The next decade sees Europe facing some urgent challenges: climate change, biodiversity loss and feeding a growing population, to name but a few. At the same time, technology is developing apace, presenting both opportunities for novel solutions and worries about how to ensure it’s used for good. In September, as plans for the EU’s next research funding programme start to crystallise, we take a look at some of the pressing issues facing Europe and how the next research agenda should be designed to best serve people and planet. We will also be covering the EU’s Research and Innovation Days event at the end of the month, where policymakers, academics, business people and civil society organisations will gather to finalise priorities for Horizon Europe, the EU’s €100 billion research programme which runs from 2021 to 2027.
All technology and innovation have a science base but to get there requires patience, as the journey from curiosity-driven basic research to a world-changing technology can take six months or 50 years, a panel of Nobel and Kavli prize laureates has said.
People need to be persuaded that the ocean is not a problem or dangerous for humans, but that we are a problem for the oceans, according to former WTO trade chief Pascal Lamy, who kicked off discussions on Europe’s ambitions for protecting oceans over the next decade at a major research event in Brussels, Belgium.
A new equation showing that the world is ‘deep in a climate emergency’ was unveiled on 24 September by Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the world’s leading authorities on climate change, who said that people still don’t want to see the truth about the state we’re in.
More than two decades ago, Professor Andrew Oswald worked at the London School of Economics, UK, when he organised what he says was the world’s first conference on the economics of happiness. He put up posters, invited speakers, and waited for the crowds to come.
Cancer is a group of diseases that we may never be able to cure completely, but scientists are optimistic that vaccines, personalised medicine and smart lifestyle choices will help prevent and treat a much greater proportion of cases than currently happens.
People harbour lingering fears about the impact of robots on their jobs and welfare, but machines in the workplace have produced benefits that researchers believe are likely to continue. But for that to happen, challenges such as earning workers’ trust and improving safety and human-robot interaction must be overcome.
Countries across Europe have, in the past few years, announced their intention to become carbon neutral in the coming decades. Some, like Norway, have targets for 2030, while others, like the UK and France, have goals that extend to 2050. Despite the differences, however, all have agreed to decarbonise, but just what will this entail, and how will it work?
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology can help us fight climate change – but it also comes at a cost to the planet. To truly benefit from the technology’s climate solutions, we also need a better understanding of AI’s growing carbon footprint, say researchers.
Deforestation, intensive agriculture and rising urbanisation are all putting intense pressure on the Earth’s natural resources and resilience to climate change. But how exactly does the way we use land need to change if we are to take care of the planet and provide enough food and resources to sustain a growing population?
Innovative ways of supporting undocumented migrants so that they can access vital health, social and emergency services are required so that European countries can properly assist these vulnerable people.
With the world in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, in April Horizon takes a step back to look at some of the challenges around sudden outbreaks of emerging diseases. We speak to virologist Prof. Marion Koopmans about the likelihood of future outbreaks of new diseases, what causes them and how to spot them before they appear. We speak to scientists who are helping to develop tests for Covid-19 to understand the challenges in coming up with an accurate and detailed diagnostic test for an entirely new disease. We talk to people working on coronavirus treatments about how to shorten the normally lengthy process of drug development. And we look into why diseases suddenly jump from animals, such as bats, into humans and the particular challenges of spotting and responding to these types of outbreaks.
Private companies are increasingly active in the space sector – from high-profile businesses such as SpaceX or Virgin Galactic to the nearly 3,000 small businesses that provide elements for the European Space Agency’s space programme. In March, Horizon explores the impact of this on research and innovation. We speak to a space law researcher about how to avoid the problems emerging from an increasingly crowded orbit, such as collisions. We look at how to minimise the environmental impact of satellites and delve into efforts to build a reusable European launcher for small payloads. We also look at the challenge of assembling, maintaining and repairing objects in space and the developments in space robotics that could help.
We know that outbreaks like coronavirus will become more common in the future and tackling them is the Apollo programme of our time, according to Professor Marion Koopmans, head of the viroscience department at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The race for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, is on, with 54 different vaccines under development, two of which are already being tested in humans, according to the World Health Organization. And among the different candidates is a new player on the scene – mRNA vaccines.
Metagenomics can help us spot emerging diseases, says virologist Marion Koopmans.
What are they and why are they promising for coronavirus?
The more satellite launches we do, the bigger the risk of damage or debris, says Dimitra Stefoudi.