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In this Morning Brief, we open with a feature on the participation of INESC TEC supporting fishermen finding lost fishing gear and nets, Una Europe welcomes two new universities to its alliance of leading European research universities, the European Commission has launched the MSCA Matchmaking Platform bringing together fellows, companies, supervisors and many more from Europe and beyond to work together in the upcoming MSCA calls, Portugal is opening Europe’s biggest gloating solar park this year with the support of EDP, 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:

INESC TEC: How Scarybirds are flying to the rescue of endangered species

The Berlengas archipelago off the coast of Portugal is a nature reserve — and a precious breeding area for shearwaters, cormorants, gulls and other seabirds. Ana Almeida and Elisabete Silva are marine conservation officers at the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds. For years, they’ve been helping the local seabird populations.

On the main islands of the archipelago, they maintain artificial nests to help shearwaters raise their young. But while some bird species are doing well, others are steadily declining — and in recent decades, some have completely disappeared.

“Seabirds are the group of birds that are more threatened by human activities and other threats,” Ana explains. “For example, the Balearic Shearwater is the most threatened seabird species in Europe. It uses this area during winter, and the predictions say that in 60 years if we don’t do anything, it will be extinct. It will not exist anymore. So we have several species facing different threats and having severe declines in their populations.”

At CIIMAR, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Research at the University of Porto, scientists are studying the microplastics that come from fishing gear and which can endanger marine life in many ways – including by spreading harmful germs.

It’s best to find and retrieve lost nets before they break into small pieces. The CIIMAR researchers teamed up with robotic engineers from the INESC TEC institute for another European project – NetTag. They’ve designed IRIS – a robot that can find its way underwater using acoustics and artificial intelligence.

“This robot was developed to help the fishermen to find lost fishing gear, lost fishing nets,” explains Alfredo Martins, Senior researcher in robotics at INESC TEC/ISEP. “In order to do so, the fishing nets are equipped with a small transducer, a small piece of acoustic kit. So it looks like this small cylinder that we see here. When we put the robot underwater, the robot starts to ping, starts to ask, is anybody out there? And so this tag will answer it.

Make sure to read more here.


Una Europe welcomes University College Dublin (UCD) and Universität Zürich (UZH)

Yesterday, Una Europa announced that University College Dublin (UCD) and Universität Zürich (UZH) will join its alliance of leading European research universities.

UCD is a research-intensive university ranked in the top one per cent of higher education institutions worldwide. Established in 1854, UCD has played an important role in shaping modern Ireland, Europe and beyond, producing numerous political, business, and cultural leaders, most notably the writer James Joyce.

UZH is Switzerland’s largest comprehensive university and one of the foremost universities in the German-speaking world. Founded in 1833, UZH was Europe’s first university established by a democratic political system – the words “by the will of the people” remain engraved on its main building to this day.

As one of Europe’s leading university alliances, Una Europa is a driving influence, transforming education and shaping Europe’s shared future for the better. Una Europa transcends traditional geographical and disciplinary boundaries, working together towards a virtual ‘multi-campus’ – a University of the Future. With UCD and UZH on board, the alliance will now count over half a million students and almost 100,000 university staff among its network, with digital learners numbering in the millions.

Read more here.


The Conference on the Future of Europe concludes its work

In a closing ceremony today in Strasbourg, President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, on behalf of the Council Presidency, President Emmanuel Macron, and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen received from the Co-Chairs of the Conference Executive Board the final report on the outcome of the Conference.

This unprecedented, one-year journey of discussion, debate and collaboration between citizens and politicians culminated in a report centred around 49 proposals that include concrete objectives and more than 320 measures for the EU institutions to follow up on under nine topics: climate change and the environment; health; a stronger economy, social justice and jobs; EU in the world; values and rights, rule of law, security; digital transformation; European democracy; migration; education, culture, youth and sport. The proposals are based on recommendations made by citizens who met within the European Citizens’ Panels, National Citizens’ Panels and contributed their ideas on the Multilingual Digital Platform.

