cover art for TRAILER: Conversations with European researchers and innovators

Behind the Scenes

TRAILER: Conversations with European researchers and innovators

Over the course of six episodes, Jennifer Baker interviews some of Europe’s most brilliant scientists and innovators. Tune in to learn more about such diverse research topics as biophysics, fungal architectures, robotics and automatic control, Arctic research, radio astronomy, and computer engineering.

More episodes

View all episodes

  • 6. S02/E06: Cancer mission… curing more, curing better

    In this final episode of the season two, Jennifer Baker meets Dr Martine Caroff a French scientist, mentor and entrepreneur who founded two equally impressive biotech businesses. Her first, LPS-BioSciences, built on her doctoral studies in bacterial endotoxins and later applied them to vaccines, diagnostic, cosmetics, and medical devices. A later venture, Hephaistos-Pharma, develops immunotherapy for cancer treatments. Her passion and drive was recognised when she took home the EU’s 2019 Women Innovator Prize. Martine was also a director at the prestigious CNRS, Paris-Saclay University campus.Left unchecked, the number of people newly diagnosed with cancer every year in Europe will increase from the current 3.5 to over 4.3 million by 2035. Only 10% of patients are completely cured with immunotherapies; clinicians need innovative “immuno-stimulators” to improve patient’s ability to fight the cancer. Hephaistos has a pre-clinical drug, called ONCO-boost, which triggers a patient’s body to recruit and prepare cancer-fighting cells (i.e. T-cells and macrophages), while helping the immune defenses better identify and destroy tumour cells. This sort of work is important as the EU rolls out its EU Mission on Cancer through better prevention, diagnosis, cures and aftercare with the aim of saving 3 million more lives by 2030. This includes the need for better infrastructure, facilities and funding, and greater “health equity” across member states, as well as a focus on childhood cancer to “cure more” but also to “cure better”.  Find out more: ·       Watch Martin Caroff’s video for Women Innovators Prize·       Discover more on the EU Mission on Cancer·       Read about Martin Caroff’s businesses, LPS-BioSciences / Hephaistos-Pharma ·       EU-backed project INNO-BOOST
  • 5. S02/E05: A blossoming career as a soil keeper

    In the fifth episode of season two, journalist Jennifer Baker talks to the Austrian organic farmer and entrepreneur Alfred Grand who today is a member of several high-level EU and national actions for improving agri-businesses and soil health. From dreaming of racing motorbikes to producing wine, he started the ‘Lower Austrian Worm Composting System for Schools and Kindergartens’ to raise awareness of natural fertilising, which garnered a UNESCO prize. His businesses and career as a “rare worm breeder” (and advocate) blossomed from there. Alfred is also member of the Board of the EU Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe”.Soils are the basis of 95% of our food and provide other essential ecosystem services such as clean water, biodiversity and climate regulation. Yet 60-70% of soils in the EU are in a poor state, and about 70% of agricultural land shows excess levels of nutrients affecting water quality and biodiversity.Sustainable land management practices that safeguard soils are vital to a healthy planet and people. Alfred’s business venture, Vermigrand Naturprodukte, produces his branded ‘Biohumus’ fertiliser and peat-free soil substrates with the help of humble worms. He also runs a 90-hectare research pilot project (Grand Farm) to demonstrate sustainable soil health, agroforestry and market gardening practices. The farm is one of a dozen in the Dutch-led Global Lighthouse Farming Network for future-proof farming systems. Find out more: ·       Read more on the EU Mission A Soil Deal for Europe·       Learn about Vermigrand’s ‘hot rotting’ earthworm composting ·       Read about the Global Lighthouse Farming Network ·       Take a virtual visit of Grand Farm
  • 4. S02/E04: The importance of recycling your jeans

    Join us for the fourth episode of Behind the Scenes’ second season and hear why our guest, Ann Runnel from Estonia, created Reverse Resources (RR), a business for tracking and trading textile waste across the whole supply chain. RR’s pioneering approach earned it the 2016 Global Change Award. Ann has also been a member of the Board of the EU Mission "Adaptation to Climate Change". Ann tells our journalist Jennifer Baker that her interest in textiles was never about the aesthetics or fashion side, but more focused on textile waste, how clothes are produced, and how to improve material flows and achieve a more efficient circular economy – a closed-loop economic model that keeps valuable natural resources in productive use longer. Her business does this by lowering the cost of textile-to-textile recycling.With her background in economics and eco-innovation, Ann is driven by the quest to run a profitable and efficient circular business globally. Prior to setting up RR, she investigated the impacts of environmental taxes on economic competitiveness in Estonia (TalTech), and helped to implement industrial upcycling for textile waste in Bangladesh (Aus Design).   Find out more: ·       Discover more about Reverse Resources·       Visit the webpage on Adaptation to Climate Change EU Mission·       Read the Horizon Magazine monthly focus ‘The future of fashion is circular’
  • 3. S02/E03: The dream house with zero-waste impact

