Welcome to today’s Morning Brief. The Morning Brief newsletter is only available to INESC staff and affiliated researchers upon subscription (weekly or daily), after creating an account in the Private Area of the HUB website. To do so, click the log-in icon on the top-right corner of this website.

In this Morning Brief we update you on the WG Agro/META4 latest Workshop, announce many new measures taken by the European Commission, including a call for evidence ahead of a new proposal on microplastics, let you know that Portugal has exceeded its limits for all environmental categories, 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:

WG Agro/Meta4 Workshop

Today we had our WG Agro Workshop where we introduced the new name of the group: META4, which is not an acronym but ensures that the new domains of the working group are covered, especially water.

Aligned with Horizon Europe, the group presented its vision for the META4 roadmap, including the challenges identified, intervention areas, LAWF domains and the technological competences the INESCs possessed.

It was a very interesting discussion and for those that were unable to attend we urge you to check out the presentation in the Hub’s private area here where its accessible at any time. If you’re an INESC researcher and feel like you might have some interesting points to add to the conversation, the presentation also features a ConceptBoard which is available for contributions until 6 December.

Microplastics: Contribute to call for evidence ahead of new proposal

The European Commission has launched a call for evidence for the upcoming initiative aiming to tackle microplastics unintentionally released into the environment. The initiative will focus on labelling, standardisation, certification and regulatory measures for the main sources of these plastics.

This call for evidence is now open for feedback until 28 December 2021. Your input will be taken into account as the Commission further develops the initiative.

For more information click here.

Commission announces €272M for European Universities alliances

The European Commission has announced a new Erasmus+ call for proposals to boost the European Universities initiative.

With a total budget of €272 million, the 2022 Erasmus+ call on European Universities will close on 22 March 2022. The money is set to help higher education institutions to boost their performance and international competitiveness.

The European Universities initiatives kicked off with two pilot calls in 2019 and 2020. It helped set up a total of 41 transnational alliances involving 280 universities in the EU and Iceland, Norway, Serbia, Turkey and the UK.

The 2022 will help existing alliances boost their cooperation efforts, but higher education institutions can team up to create new European Universities.

Find out more here.

Commission publishes its Health and Food Audits and Analysis Programme for 2022

One of the missions of the European Commission is to verify that the standards set out in European Union legislation on food and feed safety, food quality, animal health and welfare, plant health, EU quality standards and certain areas of human health, are correctly implemented in Member States and in third countries, for their exports to the EU.

To achieve this mission, the European Commissions has established its Health and Food Audits and Analysis Programme for 2022. It plans to conduct 281 controls in total, which include 172 audits and similar controls, as well as 109 analyses of EU Member State and third country control systems.

In addition, Commission experts will perform other demand-driven controls such as the analyses of border control posts, joint assessments on medical devices, fact-finding missions to testing facilities and controls on third country listings for exports to the EU.

The selection of these controls results from a careful prioritization process, based on legal obligations for Commission controls, risks posed in the sectors concerned and the Commission’s political priorities, and in particular the Farm to Fork Strategy.

The outcome of the audits and similar controls is made available to the public on the website of the European Commission. Find out more here.

Finland sets up its first quantum computer

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland this week launched the country’s first quantum computer in a bid to learn and develop expertise in next-generation computing. 

Built together with the quantum computing hardware startup IQM, the new 5 quantum-bit supercomputer is the first step towards the partners’ ambition to produce scalable and easier to manufacture quantum computers. By 2024, VTT and IQM aim to build a much more powerful 50-qubit quantum computer to secure Finland’s expertise in the field. 

While Finland ups ambition, the EU has been playing catch up with China and the US by boosting investments in quantum computing and setting up a €7 billion public-private supercomputing partnership under the Horizon Europe research programme.

Fraunhofer develops IT solutions for stable supply chains

Earthquakes in South America, floods in Germany or political unrest in Asia: all compromise supply chains. A research team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM is developing mathematical methods that can be used to calculate how to minimize risks to supply chains. “Mathematically speaking,” explains Dr. Heiner Ackermann, Deputy Head of Optimization – Operations Research, “these disruptive events create a multidimensional decision problem.”

Fraunhofer added that the top priority is as few assumptions as possible. “Our work has set the ball rolling – companies that previously relied on Excel spreadsheets and their gut feeling are now engaging in very fruitful discussions,” explains Ackermann, adding: “Whether you are dealing with supply chains or supply networks, mathematics is a universal and very effective tool.”

Read all about it here.

Reforming research assessment: The way forward

The European Commission has published a report summarizing the outcomes of extensive consultations with European and international stakeholders from March to November 2021.

Assessment of research quality and impact, and of researchers’ performance, is crucial to selecting which proposals to fund, to deciding which researchers to recruit, promote or reward, and to identifying which research units and institutions to support.

Research is currently undergoing a digital transformation, becoming more collaborative, open, and multidisciplinary, and producing a larger diversity of outputs. At the same time, the current research assessment system often uses inappropriate and narrow methods and criteria to assess the quality, performance and impact of research and researchers.

The report proposes a way forward for the implementation of new principles and actions. This would consist of a European agreement to be signed by individual research funding organizations, research performing organizations, and national/regional assessment authorities and agencies, as well as by their associations, all willing to reform the current research assessment system.

Download the report here.

Portugal exceeds limits for all environmental categories, study finds

Portugal has exceeded pollution limits in all environmental categories like greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, according to a study released on Wednesday (1 December), which said future generations will have to emit half the amount of its predecessors.

Researchers from the Instituto Superior Técnico concluded that limits have already been exceeded in all environmental categories, such as greenhouse gas emissions, waste production, water and air pollution, freshwater consumption or pressure on ecosystems, which in this case is within the limits, but only because Portugal is not self-sufficient in food.

The study “Ecological Limits: The Intergenerational Impact of the Use of Natural Resources”, under the project dedicated to Intergenerational Justice, of Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Foundation Future Forum, was presented on Tuesday in an online session for journalists and was coordinated by Tiago Domingos and Ricardo da Silva Vieira, from the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), and was developed by Maretec, IST’s research centre.

Read more about this here.

EU Council pitches significant changes to AI Act proposal

The Slovenian Presidency circulated a compromise text on the EU’s draft AI Act, including major changes in the areas of social scoring, biometric recognition systems, and high-risk applications, while also identifying future points for discussion.

The rotating presidency of the EU Council shared a first compromise text on Monday (29 November) to accompany a progress report on the EU’s AI Act.

In this progress report, EU countries restate their exclusive competence in national security measures, and insist that AI systems developed exclusively for military purposes should be taken out of the scope of the regulation. AI systems developed for the sole purpose of scientific research and development have also been excluded from the scope.

Read more about the changes made to the proposal here.

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