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In this Morning Brief, we open with the news that the Conference on the Future of Europe proposals list features many demands for research and innovation and education, we also announce opportunities for this summer including INESC MN Summer Internships and a SymbNET PhD Summer School, German research leaders are opposing harmonised research assessment, the European Commission has appointed a new deputy Director General for its digital policy department, a new biomaterial could save our oceans from plastic pollution, the European Commission just launched a new report on the implementation of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (MSPD), 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:

Conference on the Future of Europe proposals list demands for R&I and education

Research and education have made their way into the 49 proposals for reforming EU policy and institutions as part of the two-year Conference on the Future of Europe, set to culminate next week. When it comes to the environment, the proposals encourage more research into ensuring food security, including through precision farming and sustainable production, as well as microplastics pollution and alternatives for unsustainable packaging.

On health, there are calls to invest in research into the impact of the use of antibiotics as well as hormonal substances and endocrine disruptors. The need for a mental health research roadmap is also highlighted. In digital, research is noted as one of the key variables in strengthening EU’s autonomy in strategic sectors such as semiconductors, medical products, digital innovations, and agriculture, among others. When it comes to education, one of the 49 objectives is to establish a European Education Area by 2025 to ensure equal access to quality education and life-long learning.

The 49 final proposals were agreed on over a plenary session in Strasbourg last weekend. 

The Conference was the European Commission and European Parliament’s bid to overhaul the way the EU is run, by asking citizens what changes should be made to its policies and institutions. The Conference is set to end on 9 May, when the final report will be delivered to EU policymakers and the European Commission, leaving it to them to assess and potentially implement the demands.

 

INESC MN Summer Internships

The INESC MN internship program offers students the opportunity to gain direct practical experience with INESC MN’s work. Internship opportunities are available during Summer.

To be considered for an internship, you must meet the following requirements:

– Be enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate or PhD program;

– Have excellent academic performance as demonstrated by recent university/education records.

Click here to apply.

 

‘Money time’ for EU carbon market reform in the European Parliament

According to EURACTIV, “The lawmaker overseeing the adoption of a key package of EU climate legislation in the European Parliament has urged colleagues to stop fighting over the proposed reform, saying Europe must rise to the occasion in the current geopolitical context. Pascal Canfin, a French centrist MEP who chairs the European Parliament’s environment committee, has warned against entrenched positions on the EU’s proposed carbon market reform and urged colleagues to show a spirit of compromise. “The message I want to convey is that everyone must stop repeating their starting positions and enter a real phase of negotiation,” Canfin told EURACTIV, warning that failure to reach agreement on the package before a committee vote on 17 May would risk derailing the EU’s climate agenda. “Without an agreement in the committee, the package can be reopened in all its dimensions in plenary. And I don’t think, given the climate emergency and the current geopolitical context, that we can afford to gamble with this,” he said. “That would be like playing a coin toss with the future of the climate package,” Canfin warned saying the adoption of the carbon market reform risked hinging on as little as five votes in the Parliament’s plenary. The EU’s emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) – which establishes the world’s largest carbon market – is often described as the crown jewel of European climate policy. It is now being revised to align the bloc with its new climate ambition of cutting global warming emissions by a minimum of 55% by 2030. This week, parliamentary groups are holding three successive rounds of talks in order to find a compromise on the proposed reform of the EU ETS and three other related legislative files: the social climate fund, the carbon border adjustment mechanism and a proposal to regulate CO2 emissions form cars.”.

 

German research leaders say no to harmonized research assessment

The Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany has taken a stance against harmonising research assessment across Europe.

In a statement published by this week, the alliance welcomed the European Commission’s push to reform research assessment across the EU as an opportunity to share best practices and deepen the common understanding of principles and values but fell short of endorsing the creation of a harmonised system.

“The Alliance’s vision for research assessment in a renewed [European Research Area] is to share best practice as to achieve functional interoperability of specific research assessment systems and a strengthened process of mutual learning, and not to create one general Europe-wide harmonised system,” the statement said.

