Articles taggés avec ‘Member States’

EU Funding: Commission unveils plans for cooperation between national research programmes

Mardi 22 juillet 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.

The European Commission has set out its plans for boosting cooperation between national research funding programmes

The new ‘Joint Programming’ scheme is designed to ensure that public research funds are used as efficiently as possible, and help Europe tackle shared problems more effectively. The first Joint Programming Initiatives should be launched by 2010.

Just 15% of public research funds in Europe are allocated at the European level, either through the EU’s own framework programmes, or through intergovernmental organisations such as CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) or pan-European schemes like EUREKA. The remaining 85% is locked up in programmes which are designed and implemented nationally.

Currently, there is little collaboration between these national research programmes, although many of the challenges they address are shared by all European countries.

The new Joint Programming Initiatives will see Member States combine resources and monitor and review progress together. Membership of the initiatives will be entirely voluntary, and the emphasis will be on pooling public research funds (unlike the Joint Technology Initiatives, which combine public and private research funds).

Member States wishing to work together on a given issue will first have to set out a common, long term vision for the agreed area. On the basis of this, a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) will be drawn up, which should contain clear, measureable and realistic objectives. Finally, the SRA will be implemented; in this stage, all Member States involved will be expected to align their national research programmes to the SRA.

The European Commission’s role in all of this will be that of facilitator, although EU funds may be made available to certain initiatives depending on their added value and European dimension.

According to the European Commission, Joint Programming will enable researchers to find common answers to common problems.

The plans will now be discussed by Europe’s research ministers, who are expected to endorse the concept and objectives of Joint Programming by the end of the year. The ministers will then appoint a group of experts to identify the areas for which Joint Programming is most suitable.

This selection will be made on the basis of clear criteria; for example, the challenge to be addressed must be pan-European or global in scale, yet be sufficiently focused so that clear objectives can be set. Publicly funded research must be key to addressing the problem, and the initiative should help to overcome fragmentation and duplication of research efforts in the field concerned.

Eventually, the Council will officially launch the JPIs and monitor their progress.

The Joint Programming scheme is just one of five launched by the Commission as part of its plans to reinvigorate the European Research Area (ERA). The others concern the management of intellectual property by public research organisations; research mobility and research careers; pan-European research infrastructures; and international science and technology cooperation.

 
  Source:
Cordis

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EU Funding: Commission proposes to Member States to jointly address major societal challenges

Mardi 15 juillet 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.

Climate change, diseases, or energy are societal challenges shared by all EU countries

National research, which currently makes up 85% of all European public research funding, will have more impact if Member States pool their resources and better coordinate their efforts. The European Commission today proposed that Member States adopt a new approach of “Joint Programming”. It aims at tackling current compartmentalisation which undermines the efficiency of Europe’s research.

The Communication adopted today by the Commission “Towards Joint Programming in Research: Working together to tackle common challenges more effectively” proposes that Member States first identify a limited number of key challenges on which to focus their efforts, and then, agree on a common vision, develop and implement a Strategic Research Agenda for each area.

The Communication stresses that Joint Programming will be a voluntary process and need not involve all Member States in each specific initiative. It can relate to the coordination of existing national programmes, or the setting up of entirely new ones, pooling resources and collectively monitoring and reviewing progress. The Commission’s role is that of a facilitator and the implementation may or not may involve Community financing. If the EU Council of Ministers agrees with the proposal, Joint Programming Initiatives should be underway by 2010.

The European Strategic Energy Technology Plan and the foreseen Marine Research Strategy provide pilot experiences for this initiative.

Background

The Communication is one of five policy initiatives planned by the Commission to follow up the 2007 Green Paper “The European Research Area: New Perspectives” and is a further step in the creation of the “fifth freedom” by removing barriers to the free movement of knowledge.

 
  Source:
Press room - European Commission

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EU Funding: MEPs vote on Strategic Energy Technology Plan

Mardi 15 juillet 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants in the framework programme for innovation activities (including eco-innovation) in enterprises, take-up of information technologies and better use of energy.
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.

