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A new food waste treatment strategy for Europe

January 26, 2017

PlasCarb combines the production of high-value industrial materials with the treatment of unavoidable food waste.

Do you remember the question that was posed by Krisztina nearly three years ago, in her blog post? Is it possible to turn food waste into a resource?

This question kicked off the PlasCarb project on December 1st, 2013, and since then our team, consisting of seven partner institutions from five EU Member States, has worked hard to answer this question with a well-grounded YES.

This dedication has paid off – with the end of the project on November 30th, 2016, we can present a technology to the European market that has been proven viable through a one-month pilot test. In addition to that, social, environmental and economical assessments, carried out throughout the whole life span of the project, attest the sustainability of the entire PlasCarb value chain.

What can PlasCarb do for our economy?

Food waste is the feedstock of PlasCarb to generate in a first and well established step biogas (CH4 & CO2). After purification, the gas is cracked by a low temperature microwave plasma to yield graphitic carbon (renewable PlasCarbon) and renewable hydrogen.

PlasCarb is circular economy in action! Not only will this technology contribute to the recycling of food waste, but it also uses immanent components to source and supply industry sectors which are today mainly dependent on fossil fuels – the carbon nanoparticle market and the hydrogen economy.

Help spreading PlasCarb

PlasCarb is one of many initiatives to fight against the dangerous landfilling of food waste and to turn our wasteful and linear economy into a creative and circular one. If you are supporting those thoughts, please share the PlasCarb idea with your friends and colleagues. This will help making policy makers and businesses aware and multiply the positive effects of PlasCarb onto the European business landscape. Please visit and share this video where our partners tell the PlasCarb story in their own words. Our project website, http://www.plascarb.eu/, provides more information and the Viability Assessment encourages businesses to adopt the PlasCarb technology.

Back to the roots

Is it possible to turn food waste into a resource? Yes, PlasCarb has the potential to do so, but as Krisztina highlighted in her blog post, we are all in the responsibility to prevent the generation of food waste at its roots. Because it is not sensible to treat food waste which is avoidable with expensive technologies like recycling, composting or even with PlasCarb. Let us act in a more social, environmental and economical conscious manner by choosing sustainable technologies such as PlasCarb.

By: Daniel Frohnmaier

European Parliament elections: what path for EU funds?

January 23, 2017

What happened?

On 17th of January 2017, elections were held for the new president of the European Parliament in order to choose the successor of Martin Schulz (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats). Initially seven candidates were running for the position, but before the first ballot, the liberal Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE) withdrew his candidacy, offering support to the Italian centre-right candidate Antonio Tajani (European People’s Party). After the third ballot, it became evident that the real competition was between two Italians, centre-right Antonio Tajani (EPP) and centre-left Gianni Pittella (S&D). At the end of the fourth ballot, with a difference of 69 votes, the presidency went finally to the EPP’s candidate Tajani. Despite the wind of Euroscepticism, the position of president of the European Parliament can be a very powerful and influent one, as Schultz showed in the previous five years unlike his predecessors. Tajani will draft the path to be followed concerning many outstanding issues for the next two and a half years.

After Tajani’s victory, it is indeed interesting to notice the prevalence of EPP’s members in key positions, with Jean-Claude Junker president of the European Commission and Donald Tusk as head of European Council.

Who is the newly elected president?

Antonio Tajani is a legal expert, former journalist and Italian politician. He is a familiar face in the EU politics as he was elected as Member of the Parliament four times. He has been vice-president of the EPP since 2008, and Commissioner for Transport from 2008 until 2010 and at a later time Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. As a matter of fact, during 15 years of political activity dedicated to the EU, he was part of different committees and projects, so his experience in EU politics and policies implementation is indisputable.

What does it mean for EU research and innovation?

Tajani clearly stated his position towards R&D, innovation, SMEs and environmental problems, when he was running for the EP president. “We need to work in favour of the real economy, strengthen our SMEs, as well as our industries’’ he said in an interview for Euractiv.com. During his mandate as a Commissioner for Industry and SMEs, Tajani undoubtedly saw the benefits of EU research and advocated for boosting it. It could not have been otherwise, given his background. He served the European Commission under the Barroso presidency, which was a flourishing period for research and innovation projects as he covered the position of head of Industry and Entrepreneurship, while in the Parliament he was part of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.

