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In this Morning Brief, we open with the EU’s newest plan for developing and scaling up low-carbon technologies amidst the energy crisis the continent is facing, EIT is to fund twenty companies in New European Bauhaus drive, the World Bank’s newest report on the economic situation in Ukraine due to the war, the ERC issues an ultimatum for UK-based grant holders to move to the EU or risk losing their grant, Bulgaria is launching an AI centre to woo science and tech talent from the West, 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:

EU sets out plan for developing and scaling up low carbon technologies

The European Commission has published a list of key low-carbon technologies and detailed how research and innovation investments can be used to make them available for use energy-intensive industries, in latest attempt to provide a stimulus for decarbonization in the EU.

The roadmap comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine prompts the Commission to further push for a green energy transition to stop reliance on energy imports from the aggressor. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has strengthened the case to accelerate the green transition and become more resource efficient,” said EU research and innovation commissioner Mariya Gabriel.

The Commission’s assessment maps the locations and greenhouse gas emissions of industries such as chemicals, iron, steel, and cement, and proposes actions for accelerating their decarbonization. 

The Commission proposals include a potential creation of a platform for collaboration with energy-intensive industries, facilitation of national strategies and programmes, and establishing a community of practice to simplify the authorization for first-of-a-kind installations of low-carbon technologies. The actions seek to encourage public and private investments in member states. “EU instruments are available but cannot replace national and private investments,” said Gabriel.

The roadmap compliments the new Industrial Emissions Directive proposed by the Commission which introduces a revised framework for preventing and controlling industrial pollutants emissions from large industrial installations.

Make sure to check it here.


EIT to fund 20 companies in New European Bauhaus drive

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has announced the winners of its funding scheme which provides grants and services to companies aligned with the EU’s green goals. 

Each awarded start-up and scale-up will receive €50,000 in grants and business services, to deliver innovations such as sustainable urban farms that use 90% less water, using soil microbes to generate light and energy, and transforming building facades to grow and protect biodiversity in public spaces. All the innovations are seen as drivers for the New European Bauhaus, the European Commission’s initiative putting a label on the EU’s net-zero ambitions. 

The EIT has a €5 million budget for New European Bauhaus in 2021 and 2022. In this latest call, it received 1,029 from start-ups in 37 countries.

See the winners here.


Protecting the most vulnerable must be foremost in addressing economic fallout of war in Ukraine

According to the World Bank’s latest report, “Ukraine and its people continue to suffer from unimaginable loss and devastation caused by the Russian invasion that began on 24 February. The ongoing war has resulted in a major humanitarian crisis that deepens each day, including a mass movement and exodus of Ukraine’s population. More than 4 million refugees to date have entered neighbouring countries to escape the war – most of them women and children. The war is causing severe damage to the economies of Ukraine and the rest of emerging and developing Europe and Central Asia, but the impacts are reverberating far beyond the region to every corner of the globe. The poorest and most vulnerable will be hit hardest. Soaring fertilizer, food and energy prices will lead to greater poverty and hunger for many. Developing economies neighbouring Ukraine and Russia will bear the brunt of the economic crisis. Our latest Economic Update for Europe and Central Asia projects the regional economy will shrink by 4.1 percent in 2022, compared with the pre-war forecast of 3 percent growth. The economic shocks from the war are compounding the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This would be the second contraction in as many years, and twice as large as the pandemic-induced contraction in 2020. Ukraine’s economy is expected to shrink by nearly half (around 45 percent) this year, although the magnitude of the contraction will depend on the duration and intensity of the war. And, following an unprecedented level of sanctions, Russia’s economy has plunged into a deep recession with output projected to contract 11.2 percent this year. Countries in the region were already bracing for a sharp slowdown in 2022 due to a global deceleration in growth and trade, continued COVID-19 disruptions, inflationary pressures, debt sustainability concerns and rising interest rates. The war in Ukraine has compounded these challenges, with the economic impacts being felt through multiple channels, including commodity and financial markets, trade and migration links, remittances, and investor confidence.”.


Webinar: Avoiding errors in declaring personnel costs in Horizon 2020 grants

Don’t miss this webinar by the European Commission on April 28th, from 10h00 to 12h00 (CEST) where H2020 personnel costs are being discussed, especially how to avoid errors when declaring them.