The European Commission is pushing to make research evaluation more efficient, proposing to create a system based on qualitative judgement with peer-review, as opposed to the current one rewarding researchers for the number of papers published, citations and the prestige of the journals. France, the current lead of the EU Council of member state, has endorsed the initiative, but German institutions have thus far been reluctant to embrace the plans. Two alliance members, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Helmholtz Association have now joined the panel advising the research assessment reform.

 

Industrial Decarbonization and beyond: CCUS perspectives in Europe and the role of ECCSEL ERIC European Research Infrastructure

In response to the urgency of climate change mitigation, CO2 Capture, Storage and Use (CCUS) is called upon in carbon neutrality scenarios, in addition to energy sobriety, efficiency and renewable energies. CCUS is needed to avoid irreducible CO2 emissions from industrial facilities as well as to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, when combined with bio-energy (BECCS) or direct air capture (DACCS). Many options for CO2 capture, transport, storage, and utilisation are possible, therefore the best scenarios for CCUS development and deployment must be elaborated taking into account the specificities and needs of territories. Synergies between CCUS, hydrogen and renewable energies can be sought.

The European Green Deal is counting on CCUS to help achieve its goals. The European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) has set up a specific Implementation Working Group on CCS and CCU. Horizon Europe, EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation until 2027, is supporting CCUS including through European partnerships, such as the Clean Energy Transition Partnership (CETP), in which the EU, national authorities and/or the private sector jointly commit to support the development and implementation of a programme of research and innovation activities.

This event will represent the occasion to discuss current developments in Europe on CCUS in order to tackle irreducible CO2 emissions of the European industrial system and the impact that this technology can have in supporting the achievement of 2050 targets.

In this context, research represents an important asset, and the role that ECCSEL ERIC (the European Research Infrastructure on CCUS) can play will also be discussed.

Click here to register before 17 May.

 

Commission appoints deputy Director General for its digital policy department

Thomas Skordas is set to take up  the deputy director general position at the European Commission’s directorate for communication networks, content and technology (DG CONNECT).

As second-in-command at DG CONNECT, Skordas will help lead the development and implementation of EU’s digital policies. He was first appointed acting deputy director general at the department last year, but the College of Commissioners has now voted for Skordas to take up the position permanently. In this role, he has been in charge of directorates covering artificial intelligence, digital excellence, science infrastructures, digital society and cybersecurity, among others.

Skordas is a seasoned bureaucrat with 27 years of experience at the Commission’s directorates for research and technology. In recent years, he managed the Commission’s bid in various science infrastructure projects, such as the Human Brain Project and Graphene.

Read the press release here.

 

EUA Webinar – Greening and environmental sustainability: How universities can lead this major transformation

Universities are key actors in the transition towards carbon neutrality and sustainable societies. They address environmental sustainability in their research and education missions, transform their campuses into more sustainable places and reflect on institutional activities (including mobility) and procedures to become greener and more efficient.

This webinar taking place on 16 May, 14:00-15:00 CEST will highlight selected key findings from this survey and discuss how institutions can overcome obstacles to embedding greening in their missions and campuses.

Register here.

 

New Biomaterial could save our oceans from plastic pollution

Straws, water bottles, shopping bags, cups, utensils: so many of these everyday items are made from single-use plastics, meaning they’re used just once and then thrown away. As a result, these items often end up in landfills and waterways, where they not only choke and ensnare wildlife but also leach harmful toxins into the environment as they decompose.

Now researchers at NC State have developed a new biomaterial that could help solve the worsening problem of plastic pollution. Lokendra Pal and Lucian Lucia, professors in the Department of Forest Biomaterials, have discovered how to convert leftover sawdust powder and agro-residues into a Styrofoam-like packaging material.

The wood-based material could someday replace the plastics found in many single-use items. With support from the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund, Pal and Lucia are currently conducting pilot trials, in advance of testing and commercialization by potential industry partners. They’re mostly focused on  manufacturing packaging and food service products.

Read more here.

