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In this Morning Brief, we open with the news that our Head of Office Ricardo Miguéis will be representing INESC at the Portugal Day celebrations here in Brussels, universities fear EIC rules for intellectual property impede knowledge transfer, the ERC has announced the winners of the Proof of Concept grants, the Ukraine invasion by Russia has spurred an EU push to associate the democratic world to Horizon Europe, news of a multitude of Info Days regarding Horizon Europe in June, the role of Technology Infrastructures in the new pact for Research and Innovation, 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:

Portugal Day Celebration in Brussels 2022

This year Portugal Day (June 10th) will be celebrated in the Portuguese Permanent Representation to the European Union on the 13th of June with the presence of Ambassador Pedro Lourtie, Ambassador Rui Tereno, Ambassador Pedro Costa Pereira, Ambassador Manuela Teixeira Pinto, Ambassador José Costa Pereira, General Eugénio Francisco Nunes Henriques and it will also count with the presence of our INESC Brussels HUB Head of Office Ricardo Miguéis, representing the INESC universe.


The small things make a big difference in the science of measurement

As industry works more and more on the nanometre scale (a nanometre is a billionth of a metre), there is a need to measure more reliably and accurately things we can barely see. This requires metrology, the science of measurement.

Nano-scale metrology is useful in everyday life, for example to measure doses of medication or in the development of computer chips for our digital devices.

‘Metrology is needed everywhere that you make measurements or if you want to compare measurements,’ said Virpi Korpelainen, senior scientist at the Technical Research Centre of Finland and National Metrology Institute in Espoo, Finland.

Once the realm of research scientists, nanoscales are increasingly important in industry. Nanotechnology, computer chips and medications typically rely on very accurate measurements at very small scales.

Even the most advanced microscopes need to be calibrated, meaning that steps must be taken to standardise its measurements of the very small. Korpelainen and colleagues around Europe are developing improved atomic force microscopes (AFMs) in an ongoing project called MetExSPM.

AFM is a type of microscope that gets so close to a sample, it can almost reveal its individual atoms. ‘In industry, people need traceable measurements for quality control and for buying components from subcontractors,’ said Korpelainen.  

The project will allow the AFM microscopes to take reliable measurements at nanoscale resolution by using high-speed scanning, even on relatively large samples.

‘Industry needs AFM resolution if they want to measure distances between really small structures,’ Korpelainen said. Research on AFMs has revealed that measurement errors are easily introduced at this scale and can be as high as 30%.  

The demand for small, sophisticated, high-performing devices means the nanoscale is growing in importance. She used an AFM microscope and lasers to calibrate precision scales for other microscopes.

She also coordinated another project, 3DNano, in order to measure nanoscale 3D objects that are not always perfectly symmetrical. Precise measurements of such objects support the development of new technology in medicine, energy storage and space exploration.

Read more here


Universities fear EIC rules for intellectual property impede knowledge transfer

The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities is concerned the European Innovation Council’s intellectual property (IP) provisions undermine the role of universities in knowledge transfer.

The EU’s innovation fund introduced new IP rules for the Pathfinder and Transition programmes last March giving the researchers better access rights to their research outcomes in a bid to empower grantees to turn their ideas into products on the market. But universities say the new provisions underestimate their role in knowledge valorisation.

This, in turn, the Guild argues, weakens universities’ knowledge and technology transfer offices and at times contradicts institutional, national and regional rules.

The Guild’s statement comes as the European Commission prepares to adopt a European Innovation Agenda, a new plan on how to strengthen Europe’s innovation performance.


ERC announces winners of Proof of Concept grants

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced today the winners of the latest round of its Proof of Concept competition.

The competition is open only to ERC grantees who wish to explore the commercial and societal potential of their frontier research projects. ERC evaluators picked 55 projects out of 96 proposals, and each grantee will receive €150,000.

The grants will go to researchers working in 16 countries, including 7 in the UK, a country which is not yet associated to Horizon Europe.

