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In today's Morning Brief:

Research and Innovation Days 2021 – Live online today and tomorrow

Today is the first day of the Research and Innovation Days, a series of live sessions about the future of European research and innovation and Horizon Europe, taking place today and tomorrow

You can join the event, even without registration, just click here. You can also participate in the chat just on the right hand side of the live sessions video and through Slido you can participate in the diverse consultations and Q&As prepared by the European Commission. Just use the code #RIdaysEU.

Just as this newsletter is coming out (at 12h CET/11h WEST) a session on European Partnerships is starting, with the participation of Joaquim Meneses, President of IberoMoldes and Chairman of EFFRA. Later today you have short, half-hour plenaries on innovation, green and digital transition, ERA and universities. But the programme is actually much richer and goes on for two days, until the end of tomorrow. Check it out here.

Topics covered this afternoon include: the Green and Digital Transition, innovation ecosystems, the European Research Area, research for post-COVID-19 recovery, Open Science, and the European Strategy for Universities.


EIC Pathfinder Challenge calls

The European Innovation Council has launched the calls for its five EIC Pathfinder Challenges. The Challenges build on cutting-edge directions in science and technology to create new market opportunities. For each Challenge, the EIC will support a carefully crafted portfolio of projects that jointly explore different perspectives, competing approaches or complementary aspects of the Challenge. With its five Pathfinder Challenges for the 2021 call, EIC calls for high-risk/high-gain research and development, venturing into new interdisciplinary areas. Success will pave the way for innovation, not just from a specific application but ultimately sweeping across industrial and societal sectors. The 5 Challenges are:

  • Awareness inside
  • Tools to measure and stimulate activity in brain tissue
  • Emerging technologies in cell and gene therapy
  • Novel routes to green hydrogen production
  • Engineered living materials

The deadline for submission of proposals is on 27 October 2021. More information on how to apply can be found here.


Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions: Commission supports researchers and organisations with €822 million in 2021

Today, the Commission announced new calls to support researchers’ training, skills and career development under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), the EU’s flagship funding programme under Horizon Europe for doctoral education and postdoctoral training. The calls follow the adoption of the Horizon Europe 2021-2022 work programme. With a total budget of €6.6 billion over 2021-2027, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions support researchers from all over the world, at all stages of their careers and in all disciplines. They also benefit institutions by supporting excellent doctoral, postdoctoral programmes and collaborative research, and innovation projects, boosting their global attractiveness and visibility and fostering cooperation beyond academia, including with big companies and SMEs.


Poland’s R&I institutional system reform: INESC TEC among the 7 EU institutes in best-practice study

A new law in Poland gives more autonomy to universities in setting research priorities and makes research financing simpler, with the aim of enabling them to become more successful in EU R&D funding programmes and increase their standing on the international stage. Now, researchers are waiting to see if it will produce the hoped for outcomes. At the same time, a new network of interface centres (Research and Technology Organisations – RTOs) is being reinforced, the Lukasiewicz Research Network and INESC TEC is part of the 7 EU institutes seen as reference centre for the future of this network and will be featured in a study coordinated by Finland’s VTT to support the network’s modernisation.


European & Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2021: PT decreases innovation capacity

The regional innovation scoreboard (RIS) is a regional extension of the European innovation scoreboard (EIS), assessing the innovation performance of European regions on a limited number of indicators. The RIS 2021 provides a comparative assessment of the performance of innovation systems across 240 regions of 22 EU countries, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Regarding the specific case of Portugal the main conclusion is that “over time, performance relative to the EU has increased up until 2020 and decreased strongly in 2021.”. The Norte region is the strongest among the moderate innovator regions (Norte, Centro and Lisbon) while the remaining regions (Alentejo, Algarve, Madeira and Açores) are emerging innovators. The details are present in the report per region and can be consulted here. All the PT related reports can also be downloaded in the HUB Private Area. At EU level, excellence in research and innovation remains concentrated in northern and western Europe and the Commission still labels most countries that joined the EU after 2007 “moderate and emerging innovators.”. Check also this SB article for further analytical details.


