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In this Morning Brief, we open with the Commission’s options to mitigate high energy prices as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, the growing support for reopening Dutch gas taps in Groningen due to this crisis, INESC TEC’s new tool that detects vital signs of premature babies in a non-invasive way, the results of the MSCA 2021 awards, ESFRI’s 20th anniversary conference and the Science Advice under pressure event, measures by the EU to support agriculture and rural development both in the Union and in pre-accession countries, 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:

Commission outlines options to mitigate high energy prices

Following up rapidly on the REPowerEU Communication and the Versailles Declaration, the Commission has set out ideas today for collective European action to address the root causes of the problem in the gas market and ensure security of supply at reasonable prices for next winter and beyond. Leaders will continue the discussion on these options at this week’s European Council.

Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said: “Global and European energy markets are going through turbulent times, particularly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Europe needs to take swift action to ensure our energy supply for next winter, and to alleviate the pressure of high energy bills on our citizens and businesses. Today’s proposals are another step forward in our intensive work on this front.”

The Commission is tabling a legislative proposal today, introducing a minimum 80% gas storage level obligation for next winter to ensure security of energy supply, rising to 90% for the following years. To address concerns about continued high energy prices, the Commission has also adopted a Communication setting out the options for market intervention at European and national level, and assessing the pros and cons of each option.

EU partnerships with third countries to collectively purchase gas and hydrogen can improve resilience and bring down prices. The Commission stands ready to create a Task Force on common gas purchases at EU level. By pooling demand, the Task Force would facilitate and strengthen the EU’s international outreach to suppliers to help secure well-priced imports ahead of next winter. It would be inspired by the experience from the COVID-19 pandemic, where EU wide action was crucial to guarantee sufficient supplies of vaccines for all.

Read more here.

Read the Q&A on the new EU rules on gas storage here.

 

Support grows for reopening Dutch gas taps amid supply crisis

According to EURACTIV, “An increasing number of people and industry experts in the Netherlands are in favour of producing more gas from the country’s huge but depleting Groningen gas field amid growing concerns about a Europe-wide energy supply crunch. The Dutch government remains determined to permanently close the Groningen field – the largest on-land gas field in Europe – due to exploration-linked tremors that have caused severe damage to local buildings. But as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has intensified the likelihood of a gas supply crisis, calls are growing for the government to reassess its decision. “Rapid geopolitical developments require an immediate adjustment of policy with effective measures,” said Hans Grünfeld, managing director at VEMW, the Dutch industrial energy consumer lobby group. This includes “a reconsideration of gas production in Groningen, taking into account a level of extraction deemed safe and adequate compensation,” he added. Extracting more gas from Groningen has been a political no-go in the Netherlands due to the impact on local communities. Hans Vijlbrief, the Dutch state secretary for extractive industries, last week (14 March) called it an “ultimum remedium” in the current energy price crisis. Despite the geopolitical tensions, he is even considering lowering this year’s output quota to 4.6 billion cubic metres (bcm), less than previously announced.”.

 

New tool by INESC TEC detects vital signs of premature babies through non-invasive methods

INESC TEC’s SEED project MICOS – Monitoring Infants with a Contactless Solution, developed a tool for detecting vital signs in premature babies using low-cost cameras and computer vision algorithms.

Hélder Oliveira, researcher at INESC TEC and project coordinator, explained that “vital signs are crucial to monitor the evolution of patients during hospitalisation. In the case of new-borns, this monitoring process plays a major role, since it allows the early detection of medical conditions and the definition of corresponding treatment. With the new technology, and resorting to the images of the babies’ faces, we were able to measure the respiratory and heart rate without the need to use probes applied directly to the skin, thus improving the patients’ well-being, and reducing potential problems on the epidermis”.

The MICOS project, funded by INESC TEC at €15K, is currently in the prototype and testing phase, in real and offline environments.

 

MSCA awards €242m to the 2021 Postdoctoral Fellowships applicants

The European Commission will support a total of 1156 experienced post-doctoral researchers with €242 million to work at top universities, research centres, private organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe and the rest of the world. The European Research Executive Agency (REA) received 8356 applications for this call.

The Commission will award €206 million to 1025 researchers through European Postdoctoral Fellowships, allowing them to carry out their projects in the EU or countries associated to Horizon Europe.