Regarding the future of EU funding, he might have some changes in mind: “The EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme should be focused on fewer priorities, with more impact. Low carbon technologies, climate and the circular economy, as well as new digital and data technologies, should in my view be prioritised even more strongly than today,” he said to Science Business.com.

By: Cosmina Bisboaca

LinkTADs project successfully completed

January 9, 2017

October 2016 marked the completion of the LinkTADs project, a three-year initiative funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to coordinate European and Chinese research on animal health.

As a result of various LinkTADs activities, EU-China collaboration has intensified through increased networking of relevant scientific communities and stakeholders, trainings for EU and Chinese researchers and establishment of linkages between ongoing animal health research and innovation projects in both regions.

LinkTADs organized a number of events:

 – 11 technical workshops emphasized the importance of linking laboratory and epidemiology in the animal health research field and enabled establishment of the LinkTADs network of research institutions;

 – 6 short terms academic visits and 3 exchange programs were organized providing excellent opportunities for LinkTADs and external partners to visit each other’s laboratories and facilities, learn in-depth about the ongoing activities and research lines and define new paths for collaboration;

 – 5 trainings were delivered in close cooperation with existing training programmmes in the EU and China resulting in a compilation of training materials available on the LinkTADs website;

 – 7 webinars were broadcast throughout the course of the project covering mostly specific diseases or policy aspects. This modern tool was seen as a useful way to deliver talks by experts allowing a wide participation of stakeholders in the EU/China.

 – 2 policy meetings were organized bringing EU and Chinese policy makers together; additionally, recommendations were developed on the basis of identified gaps and synergies for further potential harmonization of relevant regulations in both regions.

 – 4 dissemination events were held in both the EU and China contributing to reaching project objectives and enhancing the project impact.

The LinkTADs networking graph below shows the established relations within the consortium and with external partners, thus demonstrating the project’s sustainability potential.

linktadsblog1Successful project completion does not mean that the end of our work on the LinkTADs. Within the project, Europa Media was responsible for the platform development and we aim  to maintain the website as an information platform on cooperation in the animal health field between the EU and China for at least two years after the project completion. During the project implementation the platform was visited more than 10,000 times.

The platform includes several sections developed specifically within LinkTADs: collection of EU-China policy and strategy documents in animal health research collaboration; partner database, downloadable library of workshop reports, recorded webinars, training materials, and newsletters as well as the LinkTADs “Find Funding” tool.

The Funding database is an innovative tool, designed by Europa Media in order to help researchers look for available funding covering travel grants, scholarships, exchange programmes, fellowships available for European and Chinese experts working in the veterinary field including animal health and food safety. The LinkTADs partners decided to make it available for public users.

Thus, if you are an international researcher looking for funding opportunities in the field of animal health or food security, feel free to visit the LinkTADs website. The “Find funding” tool currently lists 180 entries collected by EM.

Additionally, Europa Media will be involved in maintaining the activities of the LinkTADs Focal Point Network. The Network consists of international researchers and experts from the EU and China with experience in animal health related research and relevant expertise in EU-China cooperation, e.g. funding, logistics, networking opportunities, etc. The LinkTADs Focal Point Network will provide support to anyone interested in animal health research and relevant cooperation between the EU and China. Europa Media will assist in sustaining the network using the LinkTADs LinkedIn group for communication.

Europa Media and the LinkTADs team encourage international epidemiologists, laboratory workers, PhD students and individual researchers active in the field of animal health and food security to make use of LinkTADs tools, which are available beyond the project completion as part of the LinkTADs sustainability plan.

linktadsblog2LinkTADs team during the final project meeting

By: Liliya Levandovska

MY-WAY: Two years to help students to fulfil their entrepreneurial dreams

January 9, 2017

When the MY-WAY project was funded in 2014, the European landscape of youth entrepreneurship was highly fragmented: although many support initiatives existed, they did not coordinate their efforts, information was lacking and young European prospective entrepreneurs were necessarily limited to their local options when searching for information and support.

