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| BEAMING, THE BIOECONOMY ALLIANCE FOR STIMULATING INNOVATIVE AND INCLUSIVE GREEN TRANSITION

© BEAMING

The European project seeks to boost innovation and knowledge sharing in the field of bioeconomy through collaboration among European higher education institutions

  • BEAMING has received €3.9 million in funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation programme

The Bioeconomy Excellence Alliance for Stimulating Innovative and Inclusive Green Transition

(BEAMING) is an innovative project dedicated to advancing excellence and promoting innovation within the field of bioeconomy. The initiative seeks to address the need to enhance the competitiveness and visibility of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Europe, with a particular focus on Widening countries in Eastern European EU Member States, and the Western Balkans.

To this end, the BEAMING project will bring together HEIs from diverse regions, promoting the transfer of knowledge and technology, and fostering a culture of collaboration by focusing on various key objectives: strengthening the skills and capacities of early-career researchers in

bioeconomy research, fostering institutional reform, promoting cross-disciplinary collaboration, enhancing technology transfer, and encouraging an inclusive institutional culture.

The initiative will follow a methodology based on the Quadruple Helix innovation ecosystem approach, which involves collaboration between HEIs, industry, government, and civil society. This approach will enhance the capacity for innovation and the practical application of research results, as well as engage the general public in processes facilitating changes in consumer behaviour and environmental awareness.

In conclusion, BEAMING is committed to fostering cross-border collaboration in the bioeconomy sector, with a focus on raising excellence and innovation. By bringing together higher education institutions, promoting an inclusive culture, and enhancing technology transfer, the project aims to strengthen the role of HEIs within their quadruple helix innovation system and facilitate institutional change. This collaboration is expected to improve the empowerment of HEIs to create a dynamic ecosystem that yields both regional and global benefits in the bioeconomy sector.

Current challenges in the bioeconomy

The bioeconomy is an economic system that utilizes renewable biological resources to produce a wide range of goods and services, aiming for sustainability and reduced reliance on non-renewables. However, in the present day, bioeconomy faces significant challenges. There is an urgent need to address sustainability issues, such as the depletion of resources, climate change and rising inequality. Moreover, the effective transfer of knowledge and technology among key stakeholders of higher education institutions, governments, civil society, and industry is essential to drive innovation and the practical application of advancements in bioeconomy.

The sector requires structural and policy reforms that promote excellence and transdisciplinary collaboration. These challenges underscore the need to establish effective cross-border collaboration to address current issues in bioeconomy and harness its potential for sustainable development.

| TRADE IN PRODUCTS CONTAINING BENZENE INCREASED EU IMPORTS OF HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS

A Chinese chemical tanker © Shenghang Shipping

The reported volume of hazardous chemicals imported to and exported from the European Union (EU) under the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Regulation continued to increase in 2022.

The European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) annual report on the trade of chemicals that are banned or severely restricted in the EU shows that the imports of PIC chemicals increased over 20 fold, from 883 119,74 tonnes in 2021 to 19 698 668,33 tonnes in 2022. This is due to benzene as a constituent being added to the list of chemicals subject to PIC in 2022.

Substances containing benzene is the first “substance in substance” entry under the PIC Regulation, with 96% (18 845 530,34 tonnes) of imports reported in 2022 concerning these substances.

The report also found a 24% increase in exports of banned or severely restricted chemicals to non-EU countries from 2021 to 2022. Overall, almost 980 941,51 tonnes of PIC chemicals were exported during the year.

Background 

24 EU countries and 543 companies provided data to ECHA on the export of PIC chemicals from the EU in 2022. Three EU countries and Northern Ireland declared that they had not exported PIC chemicals.

21 EU countries and Northern Ireland provided data on imports of PIC chemicals into the EU in 2022. The information came from 191 companies. Six EU countries declared that they had not imported PIC chemicals.

Article 10 of the PIC Regulation requires importers and exporters to give information about the annual trade of chemicals listed in Annex I of the regulation to their designated national authorities by 31 March of the following year. Each EU country must then provide the aggregated information to ECHA so that it can be summarised at EU level and non-confidential information can be made publicly available.

| A CRITICAL MEDICINES ACT TO SECURE EUROPE’S PHARMACEUTICAL INDEPENDENCE

© Wikicommons

In a recently adopted opinion, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) warns that the EU’s overreliance on imports of active pharmaceutical ingredients and finished medicines from Asia poses threats to the health and well-being of EU citizens. The EESC therefore proposes a Critical Medicines Act.

