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In today's Morning Brief:

Commission launches open access research publishing platform

The European Commission has launched its own open access platform for publishing research funded through the Horizon Europe research programme and its predecessor Horizon 2020. All papers published on Open Research Europe (ORE) will be available free of charge to researchers and citizens alike. The platform is another step the Commission is taking to help researchers comply with a new requirement in Horizon Europe to publish results in open access journals.

“We will gradually build the reputation of the platform as the publishing venue of choice for the researchers of Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe,” said research commissioner Mariya Gabriel.

Publishing on the platform is optional, but will enable researchers to comply with the requirement for immediate open access at no cost. Horizon Europe, the EU’s new seven-year research programme requires all recipients to publish their results in open access journals.


New 7-year Erasmus+ programme: green, digital and double the money

The European Commission today adopted the work programme for the education programme, Erasmus+ and said €2.8 billion will allocated to learning mobility and cross-border cooperation projects in the first year. Erasmus+ is one of the first programmes to launch under the new 2021-2028 EU budget, but while applications will be processed, no grants will be handed out until after MEPs approve the programme in April. Ensuring alignment with Europe’s green goals, the education programme will offer incentives for participants to use sustainable means of transport, such as trains, when traveling to and from their exchange destination. In addition, Erasmus+ will be more digital, allowing learners to complete part of their experience online. The main principles of Erasmus+ stay the same, but the budget is doubling, with the promise this will benefit 10 million citizens and foster closer European cooperation in education and training.


IP and Horizon Europe

The Commission has launched this week an IP advice service for SMEs involved in Horizon Europe. The service, called “Horizon Intellectual Property Scan”, is designed to help European SMEs to efficiently protect existing IP and to manage and valorise new IP in collaborative research and innovation efforts. Although not directly of interest for research organisations, this is one of the tailor-made IP advice in the Horizon Europe framework that the Commission had announced in 2020.


Call for a ‘CERN for AI’ as Parliament hears warnings on risk of killing the sector with over-regulation

According to Science Business, MEPs will soon have to take a position on the Commission’s proposal for new artificial intelligence rules. If too onerous, they will hamper future uses and restrict Europe’s competitiveness, experts say. EU funding for artificial intelligence (AI) should focus on creating one big research infrastructure, and upcoming rules for the sector should be kept to a minimum, a hearing on the rapidly evolving technology heard on Monday. The European Commission will unveil first-of-its-kind AI regulations next month, requiring “high-risk” AI systems to meet minimum standards of trustworthiness. Officials say the rules will tread the fine line of respecting “European values,” including privacy and human rights, without hampering innovation. Along with new rules, the EU will back “targeted investment into lighthouses of AI research”, according to Khalil Rouhana, deputy director general of DG Connect. Rouhana expects up to €135 billion from the EU’s COVID-19 recovery plan will be invested in digital infrastructure and schemes across Europe in coming years, with a large amount of this money – he hopes – devoted to AI projects.

But he was told by tech-minded MEPs and experts at the European Parliament session that the EU should invest more strategically in AI, creating a central laboratory modelled on CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, which has put Europe at the forefront of particle physics research.


Gene editing in agriculture

Genome editing is not a silver bullet, but the technology can contribute to the goals of the Farm to Fork strategy. Using genome editing technologies in plants could help the EU ensure food security and reduce the impact of current agriculture practice on the climate, according to new report by the European Group on Ethics in science and new technologies (EGE). “There is a need to ensure food security, provide renewable resources for fuel, feed and fibre, safeguard the retention of biodiversity and protect the environment,” the report says. “Current forms of agriculture contribute significantly to the anthropogenic climate crisis.”


Anniversary of the signature of the Treaty of Rome

On 25 March 1957 the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (EEC), and the EURATOM Treaty, which created the European Atomic Energy Community, were signed. 6 countries (Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and France) decided to work together for European integration and economic growth. Here is a picture of the signing ceremony.


Deep Dive – Canada and the EU: a closer partnership for boosting strategic autonomy and technology sovereignty

While the conditions for Canada to become an associated country to Horizon Europe (meaning it can participate in the programme in the same conditions as an EU country, after making a proportional budgetary contribution) are being negotiated, other interesting dynamics are at play. In a period where the emphasis on “strategic autonomy” is going to dominate the rationale under who is to become a partner of the EU and who isn’t, and also what technologies are to be particularly cherished and generously funded to be kept within the EU borders, Canada issued security guidelines on foreign espionage and interference to universities on Wednesday, as the government warned of a “real threat” to knowledge, data and intellectual property. For example, the “Safeguarding Your Research” website was launched to provide information to the Canadian research community on how to safeguard their projects. However, this is not targeted at the EU. In a panel about strategic autonomy at a Science Business event, the concept of strategic autonomy was further explained by Mark Nicklas, head of industrial strategy at DG GROW: “The basic principle of strategic autonomy is the openness and cooperation”. Strategic autonomy is “not about self-sufficiency, it’s about independence,” he said.

The terms “strategic autonomy” and “technological sovereignty” have become common in Brussels since the COVID-19 crisis began, as EU leaders fretted over medical supplies and digital capabilities. Exactly what they mean, or how they will be acted upon, is still unclear – though many observers were taken aback by the possibility last month that the Commission may block long-time research partners like Switzerland and Israel from some of its quantum computing and space projects. Still, Brussels has invited Ottawa to discuss the possibility of Canadian researchers joining parts of the EU’s €95.5 billion Horizon Europe R&D programme.

Research collaboration doesn’t deprive the EU or Canada of autonomy over whatever they derive from it, some panelists argued. After all, rival companies collaborate on research through initiatives like Canada’s innovation Superclusters such as NGen, and the industrial partnerships under Horizon Europe.

Željko Pazin, managing director of the European Factories of the Future Research Association (EFFRA), said his group’s research is “pre-competitive—it’s all about cooperation.” He said EFFRA broadens out the kinds of partnerships firms are used to, and allows pre-competitive ideas to cross not only between companies, but across industries. “What works in the auto industry might also work in the aerospace industry,” Pazin said. EFFRA is funded entirely by the private sector, and aims to promote advanced manufacturing in the EU, just as NGen does in Canada.

While deeper collaboration is in principle a good thing, it’s important that industry leaders in the EU and Canada don’t get ahead of themselves, warned Patricia Tamés, managing director of SMART, an advanced manufacturing cluster under the auspices of Eureka, a 45-country intergovernmental R&D partnership dating back to the 1980s.

For industrial partnerships to succeed, said Tamés, it’s necessary to first understand what each prospective partner can bring to the table. “We have to know each other first,” she said. “We have to know what kind of capabilities we have, who is doing what, and what kind of solutions this little company or big company can give to the industrial ecosystem.”


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