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In today's Morning Brief:

Jana Kolar elected chair of EU research infrastructure forum (ESFRI)

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) has picked Jana Kolar, executive director of CERIC-ERIC, the Central European Research Infrastructure Consortium, to be its new chair. From January 2022, Kolar will guide the work of the group of member state representatives that sets the roadmap for European research infrastructures and supports policymaking. Kolar has held a number of roles in the Slovenian public sector, such as director general of the government’s science and technology office, chairwoman of the board of the Slovenian Technology Agency and Slovenia’s Research Agency. At EU level, she served on the governing body of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), and advised the European Commission on how to strengthen support for breakthrough innovation when it was launching the new EU start-up fund, the European Innovation Council. “I would like to leave ESFRI better integrated into renewed ERA, better functioning and with higher visibility,” said Kolar. “We should have a more proactive approach to [R&I] landscape analysis. Europe is changing, and we have to identify the gaps with more respect to the policies and integrate ESFRI [research infrastructures] in the renewed European Research Area.”

 

€30 billion for infrastructure projects connecting EU regions

On Wednesday, Parliament adopted the upgraded Connecting Europe Facility programme. The EU’s seven-year programme will grant new funds for transport (with over two-thirds of the budget, €25.8 billion, going to road and rail projects), digital and energy projects (€5.8 billion in energy infrastructures and €2.06 billion in digital networks) for 2021-2027. The upgraded Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme, agreed between Parliament and Council in March and worth €30 billion for 2021 to 2027, will fund transport, energy and digital projects with an EU added value. It will ensure that essential Trans-European projects, such as Rail Baltica, alternative fuels charging infrastructure and the roll out of 5G coverage to important transport axes are finished on schedule by 2030. MEPs succeeded in earmarking 60 percent of CEF funds for projects that help achieve the EU’s climate objectives, while 15 percent of energy pillar funds will go to cross-border renewable energy projects. More info on EP’s agreement here and a commentary on Science Business.

 

CEOs of European multinationals call for greater R&D cooperation with the US

According to SB, A report by the European Round Table for Industry (ERT), a forum of 60 CEOs of leading multinational companies, calls on the European Commission to keep its plans for open strategic autonomy flexible enough for companies to be able to cooperate with partners in the US on joint R&D projects in advanced technologies. “The EU’s emphasis on open strategic autonomy must be defined and implemented with sufficient flexibility to embrace collaboration with partners such as the US,” the report says. European companies say they share similar concerns as US counterparts about unfair competition from China and called for closer cooperation in joint innovation and R&D projects in advanced technologies and joint investments in supply chain resilience for critical goods or technologies such as semiconductors. “We hope that the new Trade and Technology Council, created at the recent EU-US summit, will become a key platform for transatlantic collaboration with a broad and ambitious agenda,” said Jacob Wallenberg, chair of the ERT committee on trade & market access. “We would like the Trade and Technology Council to lay the foundation for a long-term working relationship that can overcome some of the existing barriers and continue to allow both sides to foster cooperative innovation,” Wallenberg said. European multinationals say the EU should also help European companies protect their intellectual property in China. “There is already growing momentum in China to strengthen IP rights through domestic legislation, as the country moves from being an importer to being an exporter of IP. The EU should encourage China to strengthen legal patent rights and protections using bilateral and multilateral fora, such as the WTO and WIPO.”

 

Launch of Horizon Europe in Japan

The European Commission DG Research and Innovation and the Delegation of the EU to Japan organise today an online event to mark the launch of Horizon Europe in Japan. The EC considers Horizon Europe an excellent vehicle to bring the EU-Japan Partnership in Research and Innovation to a new level. This online event, the first of its type in Japan on the programme, will provide a general introduction to Horizon Europe and explain its importance and significance to researchers in Japan. It will begin with a series of welcome addresses and introductory remarks from key stakeholders in the EU and Japan. Horizon Europe and the first set of calls published under the first Work Programme for 2021-2022 will then be explained, with the focus on EU-Japan collaboration, frontier research, and mobility opportunities. This is relevant in the context of closer EU-Japan relations and for potential INESC collaborations with Japanese entities, including building upon the ones already existing.

Even though the full details of the EU-Japan cooperation are not yet disclosed, in May 2020 an agreement was signed and around the same time, in an interview with Science|Business, Koichi Akaishi said his government wants to expand R&D collaboration with Europe – perhaps by becoming an associate member of its next big programme, Horizon Europe. “We might start with some very small funding, maybe €10 million” a year.

 

Calls for open access projects in JRC Nuclear Research Infrastructures

The Joint Research Center (JRC) announced that it will open four of its European facilities for nuclear reaction and decay data measurements in Geel. Such measurements help to make nuclear reactors and the handling of nuclear waste safer, and enhance radiological protection for citizens and the environment. The calls are addressed to external users from academia and research organisations, industry, SMEs, and more in general from the private and public sectors, and include the following facilities:

  • MONNET, Tandem accelerator based fast neutron source (EUFRAT)
  • RADMET, Radionuclide Metrology laboratories (EUFRAT)
  • GELINA, the JRC Neutron Time-of-Flight Facility (EUFRAT)
  • HADES, Underground laboratory for ultra-low level gamma-ray spectrometry (EUFRAT)

Application deadline: 15 September 2021. For more information, conditions and criteria, please visit the call webpage. Examples of ongoing and past collaborations using this instrument can be found in the new Research Infrastructures Brochure.