The ERC says the list of winners is provisional, as the UK grantees will be eligible for funding only when the UK’s association to Horizon Europe is completed. Until then, researchers working in UK host institutions can still receive ERC funding if they move to an institution in an eligible country inside the EU or an associated country.

ERC grantees can still apply for Proof of Concept grants in the third round of the call in 2022. The next deadline is on 29 September 2022.  


Ukraine invasion spurs EU push to associate the democratic world to Horizon Europe

According to Science|Business, “The invasion of Ukraine has helped open the door for Japan, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand to join Horizon Europe, according to Brussels lead negotiator Signe Ratso, as the EU tries to bolster research ties with likeminded democracies. Last year, it appeared that the Commission’s efforts to convince these science powers to associate had stalled. But earlier this month, Japan announced it had started exploratory talks over association, capping a flurry of progress since February that could expand the global footprint of the framework programme beyond any of its predecessors. “The geopolitical environment has changed,” said Ratso, deputy director general at the Commission’s research and innovation directorate. “So it’s quite natural that you’d like to cooperate with the countries with whom you share the same values.” The invasion of Ukraine is “certainly an additional trigger” to press ahead with association, not just for the EU, but also for the countries now scoping out association, she said. Horizon Europe association is open to any country in the world, provided they have a good research and innovation capacity and boast things like democratic institutions and an open market economy. Last year, the Commission made very public overtures encouraging Canada to join, and Ottawa started exploratory talks in July. But after that public signs of progress went quiet. Then in February this year, New Zealand and South Korea also started exploratory talks. And last month, Canada and New Zealand moved on to the next, formal stage of negotiations. “What we are trying to do, and with Horizon Europe association […] is really to form […] an alliance of free, democratic countries that share the same values,” said one member state representative who wanted to remain anonymous. “Now with Russia’s war on Ukraine, it’s speeding up things,” the representative said, particularly with Japan. “People want to trade with people who share the same values, and therefore, Canada and the European Union are allies by nature,” said Canadian science minister François-Philippe Champagne when asked about association during a trip to Europe earlier this month. The talks with Tokyo are part of a wider European pivot to Japan. The Ukraine invasion has undermined an already shaky relationship between Brussels and Beijing due to China’s support for Russia. In April Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz broke with the Angela Merkel era by visiting Japan, not China, on his first Asian trip. And the news that Japan had entered exploratory Horizon Europe association talks was made during a broader diplomatic visit to Tokyo in mid-May by Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Council president Charles Michel. “That’s sort of very traditional science diplomacy, that you do a much larger thing, and then you sort of have a sweetener on top of that,” said Thomas Jørgensen, director of policy coordination and foresight at the European University Association. In Ratso’s telling, while Ukraine was one factor that has speeded up association talks, another was the pandemic: a crystal-clear demonstration of the need to collaborate across borders to find scientific solutions.”


Horizon Europe Info Days

There is a series of Info Days on Horizon Europe coming up this month. Here is a compilation of those events to ensure you won’t miss those important for your proposals.

  • Info Session on the European Research Council, Widening and ERA: 2nd June – Informative session focused on the Horizon Europe ERC Calls for the Work Programme 2023, ERA Talents 2022 Call, and an introduction to the Pilar I and Widening & ERA Work Programme 2023-2024. Click here to register.
  • Info Session on Funding Opportunities for 2023 on the Horizon Europe Research Infrastructures Programme: 7th June – Informative session focused on the funding opportunities for 2023 on the Horizon Europe Research Infrastructures Programme, which are expected to open in December 2022. Click here to register.
  • Info Session on Postdoctoral Fellowships: 9th June – Informative session focused on the Horizon Europe Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Postdoctoral Fellowships 2022 Call. Click here to register.
  • Info Session on Doctoral Networks: 14th June – Informative session focused on the Horizon Europe Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Networks 2022 Call. Click here to register.