The idea of MY-WAY came from talks and confidence boosting speeches on how young adults should start and develop their businesses. Listening to young people’s challenges, it became clear that connecting the stakeholders of the web entrepreneurship ecosystem (mentors, accelerators, VCs, incubators etc.) with the student networks; connecting the students with business people and connecting the available platforms and initiatives across Europe had the potential of providing all actors with an added value and increase the effectiveness of the web entrepreneurship ecosystem.

From early 2015 until the end of 2016, ten organisations from eight European countries worked as a tight-knit team to bring student organisations supporting prospective entrepreneurs back into the centre stage of the ecosystem.

mywayconference1

Our Israeli partner, Bar Ilan University, outlined a mapping methodology to lay out the most relevant actors for a young person wishing to launch a new business. By checking the MY-WAY map, you will be able to really understand the entrepreneurship environment not only around you, but throughout Europe, and you may find the missing piece of your business and directly contact a certain organisation, such as a co-working space, an accelerator, an investor, and alike.

Later on, our partners AEGEE (the European Students’ Forum) and NACUE (the National Association of College Universities Entrepreneurs) worked together to develop, carry out and later analyse online surveys and face-to-face interviews to young prospective entrepreneurs and student support centres. Through this endeavour, partners realised that students need to have closer contact and support from support centres, which should fill the gaps between the main actors in the field of entrepreneurship, including the ones providing information and guidance and encouraging young people to develop their ideas and support the fulfilment of their dreams. On the other hand, student support centres and student networks often face financial challenges and lack of proper working space, and have fragmented relationships with each other.

All partners then scouted their own ecosystem to find successful innovative collaboration agreements between a wide range of initiatives offering support to prospective entrepreneurs. Our Set of Best Practices showed that student networks can position themselves as key actors within the web entrepreneurship ecosystem if they are connected with other actors within the ecosystem, such as entrepreneurship networks, entrepreneurship centres, universities and organisations that provide financial support.

Photo coverage MyWay event 2016 (2014_056) - We start Lisbon Event, 21st october 2016

In order to facilitate novel connections and to give voice to the other side of the equation, AEGEE and Europa Media further organised two Stakeholder Meetings in Brussels, bringing together 30-40 people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities working in the entrepreneurship field: mentors, accelerators, student networks, incubators, investors, student support centres, and much more.

As a good number of recommendations and novel ideas was shortlisted, it became high time to give back to the students: MY-WAY managed to reach out to more than 750 students in the occasion of 5 Student Enterprise Conferences organised in London (by NACUE and Capital Enterprise), Budapest (by YES and Europa Media), Lisbon (H-Farm and Europa Media), Tel Aviv (Bar Ilan University) and Treviso (H-Farm and Europa Media).

Through the participation of our rock-star mentor and coach David Trayford, of all our partners and city-specific organisations acting in the entrepreneurial field, the events were a unique opportunity for students to discuss various topics related to how to make their business idea become real, learn more about ongoing funding programmes and initiatives, to change the mindset of those who may lack confidence and overall to make entrepreneurship a more appealing career option.

mywayconference3

As the project comes to an end, it is time to take stock of what has been achieved and reflect on how to continue this satisfactory work. It is fair to say that partners have worked hard and in harmony for two years, driven by a unique enthusiasm and passion for helping students with their business ideas.

Being part of the Startup Europe club has further increased our outreach potential: we have established new connections with ongoing projects and initiatives, created new collaboration agreements and programmes, raised awareness on the entrepreneurial lifestyle, trained students on crucial skills and boosted their self-confidence.

 By: Valentina Zuri & Krisztina Toth

Two years into Horizon 2020: trends, novelties and stats

December 1, 2016

The European Commission has recently published its second Monitoring Report on the implementation of Horizon 2020, describing trends and statistics on participation in the years 2014 and 2015 altogether. While we have already analysed the findings on the first year, this second Report sheds light over more recent figures and trends.