    In the third episode of this season’s ‘Behind the Scenes’, Jennifer Baker talks to Andrej Fidersek, a Slovenian zero-waste specialist who recently won the Rising Star Prize given by EU’s New European Bauhaus programme aimed at designing smarter and better future ways of living. He co-founded and runs the Zero Waste Žalec and leads a pioneering initiative called Zero Waste House: Towards Circular Commons.Fond memories playing in his grandparents’ townhouse garden inspired his vision of creating “green oases” in urban settings. “I was really disappointed by all the waste I saw as a young boy lying everywhere around. I had this innate sense that I have to fix these inefficiencies that I saw,” he tells our journalist Jennifer Baker. Working in logistics and studying international retail marketing at Caledonian University Glasgow confirmed what he suspected as a youth… that fresh ideas are needed to re-use waste and improve our interaction with nature in urban settings especially. Andrej is a keen urban gardener, aquaponics enthusiast and a self-declared “amateur solar-punk”. His research interests include social ecology, resilience, and the circular economy. He has also been known to dabble in science-fiction writing. That fits with the Bauhaus vision, too.  Find out more: ·       Read about the Zero Waste House·       Visit the Zero Waste Žalec·       Discover more in the New European Bauhaus·       Read more about the EU Mission: Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities
  • 2. S02/E02: Quantum chess moves for the real-world

    Episode two in this latest series of ‘Behind the Scenes’ finds Carla Caro Villanova, a physics student, Spanish Physics Olympiad, prestigious CiMs-Cellex scholar, and a self-declared quantum-computing fan at her faculty in the University of Barcelona. Quantum theory is basically a branch of particle physics popularly described as “spooky science” which allows particles to be in two states at the same time.She tells our host, journalist Jennifer Barker, about her prize-winning research – yes, she won the 2021 EU Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) using D-Wave’s quantum annealer. Her winning EUCYS work is about optimising quantum processes that mimic nature’s search for the easiest path/most energy efficient landscape (e.g. objects naturally wanting to slide downhill). Once solved, quantum computing can take on larger and more complex problems and get better, faster answers to real-world problems, from climate change prediction and adaptation measures to fail-safe engineering.A natural communicator and keen for others to understand the power of quantum computing, Carla developed on a ‘gamified’ analogy, the so-called n-Queen problem, which basically asks how many queens can you fit on a chess board before they kill each other. “It’s just a game!” she assures us.Find out more: ·       Read the Horizon Magazine article on the 2021 EUCYS winners·       Learn about Carla Caro Villanova’s project·       Discover the EU Youth Portal
  • 1. S02/E01: Learn to love the Ocean

    In episode one of our fresh batch of ‘Behind the Scenes’ stories, we speak with Prof. J Murray Roberts, a marine biologist at the University of Edinburgh, UK, and chief researcher in iAtlantic, a massive ecosystem- and ocean-wide health check of the Atlantic.The planet is facing critical changes and our ocean is at the centre of this, explains the professor, who is looking for ecosystem tipping points and what is driving them – salinity and acidity levels, marine litter, ocean stress and habitat loss, and more. They are combing through existing data and collecting fresh insights from biochemical sensors and robot submersibles cruising the ocean depths. Listeners will get the chance to learn about this study which demands an international commitment of expertise, equipment, infrastructure, data and personnel. Murray is also coordinator of the European ATLAS project and was previously director of the Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology at Heriot-Watt University. He studied biology at the University of York and obtained his PhD at the University of Glasgow. Fascinated with the underwater world from a young age, he is today a leading authority on marine life, co-author of ‘Cold-water corals’ by Cambridge University Press, and a clearly a man on a big ‘maritime’ mission. Find out more:·       Read Murray Robert’s Horizon Magazine interview·       Learn about the iAtlantic project·       Read the press story about iAtlantic·       Discover more on the EU Mission to Restore our Ocean and Waters
  • EPISODE 1: Understanding how our immune system works

    In this first episode, Jennifer Baker talks to Dr Aleksandra Walczak, physicist and research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Aleksandra works on understanding how the adapted immune system functions and since the beginning of the pandemic her research under the EU-funded biophysics project ‘Struggle Basic Science’ is discovering new insights into how and why we react differently to the novel coronavirus. Dr Aleksandra Walczak received her PhD in physics at the University of California, San Diego, working on models of stochastic gene expression. After a graduate fellowship at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP), she was a Princeton Center for Theoretical Science Fellow, focusing on applying information theory to signal processing in small gene regulatory networks. She was awarded the ‘Grand Prix Jacques Herbrand de l’Académie des sciences’ in 2014 and the bronze medal of CNRS in 2015.Find out more:Link to project on CORDISLink to EU-funded project website: RECOGNIZE For more EU-funded research and innovation success stories
  • EPISODE 2: The cook, the fungi and his architecture

    This second episode talks about harnessing the fungal mycelium for the purpose of growing architecture under the EU-funded FUNGAR project with Professor Phil Ayres – architect, researcher and associate professor at the School of Architecture of the Royal Danish Academy.As a principle investigator, Phil’s research in the context of two EU-funded Future and Emerging Technology (FET) projects focuses on the symbiotic relationships between robots and natural plants, and the development of fungal architectures - the topic of this podcast episode. Phil Ayres joined the Centre for Information Technology and Architecture (CITA) at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen in 2009 after a decade of teaching and research at the Bartlett, UCL in the United Kingdom. His research primarily focuses on the design and production of novel bio-hybrid architectural systems and the development of complementary design environments. Phil teaches at Masters and PhD level and is also the editor of the book ‘Persistent Modelling - Extending the Role of Architectural Representation’.Find out more:Link to project on CORDIS Link to EU-funded project website: Fungal Architectures (FUNGAR) For more EU-funded research and innovation success stories