22 Oct 2020

HORIZON BLOG: Research and innovation in the next EU budget

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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The European Universities Association (EUA) today released a report suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a long-lasting effect on universities which will need adequate support from public authorities to weather the crisis.

The report says universities suffered immediate losses due to the interruption of services, research contracts and international student recruitment. At the same, they now need to invest in better digital infrastructure for online learning and to adapt campuses to new health regulations.

“There are high levels of uncertainty and great concern in projections about future income from both public and private sources,” said Thomas Estermann, the EUA’s director of governance, funding and public policy development. “However, on a positive note, greater trust in universities due to their prominent role in crisis recovery is an asset – and we can capitalise on that.” 

 

The European Commission today launched the Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity, a new one-stop shop for latest science on biodiversity.

The knowledge centre, led by the commission’s science hub, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), will make available the latest science on biodiversity, enabling science to shape on EU policy and helping monitor the implementation of the EU biodiversity strategy.

EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel said the new centre will “help the European and global research community and policymakers to harvest and make sense of the vast array of information available, streamlining it into effective policies that protect Europe’s ecosystems and the services they provide for European citizens".

 

EuroHPC, a public-private partnership that pools EU resources to buy and deploy supercomputers, acquired LUMI, a pre-exascale supercomputer capable of running more than 375 million billion calculations per second.

The supercomputer will be produced by American IT multinational, Hewlett Packard, and deployed in Kajaani, Finland in mid-2021.

This is the second supercomputer EuroHPC has acquired in the past week. On Monday, the partnership announced they had procured Leonardo, a supercomputer to be deployed in Bologna, Italy by the end of next year.

The EU is planning to acquire more supercomputers for research centres in Bulgaria, Spain, and Portugal before the end of the year.

  

The European Parliament’s Horizon Europe rapporteur, Christian Ehler, says the cuts to EU funds for research, innovation, health and climate are impeding Europe’s ability to step into the next decade.

In a joint statement released this week, Ehler argues the current EU budget agreement will not allow Europe to catch up with its competitors US and China, impede growth, kill off Europe’s ambition to reduce CO2 emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, hamper its ability to tackle pandemics, and undermine research and education.

The statement was also signed by the vice-presidents of the European Research Council, Eveline Crone, Janet Thornton and Fabio Zwirner, the European University Association, the League of European Research Universities, Science Europe, and the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations.

In July, EU leaders agreed on a reduced budget of €80.9 billion for the EU's next research programme, Horizon Europe, significantly less than the €94.4 billion proposed by the European Commission in May. The parliament is currently fighting to reverse the cuts before the start of the next seven-year EU budget cycle in 2021.

 

Jean-Claude Juncker, former European Commission president, says he is appalled by the cuts made by the European Council to the budgets of the EU’s research and education programmes, Horizon Europe and Erasmus+.

“I am appalled by these blunders caused by the harmful influence of the Frugal Four,” said Juncker, referring to the EU’s most frugal countries, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden

In an interview with the EU policy research centre, the Robert Schuman Foundation, Juncker said he was dismayed by the lack of ambition shown by EU governments, failing to reflect their “virtuous words”. “This is not Europe,’ he argued.

In July, EU leaders slashed the research budget from a proposed €94.4 billion to €80.9 billion and cut the funding for Erasmus+ down to €21.2 billion, about €5 billion less than foreseen by the commission. The European Parliament is currently fighting to reverse the cuts but the council has been unwilling to compromise despite limited time before the foreseen start of the EU’s next budget cycle, 2021.

 

The European Institute of Technology and Innovation (EIT), an EU innovation agency, has selected 28 entrepreneurs to compete in this year’s EIT Awards on 8 and 9 December. 

Nominees from thirteen European countries will compete for the Change Award for top graduates of the EIT’s education programmes; the Innovators Award for those developing high-impact products and services; the Venture Award for start-ups and scale-ups that benefitted from the EIT’s business support; and the Woman Award for female entrepreneurs.

 

EuroHPC, the EU’s public-private supercomputing partnership, will launch Leonardo, one of the world’s top supercomputers.

Made by French IT multinational, Atos, and co-funded by EuroHPC and the Italian Ministry of Universities and Research with a total budget of €120 million, Leonardo will be launched in Bologna, Italy by the end of 2021.

The supercomputer will be capable of running more than 248 million billion calculations per second and will pave the way for exascale computers, the next generation of supercomputers that will perform more than one trillion operations per second.

The EU is hoping to acquire more supercomputers and launch its first exascale machine in the next decade. Last month, the European Commission announced it will be doubling its investment in EuroHPC in the hopes to boost Europe’s supercomputing capacity and reduce dependence on US and Chinese hardware.

 

Green Hysland, a project set to create a renewable hydrogen ecosystem in Spain’s Balearic Islands and turn Mallorca into Europe’s first example of an integrated island economy based on the gas, will start negotiations for a €10 million EU research grant.

Backed by the public-private partnership, the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, Green Hysland is aiming to generate at least 300 tonnes of green hydrogen per year by using Mallorca's solar energy to drive electrolysis of water, splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen. If successful, the project, which will require a total investment of around €50 million, will be the second largest green hydrogen project funded by the current European Commission to date and the first one in the Mediterranean.

Investing in the project is the latest step in the commission’s push for hydrogen to drive Europe’s green transition. In the next decade, the commission wants the EU to develop 40GW of renewable-powered electrolysers capable of producing ten million tonnes of the gas in Europe. 

 

The European Commission today announced the winners of a €100,000 cash prize in the fourth annual EU Datathon, a competition that invites citizens to develop apps using the EU’s open datasets.

Shortlisted from a total of 121 submissions, this year’s winners are teams from Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Lithuania, Romania, and the United Kingdom that developed apps addressing four different challenges: the European Green Deal, an economy that works for people, a new push for European democracy, and Europe fit for digital age.

 

EU-LIFE, an association of research centres, is calling on EU policymakers to involve public and private independent research organisations in all the steps of reviving the European Research Area (ERA) from strategy to implementation.

The alliance welcomed the objectives set out in the European Commission’s proposal for a new ERA announced last month, however, cautioned all relevant stakeholders, including smaller independent research organisations, should be involved in further defining and delivering the strategy.

 

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