Symposium: "The Future of Science in the 21st Century: Science and Technology for the better future of humankind"




More information in our blog : EurASc 2017 - October 26 - 27, 2017 - Lisbon (Portugal)


Under construction Go to the Ceremony of Awards 2017


Pictures

Symposium Ceremony of Awards

Professor Alexandre Quintanilha, i3S, UPorto & Assembleia da República, Portugal

 
"Searching and sharing knowledge"


In 2005, I came across a recently published book that stuck in my mind ever since. The title "Take care of freedom and the truth will take care of itself", seems to fit well with what I want to say in this talk. Written by a philosopher, professor of Comparative Literature, I would venture to propose that the message in that title applies to all fields of learning. Our search for knowledge, clearly depends on our freedom to ask questions, our freedom to propose answers and the possibility of testing the fertility of those answers.

Curiosity is the source of all questions. And since questions can sometimes be threatening, it is no wonder that they were often discouraged by the established authorities, whether religious or secular. But without the freedom to ask questions, and more important, the freedom to imagine different answers, we might still be living in caves. Natural scientists have a name for these tentative answers: they call them hypotheses. In the social sciences, they are sometimes referred to as narratives. In the Humanities, they are called stories. But they all serve a similar purpose. They are attempts to provide answers to our questions. Even to questions we have not yet asked.

The task of testing these answers can take many lifetimes. But it can also occur with a simple change in perspective; something often called a sudden change in paradigm. However long it takes, the robustness of an answer is usually measured in terms of what it can explain and what it can predict. That is also a measure of what we take to be the truth contained in that answer.

New knowledge frequently leads to innovation. I will provide evidence that this happens in all fields of learning, even though we usually tend to focus on the more technical domains. That knowledge will continue to fascinate and frighten us, is not new. There is ample evidence that it has benefitted us greatly, but also often at a heavy price. That is probably why we are unable to stop searching for it. Since the current challenges are enormous, maybe we could refocus our curiosity and imagination on some of these pressing problems.


Professor Arnold Tukker, Leiden University, Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden, Netherlands

 
"The transition to a circular economy - some (in)convenient truths"


The transition towards a more resource-efficient society is a core goal of governments in Europe and worldwide. The European Commission recently adopted an ambitious new Circular Economy Package to boost competitiveness, create jobs and generate sustainable growth while using primary resources more efficiently (European Commission, 2015). Furthermore, a series of incidents in the past has shown Europe is vulnerable when it comes down to security of supply of resources (EC, 2009; 2013, 2016). The transition towards a more resource-efficient society that has a resilient resource supply is a hence core goal of governments in Europe and worldwide. The European Commission recently adopted an ambitious new Circular Economy Package to boost competitiveness, create jobs and generate sustainable growth [ref]. Circular economy comprises an integral approach to a resource efficient future, necessitating cooperation of all stakeholders along the value chain. To achieve this, the further development of circular, service-oriented business is especially promising and will be the focus of the proposed research. This links product and service design, supply chain management, manufacturing technologies, product and service use, product treatment at end-of- life, and business models and strategies such as portfolio management and branding. Simultaneously, economic, societal and environmental aspects must be taken into account. To understand and optimally exploit the potential of a Circular Economy, not only advances in the above-mentioned fields are needed, but also above all mutual understanding and interaction between the disciplines involved. The keynote will discuss the following issues

       a) The (un)likelihood that resource constraints will drive a circularity transition - challenges on the short and long term
       b) Perpetual growth versus degrowth - the rationale for starting a circularity transition now
       c) Business models supporting circularity
       d) Governance approaches supporting circularity



Professor Eric Gaffet, Institut Jean Lamour - UMR 7198 CNRS - Université de Lorraine, France

 
"Nano - solutions for sustainable materials management"


The design of new materials to be applied for sustainable development, for new technologies and for new sources of energy, is largely dependant on rare chemical elements, which were until now produced in some rare geographic zones in the world. The question of the availability and/or substitution of those materials is then critical for the future.

Several ways of designing new materials are currently in development adressing chemical substitution and /or chemical optimization :

   - The first is to make new products that use the same metal but in smaller amounts, such as new catalysts that contain less platinum.
   - A second option is to replace a rare or risky metal by another more common or less risky metal. For example, considerable efforts are being made to develop new magnets to replace neodymium based ones (neodymium is one of the Rare Earth Elements).
   - A third way to make new products is to replace metal-based materials with carbon-based or bio sourced materials.

Amongst new materials being considered, the talk will be devoted to discussion on one of the most promising family, i.e. the so-called nano-structured materials, which display outstanding properties, which are still not entirely understood. Such an innovative solution will be discussed in terms of a so-called incremental and/or drastic evolution. The full lifecycle assessment taking into account the nanorisks and the new approach so - called "safer by design/process" will be also addressed.