MEPs have adopted a new report which outlines recommendations on how the EU can strengthen the European Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan and help the EU to meet its climate change targets

For Jerzy Buzek MEP, rapporteur and member of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee and the Temporary Committee on Climate Change of the European Parliament, the report offers a realistic, sustainable solution to the challenge of climate change. He believes that it not only recognises the need to reduce carbon emissions but also recognises the need to maintain the EU’s competitiveness in global markets.

The report was passed by the European Parliament in a vote of 596 in favour, to 85 against, with just 14 abstentions.

The EU has set itself targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020, and by 2050 it hopes to reduce emissions by 60 to 80%.

The report aims to achieve this ambitious goal by setting out a plan on what the energy agenda for Europe should be. The agenda includes promoting research into new, clean energy technologies which the parliament views as crucial to successfully fighting climate change.

Such technologies also have the added benefit of not only helping Europe achieve its targets on greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy and energy efficiency, but also in securing Europe’s energy supply in the future.

Biofuels, which have been under increasing scrutiny recently, are also mentioned in the report, which calls for increased research in this area. This research would determine once and for all the overall environmental impact of the production of those fuels.

Another example of the EU’s commitment to new technologies is the recommendation to support the creation of up to 12 proposed Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) demonstration projects. The report also notes that support for clean coal technologies, such as coal to gas conversion, ‘will make it easier and cheaper to deploy CCS with the possibility of making it mandatory in the future’.

Parliament however made it clear that the SET Plan should not be financed through the reallocation of funds made available for energy under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP). Instead they stressed to the Commission that alternative funding be allocated for the support of new low carbon and zero carbon technology research and development, demonstration and commercialisation activities.

 
  Source:
Cordis

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EU Funding: IST research in Europe: good, but could do better

Vendredi 27 juin 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 6th Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration aimed at creating the European Research Area
 Grants for the development of both hardware and software technologies and applications at the heart of the creation of the Information Society
 Individual grants for training and career development of researchers
 Grants for research projects to develop products, service and process innovation and creativity through the use of ICT for citizens, businesses, industry and governments

EU funding for information society technologies (IST) research under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) has helped make Europe a world leader in a number of key areas, including high-speed networking and nano-electronics. Nevertheless, systemic changes are urgently needed to remove the remaining barriers to innovation which are preventing the full exploitation of research results

This is the key message from a new report on the effectiveness of information society research under FP6. The report, entitled ‘Information society research and innovation: delivering results with sustained impact’, was written by a panel of six experts chaired by former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho. The experts’ aim was to analyse how EU research spending could be improved in order to boost Europe’s competitiveness. The report was presented to the EU’s Information Society Commissioner, Viviane Reding, who said it should serve as ‘a wake-up call’ for policy makers responsible for economic and research policy and budgetary rules.

On a positive note, the report notes that much of the IST research carried out under FP6 would probably not have happened without EU funding. Furthermore, many of the researchers brought together in these EU-funded projects have remained in close contact, forming long-lasting, pan-European networks.

In addition to high-speed networking and nano-electronics, areas where EU investments have reinforced European leadership include mobile communications, advanced robotics, quantum communications and complex systems, the report states.

Among other things, Mr Aho and his colleagues call for greater synergies with venture capital investment, regional innovation strategies and public procurement procedures. The experts also recommend that public-private partnerships such as the Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) be consolidated.

Another recommendation concerns international research cooperation. ‘If the best researchers from around the world participate in the framework programme, it will also become more attractive for the best European researchers,’ the report reads.

The report recommends that participation from both developing and industrialised non-European countries be encouraged.

The experts also warn against trying to become a world leader in every area. Instead Europe should focus its research effort areas where it already has an advantage and where Europe has the opportunity to take the lead. Furthermore, the work programme should remain flexible, so that it can take into account the latest developments and challenges.

‘The Aho Report has rightly concluded that the effectiveness of Europe’s high-tech research is too often stifled by red tape, a lack of venture capital and a risk averse mentality in both national and European administrations,’ commented Mrs Reding. ‘The consequences to be drawn from the Aho Report will have to be discussed intensely by the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and also the European Commission itself under the forthcoming French Presidency.’

