Participation in the environmental area of H2020

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.

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Using satelites for measurements of the Earth´s ice sheet

Modern measurements of the Earth´s ice sheet can be carried out using satellites. Two methods are mainly used:

  1. Altimetry methods. In this category it is possible to use narrow laser beams. They give high resolution and can be used even for steep slopes. The drawback is that lasers are blocked by the cloud cover.  The second method is the use of radar. Their beam is broad, which means the resolution is low and they cannot be used on sleep slopes.  Their big advantage is that they are not blocked by the cloud cover. These two methods have been used together to combine the strength of each of them.
  2. Gravimetry. Two satellites are now running in parallel around the Earth under the program name GRACE. The distance between them is 200 kilometers. But this distance changes slightly due to tiny changes in the Earth´s gravitational field. These tiny changes reflect local changes in the Earth´s mass which is affected by, inter alia, ice on and near the Earth´s surface.  With repeated measurements of the same area and a little bit of maths and modelling it is possible to literally weigh the icesheet from space!

Taking Iceland as an example, 11.000 square kilometers  of the island are covered by glaciers. Among them is Europe´s biggest glacier – Vatnajökull.  In the period 2000 – 2013 these  glaciers have receeded about 500 square kilommeters yearly.  That  is similar to half of  the Reykjavík area.

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New project catalog published

A revised version of the document presenting an overview of projects financed by the Societal Challenge ‘Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials’, which includes the results of the 2016 calls has been pubblished recently from EU Commission. It’s possible download the catalog at the following link:

The 218 projects resulting from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 calls for proposals in the Societal Challenge ‘Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials’ are here briefly presented. All together, the 218 projects are mobilising resources totalling around EUR 1,392 million, of which more than EUR 1,092 million as EU funding. The projects could last up to 5 years duration.

The calls launched in 2014, 2015 and 2016 focussed on investing in systemic innovation by promoting resource efficiency for a greener and competitive economy as a key part of smart, inclusive and sustainable growth.

“The role of Science, Technology and Innovation Policies to Foster the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”: A summary of the original report

European Commission established an independent Expert Group with a view to investigating and providing consulting on the role of science, technology and innovation (STI) concerning the implementation of the new sustainable development agenda (“2030 Agenda”). Some of the Experts Group’s suggestions can be fulfilled in the short run, since they are based on existing policies and instruments. Some others require thorough planning, or technical implementation, or political commitment concerning the orientation of EU policies. This category of suggestions requires a longer implementation time frame. The recommendations of the report may have a significant impact on future workprogrammes of the SC5.

To make the STI policies more oriented towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Experts Group recommends:

  1. Integration of the SDG framework into the future Horizon 2020 workprogrammes. This entails an increase in the Horizon 2020 funds earmarked for SDGs-oriented projects, thus rendering Horizon 2020 more aligned with the key priorities of the 2030 Agenda.
  2. Establishment of science-to-policy task forces per Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) aiming at identifying the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) needs, all along the innovation chain, and determine trade-offs and potential incompatibilities among SDGs.
  3. Development of a framework aiming at directing STI investments on potentially transformative projects, programmes and initiatives. Such a framework should incorporate a “high-impact” criterion enabling the prioritization of investments, and the creation of a rating system for the “Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development” (STI4SD) investment projects.
  4. Development of an ERA initiative for SDGs aiming at encouraging the participation of developing countries in EU innovation instruments and research facilities. Also, the ERA initiative for SDGs should aim at incentivizing the globalization of key EU-Innovation in progress, and promoting Public-Private initiatives.
  5. Align the EIT mission with the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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ERA-MIN 2017 Joint Call on Raw Materials for the Sustainable Development and the Circular Economy is now open

The ERA-MIN 2017 Joint Call on Raw Materials for the Sustainable Development and the Circular Economy is now open from February 1st, 2017. The scope of the Joint Call is needs-driven research on non-energy, non-agricultural raw materials (metallic, construction, and industrial minerals), to foster the sustainable supply, processing, production and consumption of primary and secondary raw materials in a circular economy. Twenty-one public funding organisations from 14 EU/associated countries/regions and 4 non-EU countries participate in this Joint Call for research and innovation transnational collaborative projects. Partners in a transnational consortium will apply for funding from the respective funding organisation of their country/region which participates in the Joint Call. The total budget available for this Call is approximately € 15 million corresponding to the sum of national and regional public committed funds of the participating Funding Organisations and the co-funding of the European Commission. There will be a two-stage submission procedure: pre-proposals and full proposals. The successful proposals will be selected after an international independent centralised peer-review process. The deadline for pre-proposals submission (mandatory) is 5 May 2017, 17:00:00 CEST. To facilitate consortia building, the partner search tool set up by the NCPs CaRE enables partner searches on the ERA-MIN Joint Call topics and sub-topics. For more information on the scope of the Joint Call, the participating funding organisations, countries and regions, the eligibility criteria and the submission, evaluation and funding procedures  please see the ERA-MIN Joint call page.