Launch of the new EU Space Programme

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the EU have signed a partnership deal to mark the official launch of the new EU space programme.

According to Science Business, the agreement opens a fresh chapter for space projects in Europe, which will see updates of the Galileo, Copernicus and EGNOS earth observation and navigation programmes, while new projects in secure connectivity, research and development and commercialisation of space technologies will also be funded. The EU will allocate nearly €9 billion from 2021 – 2027 for ESA and European industry to design new-generation systems and programmes. This funding adds to ESA’s budget and thus consolidates an ambitious set of mandatory and optional programmes, as defined by ESA’s 22 member states.


IMI successor to launch 30 large scale health innovation projects by 2030

According to Science Business, the Innovative Health Initiative (IHI) will launch at least 30 large-scale cross-sector health innovation projects by 2030, contributing to a creation of an EU-wide ecosystem for translating research into improvements in healthcare. The EU has world-leading healthcare systems and is strong in biomedical science, but underperforms when it comes to translating research results into health products, services, and prevention strategies. To improve translation, the European Commission and the health industries have drafted a plan for the new IHI partnership that is due to launch in the next year. In addition to the 30 large-scale projects, the partnership has a brief to improve the competitiveness of the European health industry and to demonstrate at least five innovations that address unmet public health needs. IHI, the successor to the pharma-led Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), extends beyond pharmaceuticals to include medical technology, diagnostics and digital health.


New guidance for innovation procurement

The European Commission has released an updated guidance for European contracting authorities on the fundamental aspects of innovation procurement. This  clarifies the concept of innovation procurement and gives concrete examples and practical tools for public buyers to implement procurement strategies that are open to innovators and to help them acquire the new solutions the market can provide. The guidance’s main changes concern the preliminary market consultation, connection to the innovation ecosystem, intellectual property rights, the Innovation Partnership, and state aid. It will help public buyers navigate the new provisions of the 2014 EU directives on public procurement, as it illustrates how to open up public procurement to innovators, including start-ups and innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).


Fisheries control in the EU

The European Commission continues its effort to tighten its control on fisheries and the respect of existing rules. Last week, the Commission published an in-depth analysis of Member States’ sanctioning systems for infringements of the rules of the common fisheries policy (CFP), covering the period from 2015-2019 and all coastal Member States. According to the study, the EU has a generally effective sanctioning system for infringements of the CFP, although there are still some differences between Member States in the legal frameworks and the practical application. A week later, yesterday, the Commission published a report on the implementation of the Fisheries Control Regulation for the period of 2015-2019. While there have been significant improvements in the implementation of the current Regulation, compared to the previous reporting period (2010-2014), the report also points to shortcomings. Progress was made particularly in the use of satellite-based tracking systems for fishing vessels, by extending the electronic reporting of catch data and automating cross-checks of fisheries data.


[Video] EC study on new genomic techniques – What’s next?

The use of gene-editing technologies in plants has come under increased scrutiny in the EU over the past few years, following the 2018 European Court of Justice ruling that gene-edited organisms should fall, in principle, under the EU’s GMO directive. This ruling was welcomed by campaign groups and environmentalists, who warn of the wide-ranging ramifications from the use of such a technology, including corporate control of seeds and environmental concerns. However, proponents argue that gene editing is a sorely needed innovation that would help Europe’s agricultural sector meet the ambitious green objectives set out in the bloc’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork Strategy, as well as help the EU’s health sector address some of the most devastating genetic diseases. In April 2021, the European Commission published a study on new genomic techniques (NGTs), with the aim to clarify the EU’s position on the technology in light of the 2018 ruling. The study has concluded that the current legal framework governing NGTs is insufficient and indicated that new policy instruments should be considered to reap the benefits of this technology. The study has also confirmed that NGT products have the potential to contribute to sustainable agri-food systems in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy. How can the EU enable NGT products to contribute to sustainability, while addressing concerns? How can it best inform and engage with the public on NGTs?

This EURACTIV Virtual Conference discussed how progress can be made by moving away from a simple ’benefit-risk’ debate and engaging in a collaborative discussion building on the Commission’s NGT study. Listen to the full event here and watch it here.

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