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In this Morning Brief, we open with nine renewable industry lobby groups stating the EU fund for clean tech is failing its mission, The Guild has published a statement on the importance of sustainability and quality as hallmarks of academic publishing in Europe, MEPs are pushing for accelerated EU action and energy independence in regards to climate change, the EU and the USA are edging closer together on artificial intelligence, 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:

Renewable energy industry says EU fund for clean tech is failing its mission

Nine renewable industry lobby groups say the EU’s Innovation Fund aimed at financing low-carbon technology demonstrators is failing to advance renewable energy technologies. 

In a letter sent to EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton, the associations argue the award criteria for its calls “put renewable projects at a structural disadvantage.” 

In the first €1 billion Innovation Fund call for large-scale, no money went to renewable energy generation projects and only one renewables manufacturing project won funding. In the second edition of the call this year, proposals for renewable energy projects plummeted, as the sector lost hope in securing funding. The letter suggests this undermines EU’s green energy objectives, which heavily rely on renewables.  

To fix the issue, the associations calls on the European Commission to dedicate the third call for large-scale projects to renewable energy, adjust the award criteria, and create new calls for medium-sized projects, ranging between €7.5 to €60 million.


The Guild: Diversity, sustainability and quality must be the hallmarks of academic publishing in Europe

Ahead of the June Competitiveness Council, where the ministers will be invited to adopt conclusions on research assessment and implementation of Open Science policies, The Guild urges the member states to ensure that Open Access serves science, not publishers.

While research excellence requires free flow of knowledge, some Open Access strategies and models increase the financial burden on research institutions. Article Processing Charges (APCs), used by some of the Open Access journals, exacerbate the unsustainable situation of journal spending in university libraries and create unequal access to knowledge. Greater transparency on the publication costs for Open Access journals, and fair and transparent contractual arrangements with publishers are crucial for monitoring the proper use of public research funding.

It is important to develop alternative and sustainable non-APC Open Access models. The Guild calls for the member states to support the development and uptake of Diamond Open Access journals and platforms which consist often of community-driven, and academic-led and owned publishing initiatives. Unlike other Open Access models, Diamond Open Access journals and platforms do not charge any fees from the authors or readers. Thus, they can further empower researchers to disseminate their research results, ensuring bibliodiversity and vital academic publishing.

Researchers and research institutions are key to addressing some of the obstacles hindering the uptake of Diamond Open Access in Europe. Hence, The Guild endorses the Action Plan for Diamond Open Access which opens a necessary dialogue on how to align and develop common resources to increase efficiency and quality standards of Diamond Open Access journals and platforms.

Read the full statement.


Climate change: MEPs push for accelerated EU action and energy independence

MEPs adopt their position on key EU draft laws to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % by 2030 and to protect jobs and citizens.

On Tuesday, the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety adopted five reports of the “Fit for 55 in 2030 package”. This is the EU’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and have net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (climate neutrality) by 2050 in line with the European Climate Law.

The package adopted today is an important step towards the EU’s goal to become independent from expensive and polluting fossil fuels from Russia well before 2030.

MEPs want to incentivise industries to further reduce their emissions and invest in low-carbon technologies. The Emissions Trading System (ETS) should be reformed, including:

  • New ETS II for buildings and road transport – citizens not to be included before 2029
  • Free allowances to be phased out from 2026 and disappear by 2030
  • A bonus-malus system to be introduced from 2025
  • Revenues to be used exclusively for climate action in EU and member states.

For more details, see the separate press release. MEPs have also adopted a report on the revision of the ETS as regards aviation.


EU and US edge closer together on AI at latest Trade and Technology Council meeting