EC´s “2nd Monitoring report on SSH-flagged projects funded in 2015 under the Societal Challenges and Industrial Leadership priorities” published

The broad integration of the SSH within the Societal Challenges and Industrial Leadership priorities is an exercise that provides both opportunities and challenges:
One the one hand it provides opportunities by creating more scope for SSH contributions under more thematic areas and more topics than before.
On the other hand it also creates new challenges since this new approach necessitates a change of mind towards more interdisciplinarity.

This second monitoring and evaluation report assesses in a thorough and detailed manner how the different SSH disciplines have been integrated into the projects funded in 2015 under the Societal Challenges and the Industrial Leadership priorities. The report illustrates the progress of the new policy on the integration of SSH as a cross-cutting issue but it also points out to areas where further efforts for SSH integration are needed.


The benefits of participating in JPIs

At the fifth anniversary of the launch of the second wave of Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI), the ten initiatives have presented a new brochure and factsheets on all JPIs. The new folder explains the benefits of participating in a Joint Programming Initiative, provides an overview of the governance model and highlights the implementation actions for transnational cooperation. In addition to the general introduction to Joint Programming, all JPIs developed a factsheet with an overview of member countries, objectives and key achievements.

Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs) were launched in the major research fields focused on tackling the Grand Societal Challenges via European Council conclusions in 2009. JPIs are Member State-led, bringing together national research funding organisations, ministries and research councils both in Europe and further afield. This ambition, of aligning national programmes, strategies and policies, extends beyond the matching of RD&I funds. The alignment process covers various phases, from setting joint objectives and forging a common vision and a SRIA[i] between countries to developing appropriate framework conditions and selecting appropriate instruments. JPIs are long-term processes that contribute to EU and global policy objectives including EU2020 smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, UN Sustainable Development Goals and WHO goals. A portfolio of implementation measures and instruments, based on the developed strategies was, and continues to be, developed for supporting and strengthening joint transnational actions.

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Switzerland Fully Associated to Horizon 2020

As a result of the vote on the popular initiative on mass immigration in February 2014, Switzerland at the time did not ratify the extension of the free movement of people to Croatia and as a consequence could not get associated to Horizon 2020 as planned. In September 2014 an agreement on a partial association (association to pillar 1, third country status for pillars 2 and 3) had been negotiated for the period given in the constitution to implement the mass immigration article (until early 2017). This agreement states that Switzerland will either be a fully associated country or a third country for all three pillars depending on the ratification of the Croatia protocol by early 2017. In summer 2016, the Swiss parliament empowered the federal council to ratify the protocol under the condition that the mass immigration initiative is implemented in line with the principles of the free movement of people. On 16 December 2016, the Swiss parliament had its final vote on the implementation on the mass immigration initiative. Based on this, the federal council considered the condition met and has the same day ratified the Croatia protocol.

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Social sciences and humanities – an added value for your project

For decades, European research was primarily based on the expertise of researchers specialised in life and physical sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Now, the new Horizon 2020 policy looks further – it is based on a premise that integration of social sciences and humanities (SSH) aspects into European research projects is indispensible to generate new knowledge and innovation.

SSH encompasses various disciplines – from sociology, psychology, communication and political science to economics, history , culture, law and ethics. It is evident that the knowledge for solving different societal challenges, including those related to the environment field, is spread across STEM and SSH disciplines. SSH integration in Horizon 2020 projects can yield innovative solutions and products that are socially acceptable, directly applicable, marketable and cost-effective. In addition, SSH integration can substantially enhance the impact of the project and support effective dissemination of results and communication with the target group and the wider public.

What does SSH integration mean in practice?

SSH experts contribute to framing Horizon 2020 topics and, consequently, the SSH aspects determined by them must be adequately addressed in Horizon 2020 proposals. In addition, evaluation panels include SSH expertise and the evaluators are trained on how to identify and evaluate SSH aspects. Given the above, inclusion of SSH expertise in project proposals can substantially increase evaluation scores and consequently raise a chance for a grant.

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What is Belmont Forum about?

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.