In addition to this materials solution approach, attention will be paid to approaches considering the global technical point of view enlarging up to « New Conception / New Design / New System » in order to achieve products achivements with improved properties.


Professor Sigurd Wagner, Princeton University, United States


 
"Challenges to realizing an energy economy powered exclusively by sun and wind"


We stand at the dawn of an epochal change in the world's energy economy, as energy supply is moving from one largely fossil-derived to one where electricity is directly generated from sun and wind. Eventually, the world's energy is to come fully from renewable sources. The share of energy that solar and wind can contribute is captured in two characteristic quantities, average availability and capacity credit. An examination of these two quantities shows that the goal of a fully renewable energy economy cannot be attained with the solar and wind conversion technologies available today. Moreover, the high cost of integrating renewables with the electric power grid calls for continued, and substantial, cost reduction of electricity from sun and wind. These three factors - average availability, capacity credit, and cost - present fundamental, long-term, research challenges to the physical and biological sciences.

A look at the numbers highlights the gap that must be bridged by science. Electricity from solar cells and wind turbines is intermittent. Its average availability over a year is low at only 25% to 35%; in contrast, base-load electricity from fossil fueled, nuclear, and many hydroelectric electric power plants is available 90%. Moreover, electricity from solar and wind fluctuates - it cannot be scheduled predictably. Therefore, at a high share of renewable electricity its capacity credit can become as low as 0%. In consequence, electricity from renewables would cover only 25% to 35% of all energy (i.e., low average availability), far below the goal of a fully renewable energy economy. And, it would have to be backed up fully by conventional power plants (i.e., no capacity credit).

These challenges are enormous. They are even bigger than stated above because in an energy economy dominated by electricity, widely distributed generators of renewable electricity will have to accommodate a greatly enlarged mix of consumers. Such a vast change in the overall electric power grid also will need broad efforts of research and development. Here, we focus on three advances in renewable power conversion that could enhance average availability and capacity credit, and lessen cost.

   - The average availability of solar and wind power could be raised to close to 100% by high-temperature superconducting power lines that transport electricity from the day-side to the night-side of the earth.
   - The capacity credit could be raised indirectly by converting sunlight to storable fuels, via photosynthetic, photoelectrochemical and photocatalytic techniques. Progress is held back by the lack of efficient catalysts, as it is in conventional electrolysis.
   - The cost of photovoltaic converters could be reduced by harvesting hot carriers, before they thermalize in picoseconds.

The course of the world's energy economy will depend immensely on fundamental discoveries in solid-state science and in synthetic biology.


Professor Adélio Mendes, Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto, Portugal


 
"Electricity from renewable sunlight: cheaper and cleaner"


In the 16th century Thomas More described an ideal and sustainable city in his book Utopia. Today's an ideal city should comply with the Near Zero Energy Building directive and going beyond. PV electricity is already today the cheapest if produced in countries with high solar irradiance. However, PV electricity is only generated during the daylight time and then just partially dispatchable. To make it fully dispatchable it is necessary to store it and batteries is a technology of choice. Among electricity storage technologies redox flow batteries (RFB) emerged as promising offering low storage costs - expected of 3 ¢€/kWh/cycle [1], independent power from storage capacity, very reliable and robust operation. The all vanadium RFBs display an energy density that can reach 50 Wh/L but the use of non-aqueous solvents for dissolving the redox pairs promise to bring soon this energy density to values which ideally can reach 1 kWh/L. The storage of electricity in an electrochemical fluid instead of a solid such as in conventional batteries opens the doors to the electrochemical fuels that can be easily stored and transported.

More recently, it was proposed the direct conversion of sunlight into storable electrochemical fuels using photoelectrochemical panels. These panels comprehend just a glass window coated with a semiconductor and an ion-exchange membrane; the positive and negative electrolytes pass through charging and heating up in a cogeneration process. The solar redox flow batteries promise to bring the cost of stored electricity to even lower values making the dream of self-energy sustainable cities a closer reality.

References
[1] - ens.dk/sites/ens.dk/files/Forskning_og_udvikling/status_and_recommendations_for_rdd_on_energy_storage_technologies_in_a
_danish_context_feb_2014.pdf - consulted in March 2017.



