Sweden lays out R&D priorities for upcoming Council presidency

15 Dec 2022 | News

The Swedish presidency of the Council of the EU is due to start in January, with plans to focus on open science and research infrastructures

Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson. Photo: Casino Connection / Flickr

The Swedish government will kick off its presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 January, with work on a swathe of science and technology policies being planned for the next sixth months.

Sweden is planning to tackle broader political issues, most of which stem from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “The challenges facing the EU may be greater than ever before,” prime minister Ulf Kristersson said at the launch of Sweden’s political priorities for the Council presidency.

As for research and innovation policy, first on the list is open science. Sweden is planning to work on promoting open access and exchange of knowledge and data in the European Research Area and “accelerate the transition to open science and allow increased access to research infrastructures,” according to an official document published on Wednesday.

The Swedish government will put open science on the agenda of a meeting of EU research ministers in May next year. According to diplomats in Brussels, Sweden will be building on previous work on this issue.

In June this year, the French presidency steered a debate on open science in the Council, with ministers agreeing to move forward with a reform of research assessment systems that would acknowledge and give more weight to open science practices in the evaluation of researchers.

The Swedish presidency is to take this agenda further and focus on an EU transition to a more reliant and transparent publishing system. The government says the EU still has some challenges ahead in its full transition to open science, including the cost and intellectual property rights

Research infrastructures come next on the Swedish presidency’s list of priorities. The country has invested heavily in research infrastructures, including the European Spallation Source, a particle accelerator that is being built in Lund. The construction was delayed by two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Sweden and the other countries involved in the project have announced plans to add some €550 million that would cover the cost of the delays.

Sweden’s plans for research infrastructures during its six-month stint at the helm of the Council are not limited to funding issues. The government wants to start a debate on the safe, open and reliable use of data produced at Europe’s big and small research facilities. The presidency will organise a conference on the topic on 19-20 June in Lund.

The Swedish presidency will also steer a debate between member states on how to respond to a recent report by the European Court of Auditors on synergies between Horizon Europe and EU’s regional funding programme. According to the report, Brussels and EU capitals have not been able to fully exploit the full potential of EU funding that is available for research and innovation, mostly because of persistent differences in the rules governing the funds.

An informal council of EU research ministers will take place in the beginning of February, to serve as a political orientation for member states.

Other items on the agenda

Sweden will continue steering the work on the draft legislation for the Chips Act, a proposal by the European Commission to raise €43 billion in public and private investment for research, development and manufacturing of advanced semiconductors.

However, talks on the legislation are not advancing at speed, with EU institutions disagreeing on the financial resources needed for Chips for Europe, a €3.3 billion R&D package in the Chips Act. Sweden says it will continue working on the file, but disagreements may not be sorted before the end of June, when the government will pass the baton to the Spanish presidency.

The Swedish presidency also work on measures that promote fair and sustainable use of space and it intends to take up the negotiations on a new regulation on a new satellite communications system IRIS2.

In the field of education, Sweden will move forward with plans to ensure mutual recognition of diplomas and qualifications in the EU.

In health, the Swedish presidency will advance the Commission’s forthcoming proposals on updating the general pharmaceutical legislation. The Council is also expected to work on a new proposal by the Commission to simplify the legislation under which the European Medicines Agency to charge fees for handling marketing approvals of drugs.

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