|Space launches at low cost are within reach – a €10 million Commission prize calls out to innovators
The Commission opened a competition to develop a European low-cost space launch. The prize – part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot – will award €10 million to an innovative, commercially viable and low-cost solution to launch light satellites. Space technology, data and services have become indispensable in the daily lives of Europeans and for Europe to pursue its strategic interests. The Commission just presented the new EU space programme beyond 2020 to invest more in space activities and adapt to new needs and technologies (see press release). Small, light satellites are crucial to improve space-based connectivity, internet services, Earth imaging and navigation. To make sure that the EU is able to launch these satellites independently, it needs to have its own dedicated launch services for small satellites. The prize will contribute to the objectives of the Commission’s Space Strategy for Europe, which aims at reinforcing Europe’s autonomy in accessing space and at encouraging the development of the space market. The deadline for application is 1 June 2021 to give participants time to develop their model. Extra points will be given to participants if they have already managed to launch light satellites and developed a concept for their launch services by the time of their application. The European Innovation Council pilot – run under Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme – supports top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas and the ambition to scale up. More information can be found in a news item and on the EIC website.
The EU releases €2 million in response to deadly floods in Ethiopia
The European Commission has allocated € 2 million to assist those most affected by the ongoing floods and landslides plaguing Ethiopia which has affected thousands of people. “Heavy floods have struck Ethiopia for the past few weeks causing death, widespread destruction and displacement, both within the country and in the region. We stand by Ethiopia and the communities affected by the flooding at this difficult time. The EU’s solidarity will reach the most vulnerable and provide them with lifesaving support and the emergency supplies they need to survive,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides. The EU funding will ensurethe provision of emergency shelter, items such as mosquito nets and blankets and access to clean drinking water. With record rainfall battering the Horn of Africa, today’s funding to the region comes in addition to the €1.5 million allocated in May in response to the devastating floods hitting Kenya.
Security Union: Commission welcomes agreement on a reinforced Schengen Information System
Today, a political agreement was reached by the European Parliament and the Council on the Commission’s proposals to strengthen the Schengen Information System (SIS) – Europe’s most widely used information sharing system for security and border management. Consulted over 5 billion times by national authorities in 2017, the reinforced SIS will help border guards to better monitor who is crossing the EU’s borders; support police and law enforcement in capturing dangerous criminals and terrorists; and offer greater protection for missing children and vulnerable adults, in line with the new data protection rules. Welcoming the agreement Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: “The Schengen Information System is a vital instrument for enhancing our internal security and strengthening the management of the EU’s external borders. The system lies at the heart of Schengen. With the new obligatory alerts for terrorist suspects, new alerts on return decisions and stronger interoperability with other systems for security, borders and migration management, it will help preserve free movement and the very essence of Schengen for our citizens, knowing that their Union is protecting them.” Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King said: “A strengthened SIS will provide police and border guards with the information they need to do their jobs and help keep Europeans safe. It is the centrepiece of information exchange in Europe and the main law enforcement database in the EU, and has contributed to almost 40,000 arrests and 200,000 serious criminals being tracked down. We have been making the SIS stronger and smarter – for example with the launch of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System earlier this year – and it will in future be a key pillar underpinning the interoperability of the EU’s information systems.” The full statement is available online.
Climate action: Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete hosts international conference about delivering on climate goals
On 13 June, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete will convene a high-level event in Brussels on the EU’s contribution to the Talanoa Dialogue, the international process to take stock of the efforts towards the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The conference aims to show how the EU is delivering on its climate goals (see also Action Plan for the Planet IP/17/5163), what progress has been made since Paris and how we are accelerating the low-carbon transition and modernisation of the economy in the EU. The event is also expected to stimulate discussions on global implementation of the Paris Agreement ahead of this year’s UN climate conference in Katowice (COP24) and how to involve all public and private actors in the fight against climate change. The event will bring together representatives from EU institutions, cities and regions, civil society, the private sector, trade unions and other relevant stakeholders from within and outside the EU, with a range of high-level speakers including Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference is open to media, registration here. More details about the conference are available here.
Commissioner Gabriel in Vienna to discuss Digital Single Market
Tomorrow, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel will be in Vienna to attend a series of Ministerial meetings to discuss the progress of the Digital Single Market strategy ahead of the Austrian Presidency of the European Council. The Commissioner will meet in the morning with some Members of the Austrian Parliament and thereafter with Minister for Women, Family and Youth Juliane Bogner-Strauss to discuss the role of women in information and communication technology. This will be followed by a meeting with Minister for European Affairs Gernot Blümel where the Commissioner will talk about cybersecurity and the Commission’s 2021-2027 budget proposal for the Digital Europe programme. At 12.15 (CEST), she will meet with President of the National Council of the Austrian Parliament Wolfgang Sobotka and afterwards will witness signing of the Declaration on High-Performance Computing – the European cooperation initiative on supercomputing – by Minister of Education, Research and Science Heinz Fassman. This will be followed by a meeting with Minister Fassman on research and innovation, supercomputing and cybersecurity. Later that day, the Commissioner will visit the quantum research centre of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Vienna. Commissioner Gabriel will close her mission to Austria with a meeting with Minister of Digitalisation and Economy Margarete Schramböck.