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Happy Monday! In this Morning Brief, we open with the Flagship Conference of the Czech Presidency in the Council of the EU on Synergies in the Research and Innovation Funding in Europe, the European Innovation Fund is investing 1.1 billion euros into seven green transition innovations, the European Investment Bank is helping Lithuania with more efficient city heating in Vilnius, the European Commission is opening negotiations for Ukraine’s participation in the LIFE programme for climate and environment, 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:

Synergies in the Research and Innovation Funding in Europe: Flagship Conference of the Czech Presidency in the Council of the EU

The Conference on Synergies in the Research and Innovation Funding in Europe, to be organised by the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, will take place from Thursday, 7th July to Friday 8th July 2022 in Prague, Czechia, as a lunch-to-lunch event.

The conference will address the topic of synergies in the research and innovation funding in its broad perspective. A lot of efforts have been already made by both the Member States and the European Commission to exploit the full potential of synergies to increase the research and innovation funding intensity within the EU.

This flagship conference will build on existing good practice examples and experience sharing, and also provide a high-level forum for debates on deficiencies in synergies settings and putting synergies in practice.

High-level representatives of the European Commission and the Member States will present their views and discuss how to remove persisting barriers and facilitate synergies. The outcome of the conference and goals for the future will be presented in the form of the “Prague Declaration on Synergies in the Research and Innovation Funding in Europe”.

For more information, click here.


European Innovation Fund puts €1.1 billion in seven green transition innovations

The seven projects will deploy innovative low-carbon technologies on an industrial scale, aiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 76 million tonnes during the next decade.

The projects will cover technologies in hydrogen, steel, chemicals, cement, solar energy, biofuels, and carbon capture and storage sectors.

The European Innovation Fund behind the €1.1 billion investment pools money from the proceeds of the EU emission allowances trading system. Its second call for proposals launched yesterday.

Read more here.


Lithuania: EIB support for more efficient city heating in Vilnius

The EIB is supporting the modernisation of heat distribution infrastructure in Vilnius to ensure residents have a more reliable heat supply, while also contributing to environmental protection.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and AB Vilniaus Šilumos Tinklai (VŠT) have signed a long-term credit agreement of up to €43 million to finance the modernisation of Vilnius’ heating network. This will not only ensure that Vilnius residents have access to a more reliable heat supply, but will also contribute to environmental protection. The investment programme will help to improve energy efficiency and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and other airborne pollutants.

Technically speaking, some 17 km of old pipelines will be replaced with modern, pre-insulated ones. Worn-out pipelines from the last century are currently causing major heat loss and increasing the risk of accidents. Additionally, 4 km of new pipelines will provide energy efficiency gains by connecting newly built houses and service buildings to the network.

As part of the project, a biomass combined heat and power plant with a capacity of 6 MWth and 2.6 MWel will be installed together with a solar energy collector. VŠT will also install an absorption heat pump to increase the efficiency of the biomass boiler.

Learn 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 to open negotiations for Ukraine’s participation in LIFE programme for climate and environment

The Commission is starting negotiations with Ukraine to offer the country the possibility to join the LIFE programme for climate and environment. The LIFE programme aims notably to contribute to the shift towards a sustainable economy, to protect the environment, to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Find out more here


Horizon Europe: a new initiative for Young Observers in evaluations

The European Commission has launched a new call for expression of interest to foster skills and professional development for young students in Europe. The Horizon Europe calls Youth 2022 initiative invites master level students to participate as young observers in the evaluations of proposals under Horizon Europe, the EU’s research and innovation funding programme.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said: “This new initiative will allow students across Europe to witness as observers the robust, fair and impartial evaluation process at EU level that contributes to Europe’s cutting edge research and competitiveness.  We need to encourage young people to access all the opportunities EU research and innovation can offer.”

Students currently enrolled in a master’s programme, in any discipline, at a university in an EU member state can apply. Students from disadvantaged and diverse backgrounds or belonging to vulnerable and marginalised groups are particularly encouraged to apply.

Learn more here.