Click here for more information.


ERC issues ultimatum telling 150 UK-based grant holders to move to the EU

According to Science|Business, “The European Research Council (ERC) has asked successful applicants based in the UK to move to an EU institution within the next two months, or else give up their grants. EU-UK science relations are moving further into uncharted territory, with the UK being kept outside the EU’s €95.5 billion research programme Horizon Europe. Due to a lack of diplomatic progress ironing out disagreements over the Brexit trade deal, UK association to Horizon has been put on hold. The ERC is the EU’s main funding agency for basic research and its budget is part of Horizon Europe. On Friday, the agency sent letters to all 150 UK-based applicants who were selected for Starting, Consolidator and Advanced grants under the 2021 work programme, telling them they have two months to decide to move to an eligible institution, or they will have to give up the EU money. That is a short amount of time to handle such an upheaval. A spokesman for the ERC said the agency could extend the two month period “in exceptional, justified cases.” It seems more likely that ERC grantees based in the UK will apply to the financial guarantee scheme set up by the UK government in case EU grants were withdrawn. The scheme, announced in November, was recently extended to cover grants for which the final contracts are due to be signed this year. ERC grant winners based in the UK would get the money from UK Research and Innovation. The ERC says the deadline for signing the grant agreements is approaching and it has issued its ultimatum to be in a position transfer the money to researchers who just missed the cut. All ERC grants under Horizon’s 2021 work programme need to be signed by December. The agency needs “enough time to prepare and sign grants until the end of 2022,” the spokesman said. The ERC says it will replace UK-based researchers who choose not to move to the EU or a Horizon-associated country, but will have to “reach a bit deeper” into the back-up lists. “It’s important to note however that we are not going to fund bad proposals because of this,” the ERC spokesman said. Research stakeholders knew this would eventually happen if political roadblocks remained, so the ERC’s decision is hardly unexpected.”.


The Ecosystem: Fab labs can also make start-ups

According to Science|Business, “The “fab lab” was born at MIT in the early 2000s, with the idea that having access to basic computer-controlled fabrication devices, such as a digital printer, a laser cutter and a milling machine, would allow you to make (almost) anything. Wildly popular with MIT students, the concept quickly spread, with many cities adding a fab lab or “maker space” to their innovation ecosystems. The Fab Lab Network now claims more than 1,750 fab labs around the world, in more than 100 countries. Many universities have also set up fab labs, primarily for students to work on their academic projects, but also with the idea of opening up to a wider community of innovators. And despite a lingering feeling that they are mainly for hobbyists, some serious start-up founders have made use of university fab labs. Take Chris Cieslak, who had worked in the wind power industry for a decade designing turbine blades when he decided to start his own company. His idea was to make a robot that could help technicians inspect and repair these blades, a procedure usually carried out at great height and under challenging conditions.”.


Info-day for Horizon Europe’s WIDERA programme

The European Commission announced today an info day for the Horizon Europe Work Programme on Widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area (ERA). It will be held virtually on 27 April 2022 (10:00-12:00).

The info day will focus on two kinds of new calls: First, the Hop On Facility, which creates the possibility for legal entities established in low R&I performing Member States to join already selected actions. Second, the ERA Talents call, which aims to attract more R&I talents of diverse expertise to entities in Widening countries. Moreover, there will be a short overview on the European Research Area policy. The subsequent Q&A will give participants the opportunity to ask any remaining questions.

Click here for more information.


Environmental Information and Data Management in the Marine Environment

Don’t miss this INESC TEC face to face course for anyone who feels or is socially responsible in the maritime sector. Taking place on April 26 and 27 as part of the Radar on Raia programme, participants will learn to obtain environmental, marine and coastal information from databases and observation networks of oceanographic, meteorological and model data.

Click here to register.

For more information on the Radar on Raia project, click here.