According to Science|Business, “The EU and the US have edged closer to a common approach to artificial intelligence (AI) following the latest meeting of the transatlantic Trade and Technology Council (TTC), although their domestic strategies for regulating the technology remain poles apart. After meeting in the Parisian suburb of Saclay on 15-16 May, officials from Washington and Brussels also pledged to make it easier for academics to delve into social media platform data, and said they would better coordinate R&D efforts to wean themselves off Chinese supply chains. One of the key outcomes was a commitment to a “joint roadmap on evaluation and measurement tools for trustworthy AI and risk management,” a step beyond what was agreed last September at the council’s inaugural meeting in Pittsburgh. This latest meeting marks an intensification of cooperation on AI between the US and EU, said Sebastien Krier, an AI policy expert at Stanford University. “It goes a bit further than broad high-level commitments,” he said. Measurement tools for “trustworthy AI” mean creating ways of checking things like error rates or ways of testing how fair an AI system is, said Krier. As for AI “risk management”, this means working out exactly how creators of AI systems account for different forms of risk – be it discrimination against minorities, environmental harm, or longer-term risks. The statement doesn’t say that the EU and US will necessarily use the same tools to scrutinise their AI systems, but it does confirm that Washington and Brussels will work towards “interoperable approaches for managing AI risks.” They also agreed on a “shared hub/repository of metrics and methodologies for measuring AI trustworthiness and AI risks.” Still, the EU and US are taking very different approaches to AI domestically. The EU’s AI Act, currently being scrutinised by lawmakers, would largely prohibit certain uses of AI, like real-time facial recognition. But the US, at least at a federal level, is for now taking a voluntary approach. It has asked the National Institute of Standards and Technology to draw up guidelines for how to manage AI risks, leaving judgement calls on risk in the hands of companies that create AI systems. The White House is also working up a Bill of Rights for an Automated Society, in consultation with the public. “The EU has been faster in building legislation, while the US is being more cautious,” said Krier. Some campaigners want much more coordination between the EU and US, and for the council to take a much stronger line against specific uses of AI. “The TTC must move purposefully to address the far-reaching problems of AI bias in the digital economy,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Center for AI and Digital Policy, a Washington DC-based think tank. “The TTC should also draw red lines for those AI applications, such as facial surveillance, that should simply be prohibited. And more could be done to promote a dialogue between Congress and the [European] Parliament,” he said.


Open Call: New EU TalentOn invites young, academic talent to find solutions for our most pressing challenges

Yesterday,  the Commission and Leiden – European City of Science 2022 launched a call for applications for the EU TalentON, a new event that challenges young, academic talent to find solutions contributing to the goals of the five EU Missions from Horizon Europe. The four-day event brings together early career researchers between the ages of 21 and 30 and features an extensive programme, co-created with academia, entrepreneurs and industry.

Divided in small teams, young academic talents will receive the necessary tools to create innovative and marketable solutions with societal impact, as well as workshops, company visits, lectures, creative guidance and cultural experiences. At the end of the event, each team will pitch their solution to a professional jury and the public. Winners will receive sponsored prizes from the EU, industry and mentors.

Each team will focus on a challenge related to one of the five EU missions. These novel tools of Horizon Europe support research to find responses to some of the greatest challenges we are facing today: fighting cancer, adapting to climate change, protecting the ocean, seas and waters, living in greener cities and ensuring healthy soil and food. Missions set clear goals to be achieved by 2030. They provide the right conditions and funding to enable researchers, innovators, policy makers, businesses and citizens to act together.

The EU TalentON is supported by Horizon Europe Work Programme ‘Widening participation and strengthening the European Research Area’. All costs of participants, including travel, accommodation and mails will be covered. Early career researchers can apply to join the EU TalentON until the end of June.


Commission launches EPREL database to help consumers on energy efficient products

A new EU-wide public database enabling consumers to compare the energy efficiency class and other data about different household products has been launched by the European Commission this week. With detailed information on well over 1 million products, the European Product Registry for Energy Labelling (EPREL) breaks new ground in helping EU consumers become more energy efficient. Building on the highly successful EU energy label, this innovative tool provides unprecedented market transparency free of charge at a time when consumers are looking to make savings on their energy consumption, and when the Commission is trying to boost energy efficiency across the EU.

Now that the EPREL database is public, consumers have a free online tool that can help them easily find the most energy efficient models of the appliance they wish to buy and obtain key product information in all official EU languages.

Established under the 2017 Energy Labelling Framework Regulation, the EPREL registry has been operational since 2019. Since then, more than 7000 suppliers have registered household products newly placed on the market which are required to have an EU energy label. These range from light bulbs to fuel boilers, refrigerators and washing machines. Over the first 3 and a half years of operation, an estimated 1.3 million models have been registered in this database.

In addition to the standardised information on individual products, the public interface contains search options and a feature that automatically shows up-to-date, “real-time” statistics on the number and share of models in each efficiency class for any given product category or sub-selection. Results can be sorted to up to 3 parameters simultaneously. This feature will help public authorities implement green public procurement (as required under the Energy Efficiency Directive) and other policies to promote the use of energy efficient products (reduced VAT ratespublic incentives, energy investment funds). It will also help private investors, suppliers and retailers to target investments (in line with EU Taxonomy rules) and to develop, supply or market more energy efficient products.