 

Commission investments in nuclear research to include synergies with health, AI & robotics, among others

The EU will invest €300 million in nuclear energy research in 2021 as part of Euratom, the EU’s five-year €1.38 billion programme, with a third of the funding this year – €102 million – going to push forward nuclear fusion. The 16 calls are set to open for applications on 7 July, with seven focused on safety, one on harmonising the application of the international framework in nuclear waste management and decommissioning, three calls looking into the applications of nuclear science, and five for building up competences and expertise in the field. They will largely focus on fission.

 The Euratom Research and Training Programme (2021-2025) is a complementary funding programme to Horizon Europe which covers nuclear research and innovation. It uses the same instruments and rules for participation as Horizon Europe. The budget is  €1.38 billion to implement the new programme for the period 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2025. The programme has direct and indirect actions. Direct actions are activities undertaken by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Indirect actions are research activities undertaken by multi-partner consortia.

The Euratom programme will expand research into non-power applications of ionising radiation e.g. links with the Horizon Europe Health activities and Europe’s beating cancer plan. It will also develop synergies with other areas (e.g. artificial intelligence and robotics). Regarding synergies between indirect actions and direct actions, the Commission’s Joint Research Centre will complement activities of the consortia receiving Euratom grants in areas where it has the necessary competences, expertise and dedicated infrastructure. The JRC will not receive funding from indirect actions.

 

New strategy to make the EU’s financial system more sustainable and new European Green Bond Standard

The European Commission has today adopted a number of measures to increase its level of ambition on sustainable finance. First, the new Sustainable Finance Strategy sets out several initiatives to tackle climate change, and other environmental challenges, while increasing investment – and the inclusiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – in the EU’s transition towards a sustainable economy. The European Green Bond Standard proposal, also adopted today, will create a high-quality voluntary standard for bonds financing sustainable investment. Finally, the Commission adopted today a Delegated Act on the information to be disclosed by financial and non-financial companies about how sustainable their activities are, based on Article 8 of the EU Taxonomy. These initiatives highlight the EU’s global leadership in setting international standards for sustainable finance. The Commission intends to work closely with all international partners, including through the International Platform on Sustainable Finance, to cooperate on building a robust international sustainable finance system.

For more information:

Strategy for financing the transition to a sustainable economy

Proposal for a Regulation on a European Green Bond

Questions and Answers: European Green Bonds Regulation

Factsheet: EU sustainable finance strategy

 

Climate targets: EU bets on energy-efficient buildings

According to a leaked draft published by Reuters, the European Union will require countries to renovate energy-guzzling buildings faster and meet tougher targets on energy savings as part of its drive to meet its climate goals. Buildings produce more than a third of Europe’s CO2 emissions and account for 40% of the bloc’s energy consumption, making the sector a key threat to Europe’s plan to reduce planet-warming emissions.

In order to tackle this, in the draft proposal of the update the energy efficiency directive, the European Commission would require countries to implement measures to cut their final energy consumption by 1.5% each year from 2024 to 2030, nearly doubling the current requirement of 0.8%. That could be achieved by better insulating buildings or installing more energy efficient heating and cooling systems. In a move that would see current ambition significantly increased, the draft proposal would also require countries to renovate 3% of buildings owned and occupied by public bodies each year to transform them into “nearly zero-energy buildings”. Read more on Euractiv.

 

Valongo (Portugual) among the ten finalists of the European Green City Award

Valongo is one of the finalists of the title of European Green Leaf 2022, together with Bistrița (Romania), Elsinore (Denmark), Gavà (Spain), Treviso (Italy), and Winterswijk (Netherlands). This contest is open to smaller cities and can nominate up to two joint award winners every year. The finalist cities will now enter the final stage of the competition: convincing an international jury in September of their serious commitment to sustainable urban development, their capacity to act as a role model to other cities, and their strategy for communicating and engaging with their citizens. The winners for the title of European Green Capital 2023 and European Green Leaf 2022 will be revealed at the official Awards Ceremony taking place on 9 September in Lahti, the European Green Capital of this year.

The award is part of the wider EU policy for a sustainable urban environment.

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30/7/2021: New INESC e-magazine just published, input wanted on the Future of Europe, lump-sum in HE, new HE associations, synergies amendment to State Aid exemptions, EU quantum infrastructure, health data, and the shortage of semiconductors

In today’s Morning Brief:
– New INESC publication: first issue of H magazine “Visions of the future”
– Conference on the Future of Europe: input wanted
– Lump-sum in Horizon Europe – New EC Decision
– New round of Horizon Europe associations: Armenia, Georgia, Israel, Moldova, Western Balkans, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine
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– EU members commit to build EU quantum communication infrastructure
– EuropaBio welcomes the Health Data Space initiative
– Solutions needed for to the shortage of semiconductors in Europe

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28/7/2021: Pre-draft of Model Grant Agreement, Consultation on Low-Carbon Technologies, funding for low carbon technologies, Science Europe on the new ERA, and costs for regulating AI

In today’s Morning Brief:
– Commission releases pre-draft of the Horizon Europe Model Grant Agreement
– Consultation on Low-Carbon Industrial Technologies Prospect
– EU announces €122 million for 32 projects developing low carbon technologies
– Research funding agencies want a greater say in shaping new ERA
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27/7/2021: State aid exemptions, working group on offshore renewable energies, report on food systems, new steel&coal projects, EARTO on partnerships, and Spain funds more science missions

In today’s Morning Brief:
– State Aid exemptions: more money for research
– Commission launches call for expression of interest for working group on offshore renewable energies
– Report “Co-creating knowledge for food systems transformation”
– Approved 25 new steel and coal projects supporting the European Green Deal
– EARTO recommendations on European Partnerships
– Spain announces €141M for science missions in 2022

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