Bulgaria launches AI research centre to woo science and tech talent

According to Science|Business, “The Bulgarian government announced with great fanfare the launch of a new artificial intelligence (AI) and computer science research institute in Sofia, which is intended to boost the country’s credentials as a science and technology hub in central and eastern Europe. Bulgarian prime minister Kiril Petkov said the government is putting $100 million into the Institute for computer science, artificial intelligence and technology (INSAIT). Tech companies Google, DeepMind, Amazon and SiteGround announced an additional $10.5 million investment, while Bulgarian entrepreneurs will invest $600,000. “This model of financing will create a bridge between science and business, supported by the government and the state,” Petkov said at the launch event in Sofia on Monday. Petkov is a technocrat who took office in December, ending a period of political turmoil in Bulgaria which saw two national elections fail to produce a majority in 2021. He holds an MBA from Harvard and is a long time investor in technology start-ups in central and eastern Europe. His election raised hopes the Bulgarian government would focus its attention on high-tech investments and attracting back the science and technology talent the country had lost to the west.”.


The 12th Lisbon Machine Learning School will take place in July with CMU Portugal support

The 2022 Lisbon Machine Learning Summer School (LxMLS 2022) will take place between July 24th and July 29th at the Congress Centre of Instituto Superior Técnico. For the second year, CMU Portugal proudly associates with this yearly reference event.

The school covers a range of machine learning topics, from theory to practice, that are important in solving natural language processing (NLP) problems arising in different application areas. It is organized jointly by Instituto Superior Técnico (Técnico),  Instituto de Telecomunicações, Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Investigação e Desenvolvimento em Lisboa (INESC-ID), the Lisbon ELLIS Unit for Learning and Intelligent Systems (LUMLIS), and Unbabel, with the support of the CMU Portugal Program.

This year’s edition returns as an in-person 6-day event after two years online due to Covid restrictions. The deadline for applications is May 15th, 2022, and the application form is available online.

More about the School Schedule and Instructors available on the LxMLS 2022 website.


Fighting scientific disinformation: A first Europe-wide online course launches

According to Science|Business, “Online disinformation – especially about science – is one of the scourges of our age. To help researchers and communications professionals deal with it, an EU-funded consortium led by Erasmus University Rotterdam has launched a free online course on the topic. The seven-part programme, now available on educational platform Coursera, is the first massively open online course – or MOOC – on the topic made by partners from multiple European countries. The problem of scientific disinformation is vast and growing – affecting how millions of people around the world perceive climate change, the pandemic, vaccines and more. The MOOC, called “Communicating Trustworthy Information in the Digital World”, includes modules on how today’s online world affects science, the challenges social scientists face in studying dis- and mis-information, how science journalists handle “fake news”, how misinformation affects policy making. The course is designed to give practical solutions to students and young professionals. It is in English and takes approximately 6 hours to complete. The MOOC is a product of an EU Horizon 2020 project called TRESCA (Trustworthy, Reliable and Engaging Scientific Communication Approaches).”.


NATO’s role in global cyber security

Don’t miss this paper by the German Marchall Fund of the United States, as part of a series called: NATO in a New Era: Global Shifts, Global Challenges.

Malicious cyber activity has increased substantially over the past years, ranging from ransomware and espionage to politically motivated cyberattacks and sophisticated malware used in the war in Ukraine. NATO allies must remain on high alert.

The changed nature of military conflict changes the defensive mission of NATO, which faces capable opponents in cyberspace and raises the question of how to create accountability when a hostile state fails to observe globally agreed norms.

The set of action for NATO for the next five years evolves around how to impose costs and how to deny benefits against malicious actors in cyberspace.

Make sure to read the paper here.


Commission research chief eyes role as EU ambassador to Japan

According to Science|Business, “The head of the European Commission’s directorate-general for research and innovation, Jean Eric Paquet, is in line to become the European Union’s next ambassador to Japan, leaving his seat as research chief to a successor who has yet to be picked. According to sources in Brussels, the College of Commissioners has given preliminary approval to Paquet’s new job but it still needs to be signed off by EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. The move was first reported today by Politico, but rumours about Paquet’s departure have been circulating for a while in Brussels and among research managers and science diplomats in EU capitals. Some are even floating the idea that the next director general for research could be from eastern Europe, a strong political signal for advocates of a fairer access to EU research funding. However, that has not been decided yet, as it may take several months before Paquet takes up the new job in Japan. Until then, he remains in his current position.”.

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