Commissioner: EU’s sustainable food strategy ‘on pause’, but not forgotten

According to EURACTIV, “The war in Ukraine has “pressed the pause button” on the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy, but the long term ambition for the sector remains unchanged, according to the EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides. “We press the pause button without changing the level of ambition of the Farm to Fork strategy,” the Commissioner said while addressing concerns from lawmakers in the European Parliament’s agriculture committee on Thursday (31 March). This pause is necessary to ensure that food security is “guaranteed for the European neighbourhood,” she said, adding that Russia’s “atrocious invasion of Ukraine has brought the question of food security to the very top of our political agenda”. Between skyrocketing food prices and shortages of key inputs, such as fuel and fertiliser, the war has sent the EU agrifood sector reeling. To cope with the fallout from the war, the EU executive has rolled out a series of short-to-medium term measures designed to minimise disruption, the most controversial of which includes allowing a derogation permitting farmers to plant crops on ecological focus area. Meanwhile, the Commission is coming under increasing pressure to grant a derogation from the EU’s nitrate’s directive, which aims to protect water quality across Europe by preventing leakage of nitrates from agricultural sources, in order to cope with rising fertiliser prices. Standing by the decision to approve these short term measures, the Commissioner said these actions are “necessary to mitigate the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war,” calling for “pragmatism” in dealing with these “unprecedented” circumstances. “We’re working hard to address global food security and for food affordability in the EU, including finding alternative feed sources for the short term,” she said.”.


40 projects willing to advance the restoration of soil health in Europe

The Commission has received 40 proposals in response to the Horizon Europe Mission Soil Call, with a deadline of 24 March. With the 2021 soil mission call for proposals, the European Commission aims to fund projects that help to lay the foundations for a structured roll-out of mission activities. This will set out a credible pathway to contribute to the mission’s goal and objectives.

Applicants to the  call were asked to submit project proposals, explaining how their research could contribute to the creation of a new generation of soil advisors for the future establishment of soil health living labs across Europe. Applicants could also propose how they would raise awareness of the value of investing in soil health and its co-benefits for society. All this while involving different societal actors. The total available budget is €62 million for the eight different topics open for the submission of proposals. Twelve projects are expected to be funded.

Read more here.


Commission strengthens market surveillance: Opening of new laboratories for testing emissions from motor vehicles

The Commission has inaugurated two new laboratories, within the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra (Italy) that will allow scaling up Commission’s capacity to test emissions from cars on the EU market. This will help the Commission to determine whether vehicles comply with relevant EU emissions regulations, improving its ability to conduct market surveillance of vehicles. The Commission’s competence to check emissions from cars is the result of the overhaul of the EU vehicle type approval legislation in the wake of the « Dieselgate » scandal, which introduced oversight and enforcement at EU level.

The new Vehicle Market Surveillance facility will enable emissions testing in regulated and simulated real driving conditions. Two climatic emission cells will allow testing a wide range of ambient conditions such as temperature, humidity and pressure, which affect the final emissions performance of the vehicle. Due to their state of the art technology, the new labs will also serve the Commission in view of implementing future emission standards.

Read more here.


WTO official: IP waiver on COVID vaccines would not facilitate access immediately

According to EURACTIV, “The negotiations for a waiver on intellectual property (IP) rights in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are still ongoing, but a final agreement would not immediately loosen up access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, according to a WTO official. There is an established principle to override intellectual property rights “baked” into the WTO TRIPS Agreement (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), said Antony Taubman, director of the intellectual property, government procurement and competition division in the WTO. Speaking at a conference on Health challenges in the EU in the pandemic context at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 31 March, he stressed, however, that he cannot speak on behalf of the WTO or its members. One overriding theme was the ongoing negotiations amongst the Quad – the EU, USA, India and South Africa – in the WTO, who are working to reach an agreement on waiving intellectual property rights on vaccines and treatments against COVID-19. A leak reported by EURACTIV in March revealed a provisional compromise. “It’s baked into intellectual property policy, that intellectual property rights are not absolute, that the public interest can be recognised and can supervene over the exclusive effect of intellectual property rights,” Taubman explained, adding that he did not see that as particularly controversial. What comes as more of a surprise to Taubman is the uncertainty from governments on how to override the effect of intellectual property rights. “In some cases, it’s never been employed in their laws, it may be absent from the legislation. It may be there, but without enabling procedures or the procedures may be more time consuming and more difficult to manage than it is necessary.” Another point was that even if the WTO negotiations result in a consensus amongst all members on an effective IP waiver, there may be a waiting period until it becomes reality. “You would not want [it to be immediate], because that would make the WTO rules far more powerful and [have more of an] effect in international relations. That wouldn’t be at all appropriate or desirable,” he said and added: “What an outcome would do from the current discussions would be to broaden the scope of choices of options available to member governments, potentially at a quite dramatic level, or at least a more focused level. That’s what’s still being negotiated. But it is still up to the governments concerned to work together to make use of these options.” Taubman said that access to the outcomes of medical innovation is “absolutely integral to achieving public health.””.

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