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EXCHANGING VIEWS ON US AND EU FUNDING LANDSCAPES: FROM CALIFORNIA TO HUNGARY

October 20, 2017

Between 9 and 24 July 2017 I travelled to Budapest to Europa Media offices thanks to the NCURA/EARMA Fellowship Program for an exchange experience from Chapman University (California). The NCURA/EARMA Fellowship program has two objectives:  the training of research administrators and enhancing global research collaboration. My experience in Budapest served to further these goals.

During the first week of the fellowship I attended Europa Media Group’s (EMG) Funding Academy. EMG is a unique company, providing administrative and management services for EU funded projects, implementing several projects utilizing in-house researchers and providing expert advice to clients around the EU. Reflecting EMG’s broad reach and experience, attendees were from various countries within the European Union. For example, I met individuals from England, Norway, Finland, the Czech Republic and Belgium. The training course combined lectures and discussions with hands-on practice workshops. The first two days of the training focused on building partnerships and writing a competitive proposal. The second two days focused on the financial management and EU audit concerns. Participants were able to get to know each other better through evening activities such as a boat trip on the Danube and dinner at a famous Hungarian restaurant. Each attendee received a participant list with a list of participant names, organization and email addresses which was a very useful starting point for networking with other attendees.

During the second week of the fellowship I was focused on giving insights on how the US funding schemes work and meeting potential collaborators. I presented information about U.S. funding sources to the EMG staff. In slides and via email, I provided links to online tools and resources to help potential European partners identify federal programs that allow foreign applicants and partners.  Approximately 12 individuals attended the 1.5 hour presentation, which was followed by a questions and answers session.

For week two, Krisztina arranged in person and Skype meetings with key players in the Hungarian R&I scene or long-time collaborators of EMG group from Bar-Ilan University (Israel), Bay Zoltan Nonprofit Ltd., Hungarian Science Academy and Singularity University. During these meetings, we discussed research interests and grant experiences with both EU and US funding sources, the NCURA/EARMA connection and enhancing international collaboration. Through these meetings, I collected background materials and additional contacts that will be shared with researchers not only at Chapman University, but at other NCURA member institutions as well.

This fellowship experience taught me that research administrators in the EU and the US have a lot in common. As we worked through workshop activities, training participants shared their experiences with faculty, internal offices (such as legal affairs, purchasing, etc.) and with auditors. Although accounting rules vary and program priorities differ, the principles of grant stewardship seem constant. Challenges of planning, documentation, reliability and communication between multiple partners define research administration on both sides of the ocean. Finding collaborators with shared interest, enthusiasm, and the ability to get the job done is crucial to our success, especially when we endeavour to partner at great distances.

There were a few differences noted in proposal writing and development and implementation. The H2020 program refers to “participants” where U.S. sources would use the phrase “partnering” or “collaborating” organizations. Budgeting for H2020 programs requires the calculation of average hourly rates (including benefits) for groups of similarly paid individuals. Post-award financial reports use actual hourly rates, but for partial years do not allow recovery of incremental salary increases. Recipients of H2020 usually report actual hours worked on the project. However, those individuals who are contribute 100% effort on a H2020 project sign a certification of effort instead. The topic of time budgeting and effort reporting came up in several conversations. EMG staff were interested in how faculty effort is reported in the U.S., since faculty time is not tracked on an hourly basis. Where and how fringe benefits are included in the budget differs slightly as well, and could be a source of confusion for foreign applicants to U.S. agencies.

All in all, I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to NCURA, EARMA, Europa Media Group, Krisztina Tóth, and Chapman University for the opportunity to participate in this fellowship. I look forward to sharing with the NCURA community and Chapman faculty and staff all that I learned and experienced in Budapest. The connections will serve to increase partnerships and collaborations in many fields. Researchers address global issues, and to do so, they must reach beyond borders.

Dawn Underwood, Ph.D.
Assistant Vice President for Research
Chapman University
One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866

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PLASTIC FREE JULY

October 13, 2017

Last month there was a worldwide challenge called PLASTIC FREE JULY. Did you hear about it? Do you know why it mattered? You probably wonder what all the fuzz around plastic is about. Is it true all what they say? Does it really pollute that bad? In this blogpost we’ll address some of the questions you might be having around plastic!

