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In this Morning Brief, we open with the fantastic news that INESC-ID researcher Nuno Lopes has received research grants from Google and Woven Alpha, the EU is ramping up efforts for strategic autonomy in raw materials, there is a new MSCA networking platform for future applicants, a new application system opens for UK Horizon backup grants, Fraunhofer has elected three new executive vice-presidents, an MSCA cluster event on Mission Ocean and Waters, 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:

INESC-ID: Nuno Lopes receives research grants from Google and Woven Alpha

Nuno Lopes — researcher within the High Performance Computing Architectures and Systems Research Area at INESC-ID and Associate Professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Instituto Superior Técnico — has been awarded research grants from Google and Woven Alpha (a subsidiary of Toyota) worth €35,000 and $30,000, respectively.

The grant from Woven Alpha will fund Alive2, a project that Lopes has been leading for several years and aims at verifying that a compiler — a computer program that translates computer code across programming languages — is working correctly. “Toyota uses LLVM (the compiler supported by Alive2) to compile the code for the cars, so they want to ensure that the generated code is correct,” Lopes explains. “For example, a bug in the compiler can cause an accident in a car because the code will behave differently from what was programmed. Alive2 has already found over a hundred bugs in LLVM and now continues to ensure that new bugs are not introduced into the compiler.” With this grant Lopes expects to increase the scope of Alive2 by supporting loop optimizations.

The Google grant, on the other hand, will fund a new project, also in the area of compilers, meant to improve interoperability between C++ and Rust, two popular programing languages. As Lopes puts it, “Rust is a newer, more secure language than C++. On the other hand, it is impossible to rewrite all the C++ code that exists. Thus, we intend to investigate the best way for libraries developed in both languages to work together easily and safely.”

Both companies offer these grants to encourage research in the area of compilers and train more people in it, Lopes comments, recognizing this as a challenging area to recruit people in. As Lopes explains, research on compilers “is a very important area of computing because we want software to be written in increasingly high-level languages in order to increase programmers’ productivity, but also to allow non-programmers to write small programs. On the other hand, we want the code to run fast, take up little space, and be secure. It’s a huge challenge that compilers have to solve.”


EU ramping up efforts for strategic autonomy in raw materials

According to EURACTIV, “While Europe’s dependency on Russian energy makes headlines, the EU is also increasingly keen to decrease its dependency on third states – most notably China – when it comes to essential raw materials. The issue of strengthening the bloc’s strategic autonomy in the raw materials sector has risen to the top of the Brussels agenda – with multiple legislative proposals addressing the issue. “The goal is to make sure that our strategic dependency is diminished because considering our digital, green and resilient transformation without secure access to raw materials is simply not possible,” European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said at the Raw Materials Summit on Wednesday (25 May). To lessen the dependency on third states, the EU has already announced a legislative proposal – often referred to as the Raw Materials Act – to “intensify the work on the supply of critical minerals,” Breton added. The mining of raw materials is currently dominated by only a handful of players, with China, in particular, holding a monopoly in several sectors. This caused disruptions last year when China scaled back the production of magnesium – a key alloy essential for the aluminium industry – greatly affecting Europe, which at the time imported 93% of its magnesium from China. “It is simply unhealthy if you have certain raw materials segments with more than 80 or 90% dependency on one country,” Bernd Schäfer, CEO of EIT Raw Materials, which has been mandated by the Commission to manage the European Raw Materials Alliance, told EURACTIV. This holds especially true for countries like China, where “dumping prices and non-level playing field situations allowed them to build a monopoly in this segment,” he added.” 


Laurence Moreau appointed head of the ERC executive agency

The European Commission has appointed Laurence Moreau to lead the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA), the body that helps the European Research Council (ERC) manage and implement its research funding programmes.

The decision comes nearly six months after Moreau has been appointed acting director of the ERCEA. She took on the position after the previous director, Waldemar Kütt, retired in December 2021.

Moreau is a French national and holds a PhD in veterinary medicine. She has been working at ERCEA since 2016 as head of department. Prior to that she headed the legal affairs and internal control unit. Before joining ERCEA, Moreau worked as deputy head in the coal and steel, and materials units at the Commission’s directorate general for research and innovation (DG RTD).


Event: The UK’s Position in Global Science and Innovation

The UK Mission to the EU will be holding a conversation with George Freeman, UK Minister for Science, Research and Innovation and Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society on the 8th of June. INESC will be represented by our INESC Brussels HUB Head of Office Ricardo Miguéis.


New MSCA networking platform for future applicants

Researchers and organisations planning to apply for grants from the EU research mobility programme, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), can now meet potential cooperation partners and get help preparing projects on a new dedicated platform.  

