Draft work programmes for climate, widening and research infrastructures leaked

22 Mar 2022 | News

After last week’s leak of the European Commission’s first drafts of 2023-24 programmes, more early drafts are circulating among a select few universities and research institutes

A new batch of unapproved drafts of Horizon Europe work programmes obtained by Science|Business reveals details about upcoming funding calls for climate research, improving research excellence in poorer EU countries and strengthening research infrastructures.

The Horizon Papers: 2022 Edition

Click here to see all available work programmes

After last week’s leak of the European Commission’s first drafts of 2023-24 programmes, more documents are being circulated for discussion by the Commission and member states, with some also being sent to universities and research institutes.

Inevitably, the unapproved papers end up being shared among university heads, research managers and other stakeholders who are well-connected to EU and national policy makers.

To increase transparency, Science|Business has been publishing the leaked drafts under both Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe.

Climate, energy and mobility

The draft work programme does not include a tentative budget and also lacks other implementation details such as call deadlines and the use of lump sums, but offers a good overview of the topics researchers could focus on in the next couple of years.  

Overall, the Commission plans the calls in this cluster will attract projects that promote EU’s “strategic autonomy” in emerging technologies that would help the transition to a carbon free economy by 2050.  

Significant weight is given to earth observation projects to improve climate prediction, providing tailored and more reliable information to weigh up the risks posed by extreme weather and climate change. The calls also target researchers working on advanced data science for high-performance computing linking earth system research with earth observation data providers.

The EU wants to boost its battery industry and needs more researchers to work on how to make these devices more efficient and last longer. Future Horizon calls could look out for projects on sustainable and cheap technologies for processing battery materials and components.

Hydrogen is another significant topic in the draft, with the EU aiming to use it to generate power for its industrial production plants. The calls detailed in the document suggest the Commission is seeking to fund projects on assessing the behaviour of hydrogen in the atmosphere and how the large-scale production, distribution and use of hydrogen as an energy carrier can affect the atmosphere. Other calls would fund the potential systems, technologies and markets associated with large-scale hydrogen deployment and how that could contribute to global warming.

Research infrastructures

The Commission is preparing funding rounds for large research labs that can provide services for projects that address EU’s main R&D priorities in climate and digitalisation, according to a draft work programme dated 2 March.

The Commission wants these labs to ensure a wider access for academic and industrial researchers. Research labs infrastructures are to get Horizon money for projects that enable research and innovation in energy efficiency and renewables.

Research infrastructures could also get funding to work on projects that support research and innovation objectives of Horizon Europe clusters, missions and partnerships. Projects focused on semiconductors would also be funded, to support the goals set in the new EU chips act.

The Commission will also allocate funds for projects that seek to harmonise data policies and the management of intellectual property rights in research infrastructures, with goal of making these labs more interoperable.

The innovation gap and the new ERA

A draft document dated 4 March details potential calls for projects focused on reducing the research and innovation performance gap between richer and poorer member states. This is the so-called “widening” section of Horizon Europe. It has an overall seven-year budget representing 3.3% of the €95.5 billion purse, and is aimed at helping EU member states that joined the bloc after 2004 to improve their standing in Horizon Europe calls and catch up with more experienced countries. According to the draft, the budget for 2023-24 widening work programme has not been settled yet.

The draft work programme for the next two years has been developed along the lines approved last year by the Commission and member states in the pact for research and innovation. By signing the pact, member states agreed to work towards a more integrated European Research Area (ERA), where the resources and outcomes of research investments in Europe are more evenly distributed.

The draft work programme reflects that political agreement and features projects focused on “improving access to excellence, attracting and mobilising best talents, reforming and enhancing the EU R&I system and transforming research results into the economy”.

The Commission is planning to launch a call that would help research institutions in poorer member states to boost their science and innovation capacity. A European excellence initiative will be funded by the Commission to help universities in these countries establish cooperation networks and modernise their research and innovation capacities.

New calls for ERA fellowships will also be launched over the next two years. The goal is to help ERA fellows acquire “transferable skills and competences, leading to improved employability and career prospects of fellows within academia and beyond” as well as, “new mind-sets and approaches to R&I work forged through interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral and international experience.”

The Horizon Papers are available here.

If you have access to drafts and want to make them available to the wider public, email us anonymously at [email protected]

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