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In this Morning Brief, we open with the news that the European Innovation Council has hired four new programme managers to manage its project portfolios, as INESC P&D Brazil celebrates its 10 year anniversary it also unveils its goals for this year, news regarding EU and Artificial Intelligence, the newest report by the European University Association on doctoral education in Europe, news on the strain in agri-food products in Europe, a series of Horizon Europe initiatives to fight misinformation, updates on the Data Act, 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:

European Innovation Council hires four new programme managers

The EU’s newest start-up funding will now have experts managing its project portfolios in space, quantum technology and electronics, construction and artificial intelligence, and food and agri-tech.

The move doubles the number of programme managers working with the European Innovation Council (EIC) to develop strategies for funding breakthrough technologies in their respective fields.

For the next four years, Franc Mouwen will be responsible for construction and AI, Samira Nik for quantum and electronics projects, Ivan Stefanic for food and agri-tech, and Stela Tkatchova for space.


Europe in the new Geopolitics of Technology

Global tech supply chains are fragile and withstand shock after shock. After the Covid-19 pandemic and the assault against Huawei, the Russian invasion of Ukraine underlines once more the importance of the geopolitics of technology for governments and companies. What can be done to reduce our vulnerabilities and cultivate our strengths? Technology interdependence is a double-edged sword. Europe can target Russian procurement of semiconductor technology in cooperation with the United States and G7 countries. But Russia can retaliate by cutting access to neon gases and palladium, causing severe damage to the value chain. The case is a telling example for a European problem that goes beyond the semiconductor industry. Europe faces a long-term resilience and competitiveness challenge, for which it has two main tools to act: industrial policies and controls over technology transfers.

Don’t miss this policy paper by the Institut Montaigne.


Consolidation, development and internationalization: The goals of INESC P&D Brazil for 2022

The General Assembly (AG) of INESC P&D Brasil unanimously approved the strategic and budget plan for 2022, as well as the budget concerning activities carried out in 2021. The AG took place online on March 7, led by Vladimiro Miranda, Director-President of INESC P&D Brasil, and with the participation of representatives of all members and the Chairman of INESC TEC’s Board of Directors. The meeting focused on the discussion of the Institute’s goals for this year, with emphasis on the versatility of its activities, centred on regulated and deregulated research and development projects.

In strategic terms, INESC P&D Brasil’s main goals for 2022 consist of consolidation, development, and internationalisation, including the advancement of science management in Brazil through multi-institutional and multidisciplinary cooperation, aimed at technology transfer. The objective is to continue the work developed over the last decade, reinforcing the role of the Institute in areas such as Environment and Health, Computing and Communication, Energy and Production, and Robotics and Sensors.

From a budgetary point of view, and thanks to a hybrid management scheme combining regulated and deregulated projects, the results of INESC P&D Brasil’s activities present a positive balance. “The problem with institutions dedicated exclusively to regulated projects is that they lack revenue to support all structural costs they have. By establishing this hybrid scheme of regulated and deregulated projects, we were able to cover shortage generated by regulated projects with the financial margin of deregulated projects. This shows how INESC P&D Brasil can present a positive financial balance over 10 years of activities”, said Vladimiro Miranda.

Read more here.


EU still behind on AI, but not as much as feared

According to Science|Business, “The EU continues to lag behind the US and China when it comes to artificial intelligence, according to one of its advisory bodies, but the bloc is not as far behind as is often assumed. In a new report, the Joint Research Centre also casts some doubt on China’s prowess as an AI power, and concludes that Brexit has led to a “considerable downsizing” of the EU’s AI strength, given how strong the UK sector is. “The US is in a leading position,” according to the JRC’s AI Watch Index 2021.“The EU is third [after China], but several elements support the thesis that the distance with the two leading countries is less than often suggested.” Brussels is seeking both to boost the EU’s AI research and innovation and curb its potential for social harm. Its proposed AI Act would largely prohibit practices like social scoring, or real-time public facial recognition. At the same time, the Commission plans to invest €1 billion a year in AI and bring overall EU spending up to €20 billion annually – a target this latest report expects the bloc to hit this decade if big budget increases continue. Measuring the relative strength of different countries in AI is inevitably tricky. But the report breaks it down into several metrics, ranging from the number of organisations involved in AI research and innovation to the number of students studying the field. When it comes to organisations active in AI– which are mostly companies, but also include universities and other research institutes – the US has close to 14,000, China over 11,000, and the EU just shy of 6,000. On this measure, then, the EU lags far behind its rivals, particularly when adjusted for the overall size of its economy.”.    