In 2015, 42 535 eligible proposals were submitted: a 25.5% increase from 2014. Out of these, 20 024 proposals were considered “high quality” (a 40.2% increase from 2014), however only a total of 4 565 were retained for funding, very similarly to what happened in 2014.

Therefore, in 2015 the overall success rate in terms of number of eligible proposal was 10.7%: quite an impressive  decrease from the rate of 14% of 2014.

The table below shows in more detail four different ways to assess success in Horizon 2020.

Source: http://ec.europa.eu/research/evaluations/pdf/archive/h2020_monitoring_reports/second_h2020_annual_monitoring_report.pdf

Participants of our training courses were frequently asking about the breakdown of success rates per specific sub-pillars: finally the Commission has released this data in a convenient table, which we report below.

Source: http://ec.europa.eu/research/evaluations/pdf/archive/h2020_monitoring_reports/second_h2020_annual_monitoring_report.pdf

Based on this table, it may be interesting to highlight a few changes from 2014:

  • In the Excellence Science pillar, ERC success rates have increased, whereas those of MSCA grants have decreased, and those of FET drastically decreased (-4.8 percentage points in terms of successful proposals, -5.8 in terms of funding);
  • In the Industrial Leadership pillar, Innovation in SMEs has reported the largest decrease in success rates (-16 percentage points in terms of successful proposals, -52.3 in terms of funding);
  • In the Societal Challenges, pillar SC4 – Smart, green and integrated transport remains the Work Programme with the highest success rates, whereas SC6 – Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies holds the record for lowest success rates.

A general increase in the number of applications concurred to the overall decrease in success rates; more specifically, it was Higher Education Establishments (HES) and Private for Profit Companies (PRC) that registered the highest increase in number of eligible proposals submitted: respectively, +27.39% and +26.51% compared to 2014.

It can be safely stated that Higher Education Establishments have performed better than all other types of organisations, as they also scored the smallest decrease in success rate (-3.29%), compared for example to Private for Profit Companies, whose success rate decreased of 10.9%.

As the practical effects of Brexit remain to be assessed in the EU Research and Innovation landscape, it is striking to note that 15 out of the “top 50 HES organisations” of 2015 are based in the UK, followed by the Netherlands (9), Germany (5) and Sweden (5). UK also hosted the highest amount of “top 50 Public Entities” and of “top 50 Small and Medium Enterprises” (for more details and definitions on this point, see Annex V to the Commission’s Report).

Maintaining a geographical overview, all Member States have increased the number of submitted applications in 2015. The most active countries remain UK, Italy, Germany and Spain, although in 2015 Italy has surpassed Germany in terms of number of applications. Amongst Associated Countries, Switzerland remains the top applicant by far, followed by Norway and Israel as in 2014.

The best performing countries in terms of success rates however do not necessarily coincide with the most active ones: similar to last year, Austria scores first, Belgium second, and France fourth: Ireland remarkably improved its performance, moving from 12th place to 3rd.

As for newcomers, there are important differences in their participation according to the different Horizon 2020 pillars. The lowest share is in Excellence Science, where only 5.8% participants had not participated in FP7 (still, with an increase of 0.3 percentage points from 2014). The highest participation of newcomers has instead shifted from 2014 from the Industrial Leadership pillar (now 25.9%) to the Societal Challenges pillar (now 30.3%).

For both years, life seems to be harder for newcomers, whose applications are less likely to be retained for funding, compared to those submitted by organisations who had participated in FP7. This is especially true for Public Entities, whose gap is highest (9.8 percentage points).

With a total of 5 851 grant agreements signed in 2015, the time-to-grant (TTG) has improved from 2014, as 92.4% of the projects (excluding ERC actions) were signed within the established eight-month period, to which the Commission had committed.

Horizon 2020 remains a very attractive source of funding for R&I in Europe, providing a unique means for cross-disciplinary, cross-actor and cross-country collaboration. While further measures could be taken by the Commission to increase the likelihood of funding for high quality proposals (such as the “Seal of Excellence” pilot), the key question for R&I organisations is: are you up for the challenge?

