Archive pour décembre 2008

A project to link eastern Europe and central Asia

Mercredi 17 décembre 2008

The IncoNet EECA project («International cooperation network for Eastern European and Central Asian countries») is launched under the international cooperation of the FP 7. It aims at bringing closer the Central Asia and the Eastern Europe notably in the dietary research, agriculture, fishery and biotechnology fields

IncoNet EECA was launched earlier this year and it held its first brokerage event in the Kazakh capital of Astana in early December. The aim of the event was to raise awareness of the opportunities available to EECA researchers under FP7 and create links and forge partnerships between EU and EECA researchers in the areas of food, agriculture, fisheries and biotechnology research.

The workshop attracted around 200 participants from across Europe and central Asia including scientists, policy makers and industry. Among them was the European Commission’s Elisabetta Balzi, International Cooperation policy officer at the Biotechnologies, Agriculture and Food Directorate of the Research Directorate General. She was impressed by what she saw.

‘Kazakhstan has a strong tradition in science,’ she told CORDIS News, noting that the country plans to significantly increase its research spending in the coming years. It is already investing heavily in the construction of high-class new facilities and infrastructures. In the area of food and agriculture research, it is particularly interested in the areas of environment, animal health, food and biotechnology.

Scientists in Kazakhstan and the rest of the eastern Europe and central Asia region are also increasingly reaching out to their colleagues in the EU. In the 4 years of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), 19 partners from EECA countries (including 1 from Kazakhstan) took part in agriculture and food research projects. In the first 2 years of FP7 alone, 33 EECA partners (including 2from Kazakhstan) have received funding to participate in EU-funded projects under the ‘Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology’ theme.

According to Dr Balzi, Kazakhstan’s success rate of 20% in applying for funding in her subject area is similar to that of many EU Member States. Projects such as IncoNet EECA should encourage more scientists from the region to make contact with researchers in the EU with a view to embarking on joint projects together.

Meanwhile, the IncoNet EECA project will organise further workshops in the region on different topics. The project is also working on the establishment of a regional science and technology dialogue platform comprising representatives from the EU and its Member States as well as EECA partners.

New needs of the labour market - new skills required

Mercredi 17 décembre 2008

In order to better match the needs of labour market, the Commission has presented proposals concerning the evaluation of skills required in a context where needs evoluate rapidly, notably due to technological change, globalisation and ageing populations. “New skills for new jobs “is an initiative launched so as to inform on future needs and to organise skills assessments

Across Europe, technological change, globalisation, the shift to a low-carbon economy, ageing populations and the evolution of social structures all mean that both labour markets – and the skills people need – change ever faster. Therefore we must make sure to anticipate future needs and respond by enable people to develop the right skills.

The European Commission is proposing to improve the monitoring of short-term trends and to develop tools for better matching of skills and job vacancies on the European labour market. The Commission will also develop better information on needs in the EU in the medium and long-term, with regularly updated projections of future labour market trends and analysis of skills needs by sector. It will improve the EU’s understanding of global challenges related to skills and jobs through cooperation with third countries and international organisations. Moreover, the Commission will help Member States and regions and all actors involved in the upgrading and matching of skills by mobilising existing Community policies and funds, especially the European Social Fund.

With this proposals the Commission responds to a request by the European Council to provide an assessment of skills needs up to 2020. One of the preliminary findings is that Europe will see the creation of new jobs in the service sector: by the year 2020, almost three quarters of jobs in the EU-25 will be in services. Further, there will be many jobs created in high-skilled occupations, but also some job creation in “elementary jobs”. More and more jobs will require high and medium education levels from the working population. Across sectors, transversal and generic skills will be increasingly valued on the labour market: problem-solving and analytical skills, self-management and communication skills, the ability to work in a team, linguistic skills and digital competences.

Intelligent Transport Concept: a european initiative is launched

Mardi 16 décembre 2008

The Intelligent Transport is a system that aims at making the road transport cleaner, more secure, and more efficient. The European Commission has adopted an action plan in order to set up the broadcast and the use of those transport.

Intelligent Transport Systems apply information and communication technologies to various modes of transport, which can make European road users safer and less likely to get stuck in traffic, which in the long run can reduce their carbon footprint. The action plan, launched today as part of the Greening Transport[1] initiative, aims to accelerate the deployment of these systems in road transport, and their interfaces with other modes of transport.

