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In this Morning Brief, we open with the news that Portugal’s INESC TEC is joining an international partnership for space exploration, the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) is looking to form two new expert groups, the European Research Council has witnessed a drop in applications from mid-career researchers, Bioenergy scientists in the United States have discovered a genetic pathway in plants for better biofuel processing, VISUM 2022 – INESC TEC’s Summer School, 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 joins international partnership for space exploration

The Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Institute of Astronautical Sciences (IIAS) to establish a partnership covering six areas of intervention: science, technology, engineering, mathematics, education, and space research.

“We’re proud to announce the signing of a MoU with Portugal. This partnership will strengthen the work developed so far, whose main objective is to ensure and promote the countries’ access to solutions in the space sector, and to improve life on planet Earth”, said Jason Reimuller, founder of IIAS. “Our scientific and space exploration activities, from planetary geology to microgravity flight missions, are a unique opportunity to increase knowledge, and together we will be able to open many doors, so that everyone can be part of space exploration, towards a more sustainable future,” he concluded.

The Portuguese partner entities include the Portuguese Space Agency (Portugal Space), the Porto School of Engineering (ISEP) and the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP). The partnership will promote equitable and inclusive access to innovative opportunities for collaboration and research. The teams involved will work together on different activities at the international level to promote advances in areas such as geosciences, robotics, bioastronautics and suborbital science. The agreement also aims at the development of collaborative research projects, facilitating access to top facilities, training, as well as contact with experts, towards disseminating the most important advances and discoveries.

Read more here.


HERA looks to form two new expert groups

Civil society and industry representatives are invited to join two new expert groups that will be part of the advisory forum of the new European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA)

The two new expert groups, the Civil Society Forum and the Joint Industrial Cooperation Forum, are expected to provide scientific and technical advice.

HERA, modelled on the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, is the EU’s new health body which will coordinate EU-wide clinical trial networks during health emergencies. It was conceived following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and is set to launch this year with a dedicated budget of €6 billion up to 2027. Of this, €1.7 billion represents Horizon Europe’s contribution to research into health emergencies, which has raised concerns from the European Parliament that the European Commission is taking money from the EU’s limited research fund without consulting the policymakers.


ERC sees drop in applications from mid-career researchers

The European Research Council’s (ERC) Consolidator grants call this year closed with 2,222 proposals for fundamental research projects from mid-career researchers, recording a 16.2% decrease in applications compared with last year.

The researchers are competing for 388 grants to be financed by this year’s €776 million Consolidator grant fund. This means around 17% of applicants will likely receive funding, marking a higher than usual success rate for ERC grants.

Of the 2,222 proposals, 937 were in physical sciences and engineering, 676 in social sciences and humanities and 609 in life sciences. A little more than a third were submitted by women.


Bioenergy scientists discover genetic pathway for better biofuel processing

A team of researchers working within the Center for Bioenergy Innovation (CBI) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has discovered a pathway to encourage a type of lignin formation in plants that could make the processing of crops grown for products such as sustainable jet fuels easier and less costly.

The researchers focused on C-lignin, a polymer in the seed coats of certain exotic plants. Lignin, the polymer that gives plants their rigidity, is a good source of the building blocks and aromatic chemical compounds needed to produce clean bio-based fuels. But lignin is also difficult to process, particularly the more common G- and S-lignins found in most plants.

The Center for Bioenergy Innovation at ORNL is one of four DOE Bioenergy Research Centers focused on advancing biofuels and bioproducts for a vibrant domestic bioeconomy. The center is accelerating the development of bioenergy-relevant plants and microbes to enable production of drop-in sustainable aviation fuel, bioproducts that sequester carbon and sustainable replacements for plastics and other environmentally harmful products. CBI and this C-lignin research are supported by the Biological and Environmental Research program in DOE’s Office of Science.

Read more here.


VISUM 2022

Vision Understanding and Machine Intelligence – VISUM 2022 – is the tenth edition of a summer school focused on Computer Vision and Machine Learning. This edition is organised by INESC TEC, and will be an on-site event in Porto, Portugal.

The courses, with both theoretical and practical sessions, will be conducted by world-renowed experts covering their research topics. Aside from the theoretical relevance of the lectures, the covered material will guide participants to building  their own AI system within a competitive challenge. The VISUM school aims to provide a stimulating learning opportunity for students, young researchers and professionals with interests in Computer Vision and Machine Learning.

Find more information here!


UK-EU educational cooperation and the Turing Scheme: opportunities and challenges

The Turing scheme is the domestic mobility scheme for UK students to gain international experience.

Universities UK International is partnering with the UK Mission to the EU to provide a platform for European colleagues to discuss Turing, the challenges and opportunities it provides, as well as the wider outlook for UK and EU cooperation in education, in the context of the scheme’s first year of delivery. Join us and moderator Thomas Jorgensen (Senior Policy Coordinator, European Universities Association) on 6 April to hear from Charley Robinson, Head of Global Mobility, UUKi, Oscar Tapp-Scotting, Deputy Director International Education, DfE and Dr Uta Staiger, Pro-Vice-Provost for Europe, UCL to find out more about how existing UK-EU partnerships are continued, and what the vision is for the future, as well as ask your own questions about how European institutions may partner in the future with UK counterparts. We will also hear opening remarks from Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby CMG, UK Ambassador to the EU.