Doctoral education in Europe: Current developments and trends

The newest publication by the European University Association provides an up-to-date overview of important developments in doctoral education in Europe. It serves as a follow-up publication to the previous large-scale study “Doctoral education in Europe today: approaches and institutional structures” (2017-2018).

With 138 responses from 28 European countries, the survey report outlines the strategic priorities and the main thematic areas in which European universities are engaging, in the field of doctoral education. The EUA-CDE survey, conducted between March and May 2021, gathered evidence on several important aspects in this field. This includes an overview of transversal skills training in Europe and how institutions assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on doctoral education.

This publication also provides insights into the current situation of postdoctoral researchers, namely questions about their number, the average duration of their employment, the nature of their work and the additional training they may receive while being part of a university.

Click here to read it.


Supply shock caused by Russian invasion of Ukraine puts strain on various EU agri-food sectors

Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine has significantly disturbed global agricultural markets. This has created more uncertainty regarding the future availability of grains and oilseeds, and has added a layer of instability to already tense markets. The EU is largely self-sufficient for food, with a massive agri-food trade surplus, and the EU single market can once again be expected to prove its ability to absorb shocks. Nevertheless, there are some concerns around affordability due to high market prices and inflationary trends.

These issues form the basis for the spring 2022 edition of the short-term outlook report. Published by the European Commission on 5 April 2022, the report presents a detailed overview of the latest trends and prospects for a range of agri-food sectors.

Make sure to read more here


Cost of gas storage refill will be evenly spread, EU assures

According to EURACTIV, “Austria, the Netherlands and Hungary have flagged concerns about EU plans to ensure the bloc’s gas storage is at least 80% full by 1 November, warning they would bear a disproportionate amount of the cost. In reaction to the current high gas prices, the European Commission tabled proposals last month obliging EU countries to fill up their gas stores at least 80% ahead of next winter and 90% in the following years. The proposal was tabled just before a two-day EU summit on 24-25 March where EU leaders debated energy security amid gas supply tensions caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. The amount of gas EU countries can store varies widely and depends on geography, such as the presence of underground salt caverns. Countries with high storage capacity – Austria, the Netherlands and Hungary – have sought assurances that the cost of storage would be evenly spread and that they won’t be sidelined when the proposed regulation comes to a vote in the EU Council of Ministers. At their March meeting, some EU leaders warned that the proposal could force them to buy gas at the current high prices and then sell it at a loss to countries without storage when prices fall later on. To allay these fears, the French EU Council presidency committed to side with countries that have large storage capacity and create a blocking minority. “In the very unlikely case that this legal complication would present itself, there’s a political agreement that we would have this blocking minority if a decision is pending that would go against the interests of Austria, Hungary and the Netherlands,” said Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte at a press conference. Asked by a journalist whether filling gas storage would result in a huge bill for the Netherlands, he said: “That’s not what’s going to happen. In this scenario, the deal is other countries will pay for their fair share.””.


The fight for truth

Don’t miss this article by the European Research Executive Agency, providing information on EU-funded research projects that help identify and tackle misinformation.

With successive crises in recent years, all have been fanned into flames by misinformation either directly or indirectly. Digital and social media can contribute to the spread of this misinformation when users share it without first checking the legitimacy of the information found. Personalised algorithms from these systems all generate newsfeeds based on the information they know about our technological devices, locations and online interests. Although two people can search for the same thing, they are likely to get different results based on what social media platforms deem relevant to their interests, fact or fiction (fake).

Make sure to click here to find a series of Horizon Europe funded initiatives targeting this misinformation.


INESC MN 2022 Seminar Series: Dr. Elisabete Fernandes

Don’t miss INESC MN’s upcoming seminar on April 8th with Dr. Elisabete Fernandes on “How microfluids can play an important role in emergency medicine?”.

Click here for more information and for registration.