On the MSCA-NET platform, researchers and organisations can now find and offer mobility arrangements that could be funded under MSCA calls for postdoctoral fellowships, doctoral networks, staff exchanges and other programmes.


Application system opens for UK Horizon backup grants

UK Research and Innovation, the country’s main research funder, has opened a portal for winners of Horizon Europe grants to apply for the UK’s guarantee scheme. 

The Innovation Funding Service has now opened, UKRI announced yesterday, and allows researchers to submit proof that they have successfully won grants through Horizon Europe. 

UK researchers are allowed to apply for Horizon Europe grants, but because association has not yet been confirmed, grant agreements cannot be signed, and so the UK government has said it will guarantee many winners’ awards with an equivalent grant. 

The European Commission has still not signed off on UK association, despite it being agreed in theory, due to ongoing disagreements between London and Brussels over the Northern Ireland Protocol. 


Fraunhofer elects three new executive vice-presidents

On May 19, 2022, the senate of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft elected three executive vice presidents to the new executive units of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Prof. Axel Müller-Groeling, currently director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology ISIT and acting director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS, was elected to the Research Infrastructures and Digital Transformation executive unit. The Human Resources, Corporate Culture and Legal Affairs executive unit will be headed by Elisabeth Ewen, previously director of Human Resources and Corporate Culture at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Dr. Sandra Krey will be responsible for Finances and Controlling. She is joining us from MAN Truck & Bus SE, where she was most recently senior vice president of Accounting & Financial Processes. The executive vice presidents of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft will take office as of the next possible date, subject to successful contract negotiations with the Fraunhofer senate and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

By a resolution of the Fraunhofer senate, the executive board structure of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft was changed at the turn of the year. It now comprises five executive units in order to enhance the expertise bundled in the executive units and directorates, to increase synergies and excellence — both internally and externally — and to reach a broader and more diverse positioning for the executive board.


FaST Navigator study identifies models necessary to provide accurate advice on the use of fertilisers to EU farmers

On 25 May 2022, the European Commission published the findings of a study related to the implementation of the Farm Sustainability Tool for Nutrients (FaST). FaST is a digital agriculture tool that can be operated on smartphones, tablets and computers. It will combine existing data with manual input from farmers to provide customised recommendations on crop fertilisation through a nutrient management plan, which will have economic and environmental benefits for farmers and society at large.

The new common agricultural policy (CAP) aims to foster a sustainable and competitive agricultural sector that can support the livelihoods of farmers, provide healthy and sustainable food for society, and help to create vibrant rural areas. To contribute to this overarching objective, Member States will be required to establish a system for supplying farmers with FaST as part of their national CAP strategic plans. FaST is considered a core platform for the generation and re-use of solutions for sustainable and competitive agriculture, contributing to the modernisation of the sector.

The FaST Navigator study (Nutrient management Algorithms, Valorisation of Inputs and greenhouse gas (GHG) Assessment – Tool for Optimization of Resources) sought to address one of the main challenges for the implementation of the FaST: the availability of operational models that are necessary to provide standardised and consistent advice on the use of fertilisers, across different conditions of data availability.

The results of the study have identified the models necessary to provide accurate quantitative advice about the use of fertilisers, as well as those necessary for the assessment of GHG emissions and their removal. The data requirements of these models range from very precise algorithms, based on detailed data, to more operational methods based on common data available to the vast majority of farmers.

The models that have been developed will facilitate the implementation of FaST by providing a standardised reference for calculation procedures. They will be fully open and accessible to encourage and facilitate their widespread adoption.

The results of the FaST Navigator study are accessible for administrations and private entities and are part of the support provided by the European Commission for the implementation of the FaST.

Read more here.


Germany’s pacifist universities pose obstacle to militarisation of EU R&D

According to Science|Business, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has spurred a radical rethink of European research priorities, with politicians including French president Emmanuel Marcon demanding that the EU urgently invest in new military technologies to defend itself, and Nato launching a €1 billion fund for defence start-ups. But a “civil clause” constitutionally prohibits dozens of German universities from conducting defence-related research, raising doubts over the extent to which Europe’s biggest economy will be able to participate in a pivot to military R&D. Stunned by the invasion, German chancellor Olaf Scholz declared a Zeitenwende – a historical turning point – and promised to overturn decades of military neglect with €100 billion more for the military this year alone. Yet in Germany’s pacifist-leaning universities, there is no sign of a similar Zeitenwende just yet. “This is really a crucial question,” said Peter-Andre Alt, president of the German Rectors’ Conference. Since the outbreak of the war, the issue of the civil clause has not yet become a big flashpoint on campus, he said. But “there will be a conflict” over the civil clause in the months to come, he predicted.   German university civil clauses date back to post-war period, when institutions sought to atone for their role in aiding the Nazi war machine, although there have been a flurry of new clauses adopted in the past two decades. 74 institutions have some form of the clause, according to a campaigning group that supports them. They include RWTH Aachen, one of the best regarded engineering universities in Europe. The university recently stopped a research project to improve a vehicle production line for a foreign company when the vehicles changed to be used for military purposes, a spokesman for the university said. A spokeswoman for the Technical University of Berlin said it took its civil clause “very seriously” and that in cases of doubt, academics have to prove that their “intended research objective does not primarily serve military purposes.” German media regularly “expose” German universities for having taken US military-linked funds, even if the amounts involved would be a rounding error compared to the defense dollars that flow into US universities. There have been similar media outcries in Austria, where students have also demanded civil clauses of their own. And even where a university has no formal civil clause, there is often a kind of informal understanding that it does not carry out dual use research, said Alt. At the Free University in Berlin, where Alt was previously rector, there would be “serious trouble” if they decided pursue military research. “This is the baseline for many universities,” he said.


