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Happy Friday! In this Morning Brief we open with the newest episode of “The Insider” featuring EARTO’s Sophie Viscido and a conversation on Technology Infrastructures, in the INESC universe, INESC TEC research enables faster scientific studies performed on supercomputers, Ukraine and Georgia have both joined COST Association and science academies receive $1.5M to support Ukrainian researchers, the Commission is also stepping up support for global action to transform food systems via eight global coalitions, and more!  

Any comments or suggestions, hit me up with an email on teresa.carvalho@inesc.pt.

In today's Morning Brief:

In today’s Morning Brief:

“The Insider” – new episode out with Sophie Viscido from EARTO!

In this week’s episode, we are addressing head on the critical questions being asked about Technology Infrastructures.

How distinct and specific are TIs in relation to other research and innovation support infrastructures? What specific challenges do they face over their lifecycle and how can their capacity be further leveraged? What is their role in a regional, national or transnational R&I ecosystem? Are TIs mostly local or is there a pan-European relevance and action rationale? What kind of governance and funding model should we develop to take the most out of their potential to help us build bridges between science and the market?

The Joint Research Centre, in partnership with EARTO – European Association of Research and Technology Organisations, recently published a report where most of these questions are further explored. And that is why our guest this week is Sophie Viscido, one of the authors of the report and certainly someone who is always very interesting and good fun to talk to.

Make sure to click here to listen to the episode on your preferred platform!


INESC TEC research enables faster scientific studies performed on supercomputers

The work developed by INESC TEC researchers João Paulo and Ricardo Macedo aims at ensuring that scientists who use supercomputers can carry out scientific studies in fields like medicine, natural sciences, climate change and others, faster and more accurately. The results of the research work were presented in late February, at one of the most important conferences in storage systems: USENIX FAST.

One of the current issues is the large amount of digital data, e.g., genomic data, which these studies need to access efficiently. In addition, supercomputers host hundreds to thousands of studies simultaneously, making this process even more difficult, since studies compete for access to shared storage resources, where their data is kept.

As a result of this work, and as a solution to this problem, the researchers from the High-Assurance Software Laboratory (HASLab), in co-authorship with researchers from UT Austin and AIST, presented the paper “PAIO: General, Portable I/O Optimizations with Minor Application Modifications” in this year’s edition of the USENIX Conference on File and Storage (FAST), one of the most important conferences in the storage systems field. The event took place between February 22 and 24, in Santa Clara (USA).


Ukraine and Georgia join COST Association

The general assembly of the COST Association has unanimously agreed to welcome Ukraine and Georgia as its latest members. The decision was taken in Paris yesterday, rounding up the number of COST member states to 40.

“The admission of Georgia and Ukraine as COST Full Members underpins the key role of COST in facilitating integration to the European research and innovation landscape,” said Alain Beretz, President of the COST Association.

“COST aims to foster open and inclusive networks of excellence in all scientific fields, and through their membership Georgian and Ukrainian researchers will be able to take a proactive role in proposals for future COST Actions,” said Beretz.    


Science academies get $1.5M to support Ukrainian researchers

The European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) will use the funds to support scientists fleeing the war and help Ukrainian universities, academies and research institutes continue their work and rebuild scientific facilities. 

The funds will be made available through a Europe-wide call this spring. It will offer finance for new and existing positions for postdoctoral researchers and associate or full professors affiliated with Ukrainian institutions.

The $1.5 million donation is provided by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, the organisation behind the Breakthrough Prize which recognises the world’s top scientists, known as the Oscars of science. It is part of a continuing collaboration between the foundation and European science academies.


Commissioner for Energy presides 10th EU-China Energy Dialogue

Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson hosted yesterday, via videoconference, the 10th edition of the EU-China Energy Dialogue, ahead of the EU-China Summit taking place today, with Administrator of the National Energy Administration Zhang Jianhua. They reviewed progress on the Joint Statement on the Implementation of the EU-China Energy Cooperation, which was signed in the margins of the 2019 EU-China Summit.

China is a key partner in global decarbonisation, as agreed under the Paris Agreement. Against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this year’s dialogue addressed topics of common interest, such as energy security, the green energy transition and electricity market reforms. LNG, natural gas and oil markets featured prominently in discussions on energy security.

