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Innovative Enterprise Week Conference in Romania: Researchers and innovators encouraged to work closer for a prosperous Europe

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© Innovative Enterprise Week

Finding ways to connect “the right people to the right people” and removing the financial barriers that prevent brilliant, but risky, ideas from coming to market are the most important challenges of future-focused EU research in the years to come.

This conclusion was issued during the event ‘Innovative Enterprise Week Bucharest 2019’, co-organized by the EC’s DG Connect and DG for Research and Innovation (RTD) and the Romanian Ministry of Research and Innovation, under the aegis of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. From 19-21 June the event gathered scientific experts, innovators, investors and policymakers from Europe and across the world to debate the future of innovation and its impact on the creation of new jobs.

Innovative Enterprise Week conference has put together scientists and policymakers to scan the monetary horizon of Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) research and its evolution in the European Innovation Council (EIC) Pathfinder programme.

“The technology that we are now hearing every day such as quantum, artificial intelligence, robotics or the Internet of Things has been pioneered within the Future Emerging Technologies (FET) programme , because it has always combined high-risk academic research with the strong participation from industry, including high tech small and medium enterprises (SMEs),” said Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, in a video message send to the participants at the conference. “The continuation of this mission, which is at the heart of the pilot program Pathfinder, will form an excellent completion to the European Innovation Council’s component Accelerator for driving market creation and business leadership.”

Two components of the newly created European Innovation Council, the pilot scheme Pathfinder and the Accelerator, together with other possible financial instruments such as InvestEU, ranked highly on the agenda of the discussions. These tools, but especially Pathfinder and Accelerator, are meant to fill the gap between researchers who have innovative ideas and investors who may consider them too risky to be taken further.

“Pathfinder will depend largely on the future and emerging technologies; it is about bridging the world of research and a world of innovation. Through Accelerator, we will finance those SMEs and start-ups that have an ambition about the future, that want to scale up and see their innovative ideas going to the market, but which are too risky to be supported by normal financing possibilities,” explained Thomas Skordas, Director of ‘Digital Excellence and Science Infrastructure’ at the EC’s DG Connect.  

He also emphasised the challenges Europe is facing today: an innovation gap, due to the fact that many of the excellent ideas which have emerged from the EU programmes are not valued in Europe but abroad. He also highlighted the high-risk finance deficit that prevents business to scale-up, and the fragmented research ecosystem at local or national levels. Many panelists agreed that these ecosystems need to be addressed by creating a framework where scientists and innovative SMEs can meet. They also said that the new financial schemes should be flexible, agile and open to any sort of innovation.

Elaborating on the changes, Nicolas Sabatier, advisor to the Director at DG RTD, shaped a more accessible financial scheme for the applicants: “We will not have these heavy, bureaucratic administrative procedures anymore. There is a shift in attitude, in the way we operate, we have to assure that we go for the risk which have innovative potential.”

Other panels focused on: how to manage the equity investment and how to attract potential scale ups; trends that will drive the development and market deployment of breakthrough and market-creating innovations; responsible research and innovation and impact investments; and European, regional and national venture capital schemes.

Exhibits displayed during the event showcased ongoing or completed research projects in the fields of sport, agriculture, medicine and physics. FETFX, a project funded by the HORIZON 2020 FET-Open Programme, had an exhibition stand and informed participants about its projects and their innovative, breakthrough results.

Several FET-related initiatives – as the FET Coordination and Support Action (CSA) projects – were presented at the event by Marta Calderaro, FETFX Project Coordinator at Italian Agency for the Promotion of European Research, APRE, to support the upcoming Calls for Proposals available at the European Innovation Council Work Programme. Alongside Viorel Peca, Head of the Innovation Unit at the EC, DG Connect, Calderaro emphasised that key elements of FET, as part of the EIC Pathfinder Pilot, are people, ideas and markets capable of fostering talents, new technological paradigms and innovative communities for an innovative society.