The European Union faces a growing challenge in securing its supply of essential pharmaceuticals, with the majority of its active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and finished medicines currently imported from Asia, with China being the single largest supplier. This reliance on external suppliers has raised concerns about the EU’s resilience to supply chain disruptions, price volatility and potential geopolitical risks.

“We are jeopardising our citizens’ health by relying on external suppliers for essential pharmaceuticals. Europe cannot afford to gamble with the lives of its citizens. We must act now to ensure that Europeans have access to the medications they need,” stated Lech Pilawski, EESC rapporteur for the opinion.

To address these concerns, the EESC recommends that the EU take a number of steps to strengthen its domestic pharmaceutical production capacity. These include:

° Establishing a new EU mechanism to support the production of APIs and finished medicines in Europe. The proposed Critical Medicines Act is envisioned as a comprehensive EU mechanism, presented in the form of a regulation, to actively support the production of APIs and finished medicines within the European Union. This mechanism would provide funding for research and development, infrastructure development and operating costs.

° Encouraging the development of innovative production technologies. This could involve investment in research and development, collaboration with academia and industry and the adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing practices.

° Promoting the use of APIs and finished medicines produced in Europe. Public procurement policies, subsidies and other incentives should be implemented to encourage the use of APIs and finished medicines produced in Europe.

° Adopting fair pricing mechanisms for APIs and finished medicines to ensure that patients have access to affordable healthcare. This could involve measures such as price controls, competitive bidding processes and the promotion of generic medicines.

The implementation of these recommendations will require significant investment and cooperation between EU Member States. The EESC is calling on the European Commission to take the lead in coordinating this effort and to develop a comprehensive strategy that can protect Europe’s health security, promote economic prosperity and ensure the affordability of medicines for EU citizens.

| OVER 60 INSPECTORS FROM 21 EU MEMBER STATES TRAINED BY THE EUROPEAN LABOUR AUTHORITY

Europa.eu

The European Labour Authority (ELA) has organised in Bratislava, Slovakia a week-long Training for labour and social inspectors. More than 60 inspectors participated in the training, which ended with a roadside mock-inspectio. The objective of the training was to enhance the inspectors’ knowledge and skills on cross-border inspections.

The training programme covered five key topics:

  • concerted and joint inspections in practice;
  • international cooperation and information exchange;
  •  coordination of social security systems;
  • EU legislation on posting of workers and enforcement, and;
  • soft skills and trust-building between inspectors.

The training  related to labour mobility and social security coordination. It had a practical approach  which included training sessions on the tools and procedures used for planning, executing  and following up on cross-border inspections.

The training programme concluded with a simulated and practical road transport inspection carried out at a parking lot in central Bratislava. The mock-inspection was designed to train the participants in real life scenarios. In addition, the participants had the opportunity to exchange good practices and share their experiences from different Member States and sectors.

ELA’s training programme on inspections is part of ELA’s efforts to support the capacity building in Member States in the area of labour mobility. This type of training will be held annually and will eventually evolve into a formally recognised training programme.

| JT-60SA IS OFFICIALLY THE MOST POWERFUL TOKAMAK

The JT-60SA device located at the seat of the National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology (QST), Naka, Japan. © F4E/QST

In a surprise move, one day after the official opening of COP-28 where countries meeted to discuss how to phase out or phase down fossil fuels, Europe and Japan chose their moment right to unveil JT-60SA. The most powerful experimental device to date, built by the two parties, is a landmark achievement for their policy and scientific communities, research organisations and industry.  It’s a clear demonstration of their commitment to invest in fusion, which is efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly.

European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson © Europarl.europa.eu

During the ceremony, the European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, together with Japan’s Minister for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Masahito Moriyama, and Japan’s Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy, Sanae Takaichi, were joined by senior politicians, representatives from industry, and the research community, to inaugurate the JT-60SA facility and witness from the control room a plasma operation.

