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 [email protected].
The European Investment Bank (EIB) yesterday launched a €150 million co-investment fund that will support artificial intelligence companies and contribute to filling Europe’s AI sector investment gap.
Through the fund, over the next four years, the EIB, alongside the European Investment Fund (EIF), will invest in 20 to 30 early and growth-stage SMEs in the EU and Horizon 2020 associated countries.
“If Europe wants to stay competitive and shape the conditions of AI development and use, while ensuring European values are respected, it needs to embrace AI and lead its development. That is why I am very proud of the new instrument we have launched today,” said EIB Vice-President Teresa Czerwińska.
The European University Association (EUA) has published a report outlining seventeen key recommendations for developing and implementing the new European Research Area (ERA).
Following the European Commission’s roadmap for revamping the ERA, revealed in September, the university group is urging is EU policymakers to build an inclusive governance system, provide sustainable funding for research, and invest in both basic and applied R&I among other recommendations. All this must be done in consultation with university representatives and other R&I stakeholders, the report notes.
Spain today announced a new plan set to help the country’s researchers and innovators secure more funding from the EU’s next research programme, Horizon Europe.
The plan contains 26 measures that will strengthen research management networks, foster research projects that can add to European programmes, train and deploy staff from the Spanish research ecosystem in European organisations, and help connect science and society.
In Horizon Europe, the goal is for the country’s researchers to lead at least 17 per cent of big project calls, coordinate at least 2,800 projects, secure 11 per cent of funding from the programme, and reach the average EU success rate for project proposals.
Under Horizon 2020, Spain was the fourth best performing country, receiving a total of over 4.7 billion in funding and securing 10.1 per cent of available funding.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is investing €20 million in a Portuguese software company, Bizay, to help finance the implementation of its R&D and product development roadmap.
The money will help digitalise every step of Bizay’s services supplying custom products, such as promotional products and business cards, to SMEs by, for example, using machine learning algorithms for improving marketing efficiency and forecasting future traffic loads.
The UK government must make up its mind on whether it will participate in the EU’s research and student exchange programmes, Horizon Europe and Erasmus+, after the country’s departure from the single market, a House of Lords inquiry finds.
The current uncertainty over the UK’s continued participation is causing researchers and students to miss out on funding and exchange opportunities. “The lack of certainty on post-Brexit arrangements is providing a real challenge to researchers looking for funding and students seeking to undertake a placement in the next couple of years,” said Rita Donaghy, the chair of the EU Services Sub-Committee in the House of Lords.
However, the inquiry determined that the current EU proposal for the UK’s participation would find the country making a significant contribution to Horizon Europe with little say over how it is administered.
To ensure the UK does not pay in more than it takes out, the UK has already said it wants a “downward correction mechanism” that would compensate the government if researchers secure less funding from Horizon Europe than expected.
Last week, a UK official told Science|Business that the talks about the future research relationship “hang in the balance” and the final deal will come down to whether the EU can ensure the UK will not end up putting in more than it gets out from the research programme.
But if the country decides not to participate in Horizon Europe, it must ensure its domestic research framework is independently administered, builds on global collaboration, supports SMEs and provides funding for researchers all across the country, the Lords believe.
The EU Council is asking the European Commission and member states to set up an agenda for tackling key research policy issues and develop a multi-level governance model in 2021 for the new European Research Area (ERA).
In yesterday’s conclusions on the new ERA, the Council says there is need to translate the goals of the new ERA, such as increased national investment in research and closer international collaboration, into concrete action that enhance the attractiveness of research careers, create synergies between different EU funding programmes, strengthen academic freedom, link the new ERA with the EU’s agenda for higher education, increase investments in research infrastructures, and mainstream open science.
Meanwhile, new governance model should be multi-level, involving regional authorities, R&I stakeholders and civil society from all EU member states. It should also be link up with Horizon Europe and include a monitoring system with renewed indicators and reporting measures, the document says.
The conclusions follow the commission’s communication from September that set out a roadmap for the revamped ERA and will serve as basis for the discussions on its implementation in the council.
Sweden will contribute €30 million, or 300 million Swedish Krona, over the next two years to enable technological innovations in developing countries along the entire value chain of energy-intensive industries.
The funding will be channelled through the World Bank’s $8 billion climate financing mechanism, the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), to help industries in developing countries carve out climate strategies and develop innovations.
“By helping other countries develop their roadmaps to fossil fuel freedom, we can accelerate progress towards zero emissions in the whole world,” said the country’s minister for environment and climate, Isabella Lövin.
An open letter published on Friday is urging EU policymakers to adopt measures aimed at helping young researchers deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The demands include extending the duration of projects, adjusting deadlines for the attainment of qualification, better conditions for work and family life, ensuring equal access to laboratories and other facilities, investing in e-tools, and promoting online events that provide researchers with opportunities.
The letter was signed by MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho, Lidia Borrell-Damián, the secretary general of Science Europe, and Mostafa Moonir Shawrav, the chair of the Marie Curie Alumni Association. Earlier this month, the three signatories discussed some of the issues facing young researchers in a panel during the Marie Curie Alumni Association conference.
The European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, is inviting businesses, associations, civil society groups and EU staff to submit nominations for the third biennial ‘Award for Good Administration’.
The award honours the staff in all EU institutions, agencies, and bodies for demonstrating excellence in open administration, communications, and crisis management. Nominations are open until the end of January 2021.
Last year’s winners were DG Environment and DG GROW at the European Commission, who were nominated for their comprehensive strategy for reducing plastics pollution and raising awareness about single-use plastics.
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.