Based on information from Research Professional and UKRO, we have some news on the likely content of the 2016-17 Horizon 2020 work programmes. The work programmes give details of the content and focus of the calls for proposals over this period. At the moment the details are not finalised so there is a chance they might change slightly. However, it is useful to see how the focus of the programme as a whole is changing in the next period with greater emphasis on innovation and closer-to-market actions and seemingly stronger links to other EU policy areas. It also seems that although the societal challenges will continue to support some of the same activities, some new, perhaps more societally-relevant areas with potentially more scope for the social sciences and humanities research have been included. The aim of the programme as a whole feels more strongly linked to reasserting Europe’s industrial and economic power and leadership.
For each pillar of the programme, some of the key highlights are below.
Pillar 1: Excellence Science
In the Future and Emerging Technologies programme (FET), FET-Open will fund “a more diverse portfolio” of projects than previously and it is also hoped this will support a broader range of participants and include more young researchers and SMEs.
For 2016-17, the FET programme will tackle ethical questions on multidisciplinary research through the social sciences, humanities and the behavioural sciences and funding public engagement.
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions will continue to have annual calls for each strand (ITNs, Individual Fellowships, RISE and COFUND) but there will be a focus on improving the participation of female researchers. RISE will push for greater participation from non-EU countries. There will also be another European Researchers’ Night call in 2016 funding public engagement activities for a two year period.
Pillar 2: Industrial leadership
The new work programmes are likely to focus on manufacturing, 3-D printing and the Internet of Things, as well as pilots for crowdfunding and philanthropic finance.
The Internet of Things is about connecting everyday objects to the internet and the work programme looks specifically at clothes, energy systems, transport vehicles and hospital operating rooms. Large-scale demonstration projects will be funded to look at technology in real life.
In addition, there will be one major ICT call in both 2016 and 2017 to support research and product development in cloud computing, 5G internet development, big data and gaming software, robotics and autonomous systems and the development of micro- and nano-electronics and photonics for hardware. The EC is keen to fund ICT co-operation with Brazil, Japan and Korea.
A specific call for small businesses, through the SME instrument, and the Fast-Track to Innovation pilot for close-to-market research will be used to further boost commercial R&D. Research on data privacy and security, and social studies on people’s attitudes and acceptance of new technologies will also be funded.
There will be a call on nanotechnology, advanced materials, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing and processing, with a particular focus on the healthcare sector for nanomedicines, energy production, biotechnology and feedstock resources, as well as chemicals and agriculture. This will include social sciences and humanities research to look at the development and acceptance of nanotechnologies, risk assessments for new technologies and governance and ethics for synthetic biology.
There may also be a new public-private partnership around 3D printing.
Access to Risk Finance
In 2016-17, this work programme will increase the availability of financing for small R&D businesses as well as improve finance terms for medium and large companies. This will be achieved by using all the finance measures launched through Horizon 2020 this year which are run by the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund. The EC plans to engage more national banks in these initiatives.
Interestingly, following a Commission Communication on crowdfunding, there is also expected to be new pilot initiatives to increase crowdfunding for R&D, as well as philanthropic donations to support venture capital. The EC believes that crowdfunding could offer a flexible way to finance R&D, and also increase public engagement in science and research.
A fund to provide finance to young entrepreneurs may also be included.
Innovation in SMEs
The focus in 2016-17 will be on developing the third phase of the SME instrument, which supports the commercialisation of products, by providing business mentoring, legal advice and access to finance. Phase 1 supports feasibility studies and Phase 2 supports demonstration and piloting activities.
There may also be a pilot SME innovation fellowship, which would be run in conjunction with the Marie Curie-Skłodowska fellowships. This would enable SMEs to employ researchers to help them develop their innovations. The researcher could be from any discipline, not just science but also design, media and other arts and social sciences.
Funding will also be available to SMEs to help civil society organisations launch campaigns and develop new models for social innovation.
Pillar 3: Societal Challenges
There will be more cross-cutting priorities in the 2016-17 work programmes which will include areas such as automated road transport and the circular economy.
In the Health, demographic change and wellbeing challenge, there will be one single call focusing on “promoting healthy ageing and personalised healthcare” with a greater push around research and innovations in ageing. The call will include: ageing, translational molecular research, population health, infectious diseases and ICT for health. As well as projects rooted in science to understand the ageing process, social science research will also be required to examine what older people need to remain active and healthy. Translational molecular research will be supported to develop population-level profiling of genetic phenotypes and clinical outcomes of disease, to develop treatments for specific sub-populations. Population health will include treatment and prevention of mental health disorders and obesity. Infectious disease research will include the development of treatments and vaccines. The ICT for health strand aims to give patients more options to monitor and control their health and treatment strategies, as well as helping national health systems to integrate huge amounts of patient data and monitor changes in public health care.
