Welcome to today’s Morning Brief. The Morning Brief newsletter is only available to INESC staff and affiliated researchers upon subscription (weekly or daily), after creating an account in the Private Area of the HUB website. To do so, click the log-in icon on the top-right corner of this website.

We’re back! In this Morning Brief, we bring you a small recap of the INESC Brussels Hub Winter Meeting for those who could not attend, news on new events organised by the European Union, a new tool by the European Commission, and way 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:

INESC Brussels Hub Winter Meeting 2021

We’re back! Last week we had our Winter Meeting in Coimbra, Portugal, bringing together top speakers in Europe on topics ranging from Health, to AI, Robotics and even the coveted ERC grant. If you joined us in person or via Zoom, a massive thank you for making this meeting such a success and we hope you gained some wonderful insights and it sparked discussions thanks to our incredible speakers!

The public sessions are available in the event page on our website here and we’re working hard to get all the speakers’ presentations available to you, as well as the private session on Health Technologies!

International Conference on Research Infrastructures 2022

ICRI 2022 will be hosted by the Czech Presidency of the EU, in Brno on 19-21 October 2022.

The event will provide a platform for high-level debates of research infrastructure policymakers, operators and users, and research stakeholders from around the world to address the most pressing research infrastructure topics.

This edition of the ICRI will focus on the socioeconomic benefits and social responsibility of research infrastructures in the context of international cooperation and on ways of developing an integrated infrastructure ecosystem.

Click here to learn more about it, including how to register!

Horizon Europe missions info days to be held in January

The European Commission will host a two-day event on 18 and 19 January presenting the calls and topics that will be explored as part of the five Horizon Europe missions in 2021.

The missions are a new part of the EU’s research programme aimed at mobilising action to tackle pressing societal challenges, such as restoring ocean and soil health, fighting cancer, adapting to climate change and moving cities towards climate neutrality. Until now, little has been known about how the missions will work in practice, and the event will aim to explain the specifics of the five missions to researchers, innovators and other stakeholders.

The work programme detailing the calls that will launch under the missions is due to be published in the lead up to the event.

The event page can be found here.

EIC Accelerator disburses €627 million in largest funding round to date

The European Innovation Council is set to fund 99 companies with a total of €627 million in grants and equity investment in its biggest ever funding round to help bring innovative technologies to the market.

This is the first tranche of Accelerator funding for start-ups and SMEs to come out from the newest EU fund for innovation under Horizon Europe. It will fund companies in 21 companies developing technologies such as smart reusable packaging, a platform for data-driven drug discovery for cancer patients and glasses enabling the blind to understand the environment and give feedback using sound and impulses.

The European Innovation Council is set to fund 99 companies with a total of €627 million in grants and equity investment in its biggest ever funding round to help bring innovative technologies to the market.

This is the first tranche of Accelerator funding for start-ups and SMEs to come out from the newest EU fund for innovation under Horizon Europe. It will fund companies in 21 companies developing technologies such as smart reusable packaging, a platform for data-driven drug discovery for cancer patients and glasses enabling the blind to understand the environment and give feedback using sound and impulses.

Universities set out demands for next trio EU council presidency

The European University Association is urging the next trio presidency of the EU Council – France, Czech Republic and Sweden – to work towards a system transformation for research, education and innovation in the next year and a half.

The demands mirror the goals set in the new European Research Area (ERA) and include shaping a coherent and efficient governance structure for ERA, fostering transnational collaboration, reforming academic careers, protecting university values, ensuring sufficient and sustainable funding for research, education and innovation, facilitating global engagement and promoting university capacity in the digital transformation.

What should happen to unspent EU research money?

A row between the European Parliament and the Council over whether unspent money in the previous Horizon 2020 EU research and innovation programme should be rolled into the 2022 Horizon Europe budget remains unresolved – and could repeat itself again next year.

In 2020, the final year of the eighth research and innovation programme, the EU failed to spend €486 million. Of this, the European Commission proposed putting €77.3 million into the 2022 budget of Horizon Europe.

But MEPs also want the remaining €408.7 million to go into Horizon Europe, and in the face of the pandemic said at least half of it should be devoted to health research. Member states pushed back and in the end agreed to raise the level of the so-called de-committed funds that can be rolled into the 2022 Horizon Europe budget to €117.3 million, more than the Commission’s June proposal, but far less than MEPs wanted.

“What this means is that the member states decided to retroactively cut [€369 million] on research and innovation,” said German MEP and Horizon Europe rapporteur Christian Ehler.

According to Ehler, while budgetary stability should be a priority, the Parliament cannot rely on member states to keep their promise to spend later money on which they can’t agree now. Given this, a political agreement on reusing unspent research funds should not wait until after 2024.

While member states and MEPs agreed to not reallocate more than €500 million in unspent money during the seven-year budget, that amount can be changed anytime. “Recommitting more funds is a matter of political will,” said Ehler.

Read more about this here.

