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Four-day week pilot could change the way Ireland works

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Four Day Week Ireland has launched a pilot programme, while the Government will fund a research partnership to assess the economic, social and environmental impacts.

A new pilot scheme from Four Day Week Ireland aims to overhaul Ireland’s attitude to work-life balance post-pandemic.

The pilot, which launched today (22 June), will offer businesses supports and advice that will help them implement flexible working practices for their employees.

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Under the trial programme, employers will introduce a four-day week for staff over a six-month period starting in January 2022.

The Four Day Week Ireland campaign is backed by the Fórsa trade union, the National Women’s Council, Friends of the Earth Ireland, and several Irish businesses including ICE Group and 3D Issue.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications will also fund a research partnership to assess the economic, social and environmental impacts of a four-day working week in an Irish context.

Up to €150,00 will be made available to support research focusing on areas such as energy consumption, employment levels, staff productivity, gender equality and job satisfaction.

‘We need to keep an open mind when it comes to innovations in the world of work’
– LEO VARADKAR, TD

Speaking about today’s announcement, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, said the pandemic has caused us to rethink and re-evaluate how we work.

“It’s too early to say whether a four-day working week could work in Ireland,” he said. “The idea is ambitious, to achieve the same outcomes and productivity, for the same pay with 20pc fewer hours worked.

“I can see how that might work for some roles but it’s hard to see how it would work in others particularly in health, education and manufacturing, for example. But we need to keep an open mind when it comes to innovations in the world of work.”

Joe O’Connor, chair of Four Day Week Ireland, said the campaign welcomes the support of the Government.

“With the huge changes taking place in the post-Covid environment, now is the right time for the Government to be imaginative and innovative in reassessing how we live and work,” he added.

“Employers who have already introduced a four-day week have found that a shorter working week can benefit their employees’ physical and mental health, as well as bringing broader benefits to society.”

Over the upheaval of the past year, there have been many discussions about the possibility of a four-day work week and how companies could implement it.

Proponents say it could benefit worker wellbeing and work-life balance, and also give companies a competitive edge when trying to attract talent.

Donegal-based digital publishing company 3D Issue introduced a four-day week last year. Paul McNulty, CEO of the business, said the move has benefited staff and sales have increased.

“Our staff are happier, more refreshed and more engaged in their work,” McNulty added. “Covid-19 has changed people’s perspective of the optimal working environment and of work-life balance. We are delighted to support Four Day Week Ireland in its campaign to study and educate the wider business community.”

As part of the campaign, Four Day Week Ireland is also joining a multinational coalition of businesspeople, academics and researchers in calling for signatures on a petition to make the four-day week a reality for businesses and workers around the world.

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NUIG to spend €5m on research to help address global issues

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Several key research areas have been identified by NUI Galway to work towards for 2026.

NUI Galway’s recently launched research and innovation strategy includes a €5m investment on support for its multi-disciplinary research teams as they grapple with several global issues.

The strategy, which lays out plans for the university’s next five years of research, focuses on six areas: antimicrobial resistance, decarbonisation, democracy and its future, food security, human-centred data and ocean and coastal health.

“As a public university, we have a special responsibility to direct our research toward the most pressing questions and the most difficult issues,” said to Prof Jim Livesey, VP for research and innovation at NUI Galway.

“As we look into the future, we face uncertainty about the number and nature of challenges we will face, but we know that we will rely on our research capacity as we work together to overcome them,” Livesey added.

The plan focuses on creating the conditions to intensify the quality, scale and scope of research in the university into the future. This includes identifying areas with genuine potential to achieve international recognition for NUI Galway. It also aims to continue to cultivate a supportive and diverse environment within its research community.

NUI Galway has research collaborations with 3,267 international institutions in 114 different countries. The university also has five research institutes on its Galway city campus, including the Data Science Institute, the Whitaker Institute for social change and innovation and the Ryan Institute for marine research.