Mrs Reding pledged to address the issues raised by the report in a Communication to the European Parliament and Council in autumn this year.

Between 2003 and 2006, the EU invested over €4 billion in information society research; during the same period, the Member States and private companies spent some €100 billion. In the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) theme has a total budget of €9.1 billion, more than any other theme.

 
  Source:
Cordis

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EU funding: Boosting Small and Medium Enterprises’ investment in research

Mercredi 25 juin 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.
 EUREKA-EU research and development support programme for high-tech SMEs, financed by the Article 169 under FP 7 Capacities

European Commission welcomes the Council agreement on the “Eurostars” Programme

On Monday 23rd of June, the Council of Ministers agreed to provide EUR 100 million from the EU’s 7th Framework Programme (FP7) budget to Eurostars, a Research and Development (R&D) programme jointly set up by 31 countries to boost research capacities of Small and Medium-Sized companies (SMEs) in Europe. The EUR 100 million from FP7 will leverage at least EUR 300 million in public funding from the participating countries, resulting in a package of EUR 400 million for financing trans-national research partnerships driven research-performing SMEs in Europe.

EU Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik said: “Research-performing SMEs are the entrepreneurial stars of Europe. We have to join our efforts to support them in this task. The “Eurostars” programme is an excellent example of how Member States and the Commission can contribute to economic growth by reinforcing cooperation between their respective research programmes. Making it possible for SMEs to collaborate with the best European research teams, Eurostars will help them turn new ideas into successful businesses, and reinforce their competitive edge in knowledge and innovation – the cornerstones of our prosperity.”

Research-performing SMEs (i.e. companies capable to perform their own R&D) are crucial to the economic success of Europe in the global knowledge economy. With their flexible organisation, resolutely forward-looking strategies, and strong commitment to R&D, these SMEs are uniquely positioned to compete successfully in the global knowledge economy, seizing market opportunities and generating new jobs.

Eurostars provides a new, flexible and efficient tool specifically tailored to the needs of R&D- intensive SMEs. Based on Article 169 of the Treaty, the Commission has proposed to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament that the European Community participates in Eurostars with up to EUR 100 million from the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) budget. Following the approval of the European Parliament in April, this proposal was adopted by the Council today.

The integration of the national research and development programmes of the participating countries into a joint programme for research-performing SMEs further contributes to the realisation of the European Research Area (ERA). This initiative adds to, and fully complements, existing actions in favour of SMEs in FP7. It also reinforces the cooperation between EUREKA[3] who will be managing the Eurostars programme, and the Community’s FP7.

The EUREKA Secretariat issues calls, receives project proposals, organises evaluation by independent experts, manages the Community contribution to the Joint Programme, and monitors progress of projects. The first such call (closed in February 2008) generated over 200 applications, demonstrating the high level of interest of the SME community.

 
  Source:
Press Room - European Commission

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Eu funding: EU to double its R&D investment in robotics

Mardi 10 juin 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.
 Grants for research projects to develop products, service and process innovation and creativity through the use of ICT for citizens, businesses, industry and governments
 Grants for research projects to develop products, service and process innovation and creativity through the use of ICT for citizens, businesses, industry and governments

At the occasion of AUTOMATICA 2008, one of the leading international trade fairs in robotics and automation held this year in Munich/Germany, the European Commission has announced a policy to boost European robotics.

The European Union will double its investments between 2007 and 2010 with almost € 400 million to support European robotics research. This ambitious programme aims to forge stronger links between academia and industry, and plans to fund a widespread experimentation by academic researchers and industry. The European Commission also calls on the industry to intensify its efforts in producing critical components in Europe, such as gears, in order to face competition from Asia and avoid strategic dependencies on other regions of the world.

The European Union has today a strong position in industrial robots for automation: about one third of all industrial robots are produced in Europe. The robotics market’s growth rate will form an important part of the world economy within the next two decades: the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) estimates the current world market for industrial robots at about € 4 billion and forecasts a 4.2% increase per year until 2010.

