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Happy Friday! In this Morning Brief, we open with the new UK Research and Innovation Strategy for 2022-2027, a horizon scan for global public health, ESFRI’s statement on the Russian aggression towards Ukraine, the 2022 AI Index Report, The Horizon Papers – a leak of draft work programmes for the coming years after INESC Brussels Hub has been making them available for its researchers, Portugal seeks to position itself as Europe’s new gateway for gas, 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:

UK Research and Innovation Strategy 2022-2027

UKRI’s first five-year strategy outlines how the organisation will support the UK’s world class research and innovation system, fuel an innovation-led economy and society and drive up prosperity across the UK. The strategy sets out how UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will invest in people, places and ideas and break down barriers between disciplines and sectors to tackle current and future challenges. Read it in full here.


Emerging trends and technologies: a horizon scan for global public health

This report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) presents the findings of a global horizon scan on emerging technologies and trends relevant to global public health conducted in 2020 and 2021. We identified 15 new and emerging technologies and scientific advances that may have a significant impact on global health over the next two decades. WHO strives to remain “ahead of the curve” in relevant areas of research, science and technology in order to proactively identify, anticipate and shape issues that hold promise for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The Global Health Foresight function was established in the WHO Science Division for this purpose and to assist Member States in building “futures thinking” into their strategic health planning.


EU hails €80 billion Intel investment as first success for Chips Act

“US chipmaker Intel has announced investments across the EU worth tens of billions of euros in a move hailed by the European Commission as the first sign of success for its Chips Act. The company announced the first phase of a plan to spend up to €80 billion in manufacturing and research facilities in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain and France. This investment is “first major achievement under the EU Chips Act” said Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, welcoming the announcement. “It is a considerable contribution to the European chips ecosystem that we are building right now,” she said. At a time of growing global friction and competition over chips, Intel framed the investment as part of a strategy to “balance” its global semiconductor supply chain.”. Make sure to read the piece on Science|Business.


ESFRI statement on the Russian aggression towards Ukraine

ESFRI recognises that many researchers in Russia publicly condemn the aggression of their country, with potential risks to their professional career. Also, our researchers and RIs have fruitful and long-standing cooperation with the Russian communities, with ties which are often difficult to interrupt. Given the severity of the present situation, ESFRI nonetheless calls for Research Infrastructures and their funders to, within their capabilities and legal framework: 

– Aid the Ukrainian research community where possible,

– Suspend until further notice any ongoing and planned engagement with entities located in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.

Read the full statement here.


European Research Council awards another batch of scientists as UK and Swiss continue to face uncertainty

According to Science|Business, “The European Research Council (ERC) is awarding €632 million to 313 mid-career scientists in its latest funding round, including 67 researchers in the UK and Switzerland whose grants are not guaranteed as the countries’ membership in Horizon Europe remains in political limbo. To be able to host an ERC grantee, a country must be associated to the Horizon Europe research programme. The UK is still holding out for a deal once the political issues are resolved. Switzerland’s chances seem lower as the exploratory talks have ended without resolution, and political stalemate on future relationship between the Switzerland and the EU remains to be broken. The 41 grantees who have chosen to carry out research in the UK and 26 in Switzerland will now have to choose between relocating to another country or taking alternative funding back home, without the prestigious ERC title. At the time of applying, they hoped the association issues would be resolved by the time the grant funding comes in. But as the deadlocks continue, the UK extended its guarantee scheme for Horizon grantees that cannot access the funding last week. Switzerland also has a similar scheme running since last year. The schemes have already been offered to grantees from the previous ERC Starting Grants funding round for early-career scientists. Those wishing to relocate, can choose from any Horizon Europe country, which currently include all EU member states, the Western Balkans, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Norway and Turkey.”


Ethics of AI and Democracy: UNESCO recommendations insights

In this article, it is argued that the broad use by governments of AI technologies to control citizens such as automated filtering of information amounting to censorship, and mass surveillance using citizen devices and public infrastructure coupled with vast integrated databases, may lead to the erosion of political freedoms and the emergence of authoritarian regimes that are powered by AI.

AI technologies are fuelling a potent threat to democracy in form of an unprecedented and mostly un-checked concentration of data, information, and power in the hands of a small group of major digital companies which develop and own the algorithms, as well as the centralisation of the Internet itself.

