In the 1950s, energy research was a force for peace in Europe, but climate change and the need for energy security mean it is at least as important now as it was then.
‘Energy research needs to be one of the main factors of European integration,’ said Professor Pierre Papon, the former director general of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). ‘This is a key point and history has shown it.’
With the European Coal and Steel Community, set up in 1951 to secure peace after the ravages of World War II, and the EURATOM organisation created in 1957, energy was among the first areas of transnational research cooperation in Europe.
Nuclear energy remains a major field of collaborative research, with the EU playing a leading role in nuclear fusion research, and making a major contribution to ITER, the experimental fusion reactor currently being built in Cadarache, France. EU research on nuclear fission concentrates on security and safety.
However, the search for clean, sustainable energy was still in its infancy when the Framework Programmes started in the 1980s. It wouldn’t be until the 1990s, when the newly established UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change began to issue assessment reports, that climate change made its way into public consciousness, and government policy.
‘I want to reform and reorganise Europe’s energy policy in a new European Energy Union.’
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
Under the Joule programme that started under the Second Framework Programme in 1987, research into energy efficiency and renewable energies became increasingly prominent, and by the Fifth Framework Programme EUR 1 billion had been invested in energy research.
The need to accelerate the development of sustainable energy and work out ways to efficiently manage the energy grid prompted the EU in 2007 to launch its Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan), which aims at accelerating the development and deployment of cost-effective low-carbon technologies. It is within this overall energy policy framework that EU research on new energy technologies has taken place since the start of the Seventh Framework Programme.
Europe still has work to do before it reaches its 2020 goal of 20 % of its energy coming from renewable sources, with investment needed if an energy transition is to be achieved. That’s why secure, clean and efficient energy has been named as one of the seven societal challenges of Horizon 2020, with almost EUR 6 billion of funding allocated to it. Given what’s at stake, energy needs to be a policy priority once again for Europe. Its importance has been recognised by the new Commission with President Jean-Claude Juncker stating: ‘I want to reform and reorganize Europe’s energy policy in a new European Energy Union.’
To celebrate three decades of the European Commission, Commissioner Carlos Moedas and Director-General Robert-Jan Smits discuss its achievements and current focus, Horizon 2020.
Thousands of metres below the Atlantic Ocean live strange types of coral that no human has ever set eyes on. Or at least that was true until last year, when a group of researchers began investigating the uncharted abyss with a remotely-operated vehicle.
Nearly 100 years ago scientists developed a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB). Today, there are 10 million new cases worldwide and 1.6 million deaths from the disease every year. Increasingly, these cases are becoming difficult to treat as the bug that causes the disease can be resistant to antibiotics. However, several new TB vaccines are under development and there is growing optimism that a new vaccine will emerge, says Helen McShane, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, UK. This could save millions of lives, she said, but more work is needed to reassure the general public that vaccines are safe and effective.
Forests have a special magic for many of us. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, they are places for enchantments, mythical creatures and outlaws. But if they are to survive into the future, they may also need a helping hand from science.
Tuberculosis is the most common cause of death from an infectious disease.
Computer modelling will also help optimise management techniques.
Entrepreneur Nicklas Bergman on the European Innovation Council.