The EIC Pathfinder Pilot comprises FET-Open and FET-Proactive and offers grants of up to €4M to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary research and innovation on science-inspired and radically new future technologies. It will bridge science, technology and innovation in the new European research and innovation program, Horizon Europe, which will run from 2021 to 2027.

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EPP MEP Vasile Blaga: The EU budget for 2022 boosted with significant additional funding for research and health

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The EU budget for 2022, the largest in the history of the Union, has been boosted with significant additional funding for research and health, said MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) for CaleaEuropeana.ro.

Last week’s session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg approved the European Union’s budget for next year and we are dealing with a first: €169.5 billion for 2022, the largest amount ever approved, €480 million more than the European Commission’s proposal, 

“It is worth highlighting here the €100 million annual budget increase for the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme, a key programme for boosting the EU’s competitiveness and economic development. I also note an increase in next year’s budget in the health sector, with the EU’s pandemic response programme EU4Health being funded by €51 million more than the Commission’s initial proposal, for a total of over €800 million,” the EPP MEP stressed. 

“It is extremely important not to forget that the pandemic is not over and investing in health is a priority for the European Union in the coming year. A joint effort by all member countries is needed to strengthen national health systems. The same is true in Romania – the national health system has the opportunity to benefit from important funds for modernisation and response, not only to the current pandemic, but also in the long term, to the current challenges in the system”, added the EPP MEP. 

The European Parliament last week approved the 2022 budget by 550 votes to 77 with 62 abstentions. The deal, which was agreed by the EU Council on 23 November, is due to take effect from 1 January 2022.

MEPs succeeded in increasing funding for programmes and policies that they believe contribute to post-pandemic recovery, in line with Parliament’s priorities set out in its guidelines for 2022.

These include the Horizon Europe research programme (+€100 million more than the Commission’s draft budget) and the LIFE programme for environment and climate action (+€47.5 million). The single market programme is boosted by €30 million (including €10 million for the tourism sector) and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office by €3.8 million, protecting European taxpayers’ money from criminals.

The Erasmus+ university mobility programme is another programme whose budget is reinforced, with an additional allocation of €35 million. The EU’s flagship health programme, EU4Health, gets a financial boost of €51 million to build a strong European Health Union and make national health systems more resilient.

The Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI – Global Europe) has been boosted by €190 million, with a particular focus on fighting pandemics, including through vaccination.

Humanitarian aid has been increased by €211 million to allow the Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve to cover the increased needs of the EU Solidarity Fund in relation to natural disasters in the EU.

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HERA, essential for countries like Romania. European Union can gain strength in health crises

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© European Union, 2020

Romanian experts at national and European level argue that the European Health Emergency Response and Preparedness Authority (HERA) can bring important mechanisms, expected and needed at European level, but which need to be developed in complementarity with existing mechanisms that already have very good results.

National authorities, European decision-makers, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry responded to the initiative launched by Calea Europeană and the Romanian Association of International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (ARPIM) and held an open dialogue on the role of the new instrument launched by the European Commission, the European Health Emergency Response and Preparedness Authority (HERA), in preventing, detecting and responding rapidly to health emergencies, by collecting information and strengthening the necessary response capacities.

The main lessons learned by the European Union from the beginning of the pandemic to date were discussed, as well as the need to achieve a Health Union, which cannot be possible without the implementation of European mechanisms involving all Member States in preparing a joint response in the event of a future health crisis.

The European executive has succeeded in laying another “milestone of a Health Union” by launching a new instrument, the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). This Authority was launched on 16 September and aims to guide the entire EU health system towards the vision of ‘One Health’. HERA is a key pillar of the European Health Union announced by President von der Leyen in her State of the Union 2020 speech and will fill a gap in EU health emergency response and preparedness.

