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Happy Monday! In this Morning Brief, we open with a statement from The Guild calling for long-term, flexible support from the European Union for scholars at risk in Ukraine, the first meeting of the EU Energy Purchase Platform has happened in order to secure energy for all EU member states amidst the Russia-Ukraine conflict, new developments regarding Destination Earth, the ERC has given a two month ultimatum to UK winners of EU grants, 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:

Universities call for long-term, flexible EU support for scholars at risk

As the war in Ukraine continues, the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities is urging the EU to provide flexible support for scholars at risk through dedicated funds and adapted existing systems.

“The need for support differs between universities, and evolves quickly within and across countries. We urgently need appropriate and flexible support tools at the European level to assist threatened scholars and students,” said Jan Palmowski, secretary general of the Guild.

This week, EU member states showed their support for more EU and national aid for students, researchers and academics at risk. The Guild welcomed the move but now asks the EU to go one step further and set up permanent support schemes for scholars at risk.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the European Commission has allowed more flexible use of Erasmus+ funds to help students and staff from Ukraine and set up a €25 million fellowship scheme to support researchers fleeing the country.

Read the statement here.


Energy security: Commission hosts first meeting of EU Energy Purchase Platform

In order to secure the EU’s energy supply at affordable prices in the current geopolitical context and to phase out dependency on Russian gas, the European Commission has established with the Member States an EU Platform for the common purchase of gas, LNG and hydrogen. A first virtual meeting, chaired by Director General for Energy, Ditte Juul Jørgensen, was held yesterday, with representatives of the 27 Member States.

As agreed by the Heads of State and Government in the European Council on 25 March, it will be a voluntary coordination mechanism, bringing together the Commission and the Member States, supporting the purchase of gas and hydrogen for the Union, by making optimal use of the collective political and market weight of the EU.

The Platform will help ensuring security of supply, in particular for the refilling of gas storage facilities in time for next winter, in line with the Commission’s proposal presented on 23 March. It will also see to an optimal use of existing gas infrastructure. In addition, it will enhance long-term cooperation with key supply partners, extending also to hydrogen and renewables, possibly through Memoranda of Understanding.

The EU Energy platform will ensure cooperation in areas where it is more effective to act in a coordinated way at EU level rather than at national level.

Find out more here.

Communication on security of supply and affordable energy prices.

Proposal for a regulation on gas storage.

EU Energy security webpage.


Destination Earth: New digital twin of the Earth will help tackle climate change and protect nature

Today, the Commission has launched together with partnering organizations the Destination Earth initiative to help tackling climate change. Supported with an initial €150 million from the Digital Europe Programme until mid-2024, the goal is to develop a highly accurate digital model of the Earth. It will help monitor, model and predict natural and human activity, and develop and test scenarios for more sustainable development. High-quality information, digital services, models, scenarios, forecasts and visualizations will be provided first to public sector users and then gradually to scientific communities, the private sector, and the general public.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said: “Destination Earth will improve our understanding of climate change and enable solutions at global, regional and local level. This initiative is a clear example that we cannot fight climate change without digital technologies. For example, the digital modelling of the Earth will help to predict major environmental degradation with unprecedented reliability.”

The Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) will gradually develop the Destination Earth system by setting up a core platform that will host digital replicas of Earth systems and natural phenomena, called Digital Twins.

Find out more here!


‘The Insider’ – new episode featuring Carlos Hengeller, INESC Coimbra’s President

Welcome back to The Insider! This is a special episode, commemorative of the 20 years of our INESC institute in Coimbra. It is a very relaxed and informal conversation where our Head of Office, Ricardo Miguéis,  explores with Carlos Hengeller what defines INESC Coimbra, its inherent interdisciplinarity and what distinguishes it, its relation with University of Coimbra and other higher education institutions in the Central region of Portugal (namely the Polytechnic Institutes of Leiria and Coimbra), its light structure and “living organism” management as a strategic decision and a reflection on what makes a researcher go the extra mile, dedicate the extra hours.

We wrap it up with a vision for the future, including the importance of contract research and international cooperation in EU projects. This was a frank, open and fluid conversation and we sincerely hope you enjoy it.

Make sure to click here to listen to the episode!


UK winners of EU grants given two-month ultimatum

ERC has told UK grantees they must move their grant to an EU institution or lose funding. UK researchers awarded some Horizon Europe grants have been given two months to move their projects to a European Union institution or risk having their funding cut.

Political disputes have held up approval of UK association to the €95.5 billion R&D programme. While it remains incomplete, UK-based researchers are ineligible to receive any funding they win, though the UK has said it would cover the costs.

