Primary and secondary raw materials are essential for the economy of all countries and influence significantly their competitiveness. EU faces two main challenges, high dependence on the import of raw materials and the security of supply of raw materials. EU addresses these challenges among others in the EU Raw Materials Initiative and in the Innovation Partnership on Raw materials and of course this issue is reflected in Horizon 2020 as well.
Raw materials part of Societal Challenge 5 (SC5) is focused mainly on non-energy and non-agricultural raw materials used in industry. Since the launch of Horizon 2020 in 2014 till February 2017 altogether 6 calls for proposals have been evaluated in the frame of SC5 containing 21 topics focused on raw materials. Budget for H2020 research focused on raw materials amounts to 600 mil. €. European Commission received 198 proposals from which 40 were recommended for funding. 594 teams from 43 countries participate in those 40 projects altogether requesting 211 mil. €.
The Maltese presidency organised an Informal Ministerial Meeting on Blue Growth and Ocean Governance in the EU and the Mediterranean; Innovation, and Nautical Tourism on 20 April 2017 in Valletta. Blue Growth is the long-term strategy to support sustainable growth in the maritime sector and represents the maritime input to attaining the goals of Europe 2020. The Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella gave the opening speech at the conference. He highlighted some achievements like global leadership of Europe in the development of ocean energy technologies (Europe host 52% of all tidal stream developers and 60% of all wave energy developers in the world) or the fact that in the last 10 years, EU research programmes have provided some 150 million euros to fund ocean energy research, development and innovation. He also mentioned that the value of sustainable aquaculture production in the EU is up by more than 40% compared to a decade ago. Vella also flagged three areas where more needs to be done: access to finance, skills and qualifications connected to new jobs and finally the regional cooperation.
The role of coordinators, especially in collaborative projects based on the cooperation of high number of participants, is very important and demanding. Administrative as well as expert skills are necessary for the management of the teams from different national environments. As a benefit in addition to the higher contribution from the EC, the coordination brings also a so called ‘pull effect’ – it means the coordinator usually pulls up other partners from his/her country. The pull effect has also positive impact on the involvement of the institutions with no previous experience with the framework programmes´ projects.
Analysed data shown in Fig. 1 are taken from the E-CORDA database (version 7, 28/02/2017)
The beginning of 2017 can be considered as a proper time to look back at Horizon 2020 participation, as the programme is in the middle of its duration. In this article, we concentrate on the basic characteristics of participation in Societal Challenge 5: Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials (SC5). Analysed data is taken from the E-CORDA database (version 6, 30/09/2016).
Similarly as in other H2020 priorities, in SC5 calls for proposal raise a strong response from the research community: altogether 3 277 eligible project proposals prepared by 14 294 participants have been submitted since the beginning of the H2020 programme in SC5. 326 projects with 2 335 participants were selected for funding. Total project success rate accordingly responds to almost 10 % (the highest – 27 % – in the case of Coordination and support actions, the lowest – 7 % in the case of SME Instrument).
A comparison of EU member states involvement in SC5 is given in Fig. 1. Columns show number of participations in funded projects calculated per 1 million of inhabitants for EU-15 (blue columns) and EU-13 (grey columns). High values of this parameter can be observed in case of Slovenia, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Portugal. Absolute numbers of participations illustrated by points are the highest in Spain, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, followed by the Netherlands and France. Small countries, like Cyprus, Malta or Estonia, are characterised by the small number of participations, but belong to the most successful as for the above mentioned relative characteristic.
With 120 participants from more than 30 different countries the Belmont Forum Information Day took place in Brussels on 30 November 2016. The Belmont Forum is a group of the world’s major and emerging funders of global environmental change research. It main goal is to accelerate delivery of the environmental research needed to remove critical barriers to sustainability by aligning and mobilizing international resources. In the frame of the Belmont Forum, so called Collaborative Research Actions (CRAs) are funded. In the past they were focused on Mountains as Sentinels of Change, Climate Predictability and Inter-Regional Linkages, Arctic, Scenarios of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, E-Infrastructures and Data Management, Food Security and Land Use Change, Coastal Vulnerability, Freshwater Security. Topics on Sustainable Urban Global Initiative (SUGI): Food-Water-Energy Nexus and Transformations to Sustainability will follow. Very interesting key-note speech of the Information Day was delivered by Janez Potočnik (former European Commissioner and member and Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme) who addressed global environmental change challenges.
The Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative (SUGI)/Food-Water-Energy Nexus is a call jointly established by the Belmont Forum and the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe. The cooperation was established in order to bring together the fragmented research and expertise across the globe to find innovative new solutions to the Food-Water-Energy Nexus challenge.
The call aims to develop more resilient, applied urban solutions that bring inter- and trans-disciplinary research and innovation together from across the globe, to benefit a much wider range of stakeholders. The rapid urbanization of the world’s population underscores the importance of this focus. JPI Urban Europe and Belmont Forum have partnered to ensure a maximum audience across physical, natural, social sciences and arts and humanities as well as policy and decision makers and stakeholders
Stay tuned to both the Belmont Forum and JPI Urban Europe websites for further information on the call.
The Commission will take forward the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan by improving the economics, quality and uptake of plastic recycling and reuse in the EU and reducing plastic leakage into the environment. The Commission will also develop a monitoring framework to ensure that progress towards their circular economy ambitions is on track and delivering the mutually-reinforcing benefits both for the environment and economic growth. You can read more in the Commission Work Programme 2017 “Delivering a Europe that protects, empowers and defends” issued in October 2016.
The European Climate Research Alliance (ECRA) aims to strengthen, expand and optimise EU climate research capabilities through the sharing of world-class national facilities in Europe and the collaborative realisation of pan-EU programmes. National and European Climate change research programmes have to be streamlined and coordinated, in order to ensure optimum use of human resources, modelling capacities, field activities, and infrastructures, maximising therefore the impact of scientific results and reinforcing the European Research Area for climate change science.
In March 2017, the General Assembly of ECRA will take place in Brussels. Registration will open in December. It will focus on Climate Change and vulnerable regions”. This ECRA General Assembly will adress and discuss with climate scientists, policy makers and relevant climate initiatives about: Climate research priorities, most vulnerable regions and opportunities for adaptation strategies, improving collaboration in climate research, advancing integrated science and impact assessments.
Increase of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) participation in research projects has been one of the priorities of EU research programmes. We focus on this issue within environmental priorities of 7th Framework Programme (FP7) and Horizon 2020 programme (H2020). In FP7, environmental research was mainly included in Environment (including Climate change) topic, in H2020 we find it in so-called Societal Challenge 5: Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials.
Our source of data, the H2020 E-CORDA database (version 5, 31/05/2016), allows for a rough categorization of research teams according to their predominant activities: universities, research organizations, private and public sector, SMEs and others. In FP7, SMEs constituted 15.62 % and 14.44 % of all participants in proposals and grants, respectively. With a shift of H2020 orientation towards innovation and requirement of specific solutions the increase of SMEs entering the projects as end-users or demanders could be expected. Indeed, the share of SMEs in H2020 increased to 35.54 % in proposals and 21.66 % in grants. But we have to take into account the new H2020 type of action, so-called SME instrument designed for SMEs only. After exclusion of this instrument we are coming to 19.49 % of SMEs in proposals and 15.8 % in grants. The increase of SMEs share in “classical” project types is still visible, but especially in case of grants much less significant. Above mentioned data comprise participants from all countries whereas Figures 1 and 2 describe the situation in EU countries only.