The European Commission is working on a new proposal for its 2021-2027 multiannual budget, which is to be paired with a recovery plan aimed at helping the EU come out of the looming recession set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic.
Here, we gather the latest news and reactions to how the EU is planning to fund its research and innovation programmes during the difficult period ahead.
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EU ambassadors Friday night reached an agreement on a new five-year €1.38 billion (in current prices) research and training programme for improving nuclear energy safety and radiation protection, Euratom.
Of the €1.38 billion, €583 million will be invested in fusion power research, €266 billion in nuclear fission, safety and radiation protection, and the remaining €532 million will be dedicated to research carried out by the EU’s science hub, the Joint Research Council.
Complementing the EU’s research programme, Euratom will be governed under the same rules and instruments as Horizon Europe, including supporting researcher exchanges with the help of the mobility programme, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).
The European Commission has selected 38 promising start-ups to receive between €1 and €17 million to develop and scale up ground-breaking innovations.
This is the last round of funding in the pilot phase of the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator and it received over 4,200 applications, the highest number ever.
Proposals include the development of a new device for rapid detection of sepsis and a robotic sorting technology for reducing hazardous waste.
“This huge demand for European Innovation Council support demonstrates that Europe has no shortage of excellent ideas for breakthrough technologies and innovations,” said EU research commissioner Maryia Gabriel.
A new non-profit association to advance the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) has elected Karel Luyben, the rector magnificus emeritus of Delft University of Technology, as its first president. Established as a legal entity on 29th July 2020, the EOSC Association was founded by GÉANT, CESAER, CSIC and GARR and has since attracted 114 research preforming organisations, 12 research funding organisations and 57 service providing associations as provisional members.
The Association is working with the European Commission to co-design and deploy a “European Research Data Commons” in which data is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR), and as open as possible. The goal is to support the development of interoperable services that address the entire research data life cycle, from discovery to storage, management, analysis and re-use across borders and scientific disciplines. The Association hopes to help bring about a global ‘web of FAIR data and related services for science’ that will generate new insights and innovations, higher research productivity and improved reproducibility in science.
Luyben had been the chair of the EOSC executive board, an advisory group set up by the Commission to support the development of the science cloud. The European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA), the European University Association (EUA), the League of European Research Universities (LERU), Science Europe and The Guild issued letters of endorsements for Luyben’s nomination.
Five new eminent scientists have been appointed as members of the governing body of the European Research Council (ERC), the Scientific Council.
Two of the new members, Liselotte Højgaard of the University of Copenhagen and Dirk Inzé of Ghent University are in the field of life sciences. The other three, Alice Valkárová of Charles University in Prague, Rodrigo Martins of NOVA University, and Nicola Spaldin of ETH Zürich are working in physical sciences and engineering.
Mariya Gabriel, EU’s commissioner for research and innovation said the new members will be “bringing additional scientific competence to the governing board of the ERC.”
The Commission has also announced today that is has extended the current European Research Council until the adoption of Horizon Europe, next year. In addition to the five new Scientific Council members, the Commission reappointed 16 current members for the same period.
Swedish medtech company Cellink is now worth over $1 billion, making it the first unicorn supported by the EU’s start-up funding body, the European Innovation Council (EIC).
The company, which sells the world’s most cost-effective bioprinters used by researchers to develop cancer tumour models for drug testing, has received €5.4 million from the EIC in two funding rounds.
The European battery community this week launched a new alliance, the Batteries European Partnership Association (BEPA), to coordinate efforts of the new EU public-private partnership for battery innovation.
The alliance counts 137 members, including 54 companies, 56 research organisations, and 27 associations, that will contribute to the joint effort to innovate the European battery value chain under the EU’s next research programme, Horizon Europe.
The partnership will aim to boost competitiveness and sustainability of the EU's batteries market, which is key to powering the clean energy transition that requires the electrification of key industrial sectors, such as transport – for which battery storage is key.
The alliance is set to sign an official agreement with the European Commission in April 2021, laying the foundation for the new partnership. BEPA’s role will include coming up with a battery R&I roadmap; overseeing research projects; reinforcing networks between industry, researchers and universities; and supporting the development of EU regulations on batteries.
A €290 million loan from the European Investment Bank will finance Wacker Chemie’s research and development efforts helping it become a climate neutral chemicals company.
For the next five years, the funding will support the company’s aim to reduce its CO2 emissions by 33% by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050.
This is the bank’s sixth investment in the company active in silicone, polymer, life sciences and polysilicon markets since 2003.
EU-LIFE, an alliance of research centres, says Horizon Euope “still lacks the means to address Europe’s current needs” despite the final agreement on the scope of the EU’s next research programme reached on Friday.
The alliance welcomed Friday’s €95.5 billion (in current prices) deal, however, warned that the agreement “is far from what is needed” and more work lies ahead in the implementation phase.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is loaning €50 million to a Barcelona-based pharmaceutical company, Ferrer, to finance its research, development and innovation programme.
The loan will allow the company to further develop its portfolio of treatments for cardiovascular and central nervous systems and pain relief until 2024.
EU’s public-private partnership for supercomputing, EuroHPC, has acquired a €11.5 million supercomputer capable of executing more than 4.44 million billion calculations per second to be rolled out in the Sofia Tech Park in the capital of Bulgaria.
The petascale supercomputer, produced by the French IT multinational, Atos, will be deployed in Sofia in the coming months to aid research in bioinformatics, pharmacy, quantum chemistry, AI, and the fight against climate changes among many other topics.
The project is financed by EuroHPC and the Bulgarian government, which will jointly manage access to the supercomputer.
EuroHPC, which has a budget of €8 billion for the next seven years, is currently also building supercomputers in Luxembourg, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Portugal in addition to three already deployed in Finland, Italy and Spain.