Research community calls for non-profits to be exempt from upcoming EU digital rules

According to Science|Business, “European universities, libraries, repositories and research organisations from ten associations are jointly calling for non-profit bodies to be excluded from the EU’s new digital platform rules. EU policymakers are currently fashioning the final details of the upcoming Digital Services Act (DSA) which aims to create a fairer and safer digital space across Europe, in particular by making big online platforms improve their content moderation. The new rules will require big online platforms, such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, to disclose to regulators how their algorithms work, how they decide what content to remove, and how they target users for advertising. Education and scientific platforms, such as repositories, digital archives and libraries, fear the new rules may impose extra obligations on them, eating up a share of their scarce resources. Technically, the future rules will apply only to commercial platforms that have more than 45 million users in the EU, but research stakeholders are worried that scientific and educational services which allow students, researchers and third parties to upload content could fall within the scope of the DSA. Thomas Jørgensen, senior policy coordinator at the European University Association (EUA), one of the ten signatories, said research organisations are not saying no to DSA but ask for a small tweak to the legislation to exempt non-for-profit structures. “I would say that it is very unfortunate that legislation, which is aimed at raising the quality of information that circulates, for instance via social media, at the same time sets requirements that risk stifling the basis of sharing research through open science,” said Jørgensen. “You cannot expect the same capacity for compliance from a university librarian as you can from Google’s compliance department,” he said. The European Parliament, which holds a seat at the negotiating table, is currently advocating for a procedure that exempts of not-for-profit repositories from the DSA obligations in the final deal, but the research stakeholders say the proposal is complicated and could cause even more problems.”.


EIT Health-supported start-up attains CE mark

EIT Health-supported start-up, Optellum, headquartered in Oxford, UK, has attained a CE mark for its innovative solution which supports the precision diagnosis of lung cancer in its earliest stages. Their technology, the Virtual Nodule Clinic, is an AI-powered decision support software for lung cancer diagnosis, the first such system to achieve clearance under CE-Medical Device Regulation (MDR).

The newly CE-marked technology enables early intervention, allowing doctors to treat patients while the disease is still in its early stages and curable. Ultimately this promises to improve patient outcomes and increase lung cancer survival rates.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Europe, causing around 380,000 deaths (20% of all cancer deaths). When diagnosed at its earliest stage, almost 90% of people with lung cancer will survive their disease for five years or more, compared with only 5% when the disease is diagnosed at the latest stage.

EIT Health is proud to have supported Optellum in their development journey. With funding provided through EIT Health, Innovate UK, the NHS AI Lab and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) partnerships, Optellum’s machine-learning scientists and engineers used computed tomography (CT) images to train a machine-learning neural network to recognise the early signs of lung cancer.

Read more here.


Continued strong demand for European Innovation Council Accelerator in first cut-off in 2022

Over 1000 start-ups and SMEs submitted a full application for funding for the 23 March cut-off of the EIC Accelerator scheme, the first in 2022. The number of applications shows a continued strong demand for EIC funding with a total request of €6.4 billion, of which €4.1 billion for equity investments.

724 companies (66% of total applicants) requested blended finance, combining grants with equity investment, while 183 asked for grants without equity and 186 companies applied for grants first (with the aim of EIC equity investments at a later stage).

This is the first cut off to receive companies submitted by Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) under the EIC ‘Fast Track scheme’. This scheme offers the EIT’s Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) the opportunity to assess start-ups and scale-ups they support and allow them to directly go to the full application stage of the EIC Accelerator. It helps applicants speed up the application process and reduces administrative burden. The Fast Track is also being opened for projects stemming from the EIC Pathfinder and Transition grants.

Read more here.


An IoT-based real-time management of energy consumption

INOV INESC is featured in the latest edition of the IEEE – Internet of Things newsletter with the work conducted in collaboration with Águas do Tejo Atlântico for real-time monitoring of electricity consumption in facilities for water resource recovery, using technologies of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The study conducted in collaboration with INOV researchers – Professor Augusto Casaca and Professor Mário Serafim Nunes – reveals that the evaluation of Wi-Fi and LoRa technologies used proved to be satisfactory for the environment of the installations, although Wi-Fi allows shorter intervals for measurements due to the higher data rate. On the other hand, the LoRa network is simpler to deploy and allows reaching further distances. For future deployments in other water resource recovery facilities, either technology is technically suitable for real-time energy management and metering operations, and cost will be an important factor in the decision.

The full text is available here.

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