The role of Technology Infrastructures in the new Pact for Research and Innovation

As part of the EU French Council Presidency, the European Commission, the CEA and EARTO (European Association for Research and Technology Organisations) have organised a high-level conference on “Europe’s Green and Digital Transition: The Role of Technology Infrastructures in the new Pact for Research and Innovation” which will take place on 23 June 2022 in Brussels.

Click here to register.


Get Digital: Go Green and Be Resilient

The Russian aggression against Ukraine has refocused international efforts on energy dependence and supply chain resilience. In this context the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, alongside the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, and DIGITAL SME, will create a catalogue of leading European businesses with use cases for a more resilient industry.

Through this initiative, the Comission will highlight digital solutions and business models that may offer high-impact solutions to decrease dependence on oil, gas and external raw materials, as well as increase resilience in the global supply chain. If you are a start-up or SME from the EU, Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia with an innovative digital solution in a related field, please sign up.

Find out more here.


Countries that don’t reciprocate scientific openness will be ‘cut off’ says head of the European Research Council

According to Science|Business, “The president of the European Research Council has said that countries which send large numbers of their graduate students abroad but do not reciprocate by being open with scientific knowledge would ultimately be “cut off” from international research. Maria Leptin later said that the comments, made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, were meant to be general, and not a direct reference to China. But they do echo previous concerns by Commission officials that the EU-China research relationship is lopsided, with China gaining more than it gives. The international benefits of working together “will be undermined if any of the national players misuse the trust, send in their graduate students to other countries to learn and bring [research knowledge] back home and not give [in return],” she said. “I think these nations will find progressively, themselves […] cut off,” she said during a discussion about maintaining global scientific collaboration on 23 May. “And it’s the tragedy of the commons. If that’s gone, it’s gone, it will be very hard to restore.” The invasion of Ukraine, which prompted European countries to sever institutional research ties with Russia, has thrust the geopolitics of science into the spotlight. But before then, the EU has been reformulating its approach to research collaboration, and moving away from a stance of total openness and towards one that demands more reciprocity. In 2020, research and innovation director general Jean-Eric Paquet said that the relationship with China had become “unbalanced”, and complained of “very cumbersome” and even “formally limited” access to Chinese research resources.”


Waste and Recycling: Commission seeks views on revision of the Waste Framework Directive

Today, the Commission is launching a public consultation on the revision of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD), including setting of EU food waste reduction targets. The revision aims to improve the overall environmental outcome of waste management in line with the waste hierarchy and the implementation of the polluter pays principle. The public consultation is open for feedback until 16 August 2022. It will focus on the following policy areas: prevention (including reduction of food waste), separate collection, waste oils and textiles and the application of the waste hierarchy and the polluter pays principle. This revision considers several legislative review clauses referred to in the Directive as well as the policy objectives set in The European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, and the Circular Economy Action Plan.

The consultation will run until 16 August 2022 and is available here


European Commission and International Energy Agency in a common bid to reduce EU reliance on Russian fossil fuels

The Commission and the International Energy Agency (IEA) are joining forces to help EU countries reduce their reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

By strengthening investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, the project aims to mitigate the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the EU energy sector.

In the framework of this common endeavour, the Commission is offering support to Member States to reduce their dependence on Russian fossil fuels through the Technical Support Instrument. 17 EU countries have already joined the project. This support is in line with the REPowerEU Plan presented by the Commission on 18 May, outlining how to phase out EU dependence on Russian fossil fuels and accelerate the clean energy transition.

The cooperation with the IEA will cover seven areas: supply and diversification of liquefied natural gas; production of biomethane; stepping up international trade in hydrogen; acceleration of rooftop solar and heat pumps roll-out; demand-side measures and energy efficiency; faster permitting of renewable projects; innovative hydrogen and renewables solutions for industry.

It will include workshops, meetings, analysis, and data tracking by the International Energy Agency.

The first workshop, on 24 May, focused on supporting the uptake of demand-side and energy efficiency measures. The workshop was attended by representatives of the Member States participating in the project, the Commission, IEA and by industry stakeholders.

