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In this Morning Brief, we open with a workshop on Silicon Photonics, a leak by EURACTIV on the EU to mandate 90% gas storage refill for next winter amidst the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, a fascinating Financial Times article on the intersection between AI and healthcare, a Turkish initiative that is turning algae into bio-jet fuel, ENISA and CERT-EU launch a joint publication on cyber resilience, 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:

KTD Consultation Workshop on Silicon Photonics

Silicon photonics has reached a pivotal point en route to becoming a pervasive technology for a wide range of applications and markets, not limited to telecommunication and datacommunication. Don’t miss this online workshop on March 30. 

The Goals of this KDT workshop organized by AENEAS, EPoSS and Inside together with the KDT JU office are:

  • Introduction of Silicon Photonics activities in Europe (existing Pilot-lines, HEU Cluster 4 funding) and the state-of the art;
  • Consultation on planned focus topic call “Industrial supply chain for silicon photonics (IA)” in KDT Call 2022;
  • To connect and align the KDT and Photonics 21 community;
  • Start an expert working group in the field of Silicon photonics for future common activities;
  • Discuss commonly about future R&D&I needs to industrialize Silicon Photonics in Europe.

Find out more and register here.


LEAK: EU to mandate 90% gas storage refill for next winter

According to EURACTIV, “The European Commission will table proposals on Wednesday (23 March) obliging EU countries to fill up their gas stores at least 90% before the next winter season and introduce a new certification scheme to prevent manipulation of gas storage by foreign operators. The proposal will be tabled before a two-day EU summit this week (24-25 March), where EU leaders will debate energy security amid gas supply tensions caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. “The current geopolitical situation requires additional short term measures to deal with the market imbalances for energy and for securing supplies in the years ahead,” says the draft regulation on security of supply (SoS regulation), which was last amended in 2017. “The proposed 90% filling rate is a necessary and appropriate level in order to ensure security of supply over the winter in case of serious supply disruptions,” the draft regulation says. Gas prices on European markets have increased sharply since the Autumn, driven by a supply squeeze of pipeline gas coming from Russia, and insufficient storage levels during the summer months, which was 10 per cent below other years, the Commission said. Storage supplies 25-30% of gas consumed in winter and provides a buffer in case of supply disruptions, the Commission notes.”.


Will AI turbocharge the hunt for new drugs?

Don’t miss this article by the Financial Times, discussing how during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, AI was primarily used as a tool to save scientists’ time, accelerating the notoriously slow discovery process for vaccines and medications. But, advocates of AI believe its wider use during the crisis is just the start of a revolution in drug discovery that will harness growth in biological and chemical data, computing power and smarter algorithms that could reduce soaring healthcare bills and create treatments for conditions where there are none.


A radical, carbon negative project in Turkey is turning algae into bio-jet fuel

The first carbon-negative biorefinery in Europe opened in Istanbul and is utilising algae to make a variety of products for multiple sectors in Turkey. The country is hoping to use both microalgae and macroalgae to produce a variety of products including fuel, food supplements and fertilisers at its new biorefinery. The facility is part of a project that strives to use “bioeconomy” to drive development, according to Berat Zeki Haznedaroglu, an assistant professor at Bogazici University.

The biorefinery processes algae biomass to develop different products and technologies for six different sectors. The refinery is part of Turkey’s ‘Integrated Biorefinery Concept for Bioeconomy Driven Development’, or INDEPENDENT project which aims to provide fuel for the energy sector as an alternative to dependency on fossil-based and non-renewable resources among others.

It is also planning to make food supplements, pharmaceutical components, organic fertilisers and biofuel using algae being cultivated in production reactors.

Read more here.