Webinar: The European Standardisation Booster

Standards are at the cornerstone to build a resilient European Single Market enabling companies to demonstrate compliance with EU regulations, creating a level playing field for businesses and increasing consumer confidence. Transferring R&I results to a standards-setting organisation further extends exploitation by spurring innovation. This ensures the uptake and wider use of new technologies and inventions, guaranteeing interoperability and compatibility, providing quality and safety levels, and codifying knowledge in clear and specific ways.

This Webinar will feature the entire HSbooster.eu Consortium and will present the unique opportunity offered by the newly launched initiative, whose key goal is to provide professional consultancy services to guide and support beneficiaries and consortia of Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe R&I projects to make sure they take the right strategic approach and contribute efficiently to the Standardisation process in critical areas envisaged in the recently issued European Standardisation Strategy.

Click here for more information.


MSCA Cluster event on Mission Ocean and Waters

On 7 June, the European Research Executive Agency (REA) and the European Commission are organising a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions event on how to protect and restore our ocean and waters through Research and Innovation (R&I).

The event will convene researchers, experts and EU policymakers, to explore how R&I can help achieve the objectives of the EU Mission “Restore our Ocean and Waters”.

Discussions will focus on topics such as protecting and restoring marine and freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity, preventing and eliminating pollution, as well as making the blue economy carbon-neutral and circular.

The event will bring together excellent projects and researchers funded under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), as well as other research and innovation initiatives, such as the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

The event is part of the Commission’s multiple actions aimed at enhancing policy feedback practices and synergies across EU programmes. It will showcase outstanding EU-funded projects, that propose solutions to some of the challenges increasingly affecting European rivers, coasts and seas.

The cluster event will also contribute to the implementation and monitoring of EU policy objectives, such as the Zero Pollution Action Plan for Water, Air and Soil or the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Click here to register.


REPowerEU: Commission establishes the EU Energy Platform Task Force to secure alternative supplies

The Commission has set up a new Task Force within its Directorate-General for Energy, to provide support to the EU Energy Platform and implement the REPowerEU goal of supply diversification. Following a mandate from the European Council in March 2022, the Commission and Member States have established the EU Energy Platform to coordinate measures to secure energy supplies for the EU, including through the voluntary common purchase of pipeline gas, LNG and hydrogen. The new Task Force will help deliver on the REPowerEU objective of reducing our dependence on Russian fossil fuels, by enabling Member States and neighbouring countries to have access to alternative energy supplies at affordable prices in the coming years.

Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said: “In our REPowerEU Plan we outlined how Europe can get rid of Russian fossil fuels. Now we are giving ourselves the tools to make it happen. It is time to diversify our energy supplies and make best use of our infrastructure. The Energy Platform Task Force will contribute to Europe’s energy security and independence. Through the collective political and economic weight of the EU’s 27 Member States and 440 million citizens, we will work to ensure affordable and secure energy imports.”

The Energy Platform Task Force will start work next week, on 1 June, and immediately tackle the new tasks outlined in the REPowerEU Plan adopted on 18 May. It will work towards demand aggregation, coordination of capacity and negotiation of energy supplies, while also providing support for the Regional Task Forces of Member States and neighbouring countries. Furthermore, it will manage outreach to international partners.

The new Task Force will consist of three units, headed by a Director and reporting to a newly appointed Deputy Director-General, Matthew Baldwin, and to the Director-General for Energy Ditte Juul Jørgensen, under the political supervision of Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson. The units of the Task Force will deal with: global demand and international negotiations; relations with the Member States and the neighbourhood; and international relations.

Read more here.