Service robots that operate outside the manufacturing domain offer opportunities for new applications and market expansion: according to the IFR, growth in this market is expected to reach between 10% and 15% per year between now and 2010 and the number of professional service robots will grow from 40,000 in 2006 to 75,000 in 2010. Service robots are used in many sectors, e.g. for the distribution of goods, for cleaning vehicles, in agriculture and in medical applications.

Robotics is strategic for Europe’s future competitiveness. Manufacturing will only be maintained in higher wage regions such as Europe through automation. Automation also plays a key role in ensuring a sustainable production and minimizing wasteful use of resources.Finally it will contribute to help Europe’s ageing society by compensating for a declining labour force.

As part of its € 400 M research programme, the European Commission is taking steps to set up a technology transfer scheme between academia and industry enabling European research labs to use industrial-strength robots for large-scale experimentation.The resulting scientific knowledge will directly be fed back to participating companies.

Beyond research, European industry recognizes the need for reducing dependencies on critical components such as drives, gears and motors. The European Commission also encourages industry to agree on technical standards and develop business models in this field in order to ensure sustained provision of such critical components.

 
  Source:
Press room - European Commission
 
  More information:
CORDIS

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EU Funding: New partnership for researchers unveiled

Lundi 2 juin 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.
 Specific programme for fundamental and exploratory research projects

Pan-European pension schemes, greater job flexibility and more skills training are just some of the benefits promised to European researchers in a new partnership between the European Commission and Member States

With these incentives, Europe hopes to encourage its best researchers to stay put, while also attracting researchers back to the continent.

The European Partnership for Researchers, the content of which was unveiled in Brussels on 27 May, builds on several existing initiatives. The most notable are the 2005 European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for Recruitment of Researchers, and the ’scientific visa’ package for the fast track admission and residence of non-European researchers.

The partnership replaces the European researchers’ passport, which Mr Potocnik said was too narrow.

The partnership is indeed more ambitious in scope and in the deadlines it has set. By 2010, the Commission and Member States aim to jointly make ‘measurable progress’ in four key areas, namely recruitment, social security and pensions, working conditions; and training.

On recruitment, the partnership aims to give universities and public research centres greater autonomy over hiring and make the process more open and competitive. All publicly funded research jobs should therefore be openly advertised. Public research organisations should also have greater freedom to recruit from abroad, since it is not always possible to find the right candidate for the job in any one country.

To date, almost all grant funding is tied to the research institution. This prevents researchers from moving; even when relocation would be beneficial to the research. Hoping to shake things up, the new partnership proposes allowing the portability of grants, along the lines of the grants system of the European Research Council (ERC) or the ‘money follows researcher’ schemed piloted by national funding agencies.

The social security needs of researchers are also addressed by the partnership. Although, current EU legislation provides some flexibility to Member States to make derogations or exceptions for researchers in order to enable greater mobility, the partnership suggests that efforts should be coordinated in order to make more appropriate use of these derogations.

Pension providers should be encouraged to open up a pan-European pension scheme targeting researchers and companies should be encouraged to use pension providers in other EU Member States. This would allow mobile researchers to contribute to the same supplementary pension fund while working in different EU countries and still comply with the different social, labour and pension legislation in the participating Member States, says the Commission.

Making researchers’ working conditions more attractive is another promise of the partnership. Currently, a career in research is a precarious one, especially for young researchers, who are often employed on temporary short-term contracts. These contracts, the Commission says, are to blame for preventing these young people from becoming independent researchers. Meanwhile, senior researchers are often on permanent contracts with career advancement based on seniority rather than performance. This limits incentives to change career path, says the Commission.

The partnership therefore proposes improving career opportunities for early-stage researchers by moving towards ‘flexicurity principles’ of easier hiring and firing, regular evaluation, wider autonomy and better training. Member States, funders and employers should also progressively introduce more flexibility in contractual and administrative arrangements for senior researchers to reward good performance.

Most researchers in Europe are still trained in a traditional academic setting. The partnership highlights the need to equip researchers with a new, more up-to-date set of skills, so that they are capable of managing intellectual property and bidding for project funding or setting up their own start-up company.

At the end of the first stage of the partnership in 2010, an overall evaluation of the situation and results from actions by the partnership will be made and the need for further EU action to address specific outstanding issues will be considered.