JT-60SA results from the Broader Approach Agreement, a scientific collaboration signed between the European Union and Japan, to promote the advancement of know-how in fusion through various projects. Works for the device started in 2007 and were completed in 2020 with the end of assembly. Since then, a series of technical improvements were carried out, with first plasma operations towards the end of 2023. The overall cost of the project for the phase of construction, is estimated to be in the range of 560 million EUR in today’s values, shared between Europe and Japan. The project is considered a fine example of science diplomacy and has been praised for the spirit of collaboration, its efficient management, and exemplary execution. Click on the video to learn more.

| EUROPEAN SUMMIT OF REGIONS AND CITIES – Mons, Belgium 18-19 March 2024

Mons, Belgium © Visitwallonia.be
Join the European Summit of Regions and Cities! 

​​​​​​​​​​​Thousands of mayors, councillors, regional ministers and top European and global decisionmakers will gather in Mons, in the Walloon Region of Belgium, in the heart of Europe, to debate the challenges an​d solutions for the future of Europe and beyond.

Organised by the European Committee of the Regions together with Walloon Region and the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the 10th European Summit of Regions and Cities will bring a new perspective on topics at the heart of people’s concerns, such as democracy, sustainable development, the future of the European Union and its enlargement, the need to ensure social, economic and territorial cohesion, and dealing with the consequences of the war against Ukraine. Global challenges will be addressed by bringing together different perspectives from across the world. The European Committee of the Regions is particularly proud that this occasion coincides with its 30th anniversary, and invites you to join the celebrations.

Are you one of the 1.2 million locally and regionally elected representatives, or involved in the life and future of your community? Join us on 18-19 March 2024 in Mons!​​

You’ll be joining a Summit that is sustainable and socially responsible, global and local at the same time, inclusive and diverse.

The Sustainable Summit 

​​​​​​For the 10th European Summit of Regions and Cities, the European Committee of the Regions has decided to showcase its commitments by focusing on three dimensions which are fundamental to its work and values, both in terms of debate subjects and practical actions.

​​​1. Sustainability a​nd social engagement​

The Committee of the Regions’ newly established Strategy for the contribution to the EU’s goal of climate neutrality​  is also being implemented at this Summit.

These include, for example, reducing CO2 emissions, promoting local and seasonal food, implementing a waste management plan, and promoting the use of digital resources.

The social responsibility aspect plays a key role as well. During this Summit, apprentices from neighbouring schools will be among those working to make this Summit happen.​

​​​​​2. Global and local

This is the first Summit that will include the participation of cities and regions from across the globe, as building bridges that connect various parts of the world helps us find solutions to the global challenges we face.

The Summit is local, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, because it brings the realities of our communities to the centre stage. It is also local because it is rooted in the community – Mons and the Walloon Region – that will welcome us, showcasing its culture and diversity and putting forward its people and local traditions.

​​​3. Inclusi​​​​​on and diversity

Gender equality and diversity will be the cornerstones of the Summit. The Committee is committed to ensuring gender balance in its debates, but also inclusiveness and diversity in of its selection of speakers.

REGISTER : https://register.euconf.eu/mons-2024/index.php?lang=en

| NATO TO BUY 1,000 PATRIOT MISSILES TO ENHANCE ALLIES’ AIR DEFENCES

A Patriot missile © nato.int

NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency will support a coalition of Allies, including Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain to procure up to 1,000 Patriot missiles to strengthen their air defences amid Russia’s war against Ukraine. The contract will expand the European production of the missiles, enhancing supply and ensuring the replenishment of Allied stockpiles. “I welcome Allies’ timely announcement to invest in up to 1,000 new Patriot air defence missiles to bolster the Alliance’s security”, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “This investment shows the strength of transatlantic defence cooperation and NATO’s commitment to keeping our people safe. Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian civilians, cities and towns show how important modern air defences are. Scaling-up ammunition production is key for Ukraine’s security and for ours.”