 

EU body sets out draft sustainability disclosure standards

According to EURACTIV, “Companies will have to set a much broader range of sustainability targets under draft new European Union reporting standards, environmental impact body CDP said on Tuesday (3 May). Authorities across the world are writing reporting standards to combat greenwashing, or companies exaggerating their green credentials to attract investors, who have poured trillions of dollars into sustainable assets. The European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) set out its first draft sustainability standards late on Friday for public consultation. Final standards will be sent to the European Union’s executive European Commission by November for adoption. The norms will be used by listed companies across the EU to implement mandatory environment, social and governance (ESG) disclosure requirements under the bloc’s new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive. “The EU sustainability reporting standards are set to be the most ambitious standards globally,” said Mirjam Wolfrum, director of policy engagement in Europe for CDP, adding that around half of reported emissions in Europe are not covered by targets. CDP has emerged as the world’s biggest repository of environmental data submitted on a voluntary basis by companies, which are under pressure from their shareholders to disclose how they plan to navigate the transition to a lower-carbon future. CDP said European companies will have to report on a far wider range of environmental issues under the draft standards than most are used to. “Just 5% of European companies disclosed strong targets covering their emissions, deforestation, and water use to CDP in 2021, so standardising disclosures on nature and biodiversity will be critical as nature clearly remains a blind spot for many companies,” Wolfrum said.”.

 

Portugal-Luxembourg Economic Forum

On the 12th of May, in the Four Seasons Ritz Hotel in Lisbon, the Portugal-Luxembourg Economic Forum will take place, organized by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, by the Luxembourg Ministry of Economic and supported by Aicep Portugal Global.

Given the interest of this Economic Forum for the economic relations between both countries and for Portuguese companies that might have a corporate intervention strategy for the Benelux region, make sure to sign up here, until May 9, to attend this event.

 

European Commission report on implementation of Maritime Spatial Planning Directive

The European Commission has published a report on the implementation of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, which sets the obligation for the 22 coastal Member States to establish maritime spatial plans by 31 March 2021 at the latest. While the majority of the coastal Member States now have a maritime spatial plan in place, eight countries did not make sufficient progress. The report furthermore concludes that Maritime Spatial Planning is an effective and strategic tool to coordinate the different activities at sea and prevent conflicts over the use of maritime space. The EU remains global leader in this area.

The report recalls the objectives of the Directive and describes the support that the Commission has provided to Member States in implementing the Directive, notably through the European MSP Platform, a dedicated Member States’ expert group, and support to cross-border cooperation on MSP in all European sea basins through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and other EU funds.

Read more here.

Q&A: MSP Progress Report.

 

Europe Open Doors 2022 – Meet REA projects and researchers

Visit the EU Green Village in Brussels and meet EU-funded project URBiNAT and Co-tRiP. In the Youth Village participants will be able to do experiments and interactive activities guided by Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellows.

On Europe Day we celebrate peace and unity in Europe. Every year, the European institutions open their doors to show citizens what the EU does to improve our lives, and the value of working/growing together.

Visitors will learn about research and innovation. Three EU projects managed by REA will be there: URNiNAT, Co-tRiP and Colldense.

Read more here.

 

Starting gun fired on new battle over genetically engineered crops

According to Science|Business, “The European Commission has opened a public consultation on allowing genome editing techniques in agriculture, paving the way for a revived political fight over one of the most controversial scientific issues in the bloc. The EU has long maintained a near-ban on first generation genetically modified organisms, which controversially is now heavily restricting work with newer, more refined gene editing methods that do not involve the insertion of transgenes from other species. But the need to make crops more climate resilient, keep European agribusiness competitive and maintain food security in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has pushed the issue back up the political agenda. “Plants obtained with new genomic techniques (NGTs) could help build a more resilient and sustainable agri-food system,” said health and food safety commissioner Stella Kyriakides announcing the consultation, which opened on 29 April. “Our guiding principle will remain the safety of the environment and of consumers.” The consultation focuses on targeted mutagenesis and cis-genesis, genetic editing techniques which accelerate changes that are achievable through traditional breeding. In a new factsheet about these methods, the Commission is strikingly positive, explaining they could be used to develop drought tolerance rice, high protein wheat, and fungus resistant tomatoes.”.