 

WHAT IS PLASTIC FREE JULY?

 

Image result for Free Plastic JulyIt’s a campaign that started in 2011 for challenging people to refuse single-use plastic during July. By asking you to commit to a month of trying to avoid disposables, Plastic Free July attempts to raise awareness on the amount of plastic we consume in our lives and make you think about plastic pollution.

Wouldn’t it be too difficult?

It depends on where you live. But you can start by trying to avoid the big four: grocery bags, plastic straws, to-go coffee cups and plastic water bottles. Of course, you can go all in and avoid all disposables too!

 

I USE PLASTIC AND I RECYCLE. WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

 

We have developed a “disposable” lifestyle where estimates are that a plastic bag has an average “working life” of 15 minutes and around 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away. In fact, most of the plastic that we first started using in the last century is still in our environment today and we have increased plastic production twenty-fold over the past 50 years!

But I recycle!

Even if you mindfully place your plastic in a recycling bin, it’s highly likely that it won’t get turned into another product. Why? Because since there is still no profitable market in which to sell recycled plastic, it’s not cost-effective for companies in developed countries to process it.

https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/Foundation_New-Plastics-Economy_2.jpg

 

I READ THAT BY 2050, THERE WILL BE MORE PLASTIC IN THE OCEAN THAN FISH. IS THIS TRUE?

 

YES! The 2017 United Nations Clean Seas Campaign estimated that there are 51 trillion microplastic particles in the ocean today—500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy! And according to the 2016 World Economic Forum report on circular economy, if calculated by weight, only in three decades there will be more plastic in the Ocean than fish!

 

Image: Plastic Oceans

BUT WEREN’T THERE SOLUTIONS ALREADY TO CLEAN THE OCEAN FROM PLASTIC?

I heard about plastic-eating-microbes and a kid that created a filtration system!

Well yes, but…

The studies indicating that plastics may be degraded by microbes were achieved in lab conditions where it is more difficult to replicate real life. In fact, some initiatives to reduce plastic like 5 Gyres consider that the impact of tiny microbes on the massive problem of plastic pollution is negligible.

As for filtration systems, those projects typically do not reflect an adequate understanding of ocean dynamics and marine ecology, neither of the harsh conditions and vast expansion of the world’s seas. Removal of floating plastic debris from the open ocean by scooping out plastic can cause substantial impacts on marine ecosystems. Furthermore, these filtration systems wouldn’t be able to capture microplastics.

Image result for Free Plastic July

What are microplastics? Is it true I use them every day?

All the plastics that are less than five millimeters in length are called microplastics. The most common form of microplastics are the microbeds, tiny pieces of plastic polyethylene added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and toothpastes.

Their miniscule size means that marine animals often mistake them for fish eggs, a natural part of their diets. The plastic carry toxins, contaminating the fish and passing along harmful chemicals to humans. So if you partake in the occasional fish taco, it’s possible for these microbeads to get inside our bodies.

Image: CAROLYN BOX/AP

 

 

SO WHAT IS IT BEING DONE?

 

There are many organizations, ideas and initiatives trying to address the issue from different trenches. But we still need more people to jump onboard!

PARLEY – the space where creators, thinkers, and leaders come together to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of our oceans and collaborate on projects that can end their destruction:

PARLEY + Adidas: Collaboration to transform marine plastic pollution into high performance sportswear. #AdidasParley

PARLEY + Corona: Alliance in the movement to end marine plastic pollution. Their aim is to protect 100 islands by 2020, starting in six key regions – Mexico, Maldives, Australia, Chile, Italy, and Dominican Republic.

  • 5 GYRES work with people, politicians and corporations to stop emissions at the source.

  • PLASTIC OCEANS FOUNDATION engages people of all ages, in all social situations, to understand the danger of continuing to perceive plastic to be disposable.

  • PRECIOUS PLASTIC guides people in every corner of the world to start their own local plastic recycling workshop.

  • CLEAN SEAS is a UN Environment initiative with the aim of engaging governments, the general public, civil society and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic litter.