President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, said: “Citizens – especially young people – are at the heart of our vision for the future of Europe. They have directly shaped the outcome of the Conference. We are at a defining moment of European integration and no suggestion for change should be off-limits. We should not be afraid to unleash the power of Europe to change people’s lives for the better.”

Read the press release here.


MSCA Matchmaking Platform

The MSCA matchmaking platform brings together fellows, companies, supervisors, NGOs and Academic Institutions from a large number of European countries and beyond. This is a unique opportunity to generate new contacts and future successful projects in the upcoming MSCA calls for 2022.

Using this platform, you will be able to publish your researchers ‘profile, your company profile and offer your hosting arrangements to attract talent or participate in Doctoral Networks and Staff Exchanges Proposals.

Make sure to find out more and register here.


Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) polymer research centre gets €15M grant

The new Interactive Polymeric Materials Research Center receives more than 15 million euros to develop new dynamic and sustainable polymer materials for science and society.

In a truly unique funding outcome, a multidisciplinary project involving only a number of TU/e researchers led by Jan van Hest and Patricia Dankers has been awarded more than 15 million euros in the latest NWO Gravitation awards. The Gravitation funding program aims to provide scientific consortia with the funding needed to become world leaders in their research field. The TU/e researchers will use the funding to establish the Interactive Polymeric Materials Research Center in Eindhoven.

You’ll find polymers in plastic packaging, mobile phones, and medical devices. While polymers have helped society over the past century, current polymeric materials face challenges. And it’s these problems that TU/e researchers in the new Interactive Polymeric Materials (IPM) Research Center, which has just received significant funding as part of NWO’s Gravitation program, plan to solve. 

Find out more here.


French EU presidency wants ‘proportionate’ fines, extended deadlines in AI Act

According to EURACTIV, “The French presidency of the EU Council has made a series of proposals regarding the enforcement of the EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act, in a new compromise text seen by EURACTIV. The new text is the last in a series of compromises presented by France, at the helm of the EU until the end of June. Before the end of its presidency, Paris is aiming to present a progress report summarising the achievements made on this file to the Telecom Council on 3 June. The new document makes significant modifications to the sanction regime, the timeline for the entry into application of the regulation, the confidentiality requirements for the supervisory bodies, and the delegated powers of the European Commission. The text is to be discussed at the Telecom Working Party of the EU Council on Thursday (5 May). The article concerning penalties has been changed to also take into account the size of companies, not only small-scale and start-ups but also medium-sized ones. The highest fines have been limited to unlawful use of prohibited practices, such as social scoring or manipulative algorithms, as the reference to the obligations to make the training datasets representative and without biases was removed. For these more severe breaches, SMEs and start-ups could face a maximum fine of 3% of their annual turnover or €30 million, whichever is higher. For all other companies, the maximum fine would reach 6% of the annual turnover. However, given the wording ‘whichever is higher’, the lower cap would only apply to SMEs and start-ups with a market capitalisation of over €1 billion. For all other breaches of the regulation, the sanctions for a company would be 4% of the annual turnover, except for start-ups or SMEs, where it would be 3%, or €20 million, whichever is higher. The sanctions for providing incomplete or misleading information have not been changed. A new paragraph has been added stating that the sanctions imposed by the market surveillance authority must be subject to appropriate procedural safeguards that include judicial remedies.”.


Portugal is opening Europe’s biggest floating solar park this year

Europe’s largest floating solar park will take shape in July this year, in Portugal’s Alqueva reservoir.

Two tugboats are currently moving a vast array of 12,000 solar panels, the size of four football pitches, to their mooring on the reservoir.

Built by EDP, the country’s main utility company, on Western Europe’s biggest artificial lake, the shiny floating island is part of Portugal’s plan to cut reliance on imported fossil fuels whose prices have surged since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Blessed by long hours of sunshine and Atlantic winds, Portugal has accelerated its shift to renewables. But even though the country uses almost no Russian hydrocarbons, its gas-fired power plants still feel the squeeze of rising fuel prices.

