28 Sep 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.

Tips are welcome at news@sciencebusiness.net.

 

The EU will create an agency for biomedical research and development as part of the EU‘s health crisis preparedness plans, announced European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her first State of the Union address.

The equivalent of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the US, the new agency will be tasked to protect the EU from emerging health threats.

“This new agency will support our capacity and readiness to respond to cross-border threats and emergencies – whether of natural or deliberate origin,” said von der Leyen.

The commission is yet to reveal more detailed plans or a timeline for the creation of the agency which, once the plans are presented, will have to be endorsed by EU policymakers to come to fruition.

 

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that Europe must foster its own digital technologies to be able to weather future crises, said MEP Katarina Barley at an event ahead of the European Commission President’s State of the Union address tomorrow morning.

“The main point we learnt from the coronavirus crisis is that we need to invest more in the digital world because we need more companies in Europe who are competent in this field,” said Barley.

At the online event organised by the European Parliament ahead of the debate of the State of the EU on Wednesday, MEPs discussed the EU’s priorities and answered questions from citizens.

 

The European Commission today shortlisted 10 projects for the second edition of the Horizon Impact Award, a prize dedicated to most influential and impactful Horizon 2020-funded projects. 

The jury will now select five winners to receive a €10,000 award each at the award ceremony in Brussels on 23 September during the European Research and Innovation Days.

The list of shortlisted projects can be found here.

 

E3G, a climate change think tank, today published its recommendations for a new EU research and innovation strategy that would be able to support Europe’s transition towards climate neutrality by 2050.

“Given the scale of the challenge, ensuring EU R&I policy acts as enabler to achieving climate neutrality therefore requires a new EU R&I strategy – as opposed to a collection of initiatives,” the think tank’s paper reads.

E3G proposes three design principles for the new strategy: it should aim for a system-level change, ensure the transition is socially and geographically inclusive, and leverage EU’s research and innovation to help other countries transition towards climate neutrality.

 

The European Energy Research Alliance yesterday sent a letter asking EU policymakers to ensure Europe can reach its climate goals by reversing the recent cuts to the EU's next research programme, Horizon Europe.

Addressing EU policymakers who are currently negotiating the size of the EU’s next seven-year budget, the alliance called for a research budget of €94.4 billion, as per the European Commission’s proposal from May.

The cuts "may jeopardize EU long-term objectives of advancing the green and digital transition in Europe and its ambitions of becoming worldwide leader in a new green and sustainable economy," the letter said.

In addition to a higher research budget, the alliance urged EU leaders to maintain the budget earmarked for climate and energy action in Horizon Europe at the level proposed by the commission irrespective of the final research budget deal.

 

The Guild, a group of twenty research-intensive universities, today published a new call for increased financing of fundamental research under the EU’s next seven-year research programme, Horizon Europe.

The budget for Horizon Europe is currently being negotiated by EU policymakers, and once agreed, it will be split between the different parts of the programme. The Guild hopes the parts supporting fundamental research, such as the European Research Council (ERC), the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) and research infrastructures, will have their share of the programme increased from the 27 per cent that they are currently foreseen.

“Failing to invest adequately in these programmes could send a negative signal to the best research talent in Europe, and at worst result in brain drain to countries with better funded research systems,” reads the group’s statement.

The Guild also urges policymakers to allocate funding for fundamental research from the Horizon Europe’s €5 billion share of the EU’s three-year recovery package, Next Generation EU, “to study the social and health aspects of the crisis”.

 

Germany, which holds the current presidency of the EU, and Australia announced they will launch a feasibility study into the development of a clean hydrogen supply chain between the two countries later this year.

Both countries have adopted their own hydrogen strategies which chart the way to widespread rollout of clean hydrogen, replacing fossil fuels.

The 24-month study that will test whether setting up a supply chain between the two countries is doable will cost over €1.5 million and help advance both countries’ hydrogen strategies.

 

The European Parliament’s centre-right group, the European People’s Party, today appointed its representatives to the new special committees on beating cancer and artificial intelligence.

Belgian MEP Cindy Franssen will be the group coordinator on the beating cancer committee, while French MEP Nathalie Colin-Oesterlé will be the vice-coordinator.

On the AI committee, Bulgarian MEP Eva Maydell, who is also a member of the committee on industry and research, will lead the coordination efforts with the help of vice-coordinator Estonian MEP Riho Terras.

The committee on beating cancer will work on legislation and measures to help prevent and fight cancer and support research, while the committee on AI will propose a roadmap for the objectives of future AI legislation. The new committees were set up in June and will start work next week.

 

The European Working Group of Innovation Consultants (EWGIC), a group of EU research and innovation experts, this week issued fifteen recommendation advising the European Commission how to better select which deep-tech starts-ups it should fund.

The group believe the European Innovation Council (EIC), the EU’s new tech start-up funding body, “has fallen victim to its popularity” after the applicant success rate for the programme fell below 1 per cent. With many high-quality applications submitted in each funding round, start-ups need “a fair amount of luck” to succeed in getting funding.

To make the selection more objective, the EWGIC recommends having different evaluators for the two stages of evaluation of the same proposal, establishing clearer guidelines for them, and evaluating the evaluators. All fifteen recommendation can be found here.

 

EBRAINS, a digital research infrastructure for brain science and the child of one of the largest-ever EU-funded research programmes, the Human Brain Project, has applied to be one of the Europe’s big research labs receiving funding under Horizon Europe.

The platform’s application to the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), a committee that recommends which research labs should get funding under the infrastructure part of the EU’s next research programme, Horizon Europe, was led by France and supported by nine other European countries.

EBRAINS offers scientists tools and resources for neuroscience research developed by the €1 billion EU flagship brain science programme, the Human Brain Project, launched in 2013 and set to finish in 2023.

 

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