Professor Dr. Ernst Wagner, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and Nanosystems Initiative Munich, Germany

 
"Chemical evolution of carriers for use in nanomedicine"


Nanotechnology comprises the option of more effective administration of innovative drugs. Accordingly, nanomedicines with less side effects can be obtained, provided the challenge of efficient delivery and retention in the target tissue can be overcome. Viruses and protein toxins present natural nanoagents displaying potent intracellular delivery of nucleic acids or proteins. Natural evolution has optimized such carriers that comprise multiple different functions for overcoming the delivery barriers. The evolution process takes advantage of the definition of each carrier as a specific amino acid sequence stored in form of a genetic sequence. Refinement of sequences occurred by variations such as mutations, deletions, additions, or larger rearrangements such as domain shuffling, followed by functional selection for a biological task in the set environment. We intend to use these basic design principles of natural evolution for the generation of artificial drug delivery systems. A chemical evolution process takes advantage of combining empirical with rational design and utilize a far more diverse chemical design space than the natural variation of amino acids.

Chemical evolution includes identification of chemical motifs for specific delivery steps and assembly of such micro-domains into defined larger sequences. It includes rational or random variation and rearrangement into various topologies, followed by screening for a pre-defined delivery task. Chemical motifs may include but are not restricted to natural amino acids. For example, polymer units like polyethylene glycol or polyethylenimine, despite their simple structure, can exert delivery functions such as shielding or endosomal escape, respectively, with similar efficacy as far more sophisticated natural proteins. In search for improved carriers, we focus on the assembly of building blocks into libraries of defined oligomer sequences by semi-manual or automated solid phase-assisted chemical synthesis. A series of drug substances (natural products, protein, pDNA, siRNA) have been formulated and screened in relevant models. Evaluation in tumor models has provided synthetic nanoparticles and artificial immunotoxins with antitumoral activity.


Professor Daniel Scherman, Université Paris Descartes - Chimie ParisTech, France

 
"Genetic pharmacology and gene therapy, the new revolutionary frontiers of innovative medicine"


Medicinal active agents, whose effects are based on the universal concept of "target recognition". Their history is characterized by a limited number of revolutionary advances, one of the first breakthrough being the discovery of chemical drugs directed to a molecularly defined "receptor" target in agreement with the Paul Ehrlich "lock and key" chemotherapy theory, and another major advances being represented by the development of protein drugs, such as monoclonal antibodies.

As an overwhelming rule for both chemical and protein drugs, the molecular target in the patient is a protein, with rare exceptions including cytotoxic anticancer agents such as cisplatin which bind to DNA independently of the genetic sequence.

Both genetic pharmacology and gene therapy representing the most recent revolutionary leap forward, based on the use of the genetic code. Genetic pharmacology represents the critical ultimate step of the Paul Ehrlich "lock and key" concept, in which the drug target is an intracellular genetic sequence within either a DNA or a RNA molecule which is recognized by Watson-Crick or Hogsteen base pairing. By contrast, in gene therapy a gene is administered to the patient's cells, leading to the transcription by RNA polymerases of a RNA, which can be by itself a therapeutic agent, or most often represents an mRNA translated into a therapeutic protein by the ribosome machinery. In gene therapy, the administered gene can thus be considered as a "prodrug", with the amplification advantage resulting from the continuous intracellular production of the therapeutic RNA and eventually protein.

The conference will describe the concepts and applications of genetic pharmacology and gene therapy, and give several examples of revolutionary clinical successes.


Professor Asunción Gómez-Pérez, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain


 
"Automated Data Markets"


One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is undoubtedly the management of data markets, regardless of whether metadata and data are generated by individuals (i.e., social media) in multiple languages and across heterogeneous media formats, by devices (i.e., sensors) in the Internet of Things, by software behind apps, or by public administrations (i.e., open data portals), and private or public institutions.

The near future web will be populated by machines that will publish, and consume metadata and data, not necessarily in the same language, with heterogeneous licenses, and will constantly be transacting and making business with minimal or without human intervention. Individuals and institutions will also codify their regulations, preferences and business models as machine-readable policies making explicit conditional access to their data. Understanding the way in which intelligent actors, such as people, institutions and machines share and reason with metadata and data in an automated data market requires an interdisciplinary approach involving computer science, law, political science, social science and economics.

The main information technology challenges are related with thinking over and designing an automated data market of metadata and data. Limitations imposed by organizational, language and data format barriers need to be solved. Organizations have their own focus and structure their data according to their primary use cases of interest. This makes it difficult to find related or comparable content available in other organizations located in different countries. These differences can be overcome by using ontologies to harmonize the vocabularies in use. In this context, data is typically restricted to one language, and thus not accessible or linked to related data in other languages. Semantic technologies enable enriching existing resources with other data across data sources in different languages and geographically distributed. Further, important meta-properties including time, space, provenance and intellectual property rights (IPR) are typically not expressed, so data cannot be filtered, queried and aggregated across such "modalities".

In this talk, I will analyze and highlight how ontologies help to achieve a better future by reducing inequalities. The potential and challenges of semantic technologies can also contribute to the sustainability of natural resources, health, and transport.