Policies and practices to accelerate the green energy transition were at the core of exchanges with the Chinese counterparts. Three joint reports on power market reforms, innovative energy solutions and energy efficiency were presented at the meeting.

EU-China cooperation on energy issues


How UK and Swiss researchers are coping without association to Horizon Europe

According to Science|Business, “The UK and Switzerland are normally stalwarts of the EU’s research and innovation frameworks. But this time around both remain un-associated to the €95.5 billion Horizon Europe programme, meaning London and Bern have had to work up contingency measures and replacement grants for their researchers to mitigate the damage. The cause of this freeze-out is simple: higher level politics. Despite a campaign to keep science separate from politics, the Commission has not ratified association with the UK due to wider disputes over the post-Brexit settlement. Swiss association never even got off the ground after Bern last year pulled out of talks to recast its broader relationship with Brussels. There has been some hope that the invasion of Ukraine would snap all sides out of what are, in the grand scheme of things, arguably relatively petty disputes between friendly neighbours. The UK and Switzerland have lined up alongside the US and EU to sanction Russia. But there is still no sign of a shift from the Commission to de-link Horizon association from wider political disputes. “We seem to be glued in a situation which moves us a little further away each month from the win-win situation we had for science in Europe, with Switzerland and the UK acting as strong contributors to the EU research programmes,” said Yves Flückiger, president of the Swiss universities umbrella body.”.


Commission steps up support for global action to transform food systems via eight global coalitions

In light of the dire food security situation and high food prices, after two years of COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Commission is stepping up its support to the transformation of food systems by actively engaging in eight global Coalitions for Action.

These will assist partner countries in their efforts to transform food systems and help to advance the Farm to Fork Strategy agenda internationally. The decision to actively engage in these eight voluntary alliances for collective action is a follow-up to the Food Systems Summit held on 23-24 September 2021 in New York. The alliances gather national representatives, civil society organisations, researchers and international organisations to achieve transformation action in the field of food security. The Commission will be a major partner in eight coalitions:

  • Food is never waste;
  • Healthy diets from sustainable food systems for children and all;
  • School meals coalition;
  • Aquatic and blue foods;
  • Agro-ecology;
  • Zero hunger;
  • Fighting food crises along the humanitarian-development-peace nexus;
  • Sustainable productivity growth;

The Commission will work closely with Member States, UN agencies, civil society and other partners in the selected coalitions to enhance collective action in favour of a sustainable transformation of food systems.

Webpage on investing in sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Factsheet on resilience to food crises.


Energy transition: it’s now or never

Fires, floods and hurricanes, droughts and blizzards are becoming less and less striking, even despite the devastation they cause around the world. These events are quite often on the agenda and the common denominator is climate change.

Warnings about the possibility of climate change emerged in the 1950s, and as the decades passed, the apocalyptic scenarios started to become increasingly real. Although the debate has been going on for too long, we know today that human activity is the main cause for said phenomena. We are burning too many fossil fuels, cutting down far too many trees and producing too many greenhouse gases, which increases the planet’s temperature. The 2011-2020 decade was the warmest on record, with an increase of 1.1ºC above the pre-industrial levels recorded in 2019. There’s maximum urgency, and the European Union aims to avoid more catastrophic environmental changes. In this sense, it designed a set of measures aimed at fighting against climate change on several dimensions. One of them involves reducing the emission of polluting gases by limiting the use of fossil fuels, preferring clean, or renewable energy sources instead.

Don’t miss this article by INESC TEC explaining how Portugal is contributing to the energy transition through the acceleration of renewable energy.


Hydrogen to get a boost as EU looks to secure energy independence

According to Science|Business, “Europe is boosting its green hydrogen ambitions as it looks to secure energy independence following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and has increased targets for production and import of the gas by 15 million tonnes per annum. At the beginning of March, when energy prices were soaring in reaction to the war, the European Commission set out its RepowerEU proposals to ensure Europe is independent from Russian fossil fuels before the end of the decade. Increasing green hydrogen supplies is part of the plan. This ramps up the Commission’s hydrogen strategy launched in 2020, which called for €470 billion in investment by 2050 and set the goal of producing up to 10 million tonnes of the renewable version of the gas each year by 2030. Now, RepowerEU has boosted this number by an extra 5 million tonnes, in addition to another 10 million tonnes of imported green hydrogen. Felicia Mester, director for public affairs at the industry association Hydrogen Europe, said the proposal gives a clear push for hydrogen across all sectors, rather than just to decarbonise heavy industry, steel making and long haul freight, in the bid to achieve full carbon neutrality by 2050. “The political reality has shifted in the past month tremendously. It’s rather sad that this is the reason creating a boost for hydrogen, but if we look at RepowerEU we see a very clear push for hydrogen, for production, for infrastructure, for imports, for greater use,” said Mester. Given this, the question for industry is the “how to do it, not the if,” Mester said. There is no clear pathway yet, but a detailed plan for RepowerEU is due on 18 May. In the meantime, industry is assessing its needs, while the Commission looks to pool scarce resources from EU budgets.”.


