations will take place in the second half of July, with the aim to conclude the negotiations in autumn and seal the deals by the end of the year.

The Commission hopes to complete most of the agreements with countries that were associated to the previous research programme, Horizon 2020, by the end of the year to avoid prolonged delays and uncertainty. Until then, researchers and organisations from previously associated countries are invited to apply to Horizon Europe funding calls as if their countries already held full access to the programme.

 

The European Parliament on Thursday voted through its resolution on the European Research Area (ERA), naming the initiative ‘a key priority’ for the EU and its green and digital ambitions.

The ERA is a single market where researchers and scientific knowledge can move freely. The European Commission and EU member states first embarked on creating it in 2000 but quicky lowered ambitions. Last year, the Commission renewed the efforts putting forward a proposal for a revamped ERA.

Responding to the Commission’s proposal, the Parliament on Thursday stressed the importance of prioritising fundamental research as part of the plans and highlighted the link  between research and entrepreneurship should be exploited to boost innovation in Europe.

The MEPs also highlighted the role of universities in creating a single market for research and emphasised the importance of empowering women and girls to enter scientific careers.

 

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology has revealed the evaluation criteria it will use to pick a consortium trusted to launch its new Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) for culture and creativity.

The call will go live in October, with a deadline for submissions in March 2022. But potential applicants – consortia made up of research organisations, universities and companies – can already check by which criteria their application will be judged.

Due to launch next year, the new KIC will be the ninth network of universities, companies and research organisations providing training, advice and funding to promising innovators across the EU. Its creation is part of the reinforced EIT, the EU’s innovation agency.

 

Spain will invest €2.3 billion in research and innovation this year, double the amount invested in science by the country last year.

The increase in budget is largely due to the EU rolling out its recovery budget which will inject €672.5 billion in member state economies over the next few years.

 The money will be distributed to research and innovation projects around the country through the country’s three funding agencies. Thanks to the top-up, the agencies will fund more proof of concept, green and digital transition projects, provide more direct funding to companies, and increase the average funding per project for selected calls.

 

A new training programme for boosting skills needed in the European battery industry is set to start up in France, after a signing of a pact as part of EU efforts to develop a battery value chain in Europe.

European countries are currently working together to consolidate their place in the global battery industry as part of the European Commission-led European Battery Alliance. But along with boosting innovation and production, it is expected Europe will face a skills shortage. Industry estimates that by 2025 there could be a shortage of some 800,000 jobs across the battery value chain. The French training programme aims to help fill the gap by training around 150,000 people by 2025.

This is the second such training programme in Europe, with the pact for the first one in Spain signed in May. Throughout this year, the Alliance hopes to roll out the initiative across Europe. Also in 2021, alongside the skills project, the Commission launched an industrial partnership for batteries striving to develop a competitive and sustainable European battery market by 2030.

“By 2025, we will be making enough battery cells each year to power at least six million electric cars,” said Commission vice president Maroš Šefčovič. “The new battery industry requires a new set of skills.”

 

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) has picked Jana Kolar, executive director of CERIC-ERIC, the Central European Research Infrastructure Consortium, to be its new chair.

From January 2022, Kolar will guide the work of the group of member state representatives that sets the roadmap for European research infrastructures and supports policymaking.

Kolar has held a number of roles in the Slovenian public sector, such as director general of the government’s science and technology office, chairwoman of the board of the Slovenian Technology Agency and Slovenia’s Research Agency. At EU level, she served on the governing body of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), and advised the European Commission on how to strengthen support for breakthrough innovation when it was launching the new EU start-up fund, the European Innovation Council.

“I would like to leave ESFRI better integrated into renewed ERA, better functioning and with higher visibility,” said Kolar. “We should have a more proactive approach to [R&I] landscape analysis. Europe is changing, and we have to identify the gaps with more respect to the policies and integrate ESFRI [research infrastructures] in the renewed European Research Area.”

 

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