Professor Margherita Venturi, Dipartimento di Chimica "G. Ciamician", Università di Bologna, Italy


 
"Artificial molecular-level devices and machines"


The area of nanotechnology is a very broad one. From the chemical viewpoint, nanotechnology can be defined as the marriage between the synthetic talent of chemists with a device driven ingenuity. The chemical, bottom up approach, based on the concepts of supramolecular chemistry, can indeed be very useful to design and construct interesting nanostructures.

By using this approach, the macroscopic concepts of a device and a machine can be straightforwardly extended to the molecular level [1]. A molecular-level device can be defined as an assembly of a discrete number of molecular components designed to achieve a specific function. Each molecular component performs a single act, while the entire assembly performs a more complex function, which results from the cooperation of the various molecular components. A molecular-level machine is a particular type of molecular-level device in which the component parts can display changes in their relative positions as a result of some external stimulus.

Molecular-level devices and machines operate via electronic and/or nuclear rearrangements and, like macroscopic devices and machines, are characterized by (i) the kind of energy input supplied to make them work, (ii) the way in which their operation can be monitored, (iii) the possibility to repeat the operation at will (cyclic process), (iv) the time scale needed to complete a cycle, and (v) the performed function [2-4].

Our group has since long been engaged in using the chemical (bottom up) approach to the design and construction of molecular-level devices and machines. In this lecture, recent examples studied in our laboratory will be presented; limitations and perspectives of this kind of systems will also be discussed.

       1. V. Balzani, A. Credi, M. Venturi Molecular Devices and Machines - Concepts and Perspectives for the Nanoworld, Wiley-VCH, 2008.
       2. P. Ceroni, M. Venturi, Photo- and electro-active dendrimers: future trends and applications, Austr. J. Chem., 2011, 64, 131.
      3. Credi, S. Silvi, M. Venturi, Light-operated machines based on threaded molecular structures, Top. Curr. Chem. (Special issue Molecular Machines and Motors, Eds. A. Credi, S. Silvi, M. Venturi), 2014, 354, 1.
       4. P. Ceroni, A. Credi, M. Venturi, Electrochemically driven supramolecular devices in Organic Electrochemistry, fifth edition (Eds. O. Hammerich, B. Speiser); CRC Press, Boca Raton, 2016, ch. 12, p. 433.


Professor Raja Chatila, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS, France


 
"Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence Robotics and Autonomous Systems"


Ethical, legal and societal issues (ELS) raised by the development of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Autonomous Systems have emerged about fifteen years ago and have recently gained in importance with the development of new applications and use cases, such as personal robotics, autonomous cars or autonomous weapons. These ELS questions cover a wide range of subjects such as: future of employment, privacy and data protection, surveillance, interaction with vulnerable people, human dignity, autonomous decision-making, moral and legal responsibility of robots, imitation of living beings and humans, human augmentation, or the status of robots in society.

Research and design processes themselves are at stake: how to adopt an ethical and responsible methodology for developing such systems? Is it possible to design systems that include human values ​​in their own operations? Is it possible to embed ethical reasoning in autonomous decision-making processes?

These questions sometimes raise classical issues in ethical philosophy and law by transposing them to intelligent machines, but they also pose new problems on which reflection must mobilize interdisciplinary communities in order to grasp globally the scientific, technical, and social aspects. The question in developing theses technologies, which might have an unprecedented impact on our society, is finally about how to make them aligned with the values on which are based human rights and well-being.


Professor Arlindo Oliveira, INESC-ID / Instituto Superior Técnico, Spain


 
"Digital Minds: Science Fiction or Near Future Reality?"


New technologies have been introduced in human lives at an ever increasing rate, since the first significant advances took place with the cognitive revolution, some 70.000 years ago. Although electronic computers are recent and have been around for only a few decades, they represent just the latest way to process information and create order out of chaos. Before computers, the job of processing information was done by living organisms, which are nothing more than complex information processing devices, created by billions of years of evolution.

Computers execute algorithms, sequences of small steps that, in the end, perform some desired computation, be it simple or complex. Algorithms are everywhere, and they became an integral part of our lives. Evolution is, in itself, a complex and long- running algorithm that created all species on Earth. The most advanced of these species, Homo sapiens, was endowed with a brain that is the most complex information processing device ever devised. Brains enable humans to process information in a way unparalleled by any other species, living or extinct, or by any machine. They provide humans with intelligence, consciousness and, some believe, even with a soul, a characteristic that makes humans different from all other animals and from any machine in existence.

But brains also enabled humans to develop science and technology to a point where it is possible to design computers with a power comparable to that of the human brain. Artificial intelligence will one day make it possible to create intelligent machines and computational biology will one day enable us to model, simulate and understand biological systems and even complete brains with unprecedented levels of detail. From these efforts, new minds will eventually emerge, minds that will emanate from the execution of programs running in powerful computers. These digital minds may one day rival our own, become our partners and replace humans in many tasks. They may usher in a technological singularity, a revolution in human society unlike any other that happened before. They may make humans obsolete and even a threatened species or they make us super-humans or demi-gods.