  • THE ELLEN MACARTHUR FOUNDATION aims to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.

  • WORLD AQUARIUMS AGAINST MARINE LITTER. The European Commission is calling all aquariums to join a global awareness raising action about marine litter and to showcase this growing problem by engaging thousands of people and presenting practical solutions.

 

WHAT CAN I DO?

 

  • You can go #plasticfree today by refusing the top five sources of single use plastic: plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic to-go containers, plastic takeaway cups, and plastic straws.

  • Get informed and spread the word! Don’t miss the film A Plastic Ocean, an adventure documentary that brings to light the consequences of our global disposable lifestyle. You can find it on Netflix!

  • See what #CleanSeas actions others around the world are taking and join in or click here to start your own!

  • Take the pledge of PARLEY A.I.R STRATEGY:

 

AVOID PLASTIC WHEREVER POSSIBLE

INTERCEPT PLASTIC WASTE

REDESIGN THE PLASTIC ECONOMY

 

 

AND JUST BECAUSE WE LIKE QUOTES…

 

“It took centuries to create the mess. No magic bullet will solve it overnight. It will take time, creativity, and hard work.”

John Warner, Founder of Green Chemistry

“There is no away – because plastic is so permanent and so indestructible. When you cast it into the ocean, it does not go away.”

Sir David Attenborough

“We are at war with the oceans. And if we win, we lose it all. Because every second breath we take, is created by the sea. The environmental issues we are facing, are caused by faulty economic systems. It is easy to blame big corporations, but the creative industries should truly own the problems. We have the tools to change it all. And we can do it really fast if we want.”

Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans.

IF THE OCEANS DIE, WE DIE.

Captain Paul Watson (Sea Shepherd)

By Mariana Mata Lara

European Funding Academy: full immersion into the Horizon 2020 world

June 22, 2017

From 13 to 16 June 2017, I had the pleasure to attend a unique event in its genre: the European Funding Academy organised yearly by Europa Media. A tradition that has become a long-awaited event and well known by researchers, consultants, public administrators and project managers. Why is it unique? It brings together under the same roof all fundamental issues you will face while dealing with EU projects from proposal development, building a consortium, drafting a budget, reporting, writing deliverables, dealing with financial issues, closing a project to potentially being audited by the European Commission.

Participants dealing with timesheets and invoices during the Financial Reporting workshop

Still doesn’t sound unique? Add the exclusivity of meeting people from all over Europe. You could have attended an event on energy efficiency and could have networked with professionals, but at such events you would meet people working in the same field. The added value of this Funding Academy is that indeed you will meet professionals working on EU projects, but coming from different universities or companies, having totally different backgrounds and working on way different topics: from health care to energy efficiency or water management and marine research. It is indeed an effective way to increase your professional network, meet future partners, get ideas for new collaborations and projects or simply get inspired by other people and their practices.

The first two days of the Academy were focused on proposal development. In the morning of the first day, we were given an overview of Horizon 2020 and the general landscape of EU research and innovation funding schemes and practical tips, examples and strategies on how to write a proposal.

The most exciting part was of course the workshop. At first, we were split into two groups of participants. The next challenge was to read a real H2020 Work Programme topic and come up with a draft of a proposal concept, objectives and potential partners by the end of the day with the help of our trainers Valentina and Ömer.

So how did we proceed? We analysed the call ourselves and had to outline the work packages by organising our work as if we were coordinating a real proposal. It was a very productive afternoon, but also very mind challenging. In the evening, as part of social programme organized by Europa Media, we went on a relaxing boat trip on the Danube to admire the city lights.

Participants during the boat trip on the Danube at sunset

Of course, a proposal concept is not enough: you need an accurate and solid work plan. This is what we did during the workshop on the second day: we established specific tasks, their timeline and the distribution of efforts between partners based on the project idea we created the previous day.

The third and the fourth day were focused on reporting and financial management of a Horizon 2020 project. It started with Krisztina explaining how to handle the technical management and periodic and final reporting. After Gabor gave a detailed understanding of the Horizon 2020 financial rules, we had to apply our fresh knowledge and prepare a financial statement for a simulated Horizon 2020 project. The most surprising part was when we were given the solutions at the end of the workshop and discovered all the mistakes we made in analysing the invoices.