HERA and its new tasks for a stronger Union in the face of health crises. How HERA becomes a key pillar of the European Union

The Head of the European Commission Representation in Romania, Ramona Chiriac, welcomed the new measures taken by the European Commission to improve the EU’s health security, as this authority is “the result of lessons learnt during the pandemic, which showed the limits of what the EU can do in health crisis situations.”

  • HERA reinforces the EU’s powers on health under the existing treaties. HERA’s mandate is forward-looking. HERA’s aim is to anticipate health crises by gathering intelligence, strengthening the necessary response capacity. So far, action in different policies has been taken reactively and not as part of an overall anticipatory management system.
  • This will be the new task, to ensure that the European Union and Member States are much better prepared to act in the face of a cross-border crisis, because the pandemic does not stop at national borders or even at European borders. HERA complements the agencies already in place.

The Head of the European Commission Representation in Romania, Ramona Chiriac, also stressed that HERA is chaired by the President of the European Commission, but is constantly mandated by the Council, which means that the will of each Member State is relevant in this construction.

Cooperation with industry within HERA will be essential to develop, manufacture, distribute countermeasures. Such a structured, responsive cooperation mechanism is vital for the implementation of robust supply chain strategies and supply chains with strategically autonomous states.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Member States have felt the need for a mechanism such as HERA. Romania must have a work core

Valeriu Gheorghiță, President of the CNCAV, present at the debate on the role of HERA, presented a preparedness and response structure in case of a health crisis, based on three pillars that should represent a working core: the prevention part, the pre-hospital part and the hospital part. According to the Romanian specialist, this preparedness and response strategy should have the following structure:

  1. Prevention strategy: vaccination as an effective means of limiting the spread of contagious disease, complemented by a population education strategy, because accessibility to vaccines is not enough. The population needs to be prepared and to understand that vaccination is a matter of course. Today’s children, who will be tomorrow’s adults, need to understand that vaccination is an added value. For the next health crisis, children must not be exposed to so many misinformation theories. We also need to improve training in diagnostic, surveillance and sequencing capacity: testing and diagnostic capacity is essential.
  2. Preparedness of the pre-hospital ambulatory medicine system for the identification and treatment of most forms of infections, of infectious diseases that can be very well managed in pre-hospital. There is a need for trained doctors and centres for diagnosis, treatment and access to effective therapies. HERA will enable easy accessibility and a centralised supply chain.
  3. Hospital preparedness: In pandemic conditions we need to have a response capacity, which means having modular structures and being able to quickly adapt hospital structures to a pandemic crisis or an epidemiological alert.

Stocks of health supplies and medicines were the main challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic

Călin Alexandru, director in the Department for Emergency Situations, says a unified approach is now needed at European level.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for production mechanisms at European level for medical equipment and medicines to ensure that EU citizens can meet their needs in such a situation. An important element that HERA is aiming for is centralised procurement. Romania has so far made centralised purchases, but only at national level. Centralised procurement of vaccines at European level is a very good example of the fact that in such a situation cooperation is mandatory.

There is a need for collaboration and integration of public health response measures and HERA can bring a plus and a positive element. The measures taken by different countries in the first waves of the pandemic were not coordinated and even created difficulties in collaboration within the EU. Measures must be taken in the future that do not affect collaboration, either economic exchanges or the free movement of citizens between countries.

HERA will be the instrument that will ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical equipment among Member States.

Cristian Bușoi MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Industry Committee, explained the benefits of HERA for the resilience of Member States’ health systems.

  • HERA is a key pillar of the European Health Union which President von der Leyen announced in her annual speech as being of paramount importance for the European Union to be much better prepared in the future against health emergencies. HERA is not the only answer. We also have the EU health programme, EU4Health, which is totally different from the health programmes of the past. Decisions on health remain with the Member States, but the EU and the European institutions aim to contribute more and more in the years to come.
  • HERA will prevent, detect and respond quickly to health crises. HERA will also have to anticipate certain potential health threats and crises. HERA will be that instrument that will ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical equipment among Member States.