From commuters to hauliers, everybody needs reliable, real-time traffic information for better routing planning and to avoid delays caused by traffic jams. Multi-modal travel planners will allow seamless travel in and between cities and towns and across borders. Relatively small investments in Intelligent Transport Systems can allow better use of existing infrastructure. The action plan proposes strong European coordination of ITS and services in various Member States to accelerate the deployment of these systems across Europe.

Intelligent Transport Systems can substantially reduce road sector CO2 emissions. The costs of traffic congestion – estimated at 1% of the European GDP – could be reduced by up to 10% through the deployment of ITS, and could prevent more than 5000 deaths in road accidents.

Photovoltaics : check up of the industry sector

Mardi 16 décembre 2008

The Joint Research Centre has written in its last report that the Photovoltaics industry is growing. A lot of investments have been done in the field of research, development, policies set up and industry sector related to the Photovoltaics. Today, this industry represents 14 billion euro per year.

The JRC’s Strategic Energy Technology Information System, which compiled the report, provides independent analyses of energy technologies to European decision-makers. The Photovoltaics report examined data from institutions such as the International Energy Agency (IEA), the European Statistical Office, industrial and commercial organisations as well as research teams throughout Europe.

‘Photovoltaics’ refers to the semiconductor devices we know as solar cells. These cells work together in panels which then generate electricity. Conventional solar cells rely on silicon-based technology, which means that fluctuations in the cost of this material have a significant impact on mass production. A recent technological advance has been the development of ‘thin film technologies’, which have increased the commercial viability of solar cells.

The status report indicates that solar photovoltaic production grew by an average of 40% annually since 2003, peaking at 60% growth in 2007. Germany was a clear leader in the European market with a EUR 5.7 billion turnover (more than 100,000 houses installed solar panels). Half of the world’s photovoltaic-based electricity production, which totals 10 Billion KWh, comes from the EU.

Solar energy still accounts for only 0.2% of total electricity consumption in Europe, providing a much-needed boost to supplies during peak use times (particularly of importance during heat waves, when cooling becomes an issue for nuclear power plants). The net effect is an estimated saving of 4 million tonnes of CO2. Incentive schemes such as subsidies, together with rapid technical advances, have led to a reduction in the cost of using this important renewable energy source. Further incentive programmes are strongly encouraged by the assessment.

The report demonstrates that the European photovoltaic industry has to continue its impressive growth in the coming years in order to maintain its market position. This will only be possible, the report cautions, ‘if new solar cell and module design concepts can be realised, as with current technology the demand for materials like silver would exceed the available resources within the next 30 years. Research to avoid such kinds of problems is underway and it can be expected that such bottle-necks will be avoided.’

Photovoltaic research in Europe is funded by 27 national programmes as well as the Directorate Generals (DG) for Research (RTD) and for Energy and Transport (TREN). During the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6, which ran from 2002 to 2006), EUR 810 million was spent on sustainable energy systems, with EUR 107.5 million of this dedicated to photovoltaics research. During FP6 the Photovoltaics Technology Platform was established.

During the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which runs from 2007 to 2013, the EC expects to see research deliver technological improvements and economies of scale that will lead to a ‘reduced material consumption, higher efficiencies and improved manufacturing processes, based on environmentally sound processes and cycles’.

Europe-wide collaborations represent a small part of the overall budget for photovoltaics research in Europe, but they play a key part in creating a European Photovoltaics Research Area, according to the report.

The current analysis was conducted in the context of the EU’s Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan, a primary goal of which is to accelerate innovation in cutting-edge, low-carbon technologies. Photovoltaic technology is crucial to the plan’s objectives, and SET’s ‘Solar Europe Initiative’ focuses on large-scale demonstration and concentrated solar power.

The report’s analysis of European policies and current investments leads the authors to conclude that more than 15TWh of electricity will be generated in 2010. This equates to 0.5% of the EU 27 total net production of electricity in 2006 or the same as Slovenia’s total electricity consumption.

‘The new figures imply that the EU, with roughly 18.5% of the total worldwide electricity consumption, will have an investment need of almost EUR 59.2 billion per year,’ according to the report.

2009 will be the European Year of Creativity and Innovation

Mardi 16 décembre 2008

This Year has been chosen as the one of Creativity and Innovation in order to raise awareness of the importance of creativity and innovation for personal, social and economic development. It is expected that good pratices are exchanged, education and research are stimulated and policy debate is promoted.

