Europe’s Horizon 2020 and nanotechnology

Michael Berger’s July 1, 2013 Nanowerk Spotlight article features a commentary on a recent European Union publication, Nanotechnology: the invisible giant tackling Europe’s future challenges, which provides an overview of the current nanotechnology efforts under the Framework Programme 7 (FP7) funding  and a very brief peek at plans underway for nanotechnology funding under the Horizon 2020 programme, successor to FP7 after 2013.

From Berger’s article,

A new publication by the European Commission outlines nanoscience and nanotechnology dedicated research expenditure in Europe over recent years, in particular via the 7th research framework programme (FP7). An overview is given of the main sectors where nanotechnology is enabling significant progress. It highlights a selection of exemplary projects financed through FP7 that are representative of major research themes, such as nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, nanobiotechnology, nanomedicine, self-assembly, catalysts, industrial applications, energy and environment, tools for investing the nanoscale, health/safety/environment and communication/societal impact. The final chapter focuses on future economic benefits for Europe, such as improving health care, rejuvenating traditional industries and bringing solutions to the most major challenges facing Europe, a secure affordable energy supply and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

I did take a look at the report which is 44 pp PDF (42 pp print version). It offers some insight into the areas where the EU has chosen to focus its energies.  I was hoping for something a little more panoramic in scope, i.e., I would have liked to have seen a listing of all their currently funded nanotechnology projects arranged by theme. Still, they do offer a table which shows the funding and number of projects according to programme themes (Note: The information for this table is from p. 10 PDF version; p. 8 print version of the report)

Programme /Themes Number of Projects Funding in € million
ERC 296 514,5
Health 18 74,0
Energy 19 55,0
Environment 3 10,5
Food, Agriculture & Fisheries, & Biotechnology 13 39,5
NMP 238 896,0
Joint programmes 32 112,0
ICT 102 316,0
Security 4 10,2
Aeronautics 5 44,0
SPACE 9 24,3
Sustainable Surface Transport 3 7,0
SME 35 41,6
Science in Society 14 15,0
EraNets 4 10,5
Infrastructure 16 60,0
Marie Curie Actions 560 295,0
Regions 19 28,7
International Cooperation 10 6,3
TOTAL 1400 2560,0

* FP7 Funding of Nanoscience-Nanotechnologies between 2007 and 2011 (source EC: Common Research Data Warehouse (CORDA))

Perhaps this (excerpted from the report) better explains things (Note: A footnote has been removed),

Given the broad-reaching potential of nanotechnology, there has been a commensurate explosion in global research and development funding in recent decades. According to estimates, governments around the world have invested over USD 67 billion in nanotechnology research since 2000 and by 2015 investment, including that from corporate and private sources, could reach USD 0.25 trillion.

Europe’s funding levels are largely comparable to its major competitors, the US and Japan, standing at EUR 6-7 billion in 2007/8. The EC is currently nearing the end of its largest ever research funding initiative, FP7, with a total of EUR 50.5 billion available during 2007-2013 to support projects boosting the region’s competitiveness and tackling the grand challenges facing society in human health, climate change, energy and the environment.

Under FP7, the largest single share of funding for nanotechnology, some EUR 896 million for the period 2007-2011, comes through the dedicated Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies (NMP) stream, but significant support also comes through the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) stream (EUR 316 million), as well as the Health (EUR 74 million), Energy (EUR 55 million) and biotechnology (KBBE) streams (EUR 39.5 million). Meanwhile, the funding mechanisms that support individual researchers also serve as a conduit for nanotechnology-related funds, with the European Research Council (ERC) accounting for an estimated EUR 514.5 million and Marie Curie fellowships a further EUR 295 million. (from p. 10 PDF; p. 8 print version)

Oddly, there’s no mention of China as a major competitor relative to funding investment in the nanotechnology sector. These days one usually mentions China.

What follows in the rest of the report after the table is an overview of nanotechnology projects as organized by the EU’s  main themes. They are not religious in their approach so don’t expect that the table categories are followed exactly.

Other than funding, I found the peek into the future the most interesting aspect of this report,

Nanotechnology has exploded in recent decades and is now one of the centrepieces of the EU’s research funding programme. With its broad reach across diverse fi elds, nanotechnology stands on the verge of launching a new technological revolution. But while Europe has embraced the exploration of the nanoscale, European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn warns that the region faces an “innovation crisis”.

The Commission is responding with a major new financial instrument, Horizon 2020, which will supersede the successful FP research funding initiatives when they come to a close at the end of the year. Running from 2014 to 2020, the proposed EUR 80 billion initiative aims to harness research and innovation to drive new growth and jobs in the region. For the first time, Horizon 2020 will bring together all research and innovation funding under one umbrella, including a EUR 24.6 billion dedicated science budget, EUR 17.9 billion for industrial innovation including a EUR 1.2 billion package specifi cally for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and EUR 31.75 billion targeted at the most pressing issues facing Europe such as climate change, sustainable transport, renewable energy and the medical care requirements of an ageing population.

One of the already identified cornerstones of the Horizon 2020 programme, under the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) competition, will be a EUR 1 billion, ten-year sustained initiative dedicated to the investigation and exploitation of the unique properties of graphene. This exceptional nanomaterial possesses such remarkable physical and chemical properties that it has been dubbed the wonder material of the 21st century with far-reaching potential in electronics, transport, energy and medicine. The ‘Flagship’ effort on graphene, which will involve over 100 research groups and 136 principle investigators including four Nobel Laureates, indicates just how important nanotechnology is and will be over the coming decades.

But while the clear priority of the new funding programme is to bridge the gap between research and the market, the central tenant of the European research effort remains excellent science, without which there can be no progress. (p. 42 PDF; p. 40 print version)

I’m glad to see they mentioned the graphene flagship (its funding announcement was announced here in a Jan. 28, 2013 posting). The over allconclusion is that  nanotechnology is important to Europe’s future. Cynics might say they’d have to reach that conclusion given all the funding that nanotechnology research has received.

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