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Energy expected to be EU R&D field worst hit by Ukraine war


Russia and Ukraine are both active in energy research and innovation, study warns

Energy is the EU R&D field most likely to be severely affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a new study analysing the impact on the bloc of reduced EU cooperation with Russian researchers and of the disruption caused to work and life in Ukraine.

The study, for the European Commission, warns that discontinuing collaboration with Russia, as many EU R&D organisations are doing, “could impact mainly research and innovation in the energy sector in the EU” because of Russia’s expertise and efforts in this field.

“Russia innovates mainly in the energy sector,” accounting for 3 per cent of the world share of innovation in the field, according to the report published this week.

“As scientific cooperation is a powerful tool for both technology transfer and knowledge sharing, discontinuing scientific collaboration with a partner specialised in the energy sector may limit economies of scale in the corresponding research fields and the uptake of technologies,” it warned.

According to the report, Russian research is directed primarily towards the natural sciences, physics, astronomy and history. Russia’s global share of patents is highest in chemistry and mechanical engineering, such as work on engines, pumps and turbines, it said.

In addition, the report flagged that Ukraine also has “inventors” concentrated in the fields of energy and transport. Its research is focused on ICT, physics, astronomy, mathematics and statistics, the report said, while its biggest share of world patents is in environmental technology, biological analysis and specialist machinery.

Impacts on Russia

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Commission announced that it was terminating grant agreements with Russian public bodies or related organisations, and freezing payments to them under the EU’s Horizon Europe R&D programme and its Euratom nuclear research and training programme. Many European governments and institutions have also severed ties.

According to the report, Russian science “is likely to be severely hit after scientific partnerships with the EU and other countries are discontinued”. It said that, between 2000 and 2020, 25 per cent of Russian publications involved international collaboration—more than Japan (23 per cent) or China (18 per cent)—and that among these papers, 58 per cent involved collaboration with the EU.

“Almost no other country … has such a preference for scientific collaboration with the EU. Also, as regards patent production, Russia tends to collaborate more internationally than the EU average … Hence, Russia relies more on international collaborations than other countries or regions, such as the EU, the USA, Japan or China when it comes to scientific and technological production,” the report says.

It warns that cutting R&D ties “could be detrimental mainly to Russia in the short term, but it can also impact both [Russian and EU] economies eventually”.