Hence, in line with the outlined solution approach, UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, includes not only ethical principles and values but also concrete policy actions along with defined tools like Readiness Assessment and Ethical Impact Assessment.[16] The recommendation includes specific provisions like adding the role of an independent ‘AI Ethics Officer’ along with other tangible mechanisms to oversee ethical impact assessment, auditing and continuous monitoring efforts and ensure ethical guidance of AI technologies in the public domain. It includes guidelines around provisioning of redressal mechanisms for citizens to help bring agency to the impacted while laying stress on inclusiveness, gender equality, trustworthiness, the protection of environment and privacy. The Recommendation is intended to serve as a global ethical benchmark emphasizing on contextual assessments and equitable governance models.

Read it in full here.


2022 AI Index Report – Stanford University

The AI Index is an independent initiative at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI), led by the AI Index Steering Committee, an interdisciplinary group of experts from across academia and industry. The annual report tracks, collates, distills, and visualizes data relating to artificial intelligence, enabling decision-makers to take meaningful action to advance AI responsibly and ethically with humans in mind.

The 2022 AI Index report measures and evaluates the rapid rate of AI advancement from research and development to technical performance and ethics, the economy and education, AI policy and governance, and more. The latest edition includes data from a broad set of academic, private, and non-profit organizations as well as more self-collected data and original analysis than any previous editions.

Check it here.


EU cohesion policy: More than 1.5 million EU-funded projects accessible in new public platform

At the start of the 8th Cohesion Forum yesterday, the Commission has launched Kohesio, a public online platform gathering all the information on over 1.5 million projects in all 27 Member States financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund and the European Social Fund (ESF) since 2014. It is the first time that such a comprehensive platform of project data, that will be available in all EU languages, is created and made available to all. Setting it up required a close cooperation with managing authorities in the different Member States or regions, as cohesion projects are managed by national and regional authorities.


Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece to push for energy market reform

In this article, EurActiv reports that Prime Ministers of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece meet on Friday at a mini “Mediterranean summit” in Rome to find a consensus on reforming European energy markets and reducing energy prices. Read the full article here.

A quick note about how this newsbyte was reported in EurActiv’s usually good quality newsletter “The Capitals”, which we recommend. It is amazing that whoever journalist wrote this newsletter has adopted a north vs south language that has been previously used, on many occasions in negotiations and in the media to diminish southern European countries to touristy lazy destinations.

Most likely was not on purpose, but this “naturalization” of the use of expressions such as “Club Med” says a lot about the state of Europe and why inequality is pervasive. We don’t read those same type of expressions in media titles for central or northern Europe, only for south and east…

Quality journalism such as the one Euractiv is expected to deliver, should know the power of words.

As mentioned, even if not on purpose, we urge all journalists to reflect better before using expressions rooted in pre-conceptions or in a while you will all be finding it natural to say we spend our money on beer and women and then go cry for help… Moreover, by the way, Portugal is a 1) European 2) Atlantic country, not a Mediterranean one.


European Space Agency scraps plans for Mars mission with Russia

According to Politico, The European Space Agency is suspending plans to launch a Mars rover mission with Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine, agency Director General Josef Aschbacher said Thursday. The plan had been to launch the ExoMars rover — aimed at figuring out whether there has ever been life on Mars — this fall from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan, but ESA’s management ditched that plan following a meeting in Paris. Read the full article here.


The Horizon Papers: Draft work programmes leak again

As the INESC Brussels Hub has been making these papers available for its INESC researchers in the last couple months, Science|Business is reporting, “Unapproved drafts of Horizon Europe work programmes are again circulating online. The European Commission is beavering away on work programmes for 2023-24, the third and fourth years of its €95.5 billion programme. The final documents should be released by the end of this year, but early versions have started circulating among a group of privileged research organisations and universities. It’s not the first time this has happened. ‘Confidential’ draft work programmes for Horizon 2020 were posted on some university websites before the official launch in 2014. The first Horizon Europe work programmes also leaked online last year in January, prompting criticism on the Commission’s handling of documents which are meant to be kept under embargo until official publication. Despite the Commission’s rules, a select group of institutes and universities usually get an exclusive preview of the crucial documents, well ahead of the first round of calls. This time round, Science|Business has obtained drafts of the work programmes for the industry, civil security and health clusters, as well as the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, for 2023-24. The drafts have not been officially approved by the Commission, but they can give a useful overview of the research topics and specific calls that would come out over the next couple of years.” Make sure to click the article to find more about the available work programmes.


Stakeholder consultation on electricity market design

Following a request from the European Commission, the EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) has issued a recommendation on proposals for amendments to the Capacity Allocation and Congestion Management (CACM) Regulation ((EU) 2015/1222). One of the cornerstones of the European single market for electricity, this regulation sets the rules for electricity exchanges across EU bidding zones and rules for the market-based electricity wholesale price formation across the EU. When adopted in 2015, the CACM regulation was the first EU electricity network code/guideline.