With these incentives, Europe hopes to encourage its best researchers to stay put, while also attracting researchers back to the continent. In 2004, of the nearly 400,000 foreign researchers in the US, an estimated 100,000 were born in the EU15. This is a significant proportion of the total population of EU researchers of 1.3 million, and these are also likely to be top performers in their fields.

The partnership will be tabled at the next Competitiveness Council on 29 May. Mr Potocnik also called on the Members States taking over the next EU presidencies to consider organising a joint meeting of the Competitiveness and Social Affairs Councils to discuss the partnership.

The European Partnership for Researchers is one of five actions planned by the Commission with a view to making the European Research Area a reality. The remaining initiatives are on the management of intellectual property by public research organisations; a legal framework for pan-European research infrastructures; joint programming and programmes; and international science and technology cooperation.

 
  Source:
Cordis

Eu funding : Boosting a European Single Labour Market for Researchers

Mardi 27 mai 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.

The Commission proposes a new partnership with Member States

In the Communication “Better careers and more mobility: a European Partnership for Researchers “, the European Commission seeks a partnership with Member States to ensure that the necessary human resources are available to sustain and enhance the contribution of science and technology to a knowledge-based European economy. Europe faces growing global competition for the best talents and demographic challenges. The aim of the partnership is to align and focus the efforts of individual Member States. Joint priority actions should make the EU a more attractive place for researchers, and allow researchers to be more mobile between countries, institutions, and between the academic and private sectors. Key areas for action are the systematic opening up of recruitment, meeting the social security and pension needs of mobile researchers, providing fair employment and working conditions, and ensuring that researchers have the right training and skills.

In many Member States, there is still limited competition-based recruitment in the public sector. Short-term contracts are the norm for young researchers and advancement can often be based on seniority not performance. Many researchers are also trained in a traditional academic way which does not equip them for the needs of the modern knowledge economy where connections between industry and public research institutions are increasingly important. Today’s researchers may need to manage intellectual property, conduct multi-disciplinary projects or start up their own company.

It is proposed that the partnership should make a commitment to achieving by the end of 2010 rapid, measurable progress to:

* systematically open recruitment by research institutions to all European researchers ;
* meet the social security and supplementary pensions needs of mobile researchers;
* provide attractive employment and working conditions, such as improved contractual terms, salaries and opportunities for career development;
* ensure researchers have the necessary skills to turn knowledge into results including by creating stronger links between universities and industry.

Coordinated action in these areas between the Commission and the Member States, alongside renewed efforts on existing initiatives such as the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, would help to create a genuine European labour market for researchers. This will balance the supply and demand for researchers, boost productivity growth through better job matching, increase knowledge transfer and facilitate the development of centres of excellence throughout the EU. It will also create better international connections for collaborative research and the economic exploitation of research results, and help to create more attractive conditions for industrial investment in research.

At the end of the first stage of the partnership in 2010 an overall evaluation of the situation and results from actions by the partnership will be made and the need for further EU action to address specific outstanding issues will be considered.

Background

The Communication is one of five policy initiatives planned by the Commission to follow up the 2007 Green Paper “The European Research Area: New Perspectives”. The results of the public consultation following the Green Paper suggested that a single labour market for researchers should be amongst the top priorities for action at EU level.

 
  Source:
Press Room - European Commission
 
  More information:
  Communication

EU reaches out to promote flexicurity approach in the Member States

Lundi 19 mai 2008

The European Commission today launched an initiative to help put the EU’s flexicurity approach – balancing flexibility in the job market with employment security for workers – into practice at national level

This ‘Mission for Flexicurity’ aims to reach out to workers, employers and others through a series of country visits over the next two months. The initiative follows a decision by Member States at the Informal Employment Council in Brdo in January 2008. It will kick off in France today, followed by events in Sweden, Finland, Poland and Spain. Results will be presented in December 2008.

