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

19 Oct 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 has launched a survey to gather views on how to improve the EU's innovation ecosystem and boost performance across all regions.

The survey is part of a broad consultation by the Commission aimed at gathering views from ministries, regional and local authorities, venture capital companies and business angels, universities and research organisations, businesses, SMEs, and start-ups, NGOs civil society organisations and individuals in shaping a robust European innovation ecosystem.

Commission staff will analyse the survey results and publish a  a summary report highlighting key insights.

The survey is available here.

 

The Polish Academy of Science says the government should establish a new body that would monitor upcoming health risks and communicate to the public about how to prepare.

The academy says the new institution should gather a multidisciplinary team of experts independent from the government.

The academy notes that public trust in health advice has declined sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, only one in four Poles trusted that the government was fighting the pandemic effectively. After a year and a half of pandemic, a significant part of the population in Poland believes the pandemic is a conspiracy by politicians or large pharmaceutical companies, the virus does not pose a threat, and vaccinations are harmful to health.

“Errors in the information policy so far have led to so many people in Poland ignoring the threat of a pandemic and abstaining from vaccination against SARS-CoV-2,” the academy said.

The academy hopes a new, independent institution would be able to set up transparent and responsible communication channels and boost trust in health and science advice.

 

Europe’s largest biotech lobby group says the European Commission’s proposed Health Data Space initiative is a good opportunity to reverse the declining trend of international biotech research conducted in Europe.

“EuropaBio believes it is extremely important for the EU to encourage the return of many research programmes and clinical trials to the EU,” the association said in a statement on Thursday.

The Commission is now gathering input from stakeholders on its plan to establish common rules for storing and sharing healthcare research data in the EU.

According to EuropaBio, access to the harmonised collection and analysis of interoperable datasets across the EU can also help researchers working on rare diseases. The data space could also make the EU more attractive for public and private investments in healthcare research.

 

The European Commission has appointed 12 external experts as members of the investment committee of the InvestEU Fund for a term of four years.

The 12 members of the Investment Committee – four permanent and eight non-permanent members – were selected and appointed by the Commission at the recommendation of the InvestEU Steering Board.

The committee decides on giving out the EU guarantee to investment and financing operations under InvestEU. It will operate in four compositions, corresponding to the four policy windows of InvestEU: sustainable infrastructure; research, innovation and digitalisation; small and medium-sized companies; and social investment and skills.

In April, the Commission has adopted Investment Guidelines of the InvestEU programme, with detailed information on the requirements that financing and investment operations must satisfy in order to receive support from the InvestEU.

Another document adopted by the Commission lays down simplified rules for the functioning of the database of investment opportunities within the EU.

 

Ireland is the last EU member state to sign the EU declaration quantum infrastructure, committing to working with the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) to build the EuroQCI — a secure quantum communication infrastructure across 27 countries.

The Commission is planning to launch a satellite-based system for high-speed broadband in Europe. The EuroQCI will be part of that system and will integrate quantum cryptography and innovative and secure quantum-based systems into conventional communication infrastructures. This will protect data transmission between Europe’s government institutions, municipalities and embassies, as well as key sites such as hospitals and energy grids.

In 2021 and 2022, Digital Europe programme and Connecting Europe Facility actions will help member states build cross-border quantum communication networks.

 

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.

 

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