A wide spectrum of related themes will be addressed, including developing a wider understanding of the innovation process and a more entrepreneurial attitude as prerequisites for continued prosperity, promoting innovation as the route to sustainable development, and fostering innovation in public and private services. These themes are also being pursued through the Europe INNOVA and PRO INNO Europe® initiatives.

At a European conference and exhibition organised by the Directorate-General for Education and Culture in Brussels on 2 and 3 March 2009, featuring initiatives carried out with support from the Community in the area of ‘Creativity and Innovation’, two INNO-Actions will be showcased, namly the Innovation C.I.R.C.U.S. and ADMIRE.

Climatic Change - ICOS project

Lundi 15 décembre 2008

The ICOS Project («Integrated carbon observation system»)aims at helping the decision makers to evaluate the effectiveness of the directives related to the climatic change. This is a project that will be dedicated notably to follow up the greenhouse effects in Europe under the FP7 framework.

Dubbed ICOS (the ‘Integrated carbon observation system’), the initiative is one of 44 pan-European research infrastructures featured in the European Roadmap for Research Infrastructures; an updated version of the roadmap was released at the recent European Conference on Research Infrastructures (ECRI2008) in Versailles, France.

Fossil fuel emissions have risen sharply in recent years; while just over half of these greenhouse gases are taken up by carbon sinks on land and in the ocean, the rest accumulate in the atmosphere. The aim of the ICOS project is to set up a comprehensive monitoring system that will provide detailed information on where carbon is emitted in Europe and where the carbon sinks are. Crucially, it will also reveal how carbon sinks are themselves affected by climate change; in the hot, dry summer of 2003, Europe’s terrestrial ecosystems, which are usually carbon sinks, released large amounts of their stored carbon, making them carbon sources.

ICOS will set up a network of monitoring stations comprising state-of-the-art instrumentation across Europe and extending into neighbouring regions of Siberia and Africa. These will measure both local and atmospheric changes in the levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases such as methane.

Data gathered at these stations will be fed rapidly into a central data centre, allowing scientists to monitor flows of carbon through ecosystems in near real time.

The preparatory phase of ICOS, which is just getting underway, is funded to the tune of EUR 4,299,996 by the ‘Research infrastructures’ budget line of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and will run until 2012. During this period, the scientists will test and select the instrumentation to be used at the monitoring stations; to ensure the comparability of the data, the stations will use the same equipment and a central analytical lab will provide calibration and quality control analyses.

ICOS is scheduled to enter its operational phase in 2012 and is expected to run for around 20 years. Total construction costs of the network amount to EUR 128 million and the operational costs are estimated to be around EUR 14 million a year.

The ICOS team is also working closely with similar initiatives located in other parts of the world, such as North America, Japan and Australia. Data from all these initiatives is gathered into a single database and the partners meet every two years to exchange information and ideas.

For a quality health staff in Europe - Public consultation launched by the Commission

Lundi 15 décembre 2008

A consultation period has been launched by the Commission in order to obtain common answers to the issues that arise related to the health professionals in Europe. This consultation is formalized by the Green Paper adoption by the Commission. It has been decided in a ageing Europe where the quality of the health staff is more than ever important.

The health workforce plays an important role in the EU economy accounting for about 10% of all jobs. In addition, 70% of EU healthcare budgets are allocated to salaries and employment related issues.

There are serious challenges facing the health workforce in the EU today and many of these problems are common to all Member States. The ageing population is changing the pattern of disease and placing new and increasing demands on healthcare workers. It also means that the health workforce is itself an ageing one and there are insufficient new recruits to replace those that are retiring or leaving the EU. Migration of health professionals into and out of the EU and mobility within the EU also has impacts on the supply and distribution of health workers.

The aim of the green paper is to launch a debate on how best to tackle the challenges facing the health workforce in Europe and to engage stakeholders in discussion. The green paper describes the ‘workforce for health’ as all people engaged in the planning and delivery of health services including health promotion.

Important issues raised in the green paper include investing in training and developing robust human resource strategies to improve recruitment and retention. One such area is, for example, improving the status and participation of women in the health workforce. The green paper also raises the importance of balancing how we address shortages within the EU with broader global healthcare considerations.

A stakeholder conference; ‘Promoting a Sustainable Workforce for Health in Europe’ took place last week in Brussels. This provided an opportunity for interactive discussion with stakeholders and health planners.

Background:

The need for this green paper emerged from the work carried out by the High Level Group on Health Services and Medical care (2004-2006) and its work developing indicators to assess the impact of EU enlargement on the movement of doctors and nurses. During that period Member States indicated an interest in a broader discussion on planning for the future health and care workforce.

