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European Conference: Protect our oceans – the challenge of Europe’s global leadership

European Conference: Protect our oceans – the challenge of Europe’s global leadership

Aix-Marseille University will hold its second European Conference on the challenge of protecting oceans on 16 June 2021

After a first edition in 2019 dedicated to neuro-technologies, Aix-Marseille University will organise, on Wednesday 16 June its second European Conference. It is entitled “Protect our oceans, the challenge of Europe’s global leadership”. Initially planned in Brussels this conference will be an online event due to uncertain sanitary conditions. 

Interactions between marine sciences, policy and society will be at the core of the second European Conference of Aix-Marseille University, held under the high patronage of the MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho, Rapporteur of the European Institute of innovation and technology (EIT), former Rapporteur of the Horizon 2020 framework-programme for research and innovation and former Portuguese Minister for Science. Scientific coordination is entrusted to Richard Sempéré, Director of the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO) of Aix-Marseille University and of the new Ocean Science Institute created in early 2021 by AMU.

In dialogue with high-level representatives of the European Commission and UNESCO as well as with NGOs, European scientists will contribute to the challenges that Europe intends to meet, in particular through two main topics: Tackling marine ecosystem disturbance caused by climate-change and The challenge of contaminant dispersal. Two areas where Marseille oceanography has a global reach.

In the wake of the 2021 World Oceans Day, the European Conference is an official contribution to the 2021-2030 United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. At European level, it intends to feed into to the European Green Deal and to the future “Starfish” Mission for healthy oceans initiated by Horizon Europe – the framework-programme for research and innovation. The “Starfish” Mission will be the subject of a Communication from the European Commission expected in the coming weeks.

During the European Conference, AMU intends to promote next generation scientists from Aix-Marseille, who undertake promising research. By allowing exchanges with other universities and stakeholders across Europe, the event also aims to accelerate collaboration, as the COVID-19 crisis leads to a reduction of the opportunities to collaborate. Scientific collaboration remains a priority for the United Nations and the European Union to face environmental challenges and to rely on the decisive role of ocean science in observing, understanding and acting on global change, including climate change. The agenda, the ten partners and the twenty-one speakers can be found on the dedicated webpage.

The European Conference is organised by the Aix-Marseille University EU Office, which was opened in 2016 in the premises of Sud-Provence Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region’s Office in the European district of Brussels.


The New European Bauhaus Initiative, with Ruth Reichstein, I.D.E.A.

The New European Bauhaus Initiative, with Ruth Reichstein, I.D.E.A.

On 20 April 2021, UnILiON members organised an Open Talk on the New European Bauhaus initiative, a new interdisciplinary project launched in January by the European Commission, that is currently in its co-design phase and aims at implementing the European Green Deal.

UnILiON Open Talks are dialogues with high-level speakers, mostly from EU institutions, through which our network aims to deepen topics of interest in the context of European research and innovation policies. The talk was open to participants outside the network, in particular to researchers and academics from member universities, who responded enthusiastically to the invitation, reaching over 140 participants.

This dialogue with Ms. Ruth Reichstein, I.D.E.A. Advisory Board to the President, focused on the New European Bauhaus initiative proposed by the President Ursula von der Leyen as a project to match sustainability with style. It was organised by the UnILiON “Horizon Europe & Future policy” working group and hosted online by the representative of the Berlin University Alliance.

Ms. Reichstein introduced attendees to the concept of the New European Bauhaus, a creative and interdisciplinary movement with the purpose of matching sustainability goals with style and urban design. She highlighted the broad scope and the intention to develop new ways of living together in European urban and non-urban spaces, and of creating a vision of how we want to live together in the future.

One prominent feature of this project, as emphasized by the speaker, is its interdisciplinary nature, which tries to combine architects, designers and engineers’ points of view with for example sociologist, urbanists, psychologists and civil society expertise and perspectives to create affordable sustainable living environments.

The project is organised into three phases: the current co-design phase, in which ideas, challenges and best practices should be identified and shared by whoever wants to give their contribution. In this co-design, bottom-up approach, Universities have an opportunity to contribute to the shaping of the guidelines, on which the calls for proposals of the delivery phase, starting in the summer, will build. The results of the calls for proposals and the winner projects of the New European Bauhaus Prize will pave the way for and be part of the dissemination phase, aimed at creating a real cultural movement throughout Europe.

Ms. Reichstein placed particular emphasis on the role universities can play in this process, being irreplaceable actors in exploring the needs and strengths of their local communities, having access to next generation stakeholders and being capable of contributing through research and innovation activities and expertise.

Following suggestions on how to pull their weight in the realisation of the project, UnILiON has planned to arrange a follow-up on this discussion, in order to put into practice the useful advice and clarifications received:

  • The network will promote contact among participants to the Open talk helping them to establish networks with other attendees by simply establishing email contacts that participants will follow up in case interest arises.
  • In addition, if the interest arises among participants, UnILiON will organize online conversations in groups of 5 to 10 people using the guidelines suggested by the European Commission

We hope that these exercises will lead to collecting inputs that emerged among the different groups and share significant ideas and challenges with the Commission.


Carolina Apicella

Working with the UK on research & innovation and mobility post-Brexit

Working with the UK on research & innovation and mobility post-Brexit

On Tuesday 9 March, UnILiON organised an Open Talk on ‘Working with the UK on Research & Innovation and Mobility post-Brexit’.

The wide-ranging EU-UK Brexit deal agreed on Christmas Eve has a number of implications for Higher Education Institutions, but universities on both sides of the Channel have arguably been most keen to understand what it means for the UK’s relationship with the new EU funding programmes.

The Open Talk provided an opportunity for an update on the UK’s association to the EU’s main funding programme for R&I, Horizon Europe, which is foreseen in the Brexit deal,  and an introduction to the Turing Scheme, the UK’s new global programme to study and work abroad.

It brought together nearly 150 attendees from across Europe and an expert panel of speakers from the UK Mission to the EU, UK Research Office (UKRO), Department for Education and British Council to discuss the opportunities for European partners to work with UK universities via both programmes.

The UK is expected to associate to Horizon Europe before the 1st grant agreements are signed, meaning UK entities are fully eligible to participate from the 1st calls. The Turing Scheme  will facilitate outward mobilities for UK organisations, and give the opportunity for international organisations to set up reciprocal exchanges.

Further information on the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe and the Turing Scheme is available via the links and presentations below.

2020 year in review

2020 year in review

Despite the restrictions in place to allow for physical distancing, the UnILiON network has continued to create an arena for information sharing and cooperation between universities’ liaison offices in Brussels. During 2020, our network’s Core group has met 11 times and our five working groups met a total of 18 times. 2020 has seen the creation of no less than three new working groups, on Innovation, Synergies and International cooperation.
Our annual policy event, which this year took place digitally, discussed how the cover-19 pandemic has created new challenges for universities and how universities are harnessing the opportunities of digital education. The successful event reached out to over 300 participants from within and beyond our membership.
In order to create further opportunities for cooperation between our universities, a series of digital brokerage sessions were organised around the final Green Deal call in Horizon 2020.
Our membership is also continuously growing, as more universities are opening offices in Brussels. During 2020 we have welcomed the following new members:
Following changes in some of our existing members’ networks, we also welcome Linnæus University (Lärosäten Syd), National Technical University of Athens (European Office of Cyprus), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Berlin University Alliance) as new members.