09 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.

 

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.

 

The European Commission today published an independent report detailing the gaps in EU support for the European venture capitalist (VC) ecosystem, which may inform the work of the start-up funding programme, the European Innovation Council (EIC), on track to becoming one of the biggest VCs in Europe.

The report evaluated the effectiveness of different EU programmes supporting the venture market, such as InnovFin Equity and VentureEU, finding that while they follow a clear intention to develop the VC ecosystem, growth has been modest and the market remains significantly smaller than in the US and China.

To help VCs take full advantage of the services, the report recommends streamlining the application process for EU support programmes, lowering administrative burden to make the programmes easier to administer, and supporting the creation of large later-stage pan-European equity funds, which would be able to fund bigger companies that often find support easier in the US and China. The report also suggests the EU should allow its programmes to take higher risks when investing to better achieve its policy priorities and crowd in private investors.

Yet, EU support cannot plug all the holes. Growth takes time and the development of risk capital markets often depends on a number of policies at national level, which is beyond the scope of the evaluated EU programmes, according to the report.

 

The European Commission today announced it will fund 19 doctoral and 24 post-doctoral researcher training programmes with up to €100 million as part of the EU researcher mobility programme, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).

Over the next five years, the selected programmes in 11 EU member states and three associated countries will support almost 1,200 early-career scientists in a variety of disciplines, such as health, advanced manufacturing and rural development.

This funding round is the last and biggest in the MSCA-COFUND programme, which co-funds regional, national and international training programmes, under the EU’s 2014-2020 research funding programme, Horizon 2020.

 

Germany today awarded seven innovation networks €450 million in funding to research, develop and commercialise new technologies as part of the country’s Clusters4Future initiative. 

The networks from around Germany will work carry out research and develop technology in fields such as electric and automated transport systems, sustainable blue economy, energy efficient neuromorphic AI chips, hydrogen and living drugs.

The regional networks will work in up to three stages of research and implementation each lasting three years. All seven will start the first phase this autumn.

“The future clusters are the nucleus for new business models, for pioneering solutions in the creative economy, for social innovations, but also for organisational solutions and new networked innovation structures for more participation in society as a whole,” said Germany’s research minister, Anja Karliczek.

 

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