Participants networking and exchanging ideas during coffee break

All in all, the event was well-rounded and gave me a good overview of the life cycle of an EU project. Does all this sound appealing to you? You can join the next European Funding Academy in June 2018. But, if you don’t like waiting and want to learn more about Horizon 2020 funding scheme and project management, feel free to join us in one of our upcoming courses organised in different cities in Europe.

By: Cosmina Bisboaca

Learn how to save energy in the office with our new interactive game developed for the START2ACT project!

June 15, 2017

As a group of SMEs, we at Europa Media and Geonardo are well familiar with the need to apply energy saving practices in our offices. In fact, that is where we drew our inspiration for the START2ACT project. Now, as the project is in its second year, we are never short of creative ideas for engaging ways to deliver our main message – start to act and save energy at work!

Apart from our recently published Knowledge Base, listing all the tips, documents, solutions, tools and products on energy efficiency for SMEs and start-ups, we are working on the e-learning environment targeting office staff and company CEOs.

Before the launch of the e-learning course, Europa Media developed and released a teaser tool – the START2ACT Energy Saving Game.

Having tested the game last week at a networking event, Budapest Business Party, where it generated great interest from dozens of Hungarian business representatives, we are proudly presenting it to a wider audience on the START2ACT website.

Our project managers present the START2ACT project and the Energy Saving Game to visitors

The idea behind the game is to introduce, in a quick and interesting way, the practice of using several office devices that can act as the most efficient measures to cut your office utility bill this summer. We’ve made sure to create an engaging game. Therefore, players should pay special attention as we’ve included a number of tricks and potential traps. The added value of the game is the additional knowledge it conveys, as each correct/incorrect answer includes an explanation of the energy saving potential for each device chosen.

We hope you will enjoy playing our game and taking part in our upcoming e-learning courses (to be released in September).

If you work or run an SME or a start-up, be sure to join START2ACT in order to stay updated on our activities and platform news.

By: Liliya Levandovska


Revolutionize your skills as an innovation intermediary with our e-learning solutions!

June 7, 2017

Listening to the needs of the innovation intermediaries, the INNO-4-AGRIFOOD project launched e-learning solutions which aim to enhance service portfolios and skills within innovation consultants in the agri-food sector.

INNO-4-AGRIFOOD is an EU-funded project set on fostering and stimulating online collaboration for innovation amongst more than 11 million SMEs active within the European Agri-food ecosystem. The project offers completely novel, innovative and free-of-charge innovation support services, tools and e-learning courses that aim to:

  • Unlock the innovation and collaboration potential of agri-food SMEs at local, national and international level; and
  • Enhance the service portfolio of innovation consultants and SME support networks, enabling them to provide even more effective support to their clients.

Within this project, Europa Media developed the e-learning platform which contains 14 modules divided under 7 training sections:

  • Agri-food industry (State of the art and emerging technologies; Emerging trends; Characteristics of the agri-food ecosystem, including EU-funding; Key features of important networks, such as TRADEIT, TRAFOON and more)
  • Support service skills (Practical approaches for identifying customer needs; Key business advisor concepts, i.e. business plans, market analyses and more; Effective communication with your SME clients)
  • Soft skills (The basics of building trust; Getting your message across)
  • Collaboration skills (Overcoming barriers in initiating international collaborations; Various tools to monitor collaboration with and of your SME client; IPR protection for innovative agri-food SMEs)
  • Innovation management skills (The concept of innovation management in the agri-food ecosystem; Work on innovation management with your clients)
  • ICT skills (Online collaboration platforms, tools and applications)
  • INNO-4-AGRIFOOD services (Introduction to the INNO-4-AGRIFOOD innovation support services)

Currently, over 100 participants are using the modules, benefiting from the content developed from the project partners and based on the feedback, a final version of the platform will be developed.

E-learning module within I4A platform

Abreast of the e-learning platform, the INNO-4-AGRIFOOD project provides additional services and tools aimed at assisting innovation consultants.  The services enable consultants to find out what collaborations they can see in order to improve their businesses, identify innovation opportunities online, and understand how to use web and mobile apps to enhance collaborations. This is an extremely useful approach for innovation consultants as it will be in the form of a free toolkit and they will be assisted by their own personal coach, every step of the way.