Horizon Europe mission on carbon-neutral cities kicks into gear

According to Science|Business, “After years in the European Commission’s kitchen, the cities mission is kicking into gear as 112 European cities take on the task of transitioning to climate neutrality by the end of the decade. Masterminded by the previous European Commission, the mission officially launched as part of the Horizon Europe research programme last September. Around the same time, the Commission set out on a search for willing participants. By January, more than 350 cities submitted applications, with 112 making the final cut last month. Some are big metropolitan areas such as Amsterdam and Barcelona, others are smaller, such as Košice in Slovakia or Cork in Ireland. Some have been on a net-zero journey for a while, others are taking their first steps. To kick off the mission, the Commission is putting €360 million in research and coordination projects, but the bulk of the work will now lie on the shoulders of the cities that have signed up to be guided towards climate neutrality. In the coming weeks and months, the Commission is asking the cities to come up with action plans on getting to the final destination, net zero by 2030, with the help of a team of 34 organisations it has selected to run an EU-wide support platform. Thomas Osdoba, the coordinator of the cities platform, says a lot of work lies ahead for the cities in the coming decade. Helping them transition to carbon neutrality is essential if the EU wants to become net zero by 2050. “That’s well understood. How to do that is less well understood,” Osdoba tells Science|Business.”


Fit for 55: New EU carbon sink goal will increase 2030 reduction target

MEP’s agree to increase the EU carbon sinks target for land use, land use change and forestry sector (LULUCF) which would de facto increase EU 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target to 57 %.

On Tuesday, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety adopted their report to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve natural carbon sinks in the land use, land use change and forestry sector (LULUCF) with 44 votes for, 37 against and 6 abstentions.

MEPs stress that the objective of enhancing removals by natural carbon sinks should be seen separately from the priority objective of rapidly and drastically reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from other sectors, including non-CO2 agricultural emissions.

MEPs support the Commission’s proposal that the EU 2030 target for net greenhouse gas removals in the land, land use change and forestry sector should be at least 310 million tonnes CO2 equivalent. Such an increase would de facto raise the EU’s 2030 GHG reduction target to 57 %, as the contribution of net removals to the 2030 55 % GHG reduction target was limited to 225 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the EU Climate Law as proposed by the European Parliament. It would also be beneficial in improving biodiversity and reforestation.

The Commission shall adopt annual targets for the LULUCF sector for each year in the period from 2026 to 2029 based on national trajectories. MEPs also want sub-targets for net greenhouse gas emissions from cropland, grassland and wetlands both at EU and member state level.

The proposed legislation also suggests a penalty for non-compliance by adding a 108% of the excess GHG net-removals to the following year’s quota.

The MEP’s emphasize that natural carbon sinks are fragile and volatile, and therefore should not be pooled with the measuring of emissions from the agricultural sector – contrary to the Commission’s proposal. Instead, MEPs want support to voluntary carbon farming initiatives to deliver at least 50 million additional tonnes CO2 equivalent of net removals by 2030.

Read more here.


A new Blue Economy Observatory to monitor and promote the sustainability of our ocean related activities

The European Commission has launched the EU Blue Economy Observatory, a new knowledge dissemination platform for the sustainability of our oceans, seas and coastal areas.

The new observatory will focus on socio-economic components of the maritime related sectors. It will provide a detailed picture of ocean-related activities, with latest data, scientific evidence, insights, market information and findings supporting ongoing trends and developments in the EU Blue Economy.

The EU Blue Economy Observatory intends to solve the current lack of sufficient available data about industries and sectors related to our oceans, seas and coasts.

Filling this knowledge gap with the latest and most complete scientific information will help policymakers and businesses make decisions in order to build a sustainable, resilient and climate-neutral blue economy in the EU.

Moreover, the platform provides information relevant to the development, implementation and monitoring of policies, particularly in light of the European Green Deal.

The observatory is part of the transition strategy defined in the European Commission communication “Transforming the EU’s Blue Economy for a Sustainable Future”, published in May 2021.

It will prominently feature data from the most recent European Union Blue Economy Report and compile knowledge from existing Commission information systems, including the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture (EUMOFA), the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet), the Data Collection Framework Dissemination Tool, and the Knowledge for Policy Platform. It will also interact with the Blue Forum of sea users, a new initiative to be launched by the end of 2022.

DG MARE and DG JRC will coordinate the work of the Observatory. A steering committee made up of European Commission experts from various DGs will be assembled to cover key blue economy industries and subsectors.

Read more here.


Zero Pollution Monitoring and Outlook Workshop – Report

The Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform, a joint initiative of the European Commission (EC) and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), held its first workshop on 24-25 May under the title “Towards a Zero Pollution Monitoring and Outlook”.

This 2-day workshop “Towards a Zero Pollution Monitoring and Outlook” was held in hybrid format on 24-25 May 2022.

Find out more here.

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