The $5.5 billion contract has been awarded to COMLOG, a joint venture between the US company Raytheon and German company MBDA, located in Schrobenhausen, Germany. The large volume of the order will support the set up of a production facility for Patriot missiles in Germany. Patriot air defense systems can be used to defend against aircraft, helicopters and missiles, intercepting them at great distances. In the wake of Russia’s war against Ukraine, NATO has deployed Patriot missile batteries to protect its Allies on its eastern flank. NATO Allies have also delivered Patriot systems to Ukraine and are committed to further bolstering Ukraine’s defences.

| OPTIMUS-GEN 2: ELON MUSK’S LATEST AI ROBOT ABLE TO BOIL EGGS

Tesla recently introduced the Optimus Gen 2, a humanoid robot that has capabilities beyond basic locomotion and communication. The improved robot has increased walking speed, hand movements, tactile sensing on fingers, and many other features.

Optimus Gen-2, can walk on its own, perform dancing moves, and handle objects.

In order to imitate human motion, Optimus Gen-2 includes electronics and sensors that are integrated with actuators. It also has hands with 11 degrees of freedom a neck that can move in 2 different directions, feet that can sense torque, finger sensors that can detect touch, and a neural network that has been trained from start to finish.

The robot’s talents extend beyond physical activities; with its advanced 11-DoF hands, it gently grasps an egg and puts it into a boiling device.

| SWEDEN: VOLVO CARS TO GO FULLY ELECTRIC WITH EIB BACKING

The all electric Volvo C40 Recharge © volvocars.com

The all electric Volvo C40 Recharge © Volvocars.com

  • Volvo Car Corporation has signed a €420 million loan agreement with the EIB for the development of a new all-electric vehicle platform.
  • The investments will cover research and development, software development and implementing next-generation manufacturing technologies for fully electric vehicles.
  • The financing supports the brand’s strategy to become a fully electric car manufacturer by 2030, while simultaneously aiming to lower barriers for e-vehicle adoption.

In line with the European Union’s push for a green transition, Volvo Car Corporation and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have signed a €420 million financing agreement in support of the Swedish carmaker’s decision to become fully electric and carbon neutral. The operation is expected to contribute to the decarbonisation of road transport, a major source of emissions and pollution globally.

The EIB’s funding will support the development of a new, fully electric car platform, as well as the necessary research and development and roll-out of resource-efficient, advanced manufacturing technologies for electric cars. The European Union has introduced progressively more stringent environmental regulations for road transport, with the aim of making all new passenger vehicles sold emissions free by the middle of the next decade.

The project is expected to result in even safer and more sustainable technologies for e-vehicles, including reduced weight and faster charging, which can help lower the barriers to purchasing an electric car. As such, the operation is fully in line with the EIB’s goal to finance a just and swift transition to a net-zero economy, both in Europe and across the world.

EIB Vice-President Thomas Östros said: “I think Sweden can be proud of the leading role Volvo Cars is taking in making the automotive industry more sustainable. Making cars that run on electricity instead of fossil fuels is only one part of the puzzle. The industry itself is still very carbon-heavy, something that Volvo Cars is actively working on changing. As the EU climate bank, this is one of the many facets in the green transition that we are financing, and we’re glad to partner with Volvo Cars to accelerate the change.”

CFO of Volvo Cars Johan Ekdahl added: “Volvo Cars continues to work diligently towards the ambition of becoming a climate-neutral company by 2040. One way in which we are aiming to do that is by eliminating tailpipe emissions from our model line-up and investing towards becoming a fully electric car company by 2030. We have a long-term relationship with the EIB and are happy that they continue to support us on that exciting transformation journey.”

| WOMEN STILL UNDERREPRESENTED IN GREEN AND DIGITAL SECTORS

A debate organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) highlighted that, despite recent initiatives, men continue to be predominant in science, technology, engineering and maths. The EU needs to adopt new specific measures to promote women’s participation and so ensure a just green and digital transition.

The sectors at the forefront of new technologies continue to be among the least diverse and inclusive workplaces. Science, technology, engineering and maths, the so-called “STEM”, are still male-dominated and the current green work policies risk further embedding gender inequalities in the labour market and hindering a just transition.

The thematic debate “Women in a gender-just transition”, held by the EESC’s section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN), revealed alarming data.

Research shows that in the energy sector, around 80% of the workforce is made up of men. When it comes to renewable energy in particular, women represent on average 35% of the labour pool, which is slightly higher but still significantly unbalanced.

