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.
In June, against a backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, a climate emergency and an uncertain future, Horizon takes a look at anxiety. Are we becoming more anxious? What do we really know about the condition and who suffers from it? And how can we best treat it? We speak to anxiety disorder expert Professor David Baldwin about when anxiety turns from a normal response into a long-term problem and what we know – and don’t – about why this happens. We take a look at one particularly vulnerable group – teenagers – to understand how anxiety affects them and how they can best be treated. We explore the link between anxiety and our awareness of bodily sensations to understand, for example, why breathing can calm the mind, and we also talk to the researchers who believe the key to improving anxiety therapies is to look at how different people respond when under threat.
By 2050, the world's population will be an estimated 9.7bn people, up from today’s 7.7bn. To feed this growing population whilst also protecting the climate and biodiversity, our food system needs to change dramatically. In May, we look at what sort of future food system we want and how to get there. We speak to sustainability expert Prof. Peter Jackson about how lockdowns have exposed our reliance on fragile supply chains, and what needs to happen to shape a more sustainable food system. We look at the smart farming solutions that are being explored to support food producers, and urban experiments from tackling food waste to strengthening organic, local production to see how these efforts can be scaled up to make a big difference. And we investigate insects – a protein-rich food and feed source – and the efforts behind mainstreaming what is still a niche science.
In our continuing search for other life in the universe, one place has always looked promising – Mars. It is a rocky planet like Earth, orbiting the same star, and at a distance where water could have been present on the planet.
Moving more goods by water could reduce pressure on roads and cut emissions, yet Europe’s shipping industry is held back by labour shortages. Automated shipping – which would work in a similar way to self-driving cars – could help expand capacity but safety and regulatory hurdles remain.
The red planet may be our best bet for finding out whether we’re alone in the universe.
Reducing crew numbers onboard ships could overcome labour shortages and increase shipping levels.
Metagenomics can help us spot emerging diseases such as coronavirus, says virologist Marion Koopmans.