The INNO-4-AGRIFOOD Smart tools are a single-entry point for all relevant information about the agri-food industry, for innovation consultants and agri-food SMEs. These tools gather all the information such as current trends, state-of-the-art technologies, practical solutions and funding opportunities, thus providing users with a convenient way to be up to speed with the developments in this sector.

Can INNO-4-AGRIFOOD assist SMEs as well?

Yes, there are separate services which the SMEs can utilize. These services help SMEs to establish collaborations to improve their businesses (how to better understand the needs and characteristics of their businesses, identify partners and innovation opportunities for market success), to identify innovation opportunities online (learn how online collaboration can ease day-to-day work and finally, to use web and mobile apps to enhance collaborations (recommendations for widely-used remote collaboration applications and how to make the best use out of them).

What makes these services even more beneficial is the fact that they are free of charge, can be personalized, they will be delivered by a pool of well-trained consultants and can be accessed in person or remotely.

If you would like to gain access to and benefit from the leading-edge tools and services from INNO-4-AGRIFOOD, visit our project website and start today!

By: Frosina Ilievska

The Ocean Conference is around the corner!

May 26, 2017

From June 5th – 9th, coinciding with World Oceans Day, the United Nations will host at its headquarters in New York a high-level conference to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The Ocean Conference aims to be the game changer that will reverse the decline in the health of our ocean for people, planet and prosperity. It will be solutions-focused with engagement from all.

The Conference shall comprise in its programme plenary meetings, partnership dialogues and a special event commemorating World Oceans Day. Furthermore, the Conference shall adopt by consensus a concise, focused, intergovernmentally agreed declaration in the form of a “Call for Action” to support the implementation of Goal 14 and a report containing the co-chairs’ summaries of the partnership dialogues, as well as a list of voluntary commitments (initiatives voluntarily undertaken by Governments, the UN system, other intergovernmental organizations, international and regional financial institutions, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations, academic and research institutions, the scientific community, the private sector, philanthropic organizations and other actors – individually or in partnership – that aim to contribute to the implementation of SDG 14) to be announced at the Conference.

The importance of this conference was stressed by the President of the General Assembly:

“The Ocean Conference represents humanity’s best opportunity to remedy the woes we have placed upon the ocean. Those woes are extensive: from marine pollution to overfishing and destructive fishing practices; from harmful fisheries subsidies to lack of high seas governance; from rising levels of ocean acidity to rising ocean temperatures. If the cycle of decline that accumulated human activity has brought upon the ocean is not reversed, the implications for us all cannot be good”. 

You can follow the Ocean Conference live through SDG Media Zone website and social platforms, and keep up with news at the Conference website.

Geonardo follows closely the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 — and furthermore, through our projects, we are joining the global wave to take action and help address the Global Goals.

Our Research and Innovation actions have targeted so far SDG #7 on affordable and clean energy through Start2Act and TASIO, SDG #12 on responsible consumption and production through the project PlasCarb, and SDG #9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure with our projects FORBIO and FISSAC.  Keep tuned to find out about our new ideas to address other of the SDGs.

By: Mariana Mata Lara

EU Blue Growth in Action & European Maritime Day

May 18, 2017

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) funded 15 new blue growth projects that will help enhance career opportunities, stimulate the creativity of young researchers and bring research results faster to the market.

With 84 partners from 17 countries, the new BG projects will join the European Maritime Day (EMD), the key annual meeting point for Europe’s maritime community to network, discuss and forge joint action. This year, the EMD 2017 “The Future of our Seas” conference and exhibition will take place from 18-19 May 2017 in Poole, in the UK, with up to 1000 participants expected.

Out of all the projects, three projects have been selected to present during the EMD plenary session on 19th May – these are:

If you want to read more about the other 12 blue careers, labs and technology projects, you can check EASME’s site. And if you will not be able to go to Poole, you can also check the list with the 27 EMD events across the EU to spot an event near you to celebrate the 10th European Maritime Day!

By: Mariana Mata Lara