The Commission earmarked €36 million for Global Postdoctoral Fellowships, allowing 131 researchers to carry out research outside the EU or countries associated to Horizon Europe, mostly in the United States, China, Canada and Australia, before returning back to Europe.

Read more here.

 

The ESFRI 20th Anniversary Conference: European Research Infrastructures at the heart of scientific discoveries

As part of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union and under the auspices of the French Académie des sciences, France will host the ESFRI 20th anniversary conference: European Research Infrastructures at the heart of scientific discoveries.

The conference, taking place in Paris on March 25, will celebrate the achievements of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), highlighting the role it plays in enhancing European excellence in research and innovation. The conference will bring together key stakeholders, including policy experts, facility managers and leading researchers, to explore the drivers behind the development of the rich European research infrastructures landscape and to discuss emerging trends and the challenges for the future. The conference provides an important opportunity to explore the range of cutting-edge work being undertaken across the research domains that are reliant on the services provided by European research infrastructures. Several outstanding scientists will share with the audience their major discoveries and illustrate how they have benefited from the unique European research infrastructures.

You can follow it online here.

 

The Joint Research Centre is recruiting!

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is looking for three scientific/technical project officers to work with the Healthcare Quality Group assisting the activities in the area of cancer. The successful candidates will support the execution of the guideline development and quality assurance schemes for breast, colorectal and/or cervical cancer.

For more information and to apply visit the JRC recruitment page.

 

Science Advice under pressure

The European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism warmly invites everyone working at the science-policy interface to explore the key challenges of delivery science advice under pressure through a series of panel debates, interactive sessions and networking opportunities. We will reflect on the diverse experiences of many different actors in the field, debating the values that underpin science advice and sharing good practice.

This conference is co-organised by the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors to the European Commission, and by SAPEA. SAPEA is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The content of the event reflects the opinions of the individuals and organisations involved, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.

The event will take place between 27 and 28 April in Brussels and online. Make sure to check out the website here to register.

 

European Commission will support agriculture and rural development in the pre-accession countries with over €900 million

The European Commission adopted rural development programmes (IPARD) under the instrument for pre-accession assistance for Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey, with a budget of €112, €97, €288 and €430 million respectively. The programmes provide the basis for EU support in the field of agriculture, rural development and food security for the period 2021-27, particularly important in the current geo-political context. This EU support, together with national public and private contributions, are expected to generate in total over €2 billion investment in rural areas of Western Balkans and Turkey.  The IPARD programmes are also a clear signal of the EU’s support to investing in agriculture and rural development in the Western Balkans and Turkey, as an element of strengthening their resilience.

With the implementation of IPARD programmes, the beneficiary countries pursue their objectives related to increasing competitiveness of the agri-food sector, sustainable management of natural resources, climate action and improving attractiveness of their rural areas. The programmes also contribute to the objectives of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans and the Green Deal more broadly. This will be done for example through:

  • Improving manure and waste management,
  • Modernisation of assets,
  • Renewable energy production and increasing energy efficiency,
  • Organic production,
  • Transfer of innovative and environmentally friendly technologies and environmentally
  • Climate-sound farming production methods.

The programmes provides also a significant contribution to the implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans; hence to the long-term economic recovery of the region and convergence with the European Union.

Find out more here.

 

EU allows up to €400,000 in state aid for companies impacted by Ukraine war

According to EURACTIV, “A “Temporary Crisis Framework” allowing member state governments to financially support businesses impacted by the Ukraine war was adopted by the European Commission on Wednesday (23 March). As the EU cuts more and more economic ties with the Russian economy through sanctions, companies that export to or import from Russia and companies vulnerable to commodity prices stand to suffer negative consequences. “We need to mitigate the economic impact of this war and to support severely impacted companies and sectors,” said Executive Vice-President of the EU Commission Margrethe Vestager. “These sanctions also take a toll on the European economy and will continue to do so in the coming months,” she added.”.

 

Commission acts for global food security and for supporting EU farmers and consumers

The European Commission has presented a range of short-term and medium-term actions to enhance global food security and to support farmers and consumers in the EU in light of rising food prices and input costs, such as energy and fertilisers. The surge in global commodity prices, further accelerated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, highlights again the need for EU agriculture and food supply chains to become more resilient and sustainable, in line with the Farm to Fork strategy.