How will we create these digital minds? How will they change our daily lives? Will we recognize them as equals or will they forever be our slaves? Will we ever be able to simulate truly human-like minds in computers? Will humans transcend the frontiers of biology and become immortal? Will humans remain, forever, the only known intelligence in the universe?


Professor Dr. Sierd Cloetingh, President Academia Europaea, Netherlands


 
"Promoting and spreading Scientific Excellence in Europe: Perspectives from Academia Europaea"


To promote scientific excellence and to unlock potential for scientific excellence, wherever located in Europe, is a prerequisite for Europe at large. Academia Europaea (AE), founded in 1988 as a bottom-up initiative of a group of leading European scholars, sees this as one of its main priorities. The Academia Europaea has more than 3500 members from all over Europe, as well as a hundred foreign members with strong affinities to the European scientific community. All are elected by their scientific peers. These members cover a broad range of fields and belong to the following four classes : The Physical sciences and Engineering, the Life Sciences, the Social and Societal Sciences, and the Humanities. Within and between these four classes, the Academia Europaea promotes interdisciplinary dialogue and co-operation.

Closely affiliated to Academia Europaea is the Young Academy of Europe. It was founded recently as a bottom-up initiative by a group of ERC Starting Grantees. Currently, the YAE has 200 members with the ambition to growth in the coming years to 500 members, and with a full coverage of Europe and disciplines. The YAE is open for talented young researchers, and is not limited to ERC grantees. Academia Europaea, with its headquarters in London, has established over the last few years 4 regional knowledge centres (hubs), located in respectively Wroclaw, Barcelona, Bergen and Cardiff. Each of these hubs has, apart from a regional character, also a thematic focus. Our hub in Wroclaw for example, has a strong focus on the Social Sciences and Humanities, but is also deeply engaged in activities concerning coaching and mentoring of young researchers from eastern and central Europe. These activities are often co-organised with the YAE and the Widening European Participation Group of the European Research Council (ERC). It is evident from various surveys that mobility and brain circulation of talent is essential to widening European participation of the research community from the less research intensive countries. Here a strong potential exists for synergizing further the activities in the ERA, benefiting from what been accomplished in the last decades on a European level. Due to the efforts of the European Commission, young researchers in Europe have now access to a career ladder starting with the Erasmus programmes and Marie Curie Sklodowska Fellowships and training networks all the way to the prestigious ERC grants. At the same time, the COST organisation is making a great effort in building bridges, through its networking schemes (the COST actions, involving currently 45.000 researchers) between individual researchers in a bottom-up mode, fostering Interdisciplinarity and empowerment of young researchers, in particular from the less research intensive countries. As such, COST is serving with great success as an effective pre-portal to other ERA instruments.

We as Academia Europaea, recognize the importance of these joint efforts for the future of science which are completely in line with our own mission. The same is true for the topic of science for policy. The Cardiff hub of Academia Europaea, co-ordinates AE activities in the framework of our membership of SAPEA; the consortium of 5 academic networks in Europe co-operating with the High Level Group (HLG) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in the Scientific Advisory Mechanism (SAM), that has been established by the European Commission. Also here, we see from our side a great potential for further synergy with organizations such as EURASC and the high-level expertise they bring together through their membership.

Altogether, it appears that there is a great awareness within the scientific community for the need to work closely together, both in promoting and spreading research excellence in Europe, and also in taking its responsibility to provide scientific-informed policy advice, addressing societal and political challenges facing Europe.


Professor Yvette van Kooyk, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


 
"Will nano-vaccines be the new generation of cancer vaccines?"


The presentation will highlight the importance of professional antigen-presenting cells such as dendritic cells (DC) and Langerhans cells (LC) that form a link between first line host-defence and cellular immunity. As sentinels in tissues, such as the skin, DC/LC express a range of innate receptors, such as Toll-like receptors and C-type lectins that recognize a variety of pathogens and self-antigens through the recognition of glycans. Cancer nanovaccines can be designed that use carbohydrates for targeting purposes to C-type lectins bringing the vaccine at the right spot, the DC and LC in the skin. Moreover glyco-nanomedicines are processed efficiently by DC resulting in enhance anti-tumor T cell responses. We also unravel how glycosylation in (tumor) tissue dictates specific DC inhibitory programs that exert their effect on the adaptive and innate immunity (T cell and NK(T) cell function). By improving anti-cancer vaccines and unleashing the immune inhibitory tumor microenvironment we aim to come to the best immunotherapy treatments for melanoma, glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer. By studying posttranslational processes such as glycosylation, glycosciences, a novel language will be uncovered that regulate the communication between immune system. Because this new language can be stimulating or inhibitory these discoveries will be implemented in the treatment of cancer and auto-immune diseases.