Commission proposes new EU framework to decarbonise gas markets, promote hydrogen and reduce methane emissions

Last week, the European Commission has adopted a set of legislative proposals to decarbonise the EU gas market by facilitating the uptake of renewable and low carbon gases, including hydrogen, and to ensure energy security for all citizens in Europe. The Commission is also following up on the EU Methane Strategy and its international commitments with proposals to reduce methane emissions in the energy sector in Europe and in our global supply chain. The European Union needs to decarbonise the energy it consumes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and become climate-neutral by 2050, and these proposals will help to deliver that goal.

The Commission’s proposals (regulation and directive) create the conditions for a shift from fossil natural gas to renewable and low-carbon gases, in particular biomethane and hydrogen, and strengthen the resilience of the gas system. One of the main aims is to establish a market for hydrogen, create the right environment for investment, and enable the development of dedicated infrastructure, including for trade with third countries. The market rules will be applied in two phases, before and after 2030, and notably cover access to hydrogen infrastructures, separation of hydrogen production and transport activities, and tariff setting. A new governance structure in the form of the European Network of Network Operators for Hydrogen (ENNOH) will be created to promote a dedicated hydrogen infrastructure, cross-border coordination and interconnector network construction, and elaborate on specific technical rules.

Read more about this here.

European Clusters Panorama 2021

Last week, the European Commission published the 2021 edition of the European Cluster Panorama. European clusters are groups of firms, related economic players, and institutions that are located near each other and have reached a sufficient scale to develop specialised expertise, services, resources, suppliers and skills.

The European Cluster Panorama report presents the state of play of clusters in Europe and the role they play in fostering resilient, green and digital industrial ecosystems in regional economies. The report gives a comprehensive picture of the concentration of economic activity and cluster organisations in EU countries based on sectoral data for employment and value-added across the 14 European industrial ecosystems identified in the updated Industrial Strategy.

Click here to access the interactive mapping tool.

Horizon Europe: bigger and more complex than ever – in some cases

Researchers are now grappling with the new EU research programme, said by its architects to be simplified in its structure, and designed to be much more impact-driven than its predecessors. With the first round of applications complete, Science|Business has been asking researchers about their first impressions of Horizon Europe.

The reviews are mixed. From praising the lighter administrative touch, to suggestions it would be better to revert to paper submissions, the research community is divided. One thing most agree on is that Horizon Europe calls are more ambitious than ever, and few can fit their proposals into the new 45 page limit.

Make sure to click here to read the reviews!

In focus: The digital transformation of our energy system

Digital technologies have transformed our society and our economy, affecting all of us in our daily lives at home or at work. At a time when we are generating increasing amounts of data, we could even consider it one of the “drivers” that can power the energy transition, alongside energy efficiency, renewable energy sources or fusion.

Data is intrinsically linked to two of the major political priorities of the European Commission, the digital transition of the EU economy and society and the clean energy transition under the heading of the European Green Deal. While the link to the digital transition is clear and obvious, the role that digitalisation can play in reaching our long-term ambition of becoming climate-neutral by 2050 is perhaps less evident, but no less important.

Make sure to read this in depth report by the European Commission here and to access the public consultation here which is open for input until 24 January 2022.

European Green Deal: Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform kicks off

Today, the members of the Stakeholder Platform announced by the  EU Action Plan: “Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil” met for the first time to start developing their 2022-2024 work programme, meant to support the implementation of the Action Plan. The European Commission launched the platform together with the European Committee of the Regions.

Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius added: “the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform has an important role to play in implementing our ambition of achieving zero pollution by 2050. There is a lot of work ahead of us. We invite all stakeholders involved to develop and share good practices, and to seek synergies with other relevant initiatives, be it the European Climate Pact, the Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform or others.”

For more information about this platform or any questions click here.

Long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas: launch of the Rural Pact

Yesterday, the European Commission launched the Rural Pact, an initiative, which was announced in its long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas presented in June 2021. The new pact aims to mobilise public authorities and stakeholders to act on the needs and aspirations of rural communities. It will provide a common framework to engage and cooperate at EU, national, regional and local level. Vice-president Šuica, Commissioner Wojciechowski and Commissioner Ferreira extended an open invitation here to join the discussion on the Rural Pact.

Based on wide consultations with citizens and rural stakeholders, the long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas identifies pressing challenges and highlights some of the most promising opportunities that are available to these areas. With the support of the Rural Pact and Rural Action Plan rolled out by the Commission, the long-term vision aims to make EU’s rural areas stronger, more connected, more resilient and more prosperous.

Make sure to read more about this here.

Online Info day on the 2022 AGRI Promotion Calls for proposals

From 1 February 2022 to 2 February 2022 DG Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) and the European Research Executive Agency (REA) are organising the annual Info Day online.

This year the Info day will take place over two days. The first day will be dedicated to policy aspects whilst the second day will focus on the development of successful campaigns. The participants will have the opportunity to listen to presentations by EC officials, external experts and projects’ coordinators.

As part of this event, matchmaking sessions dedicated to interaction between potential project partners are organised with a view to submitting multi-beneficiary proposals.

Make sure to find more about it and sign up here.

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