 

Education for Climate Policy and Practice Forum

The Education for Climate Coalition is the place where the education community at large can engage in co-creation processes. The participatory challenges developed in this frame through co-innovation labs involve teachers, students and education stakeholders aiming at promoting education for environmental sustainability through tangible learning outcomes.

Together, they aspire to increase the impact of these challenges and make a real change for education and training. And for this, policy and practice go hand in hand.

On the one hand, community members have repeatedly expressed their desire to meet policy experts to better understand the policy background, its ins and outs and opportunities in order to better design concrete green education projects and make them count. Policy experts, on the other hand, need better insight into implementation and experimentation processes within the education community. 

Click here for more information.

 

SymbNET PhD Summer School on host-microbe symbioses

This Summer School is designed for PhD students interested in host-microbe symbioses to acquire an in depth understanding of the field from diverse perspectives through the interaction with experts in this research area. These include researchers using different model systems, and levels of analysis from molecular biology, to ecology and evolution. The Summer School will have an emphasis on functionally understanding these symbioses, with approaches including genomics and metabolomics. The students will acquire critical knowledge for their future choice of research direction.

The Summer School is two weeks long, with 19 lecturers, and 35 PhD students. These conditions foster a continuous and strong interaction between faculty and students. The programme includes lectures and the development of a short written research project. The development of the written research project promotes thinking deeply about the questions and future directions in the field.

Registration is open until May 22nd.

More Articles

31/05/2022: BioData.PT Session 3, EU AI Law, European Sustainable Energy Week, LIFE Awards 2022 Winners, EU Green Deal, and more.

In today’s Morning Brief:
– BioData.PT Talks Session 3: Recent Artificial Intelligence Tools and Architectures for Structural Biology;
– EUA Policy Input: Considerations for a “European Degree”;
– Putting Science into Standards;
– The EU AI law will not be future-proof unless it regulates general purpose AI systems;
– European Sustainable Energy Week: Going green and digital for Europe’s energy transition;
– European Commission reveals winners of LIFE Awards 2022;
– Interact with statistics for the European Green Deal;
– EU countries urged to prepare for Russian gas cut: Summit draft.

Read More »

30/05/2022: INESC TEC Workshop, EU Cancer Plan, Eurostat, Defunct Satellites, Hydrogen, and more.

In today’s Morning Brief:
– INESC TEC coordinated a workshop on Machine Learning;
– Access to financial products for persons with a history of cancer in EU Member States;
– Eurostat regional yearbook: From traditional printed publication to modern interactive tool;
– ‘World-first’ project for capturing defunct satellites ramps up;
– Hydrogen: BAM sets up digitally networked research filling station to increase safety of technology;
– EFCA coordinates EU efforts to monitor the bluefin tuna fishing season;
– Zero Pollution Monitoring and Outlook Workshop – Report;
– Commission outlines defence R&D priorities in new €924M work programme.

Read More »

26/05/2022: INESC-ID research grants, new MSCA platform, Horizon Europe UK backup, REPowerEU, Fit for 55, and more.

In today’s Morning Brief:
– INESC-ID: Nuno Lopes receives research grants from Google and Woven Alpha;
– EU ramping up efforts for strategic autonomy in raw materials;
– Laurence Moreau appointed head of the ERC executive agency;
– Event: The UK’s Position in Global Science and Innovation;
– New MSCA networking platform for future applicants;
– Application system opens for UK Horizon backup grants;
– Fraunhofer elects three new executive vice-presidents;
– FaST Navigator study identifies models necessary to provide accurate advice on the use of fertilisers to EU farmers;
– Germany’s pacifist universities pose obstacle to militarisation of EU R&D;
– Webinar: The European Standardisation Booster;
– MSCA Cluster event on Mission Ocean and Waters;
– REPowerEU: Commission establishes the EU Energy Platform Task Force to secure alternative supplies;
– Horizon Europe mission on carbon-neutral cities kicks into gear;
– Fit for 55: New EU carbon sink goal will increase 2030 reduction target;
– A new Blue Economy Observatory to monitor and promote the sustainability of our ocean related activities;
– Zero Pollution Monitoring and Outlook Workshop – Report.

Read More »