Euro-Med : Conference in Water,December 22

Vendredi 12 décembre 2008

The conference Euromed Water will take place in Jordan on 22nd of December. A strategy on the water concerning the Mediterranean area is being set up for a long time, this conference aims at setting up the guidelines of this strategy and at announcing the concrete projects related to it.

EU Council President France and Egypt, the co-chairs of the “Union for the Mediterranean”, will co-preside the meeting together with Jordan, the hosting country, according to a press release.

As it is acknowledged that the topic of water must be dealt with by all the stakeholders (local authorities, companies, NGOs, Researchers etc.) civil society actors are also invited to meet, one day before the ministerial, on December 21, in order to bring an important contribution to this conference.

EuropeAid’s Regional Programme funds two projects promoting Euro-Med cooperation in the water sector. These are the EMWIS/SEMIDE and the MEDA Water resource management projects. Another programme aimed at de-polluting the Mediterranean Sea, named Horizon 2020, has also been launched.

Contribute to the evaluation of PROGRESS Programme

Vendredi 12 décembre 2008

PROGRESS is a community programme for the Employment and Social Solidarity. The Commission invits citizens to participate to the this performance monitoring process by filling an online questionnaire (on the website). This one will demonstrate in which extend did PROGRESS succeed in supporting financially the implementation of the objectives of the EU in the fields of employment and social affairs, as set out in the EU’s Social Agenda, and thereby contribute to the achievement of the Lisbon Strategy goals in those fields.

It has been established to support financially the implementation of the objectives of the EU in the fields of employment and social affairs, as set out in the EU’s Social Agenda, and thereby contribute to the achievement of the Lisbon Strategy goals in those fields.

PROGRESS was launched in 2007 and will run until 2013. This single programme replaces the four previous ones which ended in 2006, in a move to rationalise and streamline EU funding. It supports policy development and its delivery in five separate, yet closely interlinked, policy sections:

* Employment,
* Social protection and social inclusion,
* Working conditions,
* Anti-discrimination and
* Gender equality.

PROGRESS is strongly committed to results-based management, which is the continuous measurement of the programme’s achievements towards its objectives, reporting and taking action to fine-tune the programme in order to improve its performance. The performance monitoring framework relies on a variety of monitoring information sources, among them - a special survey of those who directly or indirectly benefit from the programme. This Internet-based survey has been designed to collect data on the performance of the programme during its first two years. It is executed on behalf of the Commission by the external contractor (Public Policy and Management Institute).

Education in Europe: where to study?

Vendredi 12 décembre 2008

The French Presidency of the EU has invited the European Commission to work on a new ranking system for higher education and research institutions. That is the reason why the Commission has launched a call for tender for the testing of such a ranking system. We can expect the first results of the pilot project in 2 years. This will be a new tool to map the different strengths and missions of universities

Why rank universities?

Comparable information on higher education institutions and their teaching and research programmes should make it easier for students and researchers to make informed choices on where and what to study and where to work. Better information would also help policy-makers at institutional, national and European levels develop future strategies in higher education.

Existing mono-dimensional rankings do not fulfil these purposes because they tend to focus on certain aspects of research and on entire institutions, rather than on individual programmes and disciplines.

A new type of university ranking

While drawing on the experience of existing university rankings and of earlier EU-funded projects, the new ranking system should be —

* multi-dimensional: covering the various missions of institutions, such as education, research, innovation, internationalisation and community outreach;
* independent: it should not be run by public authorities or universities;
* transparent: it should provide users with a clear understanding of all the factors used to measure performance and offer them the possibility to consult the ranking according to their needs;
* global: covering institutions inside and outside Europe (in particular those in the US, Asia and Australia).

The project, to be funded by the Commission up to a sum of € 1.1 million, will consist of two consecutive parts:

* In a first phase, from May 2009 to the end of 2009, the tenderer will design a multi-dimensional ranking system for higher education institutions in consultation with stakeholders.
* In a second phase, from January 2010 to the end of May 2011, the tenderer will test the feasibility of the multi-dimensional ranking system on a representative sample of no less then 150 higher education and research institutions. The sample will focus on the disciplines of engineering and business studies. The sample should have a sufficient geographical coverage (inside and outside of the EU) and a sufficient coverage of institutions with different missions.

Depending on the outcome of the project, recommendations may be made on how this ranking system could, eventually, be implemented at a European and global level.