Don’t forget to register here.


Ricardo Bessa receives international Excellence Award for his contribution to renewable energy forecasting

The Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG), formerly known as Utility Wind Integration Group (UWIG), is a non-profit organisation established in 1989 and headquartered in the United States of America. It focuses on promoting the sharing and distribution of data, research, analysis, operating knowledge and planning of energy systems, towards the grid and energy systems transformation. Recently, the ESIG awarded Ricardo Bessa, senior researcher and coordinator of INESC TEC’s Centre for Power and Energy Systems (CPES), the Excellence Award for “contributions to advances in renewable energy forecasting and development of renewable energy forecasting systems”. This award acknowledges professionals who have made outstanding personal and professional contributions to the renewable energy sector, namely concerning the decarbonisation of the energy system.

“It is an international recognition for the fundamental and applied research work that I have been developing at INESC TEC since 2006, in the area of renewable production forecasting, with the main objectives of transferring R&D results to companies and promoting the integration of forecasting (and uncertainty) in the operation of the energy system and electricity markets,” said Ricardo Bessa. According to the researcher, the country’s investment in the field of renewable energy “has not only accelerated the energy transition but has also stimulated technological advances in the National Scientific and Technological System and companies, which fortunately have been valued by organisations such as the ESIG”.

In this year’s edition, ESIG granted 25 Excellence Awards to experts from all over the world. The awards ceremony took place during ESIG’s Spring Technical Workshop, on March 24, in Tucson, Arizona.


No major abnormalities in EU carbon market, says watchdog

According to EURACTIV, “There are no major abnormalities in the European Union’s market for carbon emissions, but tighter controls could improve transparency and monitoring, the EU’s securities watchdog said on Monday (28 March). Europe’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) puts a price on certain sectors, including energy producers and carbon-intensive industries, to incentivise emissions reductions. The system, made up of a primary market of allowances and a secondary market mainly of derivatives based on allowances, is a core element in Europe’s plan to cut its emissions. However, the carbon price has been volatile over the past weeks. In February, the price of CO2 on the EU carbon market hit a record high of €98.49 per tonne, having risen around 150% in 2021. It then plummeted to just under €60 in early March as the war in Ukraine unfolded. As March progressed, it then stabilised at around €75. The price spike prompted countries like Poland to call for the EU to restrict financial speculators’ participation in the market. But a report by the European Securities and Markets Authority’s (ESMA), published on Monday found no major deficiencies in the carbon market.”.


New series of energy stakeholder dialogues open in Czechia today

The Directorate-General for Energy of the European Commission launched in 2021 a series of stakeholder dialogues co-organised with Representations of the European Commission in some EU countries. The objective of these dialogues is to offer invited stakeholders the possibility to exchange with DG ENER officials on the European Green Deal package. Ten dialogues took place in 2021 in Sweden, Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovenia, Ireland, Latvia, Italy, Portugal and Greece, with over 600 participants in total.

As in 2021, the planning and topics of the Energy stakeholder dialogues taking place in 2022 will take into account the political and legislative agenda and the specific national context of each hosting EU country. The European Green Deal and the REPowerEU plan, adopted by the European Commission on March 8, will constitute the main framework for the discussions.

The 2022 series will open with the first dialogue in Czechia on 29 March. It will focus on energy security, energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources for households and companies in Czechia.

Read more here.

Energy stakeholder dialogues.


How scientists can prevent an engineered pandemic

According to Science|Business, “By the time the monkeypox pandemic had circled the world, killing 27 million people globally, intelligence agencies learned this virulence was no accident. It had been made deliberately more deadly by scientists sympathetic to a terrorist group wanting to wreak havoc on a neighbouring state. The engineered pathogen had been covertly dispersed into crowded train stations. Eighteen months into the pandemic, this souped-up version of monkeypox had inflicted an almost unimaginable toll: more than three billion people infected, and more than 250 million killed. This was the scenario war-gamed by around a dozen of the most senior figures in public health and biosecurity at last year’s Munich Security Conference. They included representatives from the US National Security Council, the World Health Organisation, the heads of the Chinese and African centres for disease control and prevention, plus executives from pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. Playing out this engineered monkeypox pandemic, these stewards of global health came to some grim conclusions, which have only been made public in recent months. “The next global catastrophe could be caused by the deliberate misuse of the tools of modern biology or by a laboratory accident,” the resulting report warns. Research funders, universities, companies and science policymakers urgently need to tighten up control over lab safety and potentially risky research, it urges. The current system, “Is neither prepared to meet today’s security requirements, nor is it ready for significantly expanded challenges in the future.” And the world needs a new international body to help tame these dangers, the report concludes. Now, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a Washington DC-based nonprofit which organised the war-game, is trying to set one up by the end of the year. “There’s no institution that’s set up with the ideal features to really tackle this head on, and move at the pace that needs to happen,” said Jaime Yassif, senior director of the NTI’s programme to control dual use bioscience. The NTI is currently recruiting an executive director for this new organisation, dubbed the International Biosecurity and Biosafety Initiative for Science (IBBIS).”.

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