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In this Morning Brief, we open with the renewal of the AER agreement which marks continuous collaboration between Asia-Pacific and Europe, the EU agrees on a fourth package of restrictive measures against Russia, there’s a new European call for cross-border renewable energy projects, the European Growth Model has been introduced, INESC TEC develops autonomous robot to prevent pests, diseases and insects on mountain vineyards, 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:

Greater networking collaboration between Asia-Pacific and Europe with renewal of AER agreement

After three years of successful collaboration on the Asia-Pacific-Europe Ring (AER), the underlying Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was extended and expanded in a virtual signing ceremony at the APAN53 conference held in Bangladesh, o the 7th March.

The initial AER MoU, signed in July 2019, set up a co-operative arrangement for leading-edge Research and Education Networks (RENs) with 100G connectivity between Europe and Asia to provide back up for each other in the event of any link failure, thereby creating an extremely robust and resilient 100G network ring.

Today’s news will see the original members (AARNet, GÉANT, NICT, NII, NORDUnet, SingAREN, SURF, and TEIN*CC) joined by HARNET (Hong Kong) and KAUST (Saudi Arabia) to not only create an extended membership but to add significant further resilience to the global research and education network system.


Ukraine: EU agrees fourth package of restrictive measures against Russia

The European Commission welcomes today’s agreement by the Council to adopt a fourth package of restrictive measures against Russia in response to its brutal aggression against Ukraine and its people. These sanctions will further contribute to ramping up economic pressure on the Kremlin and cripple its ability to finance its invasion of Ukraine. They have been coordinated with international partners, notably the United States.

The agreed measures are the following:

  • A full prohibition of any transactions with certain Russian State-owned enterprises across different sectors – the Kremlin’s military-industrial complex;
  • An EU import ban on those steel products currently under EU safeguard measures, amounting to approximately € 3.3 billion in lost export revenue for Russia. Increased import quotas will be distributed to other third countries to compensate;
  • A far-reaching ban on new investment across the Russian energy sector, with limited exceptions for civil nuclear energy and the transport of certain energy products back to the EU;
  • An EU export ban on luxury goods (e.g. luxury cars, jewellery, etc.) to directly hit Russian elites;
  • Moreover, the list of sanctioned persons and entities has been further extended to include more oligarchs and business elites linked to the Kremlin, as well as companies active in military and defence areas, which are logistically and materially supporting the invasion. There are also new listings of actors active in disinformation;
  • A ban on the rating of Russia and Russian companies by EU credit rating agencies and the provision of rating services to Russian clients, which would result in them losing even further access to the EU’s financial markets.

For more information click here.


CEF Energy: New call for cross-border renewable energy projects

As announced in previous communications, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Energy programme for the 2021-2027 period has been extended with a cross-border renewable energy window that will contribute to meet EU decarbonisation targets by optimising national efforts for deployment of renewable energy.

Following a first call for proposals to support preparatory studies for cross-border renewable energy projects, the European Commission has, with the support of CINEA, launched a call to obtain the status of cross-border renewable energy projects (CB RES status) and therefore enter a list of projects eligible for CEF funding (CB RES list).

This call is particularly important because having the official CB RES status is a requirement to be eligible for financial support under the CEF Energy Programme, and it could provide further benefits such as higher visibility, increased investor certainty, and stronger support from EU countries.

The type of projects expected for the call are projects promoting cross-border cooperation in the renewable energy sector, either between EU countries or between EU countries and non-EU countries. The call also covers projects facilitating renewable energy sources integration through energy storage facilities and which contribute both to the strategic uptake of innovative renewables technologies and to the EU’s long term decarbonisation strategy.

Promoters of candidate projects for the CB RES status can participate in the call by submitting an application via EU SURVEY until 10 May 2022.


Russian participation in ITER nuclear fusion project ‘not an easy subject’ in wake of invasion

According to Science|Business, “As the world cuts Russia off from more and more joint research and innovation projects following its invasion of Ukraine, there’s been deafening silence from the ITER megaproject that is seeking to demonstrate the potential of nuclear fusion by building the world’s largest tokamak in south west France. ITER was jointly conceived and pushed forward in the midst of the Cold War by US and Russian leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. It was a major moment for science diplomacy, but today the future of ITER as a channel of cooperation between Russia and the west is in question. Along with cuts to research ties mandated by government across Europe, Russia has been axed from other big collaborative research projects. Last week, the particle physics lab CERN suspended Russia’s status as an observer to the organisation. A week earlier, a European project, the X-ray Free-Electron Laser, said it will not start new agreements with Russian institutions and was suspending existing ones. Ukraine’s Council of Young Scientists has called for Russia to be banned from ITER, but this may not be so straightforward. Russia, alongside China, the EU, India, Japan, Korea and the US, is one of the seven founders of the 35-year project. In effect, this means there is no way to exclude it from the project completely.”.