The Mission for Flexicurity aims to raise awareness and understanding of the common principles of flexicurity agreed on at the EU Summit in December 2007 following a Commission Communication in June 2007, so as to aid their implementation in the Member States. The Mission will be led by Commissioner Špidla and Gérard Larcher, former French labour minister. It consists of seven members, including workers’ and employers’ representatives; the Slovene EU presidency; the forthcoming French presidency; and the Commission.

The team will visit five countries to discuss the state of play in implementing the flexicurity principles with all relevant stakeholders. The following Member States have volunteered to receive the Mission between May and July 2008: France (19 May); Sweden (2 June); Finland (6 June); Poland (23 June); Spain (date to be confirmed).

As part of a mutual learning perspective, these visits will also give the opportunity to other Member States, as well as to other relevant participants, to take part in the discussions. The timetable and progress reports following the country visits will appear on a dedicated Commission website.

The work of the Mission should help Member States to report as part of their National Reform Programmes in Autumn 2008 on national implementation of the flexicurity principles (so-called national ‘pathways’). To that end, the Mission will present a draft report in October 2008 to Employment Ministers followed by a final Report in December 2008, after having consulted the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the social partners and other stakeholders. This report will highlight the various policy approaches in the Member States and aim at proposing concrete suggestions to encourage the successful implementation of flexicurity policies.

What is flexicurity?

Flexicurity is a comprehensive approach to labour market policy which combines sufficient flexibility in contractual arrangements – to allow firms and employees to cope with change - with the provision of security for workers to stay in their job, or be able to find a new one quickly with the assurance of an adequate income in between jobs. This is possible through lifelong learning, active labour market policies and high levels of social protection.

In today’s labour markets, traditional kinds of job security are not always sustainable and do not always constitute the right solution; people change jobs more often, sometimes because they want to and sometimes because they have to. In this context, new kinds of security are needed, so that workers can change from one job to another job in a safe and successful way, and acquire new skills. Similarly, the different national contractual arrangements should ensure that companies can adapt to changing market circumstances, and that they are not inhibited from offering permanent employment because of the difficulties they might face should circumstances change and a workforce reduction be considered.

 
  Source:
Press room - European Commission
 
  More information:
Mission for flexicurity website

Europeans unlock puzzle of centuries-old methane question

Jeudi 15 mai 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.
 Grants for research projects about climate change, pressure from growing human activity and prevention of risks on environment and health

Ice cores play a major role in climate research because they act as a historical point of reference, enabling researchers to take direct measurements of the atmospheric composition and greenhouse gas concentrations of the past

From its drilling, the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA), has obtained for the first time key information on changes in methane levels. The EU provided € 8.5 million in funding for the work, the findings of which were recently published in the journal Nature.

Under the programme, the EPICA researchers drilled and assessed the ice core, located at Dronning Maud Land in the Atlantic sector of Antarctica. Their analyses were then compared with those taken from an ice core in North Greenland.

The data obtained gave the team the information they needed to identify the most significant processes responsible for changes in natural methane concentrations during the transition from the last ice age to our warm period. The findings show that wetland regions emitted less methane during glacial times, while forest fire activity remained constant from glacial to interglacial times.

The work conducted by EPICA provides insight into natural changes in the atmospheric concentrations of CH4 - otherwise known as the greenhouse gas methane. This is the first glacial/interglacial record of the carbon isotopic composition of methane, thus providing key information on the sources that triggered the CH4 concentration changes.

The data showed that glacial concentrations totalled on average 350 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) and increased to some 700 ppbv during the last glacial/interglacial transition. Human methane emissions also artificially boosted CH4 concentrations to around 1,750 ppbv over the last few centuries.

The researchers developed an analytical method enabling changes in the isotopic ratio of 12CH4 and 13CH4 in ice core samples to be quantified. This ratio gave the researchers insight into the methane sources responsible for the changes.

Temperatures in continental Antarctica are much lower than those found in Greenland, the largest island in the world, located between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. A challenge for the EPICA team was working in unexplored regions that called for extensive meteorological and geophysical work to pick drill sites.

EPICA was one of this year’s winners of the Descartes Prize for Research for its work in retrieving past climate records. Thanks to this research, temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations up to the last 800,000 years could be measured.

 
  Source:
Cordis
 
  More information:
European Science Foundation website