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Welcome back after a (hopefully) wonderful Christmas! In this Morning Brief we bring you a call for proposals on the EU Soil Mission, Imperial College is looking for 13 new leaders of the digital revolution, news on fishing opportunities from the EU and the UK, a statement from the G6, 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:

EU Soil Mission: Call for Proposals is Open

The European Commission is looking for the best innovative ideas to advance the protection and restoration of soil health in Europe.

The 2021 soil mission call for proposals aims to lay the foundations for a structured roll-out of mission activities and set out a credible pathway to contribute to the mission’s goal and objectives.

Funded projects will support the establishment of soil health living labs and the validation and definition of indicators for soil health and the creation of a new generation of soil advisors to guide landowners and land managers in the implementation of sustainable practices, as well as to guide authorities in decision-making for a positive impact on soil health.

Potential applicants can click here to find out more about the work programme, the virtual info days and how to apply!

Imperial searches for 13 new leaders of the digital revolution

A new Imperial College London initiative, I-X, is recruiting 13 academic staff to lead the next wave of the digital revolution. The initiative will harness the College’s long-standing excellence in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), data sciences, and related fields.

Imperial Provost Professor Ian Walmsley said: “I-X brings together Imperial’s strengths in data, AI, computing and maths to drive the smart society of the future. We will embed our research, education, and innovation mission in a multidisciplinary, entrepreneurial environment that engages external partners to help deliver new ideas, new technologies and deeper impact more effectively and rapidly.”

The projects cover areas such as improving healthcare with big data and AI; preparing for a future of human-AI cooperation; robotics and automation; and building ML systems that understand the real world, like self-driving vehicles.

Find out more about it here.

A new type of powerful AI could make EU’s new law obsolete

The EU’s proposed artificial intelligence act fails to fully take into account the recent rise of an ultra-powerful new type of AI, meaning the legislation will rapidly become obsolete as the technology is deployed in novel and unexpected ways.

Foundation models trained on gargantuan amounts of data by the world’s biggest tech companies, and then adapted to a wide range of tasks, are poised to become the infrastructure on which other applications are built.

That means any deficits in these models will be inherited by all uses to which they are put. The fear is that foundation models could irreversibly embed security flaws, opacity and biases into AI. One study found that a model trained on online text replicated the prejudices of the internet, equating Islam with terrorism, a bias that could pop up unexpectedly if the model was used in education, for example.

The problem with the EU’s proposed AI act, according to critics including the Future of Life Institute, a Boston based think tank, is that it regulates or outright bans specific uses of AI, but doesn’t dig deeper into the foundation models underlying these applications. The act would for example ban “social scoring” AI applications, or those that “exploit the vulnerabilities of specific group of persons.”

Read more here.

EU and UK reach agreement on fishing opportunities for 2022

Last week,  the EU and the UK reached an agreement on the fishing opportunities for 2022. This agreement covers all shared and jointly managed fisheries resources in UK and EU waters.

It is the outcome of the annual consultations on fishing opportunities between the EU and the UK under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), which took place between 11 November and 20 December.

The agreement on the management of shared stocks secures the fishing rights of the EU and the UK fleets in both EU and UK waters until the end of 2022, as foreseen under the TCA. It establishes the total allowable catches (TAC) for 65 shared fish stocks for 2022.

The agreement is based on the best available scientific advice regarding the state of fish stocks, as provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). It takes into account important sustainability and management principles, such as maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and the precautionary approach, which are central to the EU’s common fisheries policy and to the fisheries provisions of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Overall, the agreement creates certainty for fishing communities in both the EU and the UK, cements the sustainable use of marine living resources and establishes a strong basis for continued EU-UK cooperation in the area of fisheries.

Excellent research needs open science, G6 research funders say

As the Open Science European Conference approaches (February 4-5, 2022), the G6 network, which brings together six major European multidisciplinary research organizations – CNR, CNRS, CSIC, Helmholtz Association, Leibniz Association and Max Planck Society – and represents 135,000 staff, wants to highlight its common positions on open science.

The statement emphasises six priorities to support the transition to Open Science and foster excellence in research. By jointly addressing these priorities, G6 institutions intend to actively contribute to this transition and to the concerted effort it requires to transform the practices of sharing knowledge between scientific communities.

Read the G6 statement on open science here.

BIOGEARS: bio-based materials for sustainable European aquaculture

Part of EU’s blue economy, offshore aquaculture is a promising sector, fostering economic opportunity, employment and food security.

Launched in 2019, the BIOGEARS consortium develops prototypes of bio-based ropes for use in mussel and seaweed culture. BIOGEARS builds on knowledge generated by previous projects. Also partly EU-financed, these have been instrumental in understanding both the volume and type of marine litter generated by aquaculture and their impact on the marine environment, and the growth, production yield and quality of mussels, when cultured on conventional plastic ropes.

Aiming to replace or complement oil-based plastics, the consortium has produced compostable plastics from natural components derived from renewable biomass. The goal is to obtain a plastic that does not decompose at sea, but instead turns into compost, when it is no longer of use. The bio-based ropes developed by BIOGEARS are tested at sea, under different environmental conditions. Technical, environmental and economic sustainability assessment of the bio-gears is carried out, including its degradability at sea and the composting conditions.

Read more about this project here.

Commission reports first fall in industry R&D investment in ten years

The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a significant blow to EU R&D investment growth, according to data published in the 2021 edition of European Commission’s industrial R&D scoreboard.

For the first time in 10 years, EU companies cut their overall investment in R&D, which fell by 2.2%, as the pandemic led to cuts in automotive, aerospace and defence research. Companies in the US and China increased R&D investment by 9.1% and 18.1%, respectively, with money going to health and ICT services and products.

While the drop in EU investment is blamed on the pandemic, in the rest of the world investment in R&D continued to grow significantly in 2020, the 11th consecutive year that

investment has increased. Companies analysed in the Commission’s report invested €908.9 billion in R&D, 6% more than in 2019.

EU research commissioner Maryia Gabriel said the EU and member states need to raise their investments in green technologies, new ICT services and products, and deep tech innovations. “The EU’s industrial R&D investment scoreboard shows clearly where we need to boost our efforts,” she said.

Read more about the report and suggestions for the EU to boost investment in R&D here.

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