On April 8th , a number of UK-based grant winners reported receiving a message from the European Research Council telling them they would be “granted the possibility to ensure the eligibility of their proposal by transferring it to a new, eligible legal entity” in the EU.

Grant winners are being asked to inform the ERC of their intention “as soon as possible”. In addition, they are asked to provide a commitment letter signed by their new host institution “as soon as possible but no later than within two months of receiving this letter”.

The letter adds that the grant preparation “can only start” after the funder has received the new host institution commitment letter.

“If we do not hear from you within two months of receiving this communication, or we have not received the new commitment letter by that time, you will be considered to have declined this possibility, which will result in the rejection of your proposal.”

Read more here.


EU agrees on fifth package of restrictive measures against Russia

The European Commission welcomes the agreement by the Council to adopt a fifth package of restrictive measures against Putin’s regime in response to its brutal aggression against Ukraine and its people. Together with the four previous packages, these sanctions will further contribute to ramping up economic pressure on the Kremlin and cripple its ability to finance its invasion of Ukraine. These measures are broader and sharper, so that they cut even deeper into the Russian economy. They have been coordinated with international partners.

The Commission and the EEAS are working on additional proposals for possible sanctions, including on oil imports, and are reflecting on some of the ideas presented by Member States, such as taxes or specific payments channels, such as an escrow account. Beyond sanctions, the EU has made it clear that reducing our dependence on energy imports from Russia is an urgent imperative. The Commission announced in its REPower Communication of 8 March a strategy to reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible and work has started to implement this plan.

The package contains the following six elements:

  • Coal ban;
  • Financial measures;
  • Transport;
  • Targeted export bans;
  • Extending import bans;
  • Excluding Russia from public contracts and European money.

Make sure to read more here.


Commission makes €100 million available for innovative clean technology projects

The European Commission is launching the second call for small-scale projects under the Innovation Fund, one of the world’s largest funding programmes for the deployment of innovative low-carbon technologies, financed by revenues from the auction of emission allowances from the EU’s Emissions Trading System. 

The new call will provide grant funding of €100 million to small-scale projects, i.e. projects with a capital expenditure between €2.5 and 7.5 million, in renewable energy, energy-intensive industries, energy storage, and carbon capture, use and storage.

The funding will help highly innovative technologies, which are sufficiently mature and have a strong potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional technologies, overcome the risks linked to commercialisation and reach the market. For the first time since the creation of the Fund, the innovativeness of a project will be assessed in comparison to existing technologies in the country where the project will be implemented, and not in the European-wide landscape.

The Innovation Fund can support up to 60% of a small project’s capital expenditure. Projects will be evaluated against their potential to avoid greenhouse gas emissions, their innovation, their financial and technical maturity, their potential for scaling up and their cost efficiency. The call is open for projects from all EU Member States, Iceland and Norway until 31 August.

Up to 20 projects that are evaluated as promising but not sufficiently mature for a grant may receive project development assistance by the European Investment Bank.

Click here to find the next steps.


EU industrial technology roadmap calls for full speed development and scaling up of innovative low-carbon technologies

The Commission has published the new European Research Area (ERA) industrial technology roadmap for low-carbon technologies, which provides a list of key emerging low-carbon technologies for energy-intensive industries and ways to leverage R&I investments to accelerate their development and uptake in energy-intensive industries. The roadmap complements the revised Industrial Emissions Directive, as proposed on 5 April, which will help reach EU’s 2050 zero pollution ambition announced under the European Green Deal. The draft law introduces a revised framework for preventing and controlling industrial pollutants emissions from large industrial installations.

The roadmap points to a gap between the current overall research and innovation (R&I) investments across energy-intensive sectors and the amount needed to reach EU Green Deal emission targets for 2030 and 2050. The biggest investment gap concerns investments in the coming years in first-of-a-kind installations for low-carbon industrial technologies and further deployment of mature technologies. This roadmap and all other actions will contribute to closing the gap.

Click here for more information.


Introducing the Global Health EDCTP3 Joint Undertaking

On 10 May 2022, the Global Health EDCTP3 Joint Undertaking (GH EDCTP3 JU) will host its launch event.

During this event, it will:

  • Highlight the importance of the GH EDCTP3 JU to ensuring R&I collaboration, cooperation and funding in the area of infectious diseases and the commitment of the partners to such endeavour;
  • Present the achievements of the previous programme, including how the new partnership will build on these, and describe the new features of the GH EDCTP3 JU;
  • Include a panel discussion to discuss the objectives and ambitions for the new partnership.

Find out more about this event here.

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