Miguel Patena, EDP group director in charge of the solar project, said on Thursday that electricity produced from the floating park, with installed capacity of 5 megawatts (MW), would cost a third of that produced from a gas-fired plant.

The panels on the Alqueva reservoir, which is used to generate hydropower, would produce 7.5 gigawatt/hours (GWh) of electricity a year, and would be complemented by lithium batteries to store 2 GWh.

Read more here.


Eurazeo announces key milestones for its Eurazeo Sustainable Maritime Infrastructure (ESMI) fund

Eurazeo announces today that major steps have been taken by its Eurazeo Sustainable Maritime Infrastructure (ESMI) fund in its commitment to support the transition of the global maritime industry to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, in line with the European Green Deal’s ambition. This sustainable investment objective enables ESMI to be classified as Article 9 under the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR).

With a total of EUR 200 million raised, the pace of the fund raising is further evidence of ESMI’s attractiveness. The Fund has indeed already reached more than half of its target fund size as of today.

The European Investment Fund (EIF) has made a cornerstone investment of EUR 70 million in ESMI, using resources from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe. As a consequence, ESMI has become the first green leasing fund supported by the EIF through the EFSI Private Credit Tailored for SME programme. Other investors include state organisations, insurers, corporations, private sales networks and international investors.

The total invested will contribute to finance three main assets: vessels equipped with environmentally friendly technology that use more efficient or alternative fuels, innovative port equipment and infrastructure to aid ecological transition, as well as assets that support the development of offshore renewable energies.

Read more here.


Macron floats European ‘community’ open to Ukraine and UK

According to POLITICO, “French President Emmanuel Macron used a speech on Europe Day to put forward a sweeping, avant-garde but detail-light proposal to redraw the political map of the Continent with a new organization that would give Ukraine a closer relationship with the EU short of membership — and could even include the U.K. Speaking Monday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Macron proposed a new “European political community,” which would include both members and non-members of the EU. The event served as both a celebration of Europe Day — which marks the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration that paved the way for today’s EU — and a closing ceremony for the Conference on the Future of Europe, a yearlong EU self-assessment process that included a series of town hall meetings with citizens. Macron, who was inaugurated for his second term on Saturday, offered virtually no specifics about the proposal. And the Élysée Palace did not provide any fact sheets or other policy briefs as it has on previous occasions when Macron has laid out bold prescriptions for Europe. Instead, the newly-reelected president largely seemed to be improvising, apparently even catching some of his own advisers by surprise. The French leader appeared to be animated by a desire to find a solution for war-torn Ukraine, which has pleaded desperately for fast-track membership of the EU in the months since Russia’s brutal invasion. Macron said the “legitimate aspiration” of the people of Ukraine, “like those of Moldova and Georgia, to join the European Union, invites us to rethink our geography and the organization of our continent. “Ukraine, through its combat and its courage, is already today a member of the heart of our Europe, of our family, of our union,” he declared. But even as Macron expressed an outpouring of emotion for Ukraine, which is hoping to be officially granted EU candidate status at a European Council summit in June, the French leader simultaneously appeared to dash Kyiv’s highest hopes. “Even if tomorrow we granted them the status of candidate for membership of our European Union … we all know perfectly well that the process allowing them to join would take several years — in truth, probably several decades. And it is the truth to say this, unless we decide to lower the standards of this membership and therefore to completely rethink the unity of our Europe.” However, in proposing new tiers of political affiliation with the EU, Macron was calling into question some of the most treasured, cherished and unshakeable pillars of the Union, including a balance of rights and responsibilities that entails fealty to EU law and payments into a common budget. And the organization that Macron described sounded a lot like the EU — yet would be open to countries such as the U.K. that had quit the bloc.”.

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