Within the last 15 year Y. van Kooyk's research line was directed into the field of functional glycomics, a field neglected by immunologist, which focuses on the understanding how the exposed glycans on glycoproteins/lipids, are instrumental for the functional activity of proteins, and in cellular communication. This field lead to pioneering scientific discoveries, but also to clinical applications into the field of DC-targeting strategies, improving/inhibiting immune responses, and in the field of diagnostics by constructing glycan detection probes for new discovery of tumor associated diseases, linking basic science driven research to translational research. The ERC - Adv. grant GLYCOTREAT, rewarded in 2013, investigates how cancer vaccines can be improved using glycans and how the tumor microenvironment uses glycans to mislead the immune system.


Professor Tim Vogels, FENS Kavli Network of Excellence in Neuroscience, University of Oxford, United Kingdom


 
"Innovating funding for innovation: An early-career perspective on European Grants"


The current state of European funding for early- and mid-career independent scientists is more challenging than ever before. Despite their pivotal role as innovation drivers, emerging group leaders find it often difficult to compete with established senior scientists who routinely attract the lions' share of the funding. To provide well-founded recommendations on how to improve funding for the emerging generation of European innovators, the FENS Kavli Network for Excellence in neuroscience conducted a Europe-wide survey for early and mid-career independent researchers to better understand their needs and wishes. In my talk I will discuss four key points that emerge from the answers of over 300 respondents.

  1. Gender equality in science. In our survey we found substantial gender differences in success rates, pay, lab size, anxiety about career prospects and other markers of academic success. It is reassuring that Horizon 2020 funding schemes continue to counter-steer against these lingering effects of gender discrimination in academia. Self-regulating a balanced distribution of awarded grants that takes into account the number of submissions will be a step in the right direction.

  2. A dearth of specifically tailored funding instruments for early-career-PI opportunities. In many EU member states, European Research Council (ERC) grants are a prominent (and sometimes sole) mechanism for starting/consolidating a lab, but success rates are very low. Most other Horizon 2020 (H2020) funding instruments cannot provide adequate opportunities for supporting emerging European scientific leaders. More specifically, collaborative, and network grant schemes often come with high administrative burden, generally low acceptance rates, and the added difficulty of finding consortium partners at an early career stage. An increase in the available funding tools specifically tailored to early-/mid-career scientists and a special attention to promoting the participation of emerging European science leaders in all H2020 funding schemes would be desirable. This could take the shape of increasing the number of available single PI-driven grants, but also by creating dedicated "young networks" grants, specifically for early career scientists with their traditionally smaller networks, or by requiring the participation of a minimum number of young PIs in H2020 projects.

  3. The current ERC grant application system is not a true 2-stage application system. All current ERC applications require the submission of a research proposal in two parts, part B1 & part B2. The latter is used only to assess applicants who successfully pass the first stage of the application process. Taking into account the self-reported work hours for Part B2 and the total number of rejected applications in stage one, we can calculate the total researcher time wasted on a one-step ERC application process. This amounts to a staggering 13,000 researcher hours (60 researcher years) per call, time that would be better spent on scientific discovery. The current process could be streamlined - with huge benefits for the entire European research community - by truly separating the application into a two-step process. Only candidates who emerge short-listed according to a (short) part B1 should be invited to submit a long and significantly more work-intensive part B2.

  4. The quality of the ERC reviewer system is viewed sceptically. Among scientists, ERC grants are currently recognised as the best funding instrument within H2020, independent of application success or failure. However, the level of satisfaction with the review process of ERC grants in our survey was 50%. This is due to several factors, but two reasons stood out: A) The perceived low amount of time reviewers spent on individual grants, and B) a lack of expertise in the field of the application (as reflected in the quality of the review). This is especially frustrating, given that the amount of time spent on an individual application can be several hundred hours. Three action points to alleviate these problems were suggested: 1) Create larger panels of experts within each field, based on recommendations from ERC grantees and panel members, who will nominate reviewers for each application; 2) use nominated reviewers for stages 1 and 2 and pay them for their work and 3) systematically use applicants' feedback on the reviews to ensure a consistently high quality of reviewers.

We believe that ERC grants are crucial to European science, and hugely popular. The mentioned action points would further improve the funding process through H2020 and bring overdue relief to European early and mid-career PIs to support this important pillar of European science and innovation.


