Towards new Horizons

The future strategy for TECH is well underway, and the individual sub-strategies are beginning to take shape. What lies behind the intentions and how can we approach tackling the tasks for the forthcoming years? In the upcoming period, we will highlight various aspects of the strategy's objectives and methods: this time, focus is on Horizon Europe and the long-term efforts that underpin pan-European collaboration.

[Translate to English:] Foto: Jesper Rais/AU Foto

The summer of 2021 will mark the first round of applications for Horizon Europe. According to Vice-dean for Research Brian Vinter, there is good reason to familiarise yourself with the opportunities available under the three pillars of the research programme: Pillar I includes the European Research Council (ERC). Pillar II consists of six thematic clusters that, via strategic work programmes and calls for proposals, will provide support to transnational consortia. Pillar III includes the European Innovation Council, a new independent organisation that grants innovation funding.

A number of focus areas address the academic strengths at TECH, such as the green transition and the digital transformation of society.

"As part of the strategy process, Tech has decided that we will measure ourselves on actual influence and on the impact of our research activities on Danish society and globally. Through Horizon Europe, the EU has issued a call to European knowledge institutions, to which we feel compelled to respond, and the way I see it, it’s very important that the faculty's academic competences are brought into play," explains Brian Vinter.

"Naturally, funding is secured by a researcher's competences, but there’s also strong focus on research collaboration. There are a number of opportunities to build networks and competences and then apply as part of Pillar II; for example via the COST programme that provides funding for pan-European consortia.”

EASE. Not easy.

One example of one such a conglomerate is the European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE). Europe is in the process of changing the operation of all its electrical systems. This is the result of growing electricity consumption by the population, more cross-border trade and a political desire for full integration of solar and wind energy.  

In recent years, in collaboration with a number of companies, Aarhus University has intensified research into battery technology, and this has paved the way for membership of the network for energy technology. Corneliu Barbu, assistant professor at the Aarhus University School of Engineering, has recently been appointed as the vice-chair of the network. He is the head of one of the university's very notable energy research projects, CUBER, which conducts research into new types of energy storage, and he has extensive experience in applying for – and obtaining – EU grants.

According to Corneliu Barbu, it is vital to have a well-functioning international collaboration on the development of new technologies and new political standards.

"There’s fierce competition for grants, so thinking about collaboration relationships and being prepared for the time and resources required to apply for funding, is a good start. One of the main drivers for success is support and understanding in the organisation that there is a risk that efforts could fail and amount to nothing. If there’s no consensus, you might just as well try to sneeze with your eyes open – it can’t be done," says Barbu about his own experience.

He explains that, as a country and a university, we are well positioned to play a central role in the research trends of the next few years, provided AU is able to create projects that meet EU expectations of increased inclusion and interdisciplinarity. 

"Thousands of players are currently brainstorming ideas for future projects to secure them a seat at the table. There’s no fixed recipe for success, but there’s plenty of seats at the negotiating table at the moment, and Denmark and AU have research environments with something to offer,” he says.

Good sparring opportunities

This view is shared by the vice-dean, who also encourages use of all the knowledge and experience at the faculty, university and among partners:

"The latest figures from the Research Support Office show that we, as a university, are broadly on a par with most other European institutions. AU has good success rates and that’s a very good starting point. That said, one of the goals of the strategy is to win more grants, so my New Year's wish is that everyone read the programme texts and ask any questions they may have about frameworks and options. There are good sparring opportunities here and in Brussels, where there are AU employees to guide and advise you," says the vice-dean.



Read more about Horizon Europe and find inspiration for sparring and making headway in the November newsletter from the Research Support Office.

Read more about the strategy work at TECH here.