HERA, along with other European health initiatives, is essential for countries like Romania

Andrei Baciu, State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, reiterated the importance of HERA for a European Union better prepared to face new health threats, as well as Romania’s essential role in the HERA working groups.

  • HERA can be an extremely good opportunity for Romania because it will accelerate the development of internal mechanisms that mirror the work that HERA does. Romanians expect a high level of performance and Romania’s membership of such a European mechanism will force progress in Romania.
  • HERA, along with other European health initiatives, are essential for countries like Romania and the benefits of these efforts can be seen in everyday life. Such mechanisms are really the ones that have made it possible for Romania to have vaccines at the same time as any other Member State.The European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), essential for countries like Romania.

Romania has started the designation process and is aware of everything that is going on. Work is underway to set up these task forces. There is a lot of activity. Romania is already part of all the mechanisms within HERA and is on track with everything that has been requested so far.

Moreover, the Ministry of Health wants to make the most of these opportunities that this European initiative represents, precisely in order to generate in Romania a health system that can provide European advantages.

The Ministry of Health has said that it is essential for Romania to be part of such mechanisms, but the big problem in our country is that there is no institutional culture to learn from the difficulties we are going through. We have so many things to learn and so many things to improve in European health systems, and the most important advantage of this authority is that it institutionalises this ‘lessons learned’ mechanism and then comes up with concrete proposals.

National legislation must be drawn up to regulate the powers of each institution

The ANMDMR has informed its colleagues in the specialist structures about the HERA regulations. According to the ANMDMR representative, a crucial importance for HERA is the collaboration between HERA and national authorities. Even the Medicines Agency will be involved in this process, but at the moment it is not clear how. ANMDMR argues that a national regulatory act will have to be developed to regulate the tasks of each institution. Different aspects need to be regulated in order to be able to implement the regulation at national level as well. The ANMDMR will indirectly provide support in the working groups within HERA.

In order to ensure a rapid launch and building on the HERA incubator launched in February 2021, HERA will be established as an internal Commission structure and will become fully operational in early 2022. Its operation will be reviewed and adapted annually until 2025, when a full review will be carried out.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The European Social Security Passport, a first step in protecting the rights of Romanian workers in the EU

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© Vasile Blaga / Facebook

The European Social Security Passport is an instrument to protect the rights of workers in the European Union, MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) told for CaleaEuropeană.ro on Monday.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution at last week’s plenary session in Strasbourg calling on the European Commission to speed up the procedures for introducing the European Social Security Passport.

“This passport will play an extremely important role especially for mobile workers in the EU and will actively contribute to the fight against social fraud and undeclared work. Moreover, it will make it much easier to protect the rights of workers and their social security contributions. At the same time, this passport will be an extremely useful tool in simplifying and streamlining bureaucratic and administrative procedures in the area of the mobile labour market”, said EPP MEP Vasile Blaga.

He pointed out that the number of Romanian workers circulating in the European labour market is extremely high and drew attention to the many cases where Romanian workers have been abused, had their fundamental rights ignored by employers in other countries or have not been paid social security.

“This passport can be a first step in protecting their rights much more rigorously across Romania’s borders in the European Union. The complexity of implementing the European Social Security Passport comes from the fact that it will have to take into account all the particularities of the national social security systems, while not becoming a condition for exercising free movement”, added the EPP MEP.

The European Parliament has asked the European Commission for a legislative proposal on a European social security passport before the end of 2022, to reduce the administrative burden on mobile workers.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday by 598 votes to 59 with 38 abstentions, MEPs urged the European Commission to speed up plans for a European Social Security Passport (ESSP) to facilitate the portability of social security rights for mobile workers.

The European Social Security Passport will allow real-time verification of mobile workers’ data by the national authorities of the Member State where they intend to work. It will help combat social fraud and undeclared work, while making it easier to track and claim workers’ social security rights and contributions.

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