By: Valentina Zuri

New rules set for EU-US cooperation in Horizon 2020 projects

October 25, 2016

I would like to share some interesting news regarding EU-US cooperation and share my thoughts on its practical consequences for the EU projects involving US organisations.

On 17 October 2016, the European Commission and the US Government signed an agreement, which facilitates cooperation between US organisations and Horizon 2020 participants.

This agreement indeed has been signed with the scope to ease and simplify collaboration between the US and EU partners in an H2020 project. The Partners are only expected to complete bureaucratic or reporting requirements of their respective funding programmes. That is the good news.

But, let’s see two main extracts from this agreement:

Section 1: “U.S. institutions, not receiving funds under the EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation, currently Horizon 2020, may conduct cooperative research and relevant activities with EU participants, irrespective of the nature and extent of their contributions, without being a participant, and are not required to sign grant or consortia agreements under these Programmes or other forms that are required for EU participants.”

and

Section 6: “Research Partners are encouraged, where appropriate, to reach a common understanding in respect of intellectual property rights, data access, and data dissemination and other matters considered essential to research collaboration governance.”

My questions would be right away: in case neither the EC Grant Agreement, nor the Consortium Agreement is signed by the US organisations, what will empower the coordinator legally to make US partner organisations perform and report? (The question of course works vice versa as well.) The reporting requirements on the US side are quite different from the one in the EU, shall the coordinator just copy-paste the US report as an Annex to the Periodic Report of the project? Maybe that will satisfy many coordinators, but having participated in a few international collaboration projects, I can say that this is a solution only if all partners do their job and even more to reach the common objectives. In case some of the European or some of the US partners fail in delivering the work, then the full consortium will fail and the reports submitted to the respective funding programme authorities might not be accepted partially or fully. The principle of joint technical responsibility might become difficult to apply with partners in conflict.

And the next automatic question: if these parties need to reach a common understanding in terms of IPR, data access, dissemination and management, etc., that understanding should be confirmed in a written format, right? So they should sign an agreement in case they want to have the partners legally obliged to comply with the terms of their common understanding. Which type of contract and applicable law is recommended for their agreement? A simple memorandum of understanding?

From the practical perspective: if they are encouraged to sign this agreement, wouldn’t it be logical to get the usual Consortium Agreement (CA) signed by all parties in the H2020 project? The CA, as a civil contract, can set special conditions for the US participants in terms of their administrative and reporting obligations, as well as in terms of IPR and data management issues. The applicable law would probably still remain the law of the agreed European country (normally the law of Belgium) as this is a project submitted and successfully evaluated under the Research and Innovation Framework Programme of the European Union – where the US organisations are co-financed by a US funding scheme set up specifically for co-participating in this EU programme – and still, the conditions for conflict resolution could be managed based on more international standards.

What might ease more the participation of US organisations in H2020 projects is to help with legal advice and tailor the CA template with the special conditions satisfying the US partners.

I am looking forward to seeing the different solutions working out for different consortia in H2020 projects.

By: Gabriella Lovasz

10 ways you can use social media in your Horizon 2020 project

October 12, 2016
1. Engage your stakeholders in a live dialogue during a conference

Tip: if you reply to a user and want the tweet to be visible to everyone (and not just to that user’s followers) write something (such as a period) before the user’s name!

2. Pin a tweet to maintain it on top of the page even as you continue tweeting in the next days

Tip: to keep the 140 characters, shorten your link using services like bitly.com, goo.gl, ow.ly etc.

3. Tag other users on pictures: they will receive a notification and will want to check you out!

 4. Share your newly published deliverables

5. Use hashtags to attract users interested in specific fields or topics, and create your own to better follow conversations

6. Create lists to group the users you follow according to their expertise

7. Tease the conference attendants on the speakers they’ll be able to meet

8. Include hashtags in your account description, so interested users can find you more easily

9. Always be as visual as possible

10. Keep an eye on analytics.twitter.com and see with your eyes the impact you’re making!