Professor Mara G. Freire, CICECO, University of Aveiro, Portugal

 
"Design of Effective Purification Platforms for Biopharmaceuticals"


The biopharmaceuticals market, worldwide estimated at US$199.7 billion in 2013, has been projected to reach US$497.9 billion by 2020 [1]. In 2013, 970 biopharmaceuticals were under development, of which 338 are monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), 93 are recombinant proteins, 46 are gene therapy products and 15 are RNA antisense therapeutics [2]. In addition to the more investigated mAbs, antibodies present in hen egg yolk, namely immunoglobulin Y (IgY), are an alternative option that can be obtained in higher titres and at lower cost.

Although biopharmaceuticals target diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, infectious diseases, among others, their recurrent use by a widespread population is still restricted by their current high cost. The major constraints in the current manufacturing platforms for biopharmaceuticals are no longer found in the upstream production processes, where productivity has dramatically increased over the past decade. The major constraints are now found in the downstream processing, which are responsible for many inefficiencies, including the inability to handle the increasing concentrations of products in the crude feedstock, difficulties in integrating cell culture with primary recovery steps, excessive cost of goods/consumables and high energy and water consumption, and accounting for 80% of the total biological manufacturing costs [3]. Although a large number of processes were already proposed to manufacture biopharmaceuticals at a lower cost [3], innovative purification operations are still required to further decrease their costs and to improve their efficiency.

In the past few years, we have been devoted to the development of more cost-effective and sustainable platforms for the purification of biopharmaceuticals (including antibodies, recombinant proteins and nucleic acids products). Some examples of such developed techniques, as integrated extraction, purification and concentration platforms, will be presented. Examples of some of the developed strategies for the target products recovery and to guarantee the recyclability of the solvents used also will be provided. Such developments aimed to maximize the yield and purity level of current biopharmaceuticals, thus facilitating the access of a widespread population to advanced therapeutic products and/or personalized medicinal treatments at a lower cost.

References:
[1] Biopharmaceuticals - A Global Market Overview. (2013) Industry Experts. Dublin.
[2] PhRMA- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America. (2013) Medicines in Development. 2013 report.
[3] Walsh, G. (2010) Biopharmaceutical benchmarks 2010. Nature Biotechnology 28, 917-924.
Acknowledgements: This work was developed within the scope of the project CICECO-Aveiro Institute of Materials, POCI-01- 0145-FEDER- 007679 (FCT Ref. UID/CTM /50011/2013), financed by national funds through the FCT/MEC and FEDER under the PT2020 Partnership M.G. Freire acknowledges the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC grant agreement n° 337753.



Professor Pedro Barquinha, Department of Materials Science, Faculty of Science and Technology, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa and CEMOP/UNINOV, Portugal

 
"Transparent and flexible electronics with embedded energy harvesting based on oxide nanowire devices (TREND)"


TREND is an ERC Starting Grant started in January 2017 aiming to take transparent electronics into as-of-yet unexplored levels of integration, by combining transparent and high-speed nanocircuits with energy harvesting capabilities on flexible substrates, all based on multicomponent metal oxide nanowires (NWs).

For this end, sustainable and recyclable materials as ZnO, SnO2, Cu2O are being synthesized in different forms of heterostructured NWs, using low-temperature and low-cost solution processes. At this stage, the main focus is to build a database of these materials that can then be used for multiple applications. Particular emphasis is being given to zinc-tin oxide (ZTO), which can be directly grown on flexible substrates using seed layers or even converted from ZnO NWs at temperatures below 200 °C, assuring the compatibility with temperature-sensitive substrates. In parallel, precise positioning of these NWs is starting to be studied, either by transfer methods or direct growth using seed layers patterned by nanoimprint lithography. This will be crucial for integration in different nanotransistor structures, which will be combined into digital/analog nanocircuits following planar and 3D approaches. Energy will be provided by piezoelectric nanogenerators with innovative structures and materials. Final platform of nanocircuits+nanogenerators will make use of NW interconnects, bringing a new dimension to the systems-on-foil concept.

TREND is thus an ambitious multidisciplinary project motivating advances in materials science, engineering, physics and chemistry, with impact extending from consumer electronics to health monitoring wearable devices. By promoting new ideas for practical ends, it will contribute to place Europe in the leading position of such strategic areas, where sustainability and innovation are key factors.

For myself and my hosting institution this ERC grant is bringing unique opportunities to advance science and career. Being such a prestigious grant I received applications for open positions from highly skilled scientists from all over the world, enabling me to start building a very competent and multidisciplinary team. The opportunity to acquire within the same project both e-beam lithography and nanoimprint lithography add-ons for existing tools is also something unique and fundamental to turn my ideas for oxide nanoelectronics into reality. The low administrative burden and relative long period of implementation compared to most of the collaborative funding schemes are also very important for early-career scientists as myself: more time can be dedicated to science and to the challenges of supervising a team working in so many different parts of the whole thing. With all this, rather than being simply a very important project during 5 years, an ERC grant can be a true life changer: besides the massive daily learning of such an experience, the recognition and enrichment of our network of international collaborations can be a “simple consequence” of the successful implementation of the project, potentiating that as PI I can continue to bring innovative science to Europe for many years after the ERC grant.


