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In today's Morning Brief:

EIC and ERC strengthen collaboration in joint workshop

Two EU research and innovation funding agencies, the European Innovation Council and the European Research Council, hosted their first joint workshop this week focused on gene and cell therapy. The workshop brought together the grantees of the basic research funder, the ERC, and the representatives of the innovation funder, the EIC, in the field of gene and cell therapy to explore potential technologies that could emerge from EU-funded research.

The newly established collaboration between the two EU bodies aims to transfer scientific breakthroughs to the market. “We know that the gap between frontier research and innovation is often huge, and that’s why the EIC and ERC, which have different but complementary missions, join efforts to bridge this gap,” said ERC presidency Jean Pierre Bourguignon. Cell and gene therapy is a promising research field that has the potential to transform medicine and was selected to be the first topic discussed in a series of joint workshops. The ERC has invested over €300 million in more than 150 basic research projects on the topic since 2014. Meanwhile, the EIC launched its first targeted call for novel concept-based technologies in cell and gene therapy last month. The topic of the next joint workshop will be energy storage technologies and will take place this autumn.


FCCN first NREN to migrate to new GÉANT fibre network

FCCN is the first NREN to migrate from leased capacity to the new GÉANT fibre network as part of the €63.125m GÉANT (GN4-3N) project. Representing the most significant refresh – and enlargement – of the pan-European GÉANT network in a decade, the GN4-3N project will see all GÉANT NRENs benefit from fibre or spectrum connectivity, helping to further narrow Europe’s digital divide. For example, one of the benefits of the new network will be that high-capacity connections will be available throughout the network so that interconnections to other regions can be made throughout the network rather than just in a few locations.

As an example, the European connection for the BELLA-S1 project (directly connecting Latin America and Europe) has been made in Portugal rather than having to be back-hauled to a central European location. The Portuguese research and academic network managed by FCT’s unit, FCCN, is now directly connected to GÉANT through Porto, ensuring a more resilient connection to the community. Successfully migrating to its new Porto-Bilbao route (and in turn benefiting from the new Bilbao-Paris route), FCCN now enjoys improved performance, increased flexibility, and consistent and predictable long-term costs. With three routes (Lisbon-Porto, Lisbon-Madrid, Porto-Bilbao) on the new network, the benefits to FCCN’s network infrastructure (RCTS – Rede Ciência, Tecnologia e Sociedade) – are expected to be significant.


Ethics and governance of artificial intelligence for health (World Health Organisation)

The WHO guidance on Ethics & Governance of Artificial Intelligence for Health is the product of eighteen months of deliberation amongst leading experts in ethics, digital technology, law, human rights, as well as experts from Ministries of Health.  While new technologies that use artificial intelligence hold great promise to improve diagnosis, treatment, health research and drug development and to support governments carrying out public health functions, including surveillance and outbreak response, such technologies, according to the report, must put ethics and human rights at the heart of its design, deployment, and use.

The report identifies the ethical challenges and risks with the use of artificial intelligence of health, six consensus principles to ensure AI works to the public benefit of all countries. It also contains a set of recommendations that can ensure the governance of artificial intelligence for health maximizes the promise of the technology and holds all stakeholders – in the public and private sector – accountable and responsive to the healthcare workers who will rely on these technologies and the communities and individuals whose health will be affected by its use.


New state aid rules to facilitate researchers

Member states will soon be allowed to spend EU structural funds to co-finance Horizon Europe partnerships research projects that receive the European Commission’s seal of excellence, according to updated state aid rules expected to come into force by the end of the month.

Under the new rules, member states will have fewer constraints in directing EU structural and cohesion funds to research and innovation. In a break with the past, member states are also allowed to spend up to 5% of structural funds on research and innovation projects that meet Horizon Europe standards, but which fail to win grants because of the high level of competition. Member states will be allowed to do so without any state aid assessment state, if the funds are unused and no additional conditions are being attached to the financing. Read more on this topic here.


EU defence research fund to increase technological sovereignty

The Commission and member states hope the European Defence Fund – the first EU programme to finance common defence-related R&D projects that was launched last week – will reduce EU dependence on technologies from outside the EU. Technological sovereignty, however, will not clash with international cooperation, as the Commission expresses the wish to base its rules for future international scientific cooperation on the principle of “open strategic autonomy.”

In 2021 alone, the EDF will finance up to EUR €1.2billion in high-end defence capability projects such as the next generation of aircraft fighters, tanks or ships, as well as critical defence technologies such as military cloud, AI, semiconductors, space, cyber or medical counter measures,” said Commissioner Thierry Breton. Read more on the EDF here.


Energy efficiency financing platform: DEEP 2.0

The European Commission has launched an improved and updated version of the “De-risking Energy Efficiency Platform” (DEEP) . Called DEEP 2.0, this is an open-source database for monitoring and benchmarking energy efficiency investment performance. It aims to help users to better understand the real risk and benefits of energy efficiency investments based on market evidence and tangible track records. DEEP 2.0 includes over 17 000 energy efficiency projects from 30 providers. The new platform can be accessed here.


New EU measures for energy efficiency of electric motors

New EU ecodesign measures for electric motors and variable speed drives entered into force on 1 July 2021, aimed at improving the energy efficiency of these products across the EU. Applicable to AC induction motors (such as those that can be found in washing machines, air conditioners, or heat pumps and are also commonly used in many types of industrial applications), the new rules update the previous regulation from 2009. Worldwide, electric motors represent around 50% of electricity consumption. Promoting market uptake of efficient motors and drives is an important contribution to the fight against climate change. In line with this priority, the EU supports the Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliances Deployment (SEAD) Initiative, bringing together countries across the world to cooperate in promoting efficient appliances.


Long-term vision for EU rural areas

The European Commission has put forward last week a long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas, identifying the challenges and concerns that they are facing, as well as highlighting some of the most promising opportunities that are available to these regions. Based on foresight and wide consultations with citizens and other actors in rural areas, this Vision proposes a Rural Pact and a Rural Action Plan, which aim to make EU rural areas stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous. This long-term vision comes soon after the publication of the results of the public opinion survey on rural areas, in which EU citizens mostly expressed that the key need of rural areas are transport infrastructure and connections. Read more on the long-term vision here and in this Q&A on the Commission website.  


A blueprint for cities to implement the EU Green Deal

On 22 June, the ICC and the European Committee of the Regions held their joint Mayors Summit on Local Green Deals, launching Local Green Deals – Blueprint for Action. The blueprint helps cities and towns accelerate their sustainable transition via a seven-step approach. Experts and officials from various cities shared their knowledge and experience on accomplishing the transition and the specific role of cities in it. Read more on the Commission website here.

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