Mario Nava, Director-General for Structural Reform Support, said: “Meeting the target of cutting our energy reliance on third countries’ fossil fuels requires to mobilise all available means. Member States can rely on the Commission’s help through the Technical Support instrument and we are very pleased to work with a knowledgeable partner such as the International Energy Agency to reach that important goal.”

Ditte Juul-Jørgensen, Director-General for Energy, said: “The recently adopted REPowerEU plan brings actions and resources to shed EU dependence on Russian fossil fuel imports as quickly as possible, by advancing our clean energy transition and becoming more efficient in the way we consume energy, boosting our European Green Deal efforts. Supported by investments and reforms, we have a robust roadmap to follow. Member States’ engagement, solidarity and cooperation are crucial in the process.”

Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director, said: “The sense of determination across Europe to move rapidly away from Russian fossil fuels is impressive and inspiring. Clean energy technologies offer the best solutions to deal with the energy affordability and security crises we are witnessing today while also making progress in the fight against climate change. The IEA is very pleased to be working with the European Commission and EU Member States to help them accelerate the shift to a more secure and sustainable energy future.”

Click here for more information.


Research organisations get closer to a consensus on assessment reform

According to Science|Business, “After months of negotiations, research stakeholders in the EU are getting close to an agreement on a set of principles and commitments for reforming the way research outputs are evaluated. The European Commission has written reform of research assessment into the policy agenda of the revived European Research Area plan to create a single market for research in the EU. After gathering a first round of input in 2021, the Commission wanted to give stakeholders and member states the opportunity to lead the consultation process and reach an agreement on new guidelines for evaluating researchers. A draft of the agreement dated 13 May and seen by Science|Business says signatories will pledge to implement four “core commitments” and to: recognise the diversity of research careers and contributions to science; base research assessment primarily on qualitative evaluation by peers; abandon the “inappropriate uses” of journal and publication metrics; and avoid the use of international rankings of research organisations in research assessment. According to the draft agreement, by abandoning the inappropriate use of bibliometrics, research organisations will be able to “reduce the dominance of a narrow set of quantitative metrics”. In future publication metrics would complement qualitative evaluation criteria based on peer-review only in cases “where this is meaningful and relevant,” the draft agreement says. The Commission and a large majority of the research community believe metrics such as the total number of publications and citations, as well as bibliometric measures such as the h-index, for evaluating the cumulative impact of an author’s scholarly output and performance, are increasingly problematic. Researchers can exploit the system and advance their careers by chasing higher points in the publication game instead of focusing on the content of the research.”


Minho Advanced Computing Center: MUG 2022

The Minho Advanced Computing Center (MACC) would like to invite you to this year’s edition of the event MUG: MACC User Group Workshop, which will take place on July 7 and 8, at the Crowne Plaza hotel, in Porto.

The MACC is a member of the National Network for Advanced Computing, which aims to support the academic and business communities in the High-Performance Computing (HPC) field. The main goal is to ensure the community’s access to computational resources, thus promoting innovation in all science and business areas and enabling scientific breakthroughs or new products.

In this sense, MACC will promote another edition of MUG, a discussion forum to all potential users about HPC-related topics in Portugal and Europe. More specifically, this event aims to foster a collaborative environment between different stakeholders, promoting the adoption of advanced computing techniques and engagement with the operational team to serve the scientific community better.

Click here for more information and registration.


Webinar II: Fostering scientific literacy – Universities and the future of science communication

The past decade has seen an erosion of public debate, a radicalisation of parts of society and the spread of misinformation. Such phenomena often occur and are exacerbated during crises, and the pandemic has shown this again. These tendencies question the value of evidence and the role of science in society. Universities need to position themselves on this issue and find new and more effective ways to help counter this trend.

Making the scientific method understandable and fostering scientific literacy in society is becoming increasingly important, and it goes beyond the traditional approach of science communication to explain scientific facts and results to a wider public. How can universities and the academic community contribute to this process and foster public debate? What is the role of science communication professionals in this regard? These and more questions will be addressed in the second webinar of the series.

Click here to register and to find out more about this series.

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