Professor Luís Pereira, CENIMAT/I3N, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa and CEMOP-UNINOVA, Portugal

 
"A new era of electronics and photonics on paper"


The market for flexible and printed large-area electronics is rapidly growing and it is expected to become an eighty billion dollars market before 2025. The growth will be supported by the creation of new markets for low cost and disposable products based on flexible substrates, from opportunities enabled by printing of full-feature electronics, and from electronic devices integrated into novel systems, where recyclability is a key vector.

So far, commercial activity for printed electronics has largely been confined to glass and a narrow range of plastic substrates. On the other hand, paper is potentially useful for some specific applications and markets such as diagnostics, smart packaging and RFID. Printing on paper is very logical and the strong interest is mainly driven by its low-cost (€0.001/dm 2 comparing with €25/dm 2 for silicon or €1-10/dm 2 for polymer substrates), light weight, flexibility and recyclability. Moreover, in contrast to plastic foils, paper is made of natural, sustainable and abundant raw materials and it is recyclable.

Up to know, "Paper electronics" has consisted basically the preparation of paper substrates with the required mechanical and physical properties for additive processes where passive and active components are combined. However organic active materials have been preferred so far but they hardly meet the requirements in terms of electric performance and stability without specific deposition conditions and expensive encapsulation/preparation of the paper substrates. The possibility to integrate electro/opto-electronic functions within the production methods of the paper industry is so of current interest, to enhance and to add new functionalities to conventional cellulose fibers. To fulfil these demands materials and methods should be developed for cheap and mass production. targeting novel cellulose nanocomposites, able to be formed or printed on paper in a multifunctional structure by techniques compatible with real industrial environment. This means, cellulose will be the major constituent of a new generation of electronic and photonic devices, turning possible electronics on paper but also built from paper, that does not exist so far.

In our previous research activities we have demonstrated by the first time that paper can be used as an active component in oxide field effect transistors (FETs). Paper electronics with inorganic functional materials, namely oxides, benefits of the advantage that cellulose is chemically more compatible with oxides than with many organic semiconductors 1 , and that they can bind well at low temperatures. Moreover, cellulose nanocrystals can form chiral nematic liquid crystalline that can be retained in a solid film when the dried. 2 These films exhibit photonic properties including the selective reflection of left-handed circularly polarized light (CPL). These can be used as CPL filters or even to program chirality in inorganic structures, allowing the detection of chiral molecules in oxide semiconductor phototransistors, with high impact in bio-detection. Although the central focus of this ambitious frontier research is on rendering cellulose a truly electronic and photonic material, the set of outputs generated on materials, processing concepts and devices will be of great importance to other emerging fields involving printing technology, data storage, spintronics and bio-compatible and implantable devices.

1 D. Tobjork, et al., "Paper Electronics", Advanced Materials 23 (2011) 1935
2 A.G. Dumanli,et al., "Digital Color in Cellulose Nanocrystal Films", ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 6 (2014) 12302−12306



Professor Maria da Graça Carvalho, DG RTD, European Commission

 
"Reducing inequalities: the role of social innovation"


The presentation aims to highlight the importance of social innovation in reducing inequalities and to discuss the future trends in social innovation.

Social innovations are innovations that are social in both their ends and their means. Specifically, social innovations are new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. They are innovations that are not only good for society but also enhance society's capacity to act (see "Empowering people, driving change - Social innovation in the European Union - Study, BEPA- Bureau of European Policy Advisors, European Commission, 2011").

Social innovation is one way in which people and communities provide a positive response to the adversity that they face. One of the major concerns nowadays is the rising inequality mainly in the middle class of the so-called industrialized countries. The rapidly changing global economic environment and the advent of new information technologies have a drastic effect on local labor markets and on the wealth distribution.

Social innovation may become a powerful tool to fight inequality. Through the sharing economy, the reinvention of manufacturing (combining the empowering of "Do-It-Yourself", and the co- or participatory creation dimension of social innovation), the reshaping of agriculture, and the urban social innovations, environmentally and socially sustainable alternatives to current dominant approaches to community life will be developed. As consequence, poverty will be alleviated by empowering under-resourced people; housing and living conditions will be improved rendering a boost in the economy and quality of life.

Social innovation is an integral part of the European culture and way of life, including of its public institutions. However, social innovation actions need to grow in size and impact and social innovation should become systemic for the benefit of Europe and its citizens.

The presentation discusses the concept of social innovation, the way social innovation reconciles economic and social performances and the new trends in social innovation.