What is European research and innovation? And why is it relevant to Switzerland?
The European Union invests a significant part of its budget in research and innovation, the largest and most comprehensive programme being Horizon 2020, which runs from 2014 to 2020 with a €70.2 billion budget.
By coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020 is helping to achieve 1) a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and 2) jobs, with its emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.
Horizon 2020 is open to everyone, with a simple structure that reduces red tape and time so participants can focus on what is really important. This approach makes sure new projects get off the ground quickly – and achieve results faster.
While Switzerland is not a member state of the European Union, it has a full associated country status, which means that it can participate in most Horizon 2020 opportunities and has the same rights as a member state.
So, what is there for Space?
Space is one specific area covered by Horizon 2020.
Space-related research and innovation can be carried out under many of the different Horizon 2020 funding opportunities. The figure below shows the 3-pillar structure of Horizon 2020.
In the pillar “Excellent Science”, funding for Space-related research and innovation is available under:
European Research Council (ERC). The ERC funds ground-breaking frontier research projects across all fields of science (no pre-defined topics) to support European leadership in world-class research. Support is given to outstanding Individual Principal Investigators of any nationality based on the scientific excellence of their project proposal. ERC projects are normally based on high-risk/high-gain research that crosses traditional disciplinary boarders and/or applies innovative approaches.
Future and Emerging Technologies (FET). FET supports collaborative research (consortium of 3 or more entities is needed) in order to extend Europe’s capacity for advanced and paradigm-changing innovation. It fosters scientific collaboration across disciplines on radically new, high-risk ideas and accelerates development of the most promising emerging areas of science and technology. Topics are not pre-defined and the scheme requires a consortium of at least 3 entities.
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). This programme aims to support researchers at different stages of their career. MSCA are open to all domains of research and innovation, from basic research to market take-up and innovation services. Mobility is a key requirement for the different actions. Calls are open to individual researchers and innovation staff, as well as to universities, research institutions, businesses (SMEs and large industry) and other socio-economic players from all countries.
Research Infrastructures. The objective of this programme is to ensure European researchers access to world-class research infrastructures. The European Commission considers not only major scientific equipment to be research infrastructure but also includes sets of instruments, knowledge-based resources such as archives, databases, etc. and enabling ICT infrastructures (e-Infrastructures) such as grids, computing, software and communication infrastructure. Support is given to existing as well as to new research infrastructures.
In the pillar “Industrial Leadership”, funding for Space-related research and innovation is available under:
The “Space” thematic area, where the calls for funding are “top-down” (topic has been defined by the European Commission) and collaborative. For the currently open funding opportunities, which have a deadline of 5th March 2020, the overall budget is €223 million. On average, an individual project receives a budget of €2-3 million, which is then split amongst the consortium members and distributed over the whole duration of the project (generally 3-4 years). More in detail, the areas covered are:
Space technologies, science and exploration, overall budget of €65 million, including:
Data exploitation of European missions and instruments, in conjunction, when relevant, with international missions
Earth Observation (Copernicus): €43 million
Navigation (Galileo): €20 million
Safe and Secure Environment (space weather, space traffic management, space surveillance and tracking (SST), Near Earth Objects (NEOs)): €67 million
The “Innovation in SME” area, which comprises the “EIC Accelerator Pilot” scheme. This funding scheme aims at boosting high-risk, high-potential small- and medium-sized innovation enterprises willing to develop and commercialise new products, services and business models that could drive economic growth and shape new markets or disrupt existing markets in Europe and globally. The scheme is mono-beneficiary (no consortium needed) and there are no pre-defined topics.
The “Fast-Track-to-Innovation” funding scheme. This is a funding programme dedicated to consortia with three to five entities. Close-to-market projects are required, industry must participate and interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged.
Are there any examples of past projects / success stories?
For top-down collaborative projects (the three examples below involve Swiss organisations):
MiARD – Multi-instrument Analysis of Rosetta Data. This project carried out research to provide an integrated description of the physical and chemical properties of the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov- Gerasimenko using date from the Rosetta orbiter and lander (a mission conducted by the European Space Agency). The project, led by the University of Bern, was successfully completed in summer 2018.
EGSIEM – European Gravity Service for Improved Emergency Management. The aim of this project was to demonstrate that mass redistribution products deliver fundamental insights into the global water cycle and therefore open the door for innovative approaches to flood and drought monitoring and forecast.
VERTIGO – VERy high Throughput Satellite-Ground Optical Link. This running project, led by Thales Alenia Space, focuses on optical feeder links for satellite communication systems. Specifically, it aims to develop systems for ground and on-board technologies, providing increased throughput with higher spectral and power efficiency.
For European Research Council (ERC):
ExoAI – Deciphering super-Earths using Artificial Intelligence. This project, which is still running, moves away from the status quo of treating individual exoplanets as case-studies and analysing data ‘by hand’. This is done through a globally encompassing, self-consistent and self-calibrating approach utilising state-of-the-art neural networks and Bayesian atmospheric retrieval algorithms applied to big-data. Given all available data of an instrument, ExoAI will autonomously learn the best calibration strategy, intelligently recognise spectral features and provide a full quantitative atmospheric model for every planet observed.
For the “Innovation in SME” – “EIC Accelerator Pilot” area:
ICEYE – Microsatellite radar network for fast update Arctic ice surveillance. This project, which was concluded in February 2018, set up an information service that offers a 2-hour image refresh rate for tracking ice features using a constellation of 6 microsatellites with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imaging. The ICEYE solution provided customers up to 25% increase in operational efficiency, reducing fleet sizes and greatly lowering the risk of tanker accidents in the Arctic. See also the corresponding press release.
For Research Infrastructures:
RadioNet – Advanced Radio Astronomy in Europe. RadioNet is a consortium of 27 institutions in Europe, Republic of Korea and South Africa, integrating at European level world-class infrastructures for research in radio astronomy. These include radio telescopes, telescope arrays, data archives and the globally operating European Network for Very Long Baseline Interferometry (EVN). RadioNet is de facto widely regarded to represent the interests of radio astronomy in Europe.
So, what is Euresearch and how can it help me?
Euresearch is a non-profit association, with offices in all the Swiss regions and a Network Office in Bern, whose objective is to facilitate a high Swiss participation in the EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation by informing, advising and connecting researchers based in, or coming to, Switzerland.
Euresearch helps perspective applicants by:
Offering an overview of European research and innovation programmes, of current and upcoming funding opportunities and of participation and funding rules. This is done through events, factsheets, newsletter and other tools.
Identifying the best funding opportunity for a specific applicant, through workshops and/or individual face-to-face meetings.
Helping the applicant in finding or forming a consortium, by using partnering platforms as well as networking and brokerage events.
Supporting the applicant during the preparation of the project proposal, all the way to the proposal submission.
Euresearch is supported by the Swiss federal government. Its services are free of charge.
I’d like to know more!
Euresearch is there to help you! Your options:
Browse our website for funding opportunities (refer to the “Open Calls” section)
Subscribe to our newsletter and e-alert service
Get in touch directly for specific advice.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon!