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In this Morning Brief, we open with a brand new publication by the European Commission on scenarios for Europe in a post Covid-19 world, the brand new Circular Cities and Regions Initiative where a local or regional entity can apply to be a pilot or a fellow, the EU institutions reach an agreement on the Digital Services Act and we’re giving you an insider’s perspective from the European Parliament and from the journalists reporting on this initiative, brand new events concerning Horizon Europe and sustainability such as the EUSEW Awards, 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:

After the new normal: Scenarios for Europe in the post Covid-19 world

Don’t miss the newest publication by the European Commission. The purpose of the study ‘After the new normal : scenarios for Europe in the post Covid-19’ world was to chart the scope of change that the Covid-19 pandemic may bring to the context of the EU itself and EU R&I policy. Five scenarios were designed in a process including the Horizon Europe Network – with horizon scanning, online workshops and scenario writing. The five context scenarios are: The long recession, Back to ‘normal’? Big Tech shapes Europe, The Circular Economy and Green Utopia – new hope. They include the numerous disruptions to our daily lives from the Covid-19 lock-downs to 2040 and describe the extent, to which the pandemic might raise new requirements for the EU’s future policy frameworks, initiatives and programmes, for example in terms of impact, time horizon of projects or investments.

Make sure to download it here.


Circular Cities and Regions Initiative

Launched by the EU as part of the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI) focuses on implementing the circular economy across Europe’s cities and regions. 

The EU’s transition to a circular economy will reduce pressure on natural resources and create sustainable growth and jobs. It will also help achieve the 2050 climate neutrality target set out in the European Green Deal. Europe’s cities and regions are best placed to drive this transition, with many already drawing up their own plans. 

The CCRI aims to increase synergies among projects and initiatives, disseminate relevant knowledge, and give greater visibility to best practices. Combining technical and financial support, it offers comprehensive support to stakeholders across Europe’s cities and regions.

Find out more here.


Biotech industry calls for rule revamp to enable innovation and market take up

EU regulations should be better suited to accelerating new technologies to market, according to a report by EuropaBio, a biotech industry association.

The report maps out recommendations for speeding up innovation and new product take up in the healthcare market and other industries.

In the healthcare sector, industry urges policymakers to adapt regulations to modern innovation processes, improve patient access to novel therapies, and review and improve state aid instruments, among other recommendations.

In other industries, such as those supporting Europe’s green transition, EuropaBio’s recommendations include ensuring sustainable innovation scale-up and easier market access.


EU institutions reach agreement on Digital Services Act

According to EURACTIV, “European Union co-legislators reached an agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA), flagship legislation that will reign in the digital sphere and step up the fight against illegal content and disinformation. The DSA is horizontal legislation that sets the legislative framework for the European digital single market, building on 2001’s eCommerce Directive. The comprehensive act provides clear rules for content moderation, platform accountability, illegal products and systemic risks. “The DSA will upgrade the ground rules for all online services in the EU. It will ensure that the online environment remains a safe space, safeguarding freedom of expression and opportunities for digital businesses. It gives practical effect to the principle that what is illegal offline should be illegal online,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. (…) The DSA introduces stricter rules for platforms with more than 45 million users in the EU due to their influence on our societies. Very large online platforms will be required to conduct regular assessments of systemic risks such as disinformation, deceptive content, and revenge porn, implementing appropriate mitigation measures subject to independent audits. Failing the audits would entail a breach of the regulation, which includes fines of up to 6% of worldwide turnover. “Google, Facebook and other large online platforms will have to act to protect their users better,” said MEP Dita Charanzová. “They play an important role in our societies, and they must take more responsibilities and be more transparent.” A crisis response mechanism was added midway through the negotiations to respond to emergencies like the war in Ukraine. It would enable the European Commission to mandate very large online platforms to take specific actions in a crisis, such as taking down war propaganda.”.


Digital Services Act: Agreement for a transparent and safe online environment

EU negotiators agree on landmark rules to effectively tackle the spread of illegal content online and protect people’s fundamental rights in the digital sphere. On the 23rd of April, the European Parliament and Council reached a provisional political agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA). Together with the Digital Markets Act, the DSA will set the standards for a safer and more open digital space for users and a level playing field for companies for years to come.

“The Digital Services Act will set new global standards. Citizens will have better control over how their data are used by online platforms and big tech-companies. We have finally made sure that what is illegal offline is also illegal online. For the European Parliament, additional obligations on algorithmic transparency and disinformation are important achievements,” said rapporteur Christel Schaldemose (DK, S&D). “These new rules also guarantee more choice for users and new obligations for platforms on targeted ads, including bans to target minors and restricting data harvesting for profiling.”

Read more about what this means for the future of the digital world in the European Parliament’s press release.  


Shaping the Climate Transition: Citizens take the floor

On 29 April 2022, European citizens will take center stage and present their recommendations on the Climate Transition, sharing their ideas, concerns and expectations with the European Commission.

Executive Vice-President in charge of the European Green Deal and the first European Climate Law Frans Timmermans will participate in the dialogue with citizens, along with Director-General of DG Research & Innovation Jean-Eric Paquet and Deputy Director-General of DG CLIMA Clara De La Torre.

The conversation will revolve around what the Climate Transition looks like, according to European citizens, in terms of energy transition, sustainable mobility, and food and consumption. This event represents a key moment for citizen-engagement initiatives launched by the European Commission to foster an open and constructive dialogue on the Climate Transition.

The objective of the event is to learn about citizens’ concerns, views and recommendations, and the trade-offs they are willing to accept for the climate transition. The results of both processes will not only reach the European Commission, but also feed into the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE).

Click here for more information.


Sustainable Chemicals: Commission advances work on restrictions of harmful chemical substances

The Roadmap prioritizes group restrictions for the most harmful substances to human health and the environment as set out in the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. In full respect of the prerogatives of EU countries under the REACH Regulation, the Restrictions Roadmap includes a rolling list of substances, which will become the basis for the multiannual planning under REACH. The rolling list will be regularly reviewed and updated ensuring a balance between needed flexibility and commitment to ensure progress.

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said: “To fulfil the commitments under the Chemicals Strategy, stakeholders need transparency and visibility on the upcoming work. The Restrictions Roadmap provides such visibility, and allows companies and other stakeholders to be better prepared for potential upcoming restrictions”.

Commissioner for Environment, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said: “These REACH restrictions aim to reduce exposure of people and the environment to some of the most harmful chemicals, addressing a wide range of their uses – industrial, professional, and in consumer products”. 

The Restrictions Roadmap is a deliverable under the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability which calls for action towards a toxic-free environment and forms part of the European Green Deal.


157 project proposals submitted to latest promotion of agricultural products’ calls

In response to the Promotion of Agricultural Products AGRIP-SIMPLE-2022 and AGRIP-MULTI-2022 calls, the European Research Executive Agency (REA) received 157 proposals by the deadline of 21 April 2022. Applicants from 21 countries have applied for funding under the two calls.

There is a total available budget of €176.4 million to fund the promotion of agricultural products projects for 2022. The projects aim to enhance the competitiveness of the EU’s agricultural sector, while seeking to open new market opportunities and strengthen existing businesses.

Projects will be selected for funding with the support of  independent external expert evaluators,  drawn from the European Commission’s experts’ database. Evaluations are expected to start in June, and the selection results will be announced in the autumn of this year.

REA will start signing grant agreements with successful applicants for the AGRIP-MULTI-2022 as of September 2022. Grant agreement signings for the AGRIP-SIMPLE-2022 will be managed by national authorities in charge of promotional activities in EU Member States. This is set to take place after the adoption of the European Commission’s decision expected this autumn.

Read more here.


Commission delays giving new cybersecurity center full autonomy

According to EURACTIV, “The European Commission has been postponing the appointment of a permanent executive director of its new cybersecurity body in order to retain partial control over the organisation, several EU diplomatic sources told EURACTIV. The European Cybersecurity Competence Centre (ECCC) was recently set up in Bucharest to boost Europe’s cybersecurity capacities. However, the centre is still under the patronage of the European Commission, which has so far prevented it from reaching complete autonomy. “This is a ‘chicken and the egg’ type of problem, because as long as the ECCC does not have a permanent executive director, it is not autonomous from the Commission. However, the Commission is responsible for filling this position, which it keeps delaying,” Dan Cimpean, the Romanian representative of the ECCC Governing Board, told EURACTIV. Although the Commission published the vacancy at the end of last year, it unexpectedly cancelled the application procedure. Instead, the EU executive appointed an interim executive director, Miguel Gonzalez-Sancho, a Commission’s middle manager specialised in cybersecurity. According to another ECCC board member who talked to EURACTIV under condition of anonymity, Gonzalez-Sancho is fulfilling all the tasks foreseen for the permanent Executive Director. “Of course, everyone would like the appointment of a permanent director to move more quickly. However, it is in the hands of the Commission,” the board member added.”.


German government approves funds for quantum research at DESY

Additional boost for quantum research at DESY: The German Federal Government and the European Union (EU) are funding two new quantum technology projects in which the research centre is significantly involved. The NiQ project, supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), investigates the role of noise in quantum computers, while the T-NiSQ, funded by the EU in the QuantERA framework programme, develops, among other things, diagnostic tools for the validation of quantum components. To mark World Quantum Day on Thursday 14 April, DESY hosted a symposium on research into quantum computing, quantum materials and quantum sensors, as well as technology transfer to applications.

The DESY QUANTUM strategic initiative bundles research on quantum technologies at DESY in three core areas: Methods and applications in quantum computing, investigation, understanding and development of quantum materials, and development and application of quantum sensors for experiments with unprecedented accuracy. DESY QUANTUM builds on the unique combination of strengths at DESY, such as the high-resolution analytical X-ray sources that allow a detailed view into the quantum world, the competences in novel computing methods and the expertise in detector development. The innovation ecosystem at the Hamburg-Bahrenfeld campus and the CQTA support the targeted transfer of the findings into application.

Read more here.


EUSEW Awards 2022

The European Sustainable Energy Awards recognise outstanding individuals and projects for their innovation and efforts in the field of energy efficiency and renewables. The call for Awards is open from Wednesday 9 March to Thursday 28 April (23.59 CET) to receive submissions in four categories from countries in the European Union or European Economic Area.

Prizes are awarded in four categories:

– Innovation;

– Local energy action;

– Women in energy;

– Young energy trailblazer.

The three finalists for each award category are invited to the Awards ceremony on 26 September 2022 in Brussels in the presence of the European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson.

Anyone in the EU or European Economic Area can submit a recent project or activity – from a local initiative to an industry-wide programme – or a profile of a person that is helping the citizens, industry and public sector work towards achieving the European Green Deal objectives.

Find out more here.


Webinar: Leadership for strategic change and development in teaching and learning in European Universities

The Irish Universities Association is pleased to offer an online policy dialogue workshop which will focus of the issue of leadership for strategic change and development in teaching and learning in European universities. This event is organised in the framework of the EUA-led project “Leadership and Organisation for Learning and Teaching at European Universities” (LOTUS) in which IUA is a partner. The policy dialogue workshop will build on recent work undertaken in Ireland by the IUA’s Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning project, and the National Forum for the Enhancement of T&L’s Next Steps project.

The event will also present practices from other European countries and offer an overview of how the EU Recovery Fund is being used to strengthen teaching and learning in a range of member states in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The policy dialogue workshop will be of interest to institutional leaders with a responsibility in learning and teaching, teachers, education developers, national and European policy leaders, as well as representatives of stakeholder organisations active in learning and teaching.

Find out more and register here.   


Second Extraordinary Industrial Forum meeting addresses impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on EU industries

The Commission convened the meeting to collect evidence on supply chain disruptions, exchange views on the impact the new geopolitical situation and share ideas on efforts needed to safeguard European industries. During the meeting, the Commission also presented recent initiatives launched to support Ukrainian businesses and citizens affected by the war as well as the results of the survey on supply chain disruptions affecting European companies.

The results of this survey show that EU companies, in particular SMEs, are facing a variety of challenges related to disruptions in the supply of raw materials, high energy costs, and delivery delays. Most of these reports come from the agri-food, construction, health, and mobility ecosystems. In addition, at least 30% of respondents face high losses of input and critical market losses at the same time. The discussions held by the Forum will feed into the ongoing work to mitigate the impact on EU businesses.

Read more here.


Recent boom in aquaculture under threat in the Black Sea region

The Black Sea region has seen over recent years a boom in aquaculture and in the trade of seafood, but conflict may hamper this growth in Ukraine and threatens to disrupt seafood trade and supply chains in the region, says the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Aquaculture production in the Black Sea region has been growing steadily in recent years, from over 500 000 tonnes of farmed seafood (mostly salmonoids, carp and European seabass) in 2017 to over 700 000 tonnes in 2019, finds a GFCM regional study.

The recently published Aquaculture market in the Black Sea: country profiles is the most authoritative study on aquaculture in the region, and it farmed seafood production and trade trends in the six Black Sea countries between 2015 and 2019.

Click here for more information.

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