Towards a green, digital and resilient economy: the European Growth Model

The European Commission has put forward a Communication on the European Growth Model. It recalls the common objectives the EU and its Member States have committed to with respect to the green and digital transition and to strengthening social and economic resilience. It acknowledges that the European economy is undergoing unprecedented transformations in the context of major uncertainties linked to the global and security outlook. The Communication confirms that those developments underscore the need to work closely with our international partners and to reinforce our long-term sustainable growth agenda.

The Communication aims to provide input to the discussions on the European economic growth model, which will take place at next week’s informal European Council meeting of heads of state or government. The Communication sets out the key investments and reforms that are required to achieve our common objectives and underlines the importance of coordinated action by all relevant actors, including the EU, Member States and the private sector.

Read more here.


Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) postdoc fellowship results postponed

The results of the latest Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Postdoctoral Fellowships call have been postponed and are now expected to be announced by the end of March.

The fellowship grants allow researchers holding a PhD to carry out research abroad and are a flagship MSCA initiative. The results of the 2021 call will be communicated by the end of the month by the European Commission’s Research Executive Agency, which manages Horizon Europe grants.

The next call for postdoctoral fellowships will open this spring.


EU Summit draft backs urgent refilling of gas stores for next winter

According to EURACTIV, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted leaders from the EU’s 27 member countries to agree last week to phase out their reliance on Russian fossil fuels, including by ramping up liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports and speeding up deployment of renewable energy. A total phase-out will take years, however, so countries are also planning measures to mitigate potential disruptions to supply from Russia, which provides 40% of the EU’s gas, 27% of its oil imports and 46% of coal imports. “Refilling of gas storage across the Union should start now. Member States and the Commission will urgently coordinate measures necessary to ensure adequate levels of gas storage before the next winter,” said a draft of the conclusions for an EU leaders summit on March 24-25, seen by EURACTIV. The European Commission will propose rules by next month requiring EU countries to collectively ensure gas stores are at least 90% full by Oct. 1 each year. The EU leaders’ draft statement said they would “take forward” that proposal. EU gas stores are currently 26% full.”.


INESC TEC develops autonomous robot to prevent pests, diseases and insects on mountain vineyards

INESC TEC, in partnership with Pulverizadores Rocha, developed a sprayer robot for mountain vineyards, within the scope of the PRYSM project. This technology will decrease the use of pesticides and promote a more sustainable agriculture, as it will improve the spraying process by dispensing the right amount of product in the required places.

“Currently, there are several companies working on spraying robots for vineyards, but they’re still at a very early stage. The PRYSM solution is different from all others because it is designed to be compatible with mountain vineyards, with an impact on other contexts of permaculture and tree crops”, explained Filipe Neves dos Santos, researcher at INESC TEC and project coordinator.

The robot is small, it weighs close to 500 kg, and can navigate autonomously in steep slope vineyards, as is the case of the Douro Region. In addition, it can carry a load of up to 300 kg, and it includes a precision sprayer.

The PRYSM project was funded by the Horizon 2020 programme, through the MEMERA project, receiving €200K; the presentation of the project will take place in April, at the FIMA Agrícola 2022 (Spain).


NeuralShift, a new spinoff of INESC-ID

NeuralShift has been introduced as a spinoff of INESC-ID, with deep learning solutions for vision and natural language challenges.

NeuralShift develops last-gen artificial intelligence technologies to build products tailored to companies’ specific automation needs. Their vision is to integrate computer vision technologies, natural language processing, and sequential decision-making models to bring intelligence to the automation of processes that involve complex tasks, such as package sorting, damage identification, and document processing.


UK extends Horizon Europe guarantee until end of 2022

According to Science|Business, “The UK has extended its funding guarantee for Horizon Europe applicants until the end of the year, providing a measure of security for researchers caught in limbo by the country’s failure to associate to the programme. Association has still not been formalised, with the Commission not signing on the dotted line because of wider disputes with the UK over the post-Brexit settlement. UK researchers can still apply to Horizon Europe, but without association agreed, they can’t access grant money, which is why the UK government has stepped in with its own funds. The uncertainty “risks having a seriously damaging impact on UK research which the UK government is determined to prevent by providing and now extending, our UK funding guarantee for successful UK Horizon applications,” said science minister George Freeman.”.

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