This gap does not necessarily reflect the lack of female participation in STEM education. The majority of Master’s students in science are women, but it is just that they tend to leave the sector at higher rates. This is a recognised phenomenon known as the “leaky pipeline”.

Moreover, like everywhere else in the labour market, standard gender divides remain and women are still overrepresented in lower paid sectors and underrepresented in decision-making positions.

Filling the gender gap

All in all, even though inequalities still exist, the EU has made significant progress over the past few years. In 2020, the European Commission adopted its “EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025”, highlighting the discriminatory social norms and stereotypes about women’s and men’s skills, and pointing out the undervaluation of women’s work in certain sectors.

The end objective is a gender-equal Europe, a Union where women and men are free to pursue their chosen path in life in all their diversity and have equal opportunities in our European society.

In addition, against the background of the European Year of Skills 2023, the Commission set out the goal of matching people’s aspirations and skill sets with labour market opportunities, calling to bridge the divide between women graduates and their employment in STEM careers.

Likewise, in the 2023 revision of the National Energy and Climate Plans, Member States were invited to indicate specific action plans to promote clean energy jobs for women and reduce gender imbalances in the sector.

Specific measures to ensure women’s contribution

The EU has a key role to play in moving towards greater gender equality and inclusion and needs more initiatives on this track, in particular to oppose the “leaky pipeline” phenomenon and ensure a gender‑just transition.

We need focused interventions to ensure that the digital and green transitions are inclusive, and allow women to contribute to achieving the EU Green Deal, said TEN president Baiba Miltoviča. This can be done by promoting women’s participation in technical fields, fostering gender balance in various roles and ensuring equal pay for equal work.

The debate, which saw the participation of Ana Carrero from the European Commission’s DG EMPL and Rasma Pīpiķe, representing Latvia’s Association of Young Researchers, was held as part of the European Gender Equality Week 2023.

| CHINESE SMARTPHONE MAKER XIAOMI CHALLENGES THE EV MARKET WITH ITS SU7

Xiaomi EV’s first product – the highly anticipated Xiaomi SU7, has been “pre-launched,” with its design, performance, range, safety, and other details making global debut. Positioned as a “full-size high-performance eco-technology sedan,” Xiaomi SU7 aims to push the limits of performance, ecosystem, and mobile smart space.

Quoting a sentence of Chinese poetry, “with firm strides we are crossing its summit.” Lei Jun, founder, chairman, and CEO of Xiaomi Group, stated that Xiaomi’s entry into the automotive industry marks a significant leap from the smartphone industry and a crucial step toward closing the loop of the Human x Car x Home smart ecosystem. Lei Jun further expressed that the century-old automotive industry offers little room for maneuvering today: “Xiaomi has decided to invest tenfold, starting from the development of fundamental core technologies, committing to constructing an outstanding vehicle. Through 15 to 20 years of effort, Xiaomi aims to become one of the top five global automakers.”

Xiaomi EV has invested over 10 billion CNY in the initial research and development phase. The R&D team comprises over 3,400 engineers and over a thousand technical experts in critical domains both in China and abroad.

The all-wheel drive SU7 Max operates at 800 volts and provides a total of 495 kW (664 hp; 673 PS) and 500 N⋅m (51.0 kg⋅m; 369 lb⋅ft). The SU7 goes from 0-60 in 5.3 seconds.

Its competitor the 2024 Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor Long Range goes from 0-60 in 4.0 seconds;

The SU7 Max goes from 0-60 in 2.78 seconds. (The Porsche Taycan Turbo 0-60 mph in 2.4 seconds and the Tesla X Plaid 0-60 mph in in 1.99 seconds). Speed is limited to 210 km/h (130 mph) for the base model, and 265 km/h (165 mph) for the SU7 Max.

The electric 4-door 5-seater SU7 started mass production in December 2023, and deliveries will begin in February 2024.

Xiaomi is one of the world’s leading smartphone companies. In September 2023, MAU of MIUI reached approximately 623 million globally. The company has also established the world’s leading consumer AIoT (AI+IoT) platform, reached approximately 699 million smart devices connected to its platform (excluding smartphones, laptops and tablets) as of September 30, 2023. Xiaomi products are present in more than 100 countries and regions around the world. In August 2023, Xiaomi was included in the Fortune Global 500 list for the fifth year in a row, ranking 360th.

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