Crypto assets: New rules to stop illicit flows in the EU

Yesterday, MEPs from the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) adopted, with 93 votes to 14 and 14 abstentions, their position on draft legislation strengthening EU rules against money laundering and terrorist financing.

Under the new requirements agreed by MEPs, all transfers of crypto-assets will have to include information on the source of the asset and its beneficiary, information that is to be made available to the competent authorities. The rules would also cover transactions from so-called unhosted wallets (a crypto-asset wallet address that is in the custody of a private user). Technological solutions should ensure that these asset transfers can be individually identified.

The aim is to ensure that crypto transfers can be traced and suspicious transactions blocked. The rules would not apply to person-to-person transfers conducted without a provider, such as bitcoins trading platforms, or among providers acting on their own behalf.

Make sure to read the press release here.


Conference on Industrial Technologies: IndTech 2022

Are you excited about the future of industrial technologies and eager to hear from and connect with key research organisations, industry actors and policymakers? Join the #IndTech2022 Conference held from 27 to 29 June in Grenoble, France.

The European Conference on Industrial Technologies is a flagship event in the European agenda, organised every two years by the European Commission. Under the programme of Horizon Europe‘s Cluster 4: “Digital, Industry and Space”, the conference will mobilise key players worldwide around the theme of the industrial technologies of tomorrow.

This year, IndTech will focus on industry’s dual green and digital transition, with discussions between researchers, industrial companies, start-ups, funding agencies and Commission representatives, as well as French administrative bodies and other Member States.

The event is co-organised by the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, and DG Research & Innovation of European Commission under the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in the world’s centre of scientific research – Grenoble.

Find out more here!


Germany backs call to establish EU plan for Ukrainian academics

According to Science|Business, “The German government is adding its weight to calls for the EU to come up with a coordinated plan to help students and academics from Ukraine and other countries going through war or other crises. Michael Vorländer, head of the education and research unit at Germany’s permanent representation of to the EU, said the number of Ukrainian refugees is high and the demand for inclusion in higher education and research institutions is growing rapidly. “We need to think big,” Vorländer told a conference organised by the German academic exchange programme DAAD on Thursday. “We get very positive signals from the European Parliament, from several members who are very supportive of establishing such a coordination mechanism or expert group,” he said. The comments were made just days after a group of academic cooperation organisations and university associations in Europe (including DAAD) sent a letter to the European Commission calling for the establishment of an expert group on students and researchers at risk and the scale up of existing initiatives that provide help Ukrainian students and academics. The expert group would ensure EU institutions, member states and university associations can work together on coordinating funding schemes for Ukrainian refugees. “The EU should be a haven for international students and researchers that face the risk of persecution or that were forced to flee due to armed conflict,” the letter says.”.


Commission seeks views on possible measures on access to in-vehicle data

The Commission published a call for evidence, accompanied by an open public consultation on a proposal on access to vehicle data, functions and resources, which would complement the proposal for Data Act published in February 2022.

With the call for evidence, the Commission invites interested parties to express views on the understanding of the problem, the need for EU intervention and on the preliminary range of possible options and their expected impacts. With the public consultation, the Commission seeks to collect information on the experience with access to vehicle data, functions and resources today. It also seeks to gather views on the possible impact of a range of possible measures, notably on competition, innovation, privacy, safety, security, etc.

Both the call for evidence and the public consultation build on the evidence gathered by the Commission, mainly by means of studies and workshops with all relevant parties. This initiative on in-vehicle data follows and complements the proposal for a Data Act, published in February 2022. It will build on its principles and aim to address some sector-specific issues, such as the bi-directional access to vehicles resources and the interplay between access to data and cybersecurity. They will be open until 21 June 2022.

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