The Commission is committed to taking all necessary measures to ensure that the EU, as a net food exporter and top agri-food producer, contributes to global food security, particularly in Ukraine, North Africa and the Middle East, which largely rely on imports of cereals, as well as in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The EU is a lead provider of humanitarian and development assistance on food and food systems.

Food availability is currently not at stake in the EU, since the continent is largely self-sufficient for many agricultural products. However, our agricultural sector is a net importer of specific products, for example feed protein. This vulnerability, together with high input costs, such as fertilisers and fossil energy, is causing production challenges for farmers and risks driving up food prices.

Find out more here.

 

War in Ukraine: Keep the pressure up on Russia and aim for energy independence

One month after Russia attacked Ukraine, MEPs unanimously condemned the brutal invasion and urged the EU to further sanction Moscow and protect the European economy.

In a plenary debate with Presidents Michel and von der Leyen on the Versailles informal summit (10-11 March) and the upcoming European Council (24-25 March), MEPs praised EU member states for their quick response in adopting unprecedented sanctions against Russia immediately after the attack. They also applauded the manner in which millions of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine have been welcomed.

“If freedom has a name, its name is Ukraine and the Ukrainian flag is the flag of freedom today”, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. She stressed that the EU will make this war a strategic failure for Putin. The severe sanctions are already hitting hard and the resources that Putin is using to finance this war must be drained. With regard to energy, she made clear that “energy policy is also security policy” and that the EU already has and will continue to adopt measures to become independent from Russian gas and oil imports.

Most MEPs agreed that the EU must bolster its strategic autonomy regarding defence and energy, and should do so quickly. Noting that EU imports of Russian gas are indirectly financing the Russian attack on Ukraine, they advocated for diversifying energy purchases and investing in renewables. Many pointed to the effect the increase in energy prices is having on the economy and the risks to food security, and called for support for families and businesses.

You can watch the full debate here.

 

MTG-I weather satellite passes tests in preparation for liftoff

With extreme weather events threatening to be more frequent and more severe as the climate crisis takes grip, it’s never been more important to have fast and accurate forecasts. ESA and Eumetsat are working hard to ensure that there will be a constant stream of weather data from space for the next decades and that these data will arrive faster and be more accurate compared to what we have today. It is therefore fitting that on World Meteorological Day, ESA can be assured that the first of the next generation weather satellites, Meteosat Third Generation Imager, has passed a critical set of tests, paving the way for it to be launched in December.

The MTG mission comprises two types of satellite: four MTG-Imagers and two MTG-Sounders. With the first MTG-I, MTG-I1, scheduled for launch at the end of the year, it’s full steam ahead getting it ready for lift-off and its life in orbit 36 000 km above Earth.

Find out more here.

 

EU to unveil landmark legislation to tackle power of Big Tech

According to the Financial Times, “The EU is poised to unveil a landmark law designed to rein in the market power of Big Tech this week, after a deal was struck on crucial details such as the size of companies targeted by the long-anticipated legislation. The Digital Markets Act could be revealed as early as Thursday, following the European Commission, European parliament and member states agreeing many of the final aspects of the law, despite intense lobbying efforts from the likes of Google and other large technology groups. The legislation is now expected to target companies that have a market capitalisation of at least €75bn and run one core online “platform” service such as a social network or web browser, according to two people directly involved in the deal. To qualify as a “gatekeeper” — the powerful internet groups that are the focus of the new law — a company will also have to have at least 45,000 active users, the same people said. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft all meet this standard, but it is likely to also include far more groups than previously thought such as accommodations site Booking.com and ecommerce group Alibaba. Those involved in the deal said the final details could still change and the timing of an expected announcement could slip, as negotiators continue to hammer out details. But the framework agreed in recent days represents a crucial breakthrough for the bloc, as it plans the biggest overhaul of the laws governing the world’s biggest technology companies in more than two decades.”.

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In today’s Morning Brief:
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26/05/2022: INESC-ID research grants, new MSCA platform, Horizon Europe UK backup, REPowerEU, Fit for 55, and more.

In today’s Morning Brief:
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