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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This morning EU research ministers will discuss the plans for reviving the European Research Area (ERA) and the ongoing Horizon Europe negotiations in an informal online meeting.
The meeting will kick off with a policy debate on spending targets for the new ERA that the European Commission proposed in September. “I really want to kickstart this debate process to define clear investment targets and benchmarks,” said Germany’s research minister Anja Karliczek, who will be chairing the meeting. “These benchmarks should help us to identify specific needs and then also monitor progress more effectively.”
Discussing the state of play of Horizon Europe, the ministers will address the importance of preventing a delay to the launch of the programme, noted Karliczek. They will also discuss the negotiations on the renewed framework for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.
The commission and the German presidency will then inform the ministers on the progress on establishing the European Open Science Cloud, setting up public-private partnerships under Horizon Europe and the latest scientific opinion on improving the EU’s pandemic preparedness and management.
The heads of Europe’s six major science organisations, the G6, are urging policymakers to allocate the newly negotiated €4 billion Horizon Europe top-up to financing fundamental research.
A significant proportion of the top-up should be allocated to the pillar of the programme supporting fundamental research, while the rest should finance big collaborative projects in fundamental research, the group believes.
“By doing so, the EU would demonstrate to its research communities, to its citizens and to its partners in the world the strength of its scientific ambitions and its determination to devote all the necessary resources to them,” the joint statement says.
EU university associations have also been calling for the top-up money to finance fundamental research, however, the European Parliament has indicated they plan to distribute the money across all three pillars of the EU’s research programme as per the provisional Horizon Europe agreement from April 2019.
The G6 members are the heads of the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association, Max Planck Society, Italy’s National Research Council (CNR), The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
The European Commission today announced its proposal for new data governance rules, which seek to facilitate data sharing in the EU.
As the first deliverable of the commission’s data strategy announced in February, the Data Governance Act will serve as a basis for future open data spaces, pools of voluntarily shared data that companies and research organisations will be able to access in different EU countries under similar conditions.
“The data governance act is an important milestone to boost the data-driven economy in Europe,” said EU executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager. “It is about creating the right conditions, so that if people want to share data, they can do so in a trustful way.”
The proposal contains three elements. First, it outlines rules for safely sharing sensitive data held by public bodies. Second, it charts the way for establishing ‘data brokers’, which are companies connecting data holders and users. Third, it creates a framework for easier voluntary data sharing for the public good, such as the sharing of one's medical data for research projects.
The new rules are the first of many proposals the commission is planning to announce in the coming months as part of the new data strategy.
The European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO) says policymakers must use the newly negotiated €4 billion Horizon Europe top-up to fund collaborative research.
The extra funding should support research and innovation that contributes to solving global challenges and boosting Europe’s industrial competitiveness, which will aid the EU’s green and digital transitions, the association believes.
EARTO’s statement was also retweeted by EuropaBio, the European association of bioindustries, expressing support for the call for stronger collaborative research.
The push for more collaborative research funding is at odds with the universities’ calls for the top-up money to be allocated to basic research. Meanwhile, the European Parliament has said the money will be distributed across all three pillars of the research programme as was agreed in the provisional Horizon Europe agreement in April 2019.
The €4 billion was added to Horizon Europe earlier this month following intense budget negotiations. The final budget deal, which foresees €84,9 billion (at 2018 prices) for the research programme, must now be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, where it is currently blocked by Hungary and Poland due to the newly added rule of law conditionality.
Germany today announced it will double its spending on research aimed at protecting the climate and increasing sustainability to €4 billion over the next five years.
The newly topped up funding is part of the updated Research for Sustainability Strategy that will help the country achieve climate neutrality by 2050, enable emission-free mobility, boost the circular economy and bring structural change to coal regions.
The reinforced programme outlines 25 actions that are central to limiting global warming, mitigating the effects of climate change, and protecting resources and people. New research will be geared at completing these actions and will add to the pool of almost 10,000 projects funded by the programme since 2005.
Antonio Loprieno, the president of the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA), today called on policymakers to ensure UK research institutions can participate in the EU’s research programme, Horizon Europe, after the country leaves the EU single market.
In a statement released a day after Brexit negotiations were once again halted due to a member of the EU’s negotiating team testing positive for COVID-19, Loprieno reminded policymakers that ALLEA has continuously urged them not to use research “as a pawn in political tit-for-tat”.
“It is therefore my urgent call to everyone involved to let common sense prevail, to show reciprocal trust and to ensure that we can wake up in 2021 knowing that our colleagues and partners from yesterday will still be our colleagues and partners tomorrow,” concluded Loprieno.
A new monitoring system will provide data for policymakers on the progress towards the targets set in the EU Bioeconomy Strategy, which aims to accelerate the development of a sustainable European bioeconomy.
The EU Bioeconomy Monitoring System, developed by the European Commission’s science hub, the Joint Research Council, and embedded in its Knowledge Centre for Bioeconomy, will track the deployment of more sustainable and circular solutions for the use of biological resources from land and sea around the EU.
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (RTD) will be joined by two new directors, Rosalinde van der Vlies and Irene Norstedt.
Van der Vlies will be the new director of the “Clean Planet” portfolio. Previously, she held various positions in DG RTD and served as the deputy-head of cabinet for the former environment commissioner, Janez Potočnik.
Norstedt was appointed director for the “People” directorate in DG RTD. She has served as an acting director in this position for the past two years. She has also served as head of unit for economic and social transition. In the health directorate, she was the head of the personalised medicine unit and served as an acting director for the public-private partnership, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).
EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel yesterday appointed three new members to the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors (GCSA) to aid policymaking by providing independent scientific opinions.
The new members are Maarja Kruusmaa, the vice-rector for research at the Tallinn University of Technology and a visiting professor with the Norwegian Institute of Science and Technology; Alberto Melloni, a professor of history of Christianity at University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, who is also the secretary of the Foundation for Religious Studies and a chair holder at the UNESCO Chair on Religious Pluralism and Peace; and Nebojsa Nakicenovic, the director of The World in 2050, a research initiative that supports the implementation of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda, and the director general of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
Together with the rest of the GCSA, for the next three years, the new members will advise policymakers on the biodegradability of plastics in the open environment, taking a systematic approach to the energy transition, and resilience to crises, such as pandemics.
On the same day, Nicole Grobert, a professor of nanomaterials at the University of Oxford, and Paul Nurse, the director of the biomedical research centre, Francis Crick Institute, who received a Nobel prize in medicine in 2011, have been elected as the new chair and deputy-chair of the group.
The European Commission has extended the deadline for submitting nominations and applications for the next president of the European Research Council until 30 November.