Taking ACER’s recommendation and its own analysis into consideration, the Commission will now prepare a proposal for a recast of the CACM regulation. To support the proposal with feedback from key stakeholders, including public authorities, private organisations and industry associations, the Commission has launched a stakeholder consultation, which is open for input between 16 March and 27 April 2022.

Find out more here.


Portugal seeks to position itself as Europe’s ‘new gateway for gas’

According to EURACTIV, “Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU leaders have agreed to phase out Russian fossil fuels and the Commission has said it will publish a detailed plan in May for EU countries to stop using Russian gas, oil and coal by 2027. Eventually, the bloc is seeking to wean itself off fossil fuels more broadly as it aims for net zero emissions by 2050. “The war in Ukraine will definitely push Europe towards faster decarbonisation because it cannot rely so much on fossil fuels that it does not produce,” Portugal’s Environment and Energy Transition Minister João Matos Fernandes told Reuters in an interview. “It won’t be easy. It’s a Herculean task but it’s a necessity, because Europe must diversify the sources of its natural gas imports.” EU leaders, while supporting a reduction in the use of Russian fossil fuel have stopped short of an outright ban. Germany, which receives pipeline gas direct from Russia and lacks import capacity for LNG, has been at the forefront of those to have raised concerns of economic damage. Portugal by contrast imports LNG through Sines – the closest European port to the United States. Matos Fernandes said “the port of Sines could be a new gateway for gas coming to Europe” from suppliers including Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the United States. Portugal has plans to improve the efficiency of LNG offloading in Sines, increase storage and build a third pipeline to Spain, within four years, “which would increase its firm export capacity to Spain from 70 GW per day to 150 GW per day,” he said. But, for that to be effective, he said it is crucial to build a second gas pipeline between Spain and France. Many environmental campaigners oppose new gas pipelines and say the focus should be on investing in renewable energy.”.


Food systems can lead the way to net zero, if we act now

The food and agriculture sector can lead the world on the path to net zero, despite facing uncertainty, but it must be on the agenda at COP27 – and we have to act now. This was the overwhelming consensus of an expert panel for the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum’s ‘Bold Actions for Food’ event.

Food systems account for up to one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions and are failing 768 million people living in hunger. In the face of global shocks from the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather events, it has become more urgent than ever to transition food systems to a net-zero, nature-positive infrastructure that feeds everyone.

Make sure to click here to read some of the key takeaways from the session.


IAEA and EU discuss nuclear safety and security in Ukraine

The eighth EU-IAEA Senior Officials Meeting, which took place on 15 March in Vienna, brought together senior officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the EU to reaffirm their cooperation on nuclear activities and to further explore areas of cooperation, such as nuclear safety, security and safeguards.

Nuclear safety and security in Ukraine topped the agenda of this strategic meeting. EU Special Envoy for Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Marjolijn van Deelen, conveyed the EU’s concern over the growing nuclear safety and security risks in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s military aggression, and reaffirmed the EU’s support to the IAEA’s initiative to ensure the safety and security of all nuclear facilitates in Ukraine.

Beyond safety and security, the role of nuclear power in accelerating the transition to carbon neutrality was discussed, as well as its contribution to decreasing the world’s dependency on hydrocarbons.


Russian labs run out of equipment as sanctions begin to bite

According to Science|Business, “Russian researchers are losing access to vital lab equipment and computing power as western sanctions against the country begin to bite, potentially crippling Russia’s scientific base. A mixture of direct export controls, banking sanctions and logistics shutdowns are depriving the country of kit like chemical reagents and new computers, while some of the world’s biggest scientific instrument manufacturers have stopped selling to Russia. “We have problems with many companies delivering reagents and equipment,” said Vsevolod Makeev, head of the computational biology department at the Vavilov Institute of General Genetics in Moscow. “Our requests are either rejected or responded to in a way that delivery is put on hold.” The EU has banned the export of a huge range of technical equipment to Russia, including mass spectrometers and oscilloscopes, even if the kit isn’t made in the bloc. “The sanctions really impede many areas of basic research,” said technology geopolitics expert Julian Ringhof, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The US has meanwhile banned semiconductors, computers, lasers and sensors from export to Russia. Gauging the exact impact of these sanctions on Russian science is tricky, because the rules are still being pored over by lawyers, and Russian academics are reluctant to speak out in a period of deepening repression. But a survey of senior biologists by the Russian science outlet PCR News on 13 March – bluntly titled “Does Russian biology have a future?” – paints a bleak picture.”.

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