EU holds pesticide reduction, biodiversity preservation proposals amid Ukraine war

According to EURACTIV, “The European Commission has pushed back the tabling of its ‘Nature protection package’, which included the proposal to slash the use and risk of chemical pesticides in half by 2030 and nature restoration targets which aim at halting biodiversity loss in Europe. Initially scheduled to be unveiled this Wednesday (23 March), the pieces of legislation represent two essential elements of both the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategy, the EU Green Deal agri-food chapter. According to some leaked drafts, the Commission was expected to set an EU-wide binding 50% pesticide reduction target by 2030, leaving member states free to set their national targets and the legal commitment to cover at least 10% of the European agricultural area with high-diversity landscape features. As rumours of a postponement started spreading in Brussels last week, the EU executive maintained an ambiguous stance, refusing to comment on the matter until Monday evening.”.


ENISA and CERT-EU’s joint publication on boosting cyber resilience

ENISA, the EU Agency for Cybersecurity, reported a substantial increase of cybersecurity threats for both private and public organisations across the EU. Three factors are at play in such a trend:

  • Ransomware remains a prime threat, putting millions of organisations at risk;
  • Cybercriminals are increasingly motivated by the monetisation of their activities;
  • Attacks against critical infrastructure are rising exponentially and other economic sectors as well as society at large can be exposed.

An analysis of the rise in major threats is made available in the Agency’s 2021 Annual Threat Landscape report. In light of the above, ENISA and CERT-EU strongly encourage all public and private sector organisations in the EU to adopt a minimum set of cybersecurity best practices, available here: “Boost your Organisation’s Cyber resilience – Joint Publication“.

This publication is mainly intended for decision makers (both in IT and general management) and security officers (e.g. CISOs).  It is also aimed at entities that support organisational risk management. By following these recommendations in a consistent, systematic manner, ENISA and CERT-EU remain confident that organisations in the EU will be able to substantially improve their cybersecurity posture and in doing so will enhance the overall cyber resilience of Europe.


Open Call: European Circular Cities and Regions Initiative

ERRIN is a contracting partner in the new European Circular Cities and Regions Initiative, which was launched at the beginning 2022. The Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI) is part of the new European Circular Economy Action Plan adopted in March 2020 and aims to support Europe’s green transition by boosting circularity at local and regional level. In order to build capacity and drive economic growth, it works to increase collaboration and knowledge sharing between EU cities and regions. The initiative now has an open call for pilot and fellow cities and regions.

The call aims to select a group of 10 Pilot cities, regions or territorial clusters that will benefit from 4 years of knowledge-sharing and technical support to speed up their circular policy implementation. Furthermore, 20 Fellow cities, regions and territorial clusters can liaise with the pilot group to engage in the multistakeholder learning process.

Click here to find out how to apply.


Universities call for coordinated EU support for Ukrainian students and researchers

The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities wants EU member states and the European Commission to join efforts to enable comprehensive support across the bloc for students and researchers from Ukraine.

With a statement published today, the Guild joins Christian Ehler, member of the European Parliament’s and its Horizon Europe rapporteur, in urging the EU to set up new tools to effectively help Ukrainian researchers, students and support staff fleeing war. 

The Guild has eight recommendations for the EU, including easing the rules for mobilising funds from the Erasmus+ education mobility programme and setting up a fund for researchers at risk.

“Member states have already shown great flexibility in enabling universities respond to the war in Ukraine effectively. But we need more,” said Jan Palmowski, secretary general of the Guild. “Now is the time for bold action, coordinated at a European level, bringing together European states in solidarity.”.


EU is committed to the protection of biodiversity in the ocean

The fourth Intergovernmental Conference on a Treaty of the High Seas (the UNCLOS implementing agreement on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, known also as “BBNJ”) concluded its work on March 18, and an agreement on an ambitious, fair, effective agreement on the treaty is in sight. Such agreement will provide much needed protection to biodiversity in the ocean.

At the ministerial meeting in the margins of the conference, Commissioner Sinkevičius reminded participants that the high seas comprised 95% of the ocean, provided invaluable ecological, economic, social and food security benefits to humanity and were in need of urgent protection.

The EU confirmed itself as the driving force in the negotiations, participating actively, and was often hailed as a “bridge builder” in the discussions.

In concluding the conference, the EU and its Member States have stressed the urgency to act to protect the ocean globally, and called for a fifth and final session to take place in August 2022.

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