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In this Morning Brief, we open up with a new episode of “The Insider”, the sixth episode of the Deep Tech series of podcasts produced in partnership with Science|Business featuring Armando Fernandes from INOV, discussing deep tech in the agrisector. We also discuss EU member states breaking EIC’s work programme deadlock, the fact that renewable energy is on the rise and news about lump sum funding in Horizon Europe. Moreover, you will find recent publications from key European agencies and the European Parliament on Digital Identity and legislation in the digital field and the announcement of ICRI, the International Conference on Research Infrastructures, celebrating its 5th edition and it’s 10th anniversary, this time in Brno, Czech Republic, later this year.

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:

Deep Tech in the Agrisector – a podcast episode with Armando Fernandes (INOV)

The sixth episode of the Deep tech series of podcasts produced by the INESC Brussels Hub in partnership with Science|Business features Armando Fernandes, Senior Data Scientist/Researcher at INOV, specialised in plant variety and clone discrimination using hyperspectral data.

In this episode, Fernandes showcases a specific deep tech solution that illustrates how this can be applied to solve concrete problems in the agricultural sector.

Don’t miss the episode here!


ICRI – International Conference on Research Infrastructures

ICRI is a major worldwide event providing an opportunity for strategic discussions about international cooperation in research infrastructure. A variety of experts and stakeholders from around the world discuss challenges and emerging trends, highlighting the essential role of research infrastructures. Every two years since 2012, ICRI has hosted about 500 delegates, who discuss topics concerning research infrastructures on the international level. The venue alternates between the EU and third countries, and the event is organised jointly by the European Commission and the host country. The upcoming ICRI in 2022 will take place in Brno, Czech Republic, from 17 to 21 October.

See the page of the event here.


Ethics in ERC projects, Seminar, 17 February

The European Research Council (ERC) has a strong focus on research ethics. For some proposers, lacking attention to the ethical sides of their proposals and projects create challenges in the grant agreement and the execution phases. This webinar will highlight research ethics treatment in the ERC Executive Agency, as well as experiences made by an ethics evaluator and an ERC grantee.

Find more information on the ERC web page for research ethics.

See the full programme and register for the event here.


Member States break European Innovation Council’s work programme deadlock

In this Science|Business article, EU member states have voted to break the political deadlock that has been holding back the EIC‘s 2022 work programme. This means details of the programme should be published by 8 February, allowing hundreds of tech companies to apply for capital they need to grow in the EU and global markets.

Start-ups and innovators have been waiting for the EU’s new innovation fund to kick off for the year. The first calls were expected to launch in January but the infighting over the work programme derailed the plans. The deadlock has also affected companies promised equity funding in 2021, which are also waiting for the capital to start flowing.

With change rejected for now, and the work programme for 2022 voted through, it remains to be seen how the discussion around the future of the EIC fund will evolve.


Renewables on the rise, coal continuously falling

Although oil and natural gas were still the most important fuel sources in the EU energy mix in 2020, renewable energy’s share continued to rise. After surpassing coal and nuclear, renewables are on the way to becoming the most important energy source in a future EU-climate neutral economy.

Renewable energies and biofuels continue their long-term upward trend. After surpassing solid fossil fuels and nuclear in the previous decade, the next milestone towards a more sustainable and carbon-free economy would be to exceed natural gas.

Don’t miss the Eurostat database for this new data here.


Plans for lump sum funding in Horizon Europe move forward amid scepticism

Disagreements persist over the use of lump sum funding in Horizon Europe, as the European Commission gears up for broader implementation over the next couple years.

The Commission began a pilot of lump sum funding four years ago in an effort to cut red tape in EU research funding programmes. Instead of disbursing the money based on costs incurred, paying lump sums allows the Commission to pull together various costs under work packages that do not require detailed financial reporting.

For research organisations with more experience with EU programmes, which submit several projects every year say, the lump sum system would increase their workload, as most paperwork needs to be completed during the application and grant preparation phases.

The discussion that took place in an European Parliament event, was reported by Science Business here and you can check the website of the event here.


Digital Identity: Leveraging the SSI Concept to Build Trust

ENISA, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity has just published a paper on Digital Identity. The maintenance of continuity in social life, businesses and administration has accelerated the reflection on the possibility of a need for such decentralised electronic identity. This report explores the potential of self-sovereign identity (SSI) technologies to ensure secure electronic identification and authentication to access cross-border online services offered by Member States under the eIDAS Regulation. It critically assesses the current literature and reports on the current technological landscape of SSI and existing eID solutions, as well as the standards, communities, and pilot projects that are presently developing in support of these solutions. This study takes a wide view of decentralised electronic identity, considers possible architectural elements and mechanisms of governance, and identifies security risks and opportunities presented by SSI in view of cross-border interoperability, mutual recognition, and technology neutrality as required by eIDAS.

Download the full report here.


Identification and assessment of existing and draft EU legislation in the digital field

This study, published by the European Parliament think tank, aims to deliver to the AIDA committee an overview of all existing and planned EU legislation in the digital field, together with an assessment of the interactions amongst these pieces of legislation. The analysis of the interplay between the legal acts, which regulate the development, placing on the market, and use of AI systems, or other AI-related aspects, has revealed intended or inadvertent regulatory gaps that should be addressed. This document was provided by the Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies at the request of the special committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA).

Download the full study here.


Turning harmful CO2 into useful chemicals

Making important raw materials for fine chemicals out of carbon dioxide really works.

As part of the Max Planck collaborative project eBioCO2n, a team of researchers from Fraunhofer IGB have successfully performed a first ever fixation of CO2 via a multi-enzyme enzyme reaction driven by electricity yielding a prospective intermediate for the chemical industry. The process for electro-biocatalytic CO2 fixation was recently published and is considered a “hot paper” by Fraunhofer in this press release.

Check it out here


High electricity prices, renewables and windfall profits – all paid for by EU citizens

In this column by Mike Parr and Simon Minett for EURACTIV, both argue the ongoing electricity price hike fuelled by the gas crisis makes a reform of EU power market rules more urgent than ever.

Since October, the EU’s Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) has been tasked with reviewing the functioning of this market, given the surge in electricity prices. In its preliminary report published in November, the organisation forecast that high electricity prices will stay like that for at least two years.

While undertaking its review, ACER might wish to consider the fact that EU citizens because of current market structures, are being “taxed” twice: Once via VAT, an element in all electricity bills, and twice via the increase in power prices which delivers windfall profits to companies and in some cases governments.

Don’t miss the column here.

Whilst in the topic of electricity and energy, don’t miss the 12th Power and Energy Webinar Series by INESC TEC featuring Ricardo Bessa and Pierre Pinson discussing data privacy and monetization in the energy sector here.

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