The USA will be a priority partner for international healthcare cooperation and the EC will continue to support the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials 2 partnership, which funds trials in Africa.
The Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy challenge aims to develop the 2014-15 priorities of sustainable food production and blue growth whilst adding additional calls on food production in rural territories, and improving the bio-industries.
The food security call will cover food production techniques and how to make industries more resilient against the effects of climate change and natural disasters. The blue growth call will support ocean floating platforms for energy and food production, large-scale algae biomass refineries, deep sea mining and ocean monitoring. The “Rural Renaissance” focus aims to support farming, fisheries and environmental protection in less developed or coastal areas, with a link to EU Regional Development Funds. The bio-industries call will look at energy production, including social science research to ensure this development incorporates population preferences and perception of risks.
In societal challenge 3, Secure, clean and efficient energy, the areas of energy efficiency, low-carbon technologies and building smart cities will continue with a new focus on the security and affordability of energy. Within the topic of energy efficiency, smart energy production, the energy-efficiency of buildings, low-carbon sources of energy for heating and cooling, and developing new financial models and processes for energy production will be supported. Renewable technologies and biofuels, smart energy grids and new modelling systems for national and international energy production will be funded by the competitive low-carbon energy call. Under smart cities, projects around business models for energy-efficient urban areas will be supported.
Within the Smart, green and integrated transport challenge, “Mobility for Growth” will continue to be the main focus funding research across air, rail, road and water, but with an increased need for social science research to consider the possibilities for behavioural change and to ensure that technologies developed reflect users’ needs. There will also be a call around automated road transport, including developing self-driving cars, including satellite navigation technologies, component development, traffic management models and human-machine interactions. In addition, there will be a call for the public-private partnership on European Green Vehicles to develop better technologies for electric cars, and increase their use.
The Cleanest Engine, a challenge prize competition, will be launched to find a way to reduce the amount of pollution emitted from car and van engines.
The fifth societal challenge is Climate action, resources and raw materials. In this area, the new work programme proposes a more systematic approach to solving the problems of climate change, including new technologies, business models, financing options, governance structures and behavioural change. There is likely to be a major call looking at raw materials exploration, extraction, processing and recycling; climate services (specific tools, products and services to mitigate against the effects of climate change and strengthen the market for renewable energy); nature-based solutions (land-use planning projects to protect vulnerable areas, including coastal regions and forest).
In addition, under an earth observation stream, an open market for observational data from satellites is planned as well as a way to attract companies to make use of the large amount of data expected from the EU’s flagship satellite programme Copernicus.
A cultural heritage stream will support archaeology, history, anthropology, geography and economics projects to advance the profitability of European cultural sites and innovation related to cultural heritage. There will also be funding available for water conservation.
The overall aim of this challenge is to develop an approach to sustainable production called the circular economy and trigger changes in consumption patterns.
Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies is the challenge most closely aligned with social sciences and humanities research. There are three calls planned in 2016-17 around the themes of “Co-creation for growth” which is about the exchange of information and ideas, including education research into new ways of learning, involving citizens in policymaking and promoting the management and use of cultural heritage; “Reversing Inequalities” which will look at understanding and reducing differences between groups of society, by studying social unrest, extremism and xenophobic behaviour, as well as promote inclusive innovation; and “Engaging together globally” which will examine foreign policy strategies with the aim of maximising the EU’s influence on worldwide politics, and also study security policies, migration pattern and international cooperation in research.
The Secure societies Challenge aims to fight crime and terrorism, improve security and protect people and infrastructure. The 2016-17 work programme includes eight calls.
The disaster management call will support research into protecting against natural disasters as well as chemical, biological and explosive attacks on people and buildings. This also includes food security research, such as R&D on tracing food contaminants, protecting the Arctic and Antarctic regions from damage; and projects on risk assessment.
There will be a crime and terrorism looking at projects to tackle cyber-crime, trafficking and preventing radicalism and recruitment to terrorist organisations, as well as forensics research.
The call on border and external security will fund research on policing national boundaries, including enhanced measures to check electronic travel documents and improving maritime surveillance.
Digital Security will be a specific call which aims to fund projects to protect ICT systems from cyber attacks, including those in the areas of health, energy systems and transport, as well as focusing on protection for SMEs.
There will be four additional calls on cyber and physical security of European infrastructure and enterprises; privacy; the ethics of data security, and horizontal actions to improve pan-European coordination.