LEAK: EU countries urged to prepare for Russian gas ‘supply shock’

According to EURACTIV, “In a policy document due to be adopted on Wednesday (18 May), the European Commission urges EU member states to step up preparations for a “full disruption of Russian gas supplies” by considering emergency measures like a temporary cap on gas prices. After Russia cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria in April, the Commission is asking EU member states to prepare for a full scale “supply shock”. Natural gas has been trading at around €100/MWh since mid-March, a seven-fold increase compared to long-time average prices, with occasional peaks at €200/MWh, caused mainly by a shortage of supplies from Russia. This has led to an increase in electricity prices, largely determined by backup power generation from gas-fired powered plants. And while previous measures adopted in the Autumn were calibrated to address a situation of sustained high gas prices, “a different set of measures may become worth considering in the event of a sudden large scale or even full disruption of the supplies of Russian gas leading to unbearably high gas prices and inadequate supply of gas,” the EU executive says in the draft policy document.”


Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe

EIT Climate-KIC and Built by Nature, announce an initiative to support a one-million-square meter prototype demonstration building project in Milano Innovation District (MIND). The project will act as a collaboration centre for industry and policymakers while creating an important source of knowledge and innovation.

Built by Nature, a network and grant-making organisation with a mission to accelerate the timber building transformation in Europe, has announced a €250,000 Accelerator Fund grant to support research into perception barriers to mass timber adoption in Italy. The initiative, coordinated by EIT Climate-KIC, will establish a physical and digital prototype building to drive understanding and adoption of mass timber, while maximising the amount of timber used in construction of the one-million-square metre Milano Innovation District (MIND) complex.

EIT Climate-KIC will coordinate collective learning as part of the research initiative and the Accelerator Fund grant will connect to EIT Climate-KIC’s Deep Demonstrations of Healthy Clean Cities EU CINCO, funded by the Laudes Foundation. The aim of the CINCO project is to learn how can cities shape the markets for carbon-neutral buildings through two experimentations for bio-based and circular construction in Milan and Madrid.

Both initiatives set the stage for collaboration with local stakeholders, the city, developers, and designers by supporting the creation of skills, motivation, and leadership to collaboratively explore how to activate levers for timber transformation of buildings. Built by Nature and EIT Climate-KIC’s partner networks will share the outputs of the project.

Read more here.


President Zelensky urges US universities to help rebuild Ukraine’s higher education system

According to Science|Business, “Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has urged universities in the US to provide the expertise in defence, cybersecurity, aeronautics and healthcare that is needed to rebuild his country’s war-torn economy and infrastructure. Earlier this year, Ukrainian universities were planning a return to on-campus teaching and research after two years of COVID-19 enforced virtual operations. But the Russian invasion has now propelled the higher education system into a much bigger crisis. University buildings, including libraries and research centres have been destroyed by Russian bombs and now the government is looking for help abroad, not only for the money to pay for new buildings, but also for experts who can help the education ministry to reform university curricula once the war is over. “This is not just about money, this is about expertise,” Zelensky told a videoconference with representatives of the Association of American Universities (AAU) on Monday, the 82nd day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. American university heads attending the meeting offered help immediately. “Count on us,” replied Kristina Johnson, president of Ohio State University.”


Partnerships for Regional Innovation: 63 regions, seven cities and four Member States selected for Pilot Action

Today, the Commission announced the 63 regions, seven cities and four Member States selected in the pilot project for Partnerships for Regional Innovation, an initiative developed together with the Committee of the Regions. Participants in the pilot action are open to share good practices and to co-develop and test tools to mobilise multiple sources of funding and policies, and connect regional and national programmes to EU initiatives for the green and digital transformations. These Partnerships will feed into the new Innovation Agenda for Europe, where innovation drives the transformation for sustainability, connecting local strategies with EU-level initiatives.

The call has attracted a wide representation of the EU innovation ecosystem, ranging from Member States such as Slovakia participating at national level and a broad variety of EU regions, such Andalusia, Azores, Hauts-de-France, Ostrobothnia, Podkarpackie, North Aegean, Emilia Romagna and many others. The call has also triggered a bottom-up collaboration and networking process, already bringing together many participants as part of multi-region networks. This includes, for example, the Baltic Sea region, the Bioregions facility and an expanded Cities 4.0 Consortium (Leuven, Bologna Turku) involving also Eindhoven (NL), Espoo (FI) and Cluj-Napoca (RO).

Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “Stronger, cleaner economies, and fairer societies can be built only by having innovation at the core of the EU policy agenda. We need innovation in every region and in every country, connecting with each other, if we are to succeed in the green and digital transitions. These Partnerships allow us to build bridges to facilitate synergies of investment and innovative solutions. I am looking forward to see the innovative ideas and approaches they will shape together.”

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “Cooperation and innovation are essential ingredients for the sustainable and resilient development of EU’s regions. All territories have an innovation potential that needs to be tapped, so I was glad to see such high interest for the call. I look forward to the results of the pilot, hoping that it will contribute to bridge the persistent innovation divide between regions that limits the performance of the EU as a whole.”

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