Its research centres in the medtech area include Science Foundation Ireland’s Cúram and the Corrib Research Centre for Advanced Imaging and Core Lab.

The university will also continue to involve the public with its research and innovation plans through various education and outreach initiatives. It is leading the Public Patient Involvement Ignite network, which it claims, will “bring the public into the heart of research initiatives”.

Another key area identified in the strategy report is the development of partnerships with industry stakeholders. NUI Galway has spun out many successful companies in recent years, including medtechs such as AuriGen Medical, Atrian, Vetex Medical and Neurent.

According to MedTech Europe, Ireland has the highest number of medtech employees per capita in Europe along with Switzerland.

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France hails victory as Facebook agrees to pay newspapers for content | France

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France has hailed a victory in its long-running quest for fairer action from tech companies after Facebook reached an agreement with a group of national and regional newspapers to pay for content shared by its users.

Facebook on Thursday announced a licensing agreement with the APIG alliance of French national and regional newspapers, which includes Le Parisien and Ouest-France as well as smaller titles. It said this meant “people on Facebook will be able to continue uploading and sharing news stories freely amongst their communities, whilst also ensuring that the copyright of our publishing partners is protected”.

France had been battling for two years to protect the publishing rights and revenue of its press and news agencies against what it termed the domination of powerful tech companies that share news content or show news stories in web searches.

In 2019 France became the first EU country to enact a directive on the publishing rights of media companies and news agencies, called “neighbouring rights”, which required large tech platforms to open talks with publishers seeking remuneration for use of news content. But it has taken long negotiations to reach agreements on paying publishers for content.

No detail was given of the exact amount agreed by Facebook and the APIG.

Pierre Louette, the head of the media group Les Echos-Le Parisien, led the alliance of newspapers who negotiated as a group with Facebook. He said the agreement was “the result of an outspoken and fruitful dialogue between publishers and a leading digital platform”. He said the terms agreed would allow Facebook to implement French law “while generating significant funding” for news publishers, notably the smallest ones.

Other newspapers, such as the national daily Le Monde, have negotiated their own deals in recent months. News agencies have also negotiated separately.

After the 2019 French directive to protect publishers’ rights, a copyright spat raged for more than a year in which French media groups sought to find common ground with international tech firms. Google initially refused to comply, saying media groups already benefited by receiving millions of visits to their websites. News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions complained about not receiving a cut of the millions made from ads displayed alongside news stories, particularly on Google.

But this year Google announced it had reached a draft agreement with the APIG to pay publishers for a selection of content shown in its searches.

Facebook said that besides paying for French content, it would also launch a French news service, Facebook News, in January – a follow-up to similar services in the US and UK – to “give people a dedicated space to access content from trusted and reputable news sources”.

Facebook reached deals with most of Australia’s largest media companies earlier this year. Nine Entertainment, which includes the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, said in its annual report that it was expecting “strong growth in the short-term” from its deals with Facebook and Google.

British newspapers including the Guardian signed up last year to a programme in which Facebook pays to license articles that appear on a dedicated news section on the social media site. Separately, in July Guardian Australia struck a deal with Facebook to license news content.

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Flight Simulator says Windows 11 has been downloaded on Xbox • The Register

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Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, will not fly until the first half of next year at the earliest, as the manufacturing giant continues to tackle an issue with the spacecraft’s valves.

Things have not gone smoothly for Boeing. Its Starliner program has suffered numerous setbacks and delays. Just in August, a second unmanned test flight was scrapped after 13 of 24 valves in the spacecraft’s propulsion system jammed. In a briefing this week, Michelle Parker, chief engineer of space and launch at Boeing, shed more light on the errant components.

Boeing believes the valves malfunctioned due to weather issues, we were told. Florida, home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where the Starliner is being assembled and tested, is known for hot, humid summers. Parker explained that the chemicals from the spacecraft’s oxidizer reacted with water condensation inside the valves to form nitric acid. The acidity corroded the valves, causing them to stick.

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